Download: Director Emily Dean Talks Animation Style of 'The Very Pulse Machine' in Netflix's 'Love Death + Robots'
Emily Dean directed the short “The Very Pulse of the Machine” in the new season of Netflix’s Love Death + Robots. Her inspiration for the style of animation comes from some very interesting concepts including comics she read when she was young. She also keeps a balance between live action work and animation because she just has that intense passion and is keeping herself busy with a lot of different projects.
Awards Daily: How did you get involved in Love Death + Robots?
Emily Dean: I was invited back in the summer of 2019 to read short stories originally for volume two with the idea that I would select one to direct. I landed on “The Very Pulse of the Machine” because it’s such a beautiful short story written by Michael Swanwick that really spoke to me.
Awards Daily: Were you aware of the short before you got involved in the project?
Emily Dean: I was not aware of the short story but I was aware of Michael Swanwick’s work.
Awards Daily: I read you made short films at 12 and were storyboarding by 15. What got you so passionate at that young age? And what were you making?
Emily Dean: Nothing particularly good. (Laughing) I started drawing when I was 3 and I was very headstrong, so by the age of 6, I think I decided I wanted to be an artist. Then when I was 11, I think I drew my first comic. I taught myself drawing from reading Tintin comics. I didn’t have a lot of access to classes or even TV because I grew up on a farm in Australia. Then, my mom went on a trip overseas and she brought a video camera home. At age 12, I became obsessed and just started making videos of whatever I could. All through school whenever there was an assignment or project I would ask the teacher if I could make a video instead. They accepted because I was so persistent. Then at 15 in the 10th grade, we had to do some work experience placement and I got placed at an ad agency. Once they found out that I could draw, I started doing storyboards for them for commercials and I just kept that up.
Awards Daily: How did you decide on the animation style for “The Very Pulse of the Machine”?
Emily Dean: From my very first meeting I said I wanted to do a love letter to Mobius. And when I found Michael Swanwick’s story, I felt that the psychedelic elements in the story lent itself very well to this marriage of styles. On a more personal level I am very influenced by Mobius’s work and what is called ligne claire comic book style which traces back to me reading Tintin comics back when I was a kid.
Awards Daily: With the psychedelic aspects with the lights zooming by, how much of that was in the story versus just your own imagination?
Emily Dean: So the psychedelic and hallucinogenic are in there but we had to interpret them visually. I think a lot of what you describe is the electric streams flowing past. We had to come up with that as a visual interpretation of the electromagnetic pulse of this moon.
Awards Daily: Maybe this was only ambiguous for me, but at the end of the short we hear Martha’s message. Then I wondered if this was her original message finally getting to them, or is this her, now merged with the machine, sending the message? Was that something you thought about?
Emily Dean: The original short story ends on an ambiguous note, and I decided to take it a little further. In my mind she does merge with the machine, but the question I find more interesting is not whether or not she merges with the machine, but if she merges with the machine, is she still Martha afterwards? So that last line that she says as a call out to Earth saying, “This is Martha,” but we ask in return is it Martha really?
Awards Daily: Another visual I found really interesting was the dirt and grime that was on Burton as she was being dragged. What was the storyboarding idea around some of that look?
Emily Dean: The sulfur build-up on Burton’s body is from the short story. But we wanted to show the sulfur crystals colonizing Burton’s face. Originally Martha puts the sulfur on Burton’s eye to cover it because she feels uncomfortable with it. But then the growth of these crystals kind of suggests that maybe something else is at work. Maybe there is some kind of life or something that’s causing them to grow so fast. But yes, it took a lot to figure out how those crystals worked. For polygons in particular, it was quite technologically difficult to have that amount of stuff on a character’s face. (Laughing)
Awards Daily: You’ve done a live-action short and worked in animation. How did you decide that you wanted to work in both genres?
Emily Dean: I love them both, they are just mediums of filmmaking for me and I think they influence each other. For me animation is the most imaginative form of filmmaking because it’s anything from your mind and if you can draw it you can make it happen. Live action filmmaking is another craft I’d love to do more of as well. I have only done storyboarding on a feature level and of course my own short film. It is tricky to straddle the two but I enjoy it. I feel that it’s kind of fun because you’re a rebel in both worlds.
Awards Daily: Do you have any future projects or ideas that you would like to pursue?
Emily Dean: I am currently pitching a show at the moment which is based on a BIG IP. But on my own I am working on a graphic novel called I’ora; it’s something I’ve been tinkering away at for a while. It is a space epic.
Awards Daily: Any final thoughts?
Emily Dean: Just to open your minds and enjoy the film.
Love Death + Robots is streaming on Netflix.