Half Awake

Sometimes being conscious and being awake are not always one in the same.


A young girl’s parents and doctor meet in the child’s hospital room one evening. The young girl is dreaming, half awake, in her vegetative state and is coming to grips with her trauma. Meanwhile, the doctor and parents discuss and consent to the termination of her life support.

Early Concept Art

In the beginning of this project, the young girl – who I named Emily – and the world she lived in looked very different.

A Painting of Salzburg, Austia

It all began with a small purchase of a painting, from a local artist, in Salzberg. It was a beautiful sunny day, a hint of a breeze idly wafting off the Salzach River.

I would look at this painting, at the interesting use of colour. I wondered about the empty garden, devoid of people and animals. I wondered what it would be like if you were there, all by yourself. Would you be little, or large? Would you be trapped there, and if so, why and how did this happen? If you wanted to get out, how would you do so?

So many questions and so was the beginning of a new tale: my student film.

Inspiration: Source of the Sound

Strangely enough, it was not purely imagination and a pretty picture that was the sole inspiration for this film. While it was by and large the inspiration for the mood and setting, the strange noises and the character’s interactions are largely based on real life events.

It was a cloudy day. The sky glowed grey as the sunlight persisted on getting through to the ground below. The roads were quiet, and we had been seated by the window for our dinner. It was a small family reunion, out in a small but well kept and run restaurant in an equally small but tidy village in Northern Ireland.

Having settled in and eaten our starter, the conversation turned to catching up and a pleasant atmosphere settled in.

A crash like thunder.

I whipped around in my seat to look outside. Not thunder. Two men were jumping out the windows of a car. A car that they had careened into the restaurant.

Broken glass littered the floor. Shock painted the faces of all. First aid was quickly given to those cut by flying glass.

No one was too badly hurt. It was amazing. The car had missed my youngest cousin, aged 6 at the time, by inches. She laughed.

The sounds of the crash filtered into the film.


My vision for this production was quite sharp. As a result, the animatic and storyboard where created almost simultaneously.

The Process

As this was a production which combined stop motion elements with hand drawn, careful consideration and particular attention to detail was a must.

Each background and hand drawn element was drawn with the stop motion counterpart in mind and vice versa. Branches, for example, were drawn as if they may be made of multilayered materials. All the while, the aesthetic had to be in keeping with being  hand drawn and not overworked, maintaining the “other reality” aspect of the story.

The character design was altered to have buttons for eyes, a choice which was paralleled between the stop motion and hand drawn elements. Similarly, the hair which was made of many strands of wool was given a more textured appearance.


Each background was carefully drawn, keeping the process in mind, averaging around 8 hours to create. Not all backgrounds made it into the film: some were experimental angles and others were drawn out for external assets.


Hand Drawn Animation

My software of choice for animation was Photoshop. I did not use the inbuilt tool for animating, but rather opted to implement a series of folders, and simulated the onion skin effect.

  • Key Frame Folder (NOT ACTIVE, OPACITY 36%) locked
  • Inbetween Folder (ACTIVE, OPACITY 100%)
    • artwork layers
  • Inbetween Folder (NOT ACTIVE, OPACITY 36%) locked
  • Background Folder (NOT ACTIVE, OPACITY 100%) locked


Stop Motion Animation

The set of the stop motion animation took a mere handful of days to create. A photo of a real hospital single room was used as reference, and creative licence was applied in layers. Raw materials for the set were scavenged from discount stores, the local market, and odds and ends found in unusual places.

The doll like figures where made with foam latexed to a wire-frame base, With clothes hand sewn for them.

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