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Home is where the art is in new Windmill series

As he launches a new collaborative web series born out of lockdown, Adelaide artist and animator Chris Edser reflects on an unexpectedly busy pandemic period.

“A lot of projects got cancelled straight away, or postponed or put on hold in the first few weeks – that was when we did this proposal with Windmill Theatre,” Edser says.

As an illustrator and animator with an eclectic global client base ranging from local band The Beards to NBA teams, the initial stress of COVID shutdowns gradually evened out into a fairly productive period – with almost as many ups than downs.

“Since [the first weeks], everyone’s realised that they want online content and animation is great for that,” he explains, citing a recent American commission for an animated PSA about handwashing. “So there’s been a huge uptake – I’ve almost been busier than normal.”

But not everyone was in the same basket, which led Edser and Honey I’m Home co-creators Renate Henschke and Jonathan Oxlade to embark on a quirky series of long-mooted collaborations.

“Jonathan and I had always talked about doing some stop motion, or stop motion that I then drew over, things like that, with his excellent puppet making and set building skills,” he explains of Honey I’m Home’s genesis. “I’d done some stop motion years ago, but we just hadn’t had the time; he’s been going all around the country designing different theatre shows, often booked out a year or two in advance.”

Chris Edser
Edser and Renate Henschke on ‘set’

Stop motion, Edser says, takes time, which goes some way to explaining computer-generated animation has enveloped the territory once occupied by both traditional hand-drawn animation and Claymation alike. But as anyone from Parks and Recreation’s Ben Wyatt to Home Alone Film Fest winner Lucy Gale will attest, it sure makes for a good way to kill time around the house.

With the state government’s arts response including ‘collaboration’ grants encouraging established organisations to assist independent artists and operators’, Windmill’s Rosemary Myers reached out to see if these regular Windmill collaborators might be able to pull something new together.

The first episode of the resulting series – a subtle but calming seasonal panorama set to music by Harry Covill – hits the internet today, the first of an eclectic string of shorts enlisting a variety of Windmill-adjacent performers and creatives.

“We’re trying to involve as many of the people who haven’t been working – touring cast and crew as well. There’s a lot of performers and other creators who aren’t doing things, so we’ve been trying to involve different people in different ways.

“Jonathan took all these photos of interesting objects, things he’s crafted, and he’s going to give them to performers to create little conversations between those items. There are some musicians and dancers that we’re trying to involve by giving them little dance pieces in a confined space at home, that kind of thing.

“A lot of it will be very experimental; we’re trying to tie them all together with the theme of us being apart, and not in our normal collective theatre-making environment,” Edser says. “We’re just trying to take inspiration from that and see where it goes.”

While initially devised during a more housebound time, Honey I’m Home‘s release joins a suite of lockdown-era digital projects from Theatre Republic’s PodPlay podcasts to ActNow Theatre and State Theatre’s monologue series Decameron.20. With Honey I’m Home created as restrictions began to ease in South Australia, Edser says the material won’t be purely focussed on the literal realities of the lockdown experience – but more of a pleasant, hopeful time capsule from a slightly more stressful time.

“We’ve been talking about how, especially in South Australia, we’ve been fortunate that people are coming out of hibernation,” he says. “We’ve definitely decided that we’re not going to mention things to much – we are working from home, but we want to make it something people can enjoy later and still relate to.”

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country.

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