Interview with Chris McMahon about his short film, “The Chaperone”

Christina Zha, Staff Interviewer

Tell us the story your film, The Chaperone, which premiers at TIFF.
“Basically it’s a true story that takes place in the 1970’s in Montreal, it’s about a teacher who is chaperoning the high school dance and it’s an open-door policy. One night, a gang of bikers decide they were going to crash the party and the teacher decides that he has had enough with gangs and bullying and he lost it and proceeds to beat them all up and carry the twelve of them to the hospital. It’s a true story, the chaperone’s name is Ralph Williams, I have met him and he is an amazing man.”

What does this film mean to you?
“Our director’s father was a student of Ralph’s; not at the time the story took place but later on. They became friends later in life and it was a story that was told at the dinner table over and over again. When time came to do this project, our director Fraser Munden thought there couldn’t be a more appropriate story to bring to life.”

Why do you like creating short animation films?
“When I started the first movie, I had a lot of fun because there were only three of us when we made our first short film called, Vaseline and Pepper. It was fun because we were tackling a big project, something that we have never done before and the best part of it was watching the whole team grow. The best part about making it was having everybody in the same room and trying to finish the project and come out with a great product.”

What are some difficulties that you faced being an animator?
“In terms of plot line, our stories are all true stories. Plotlines are set in stone, but we really need to cut down on the audio to make a tighter story with the right amount of time. With all these projects, there are always going to be technological problems with software and having the latest hardware. I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to animate things so that they move the same way on screen as they do in real life. That is one of the biggest challenges for an animator.”

Can you tell us about the education and experiences to have an animation career?
“Absolutely, I don’t have any traditional animation background. I did three years at John Abbott College in Montreal for graphic design and I got my communications degree at Concordia and then I was with Loyalist College and completed a three-year video production program. Putting all those skills together and improvising and learning different animation techniques as I went along and applying all the skills I learned, I was able to make a 2D animation with a stereoscopic 3D universe.”

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