Savage25: Interview With Emma Calder – Shame Video Animator

Today we are pleased to publish our interview with Emma Calder.  Emma was the main animator on the Shame video alongside Eric Scott.

Emma Calder has worked as a Animation Director, Artist, Graphic Designer and Lecturer. She has written, designed and illustrated books, for both adults and children.

Emma studied Graphic Design at the London College of Printing and The Royal College of Art, which is where she began to experiment with animation. Ilkla Moor baht at, her first film was shown in the New Contemporaries Exhibition at the ICA in 1982, 

In addition to her practical work Emma has been involved with mentoring various training schemes for animation and has run and taught workshops in animation, graphics and illustration all over the UK in Universities, Media centres and Colleges. She was also a board member of the Cardiff Animation Festival, has been a Jury member for BAFTA five times, Jury member of the BBC Design awards. Eurythmics: Thanks for talking to us Emma, does the Savage album being 25 years old make you feel old yourself?

Emma Calder: I was very young when I did the animation for Shame but, I used to work all the time, so I actually feel younger and fitter now, as although I am still a workaholic. I do make time for my partner and kids and I swim most days, 30 lengths in 15 mins and I am re learning the clarinet. Can you tell us how you became involved with the Shame video?

EC: Sophie Muller the director of most of the Eurythmics promos phoned me up, told me that another director had been asked to do the next video and she was concerned that someone should look after the animation side. Sophie had been at the Royal College of Art with me and she knew my work well, she was a great fan of my RCA film Madame Potatoe. What was your main role on the video?

EC: I was asked to work with Daves friend Eric Scott the artist and work out how to realise Erics and Daves vision for the piece. Which was basically a layering tearing bill board style with images evoked by the words of the song, incorporated into an madonna/icon/old picture style from pre-renasonce days. The song was about shallow life styles and objects as icons. Were you taking direction from Eric Scott (Eric created the album cover for Revenge)?

I would say it was a joint effort on the animation direction of the piece but all the collages were his. Eric had never done any animation but was a very good artist, he basically art directed, designed the style while I planned all the movement, timing and filmic stuff. His wife went into labour half way through so I ended up having to do at least a third of the animation single handed. Were the ideas for the video original Dave and Annies, or did you have input into the idea as well?

The song was the idea. Dave loved Erics work so it was this, combined with my ability to invent a means to express in animation the songs concepts.

I added a lot of the extra animated and painting ideas as we went along and the filmatic form and movement planning was mine. I am a very good collage artist in my own right and Ideas just came to us both as we worked through. When Eric came back from having his baby and we were close to the deadline, we knew we just had to finish the film off quickly, we found ourselves in Soho Square gathering up leaves to add to the frame and it’s so long ago I can’t remember who’s idea that was. Did you get to meet Dave and Annie in the process?

I only met John Stewart, David and Annie were away.

I met Dave about 3 years later on the roof of my east end studio. I went up to our roof to mend it, dressed in rags and carrying a tub of roof paint. There were two guys sitting on chairs one with a journalist with a mic and the other with his back to me. I thought they must have been from the new photo studio down stairs.

I was cross their chairs were digging into the already sagging leaking roof. I marched up to them and shouted. “What do you think you are doing?”. Very slowly the guy with his back to me turned, he had very dark glasses on. “I said fuck me it’s Dave, isn’t it” the journalist was looking stroppy.

Dave said “yes and who are you?” “I said I am Emma Calder” then I paused and said “I did the animation for Shame”. The journalist looked really peeved. Then we had a good chat and Dave told me how he liked Shame and how it had won lots of awards and stuff. I decided to leave off fixing the roof that day. I needed a cup of tea. How did you plan and storyboard the video?

Eric had the idea of the picture frame and the layer of collages that we would tear away and paint into but didn’t know how this would work or how to achieve this in animation. So I planned a way that this would work.

I had a sound break down made. (A bar Chart with every word and beat written out in a chart for each film frame of the song. Then sitting on Dave Stewart’s bed, Dave was away with head phones on I worked out all the moods and good cut points in the music. Then I told Eric how many collages he should do. And where they would come in on the track. (The bed actually collapsed whilst I beat out the rhythms, causing quite a stir in the Stewart household.) What materials were used to create the frames and effects?

My partner Julian Cripps had suggested that in order to animate the paper curling Eric should mount each collage on a piece of lead foil (This was a foil normally used for covering corks for wine). this turned out to be a brilliant idea and something to my knowledge no one else has ever done. As it allowed for complete flexibility when curling the paper.

Eric also prepared the frame, so that it look really old, filled it with powder and stuff so when we hacked it apart it would crumble beautifully. And after all this preparation, how was the actual animation filmed?

I hired the Rostrum Camera studio and director of Photography Hugh Gordon to light the frame and I directed the set up with John Stewart (Daves brother) and the Live action director Steve Graham, although it was flat we lit it to look as if it was hanging on the wall.

Eric had stuck as many layers together as would fit into the frame at one time, I think there were 20 in all. But we had about 4 in the frame at a time. So with all the frames in place, who did what in creating each frame, there must have been a lot of painting and gluing going on?

Eric mixed all the paint and we used a mixture of oil and acrylic. I worked on one side and Eric on the other, I let him direct the painting bits as that was his skill and I would direct the tearing stuff.

I had worked out all the changes of brush strokes in relation to the music and would tell Eric what frame we were on and how the mood and things we were painting should change. Then as the animation progressed we started to cut with a scalpel through the layers and I would suggests the best style of each rip or curl to echo the songs word of emotion content. Some times we would accidently cut through more than one layer at a time so we had to improvise quite alot. How long did it take to complete?

We had a very tight deadline only 10 ten days to produce 4 and half minutes of animation and we planned to make the whole film with no cuts. This version uncut with no live action does exists and I do have a umatic and dvd copy (can you ask Dave Stewart if they have the neg of the animation?). Eric leaving half way through meant I had to work very very long days. But it was one of the more fun jobs I have ever done so it was worth it.


EU: Is there a part of the video that you are particularly fond of, or where you really had to work hard to create the desired effect?

I like it all especially the guys with greasy hair and the ending But my favorite bit is the bullet bit and the bit with the hearts and flowers (which I did when Eric was away). But I like the uncut version without the live action better. Although looking at Annie is amazing, so they are both good. Technology has moved on so much in the 25 years since you made the video, would the process be very different today of you were to make the video now?

If I was to do it today, I would do the animation in exactly the same way. But instead I would shoot it with my Cannon 5d Mark 2 digital camera instead of 35 mm film stock. You could never fake what we did with after effects. Although things like keying would be better than they were then. Were you a fan of Eurythmics music before you worked on the video?

I always liked them but I was never a big pop fan.
 What would of happened to everything, the sets, storyboards, the models etc that were used in the video?

All the collages were destroyed as we tore them off and painted over them and thrown in the dust bin. Not a fragment remains. I might just have the bar charts but I have a feeling that I gave them to John Stewart for the editor. Eric and I didn’t go to the edit as they did this in LA. What other memories or interesting facts can you share with us about the video?

The style at the end of the film with the degrading frame was totally ripped off by a student I once taught.   I have had a look in my old diary for you with some dates.  It marks out the shoot days. 13 th Oct met up with John Stewart and Eric  Scott.  26th October pre light shoot,  27th-Wed 4th filiming although I think we finished on the 5th maybe. I also feel quite emotional looking for this stuff.

I was so busy that week too and working on at least 3 other jobs and traveling to Bristol to judge an animation competition one evening after animating all day on Shame, those were the days. Other than Shame, did you work on any other music videos?

I can’t remember most of their names but I worked in pop video from 1984-1994. I will have to find an old CV and check!! best one apart from Shame was Close to the edit Version 2 The Art of Noise. I did the knifes and spoon and forks bit.


UE: Many thanks Emma. 

To find out a bit more about Emma, you can visit her YouTube channel here . She is also working on a series called Random Person at the moment and Emma is really keen to build my audience for this and I have  you can read her blog here. Emma’s best known film Is The Queen’s Monastery