Working with his brother Phill, Jeff Simmonds has created a run of quirky ‘documation’ films, which retell real-life stories using traditional 2D-style animation. The films from the SPADA 2006 New Filmmaker of the Year (shared with Phill) include family history tale A Very Nice Honeymoon and disintegrating band chronicle The Paselode Story.
One thing that we learned through the animation is that if you are taking a different approach from others who are professionally trained, you come up with alternative ways of doing things that can be faster and cheaper, and that an audience still responds to. Jeff Simmonds
This Simmonds Brothers short film tells tells the story of Raumati South Kindergarten's beloved — but ill-fated — rooster. The early-rising hard-rocking cockerel's waking up of the neighbourhood sees complaints made to the council, and dog ranger Don Wolff is assigned to the case. The tragi-comic saga adds a surrealistic talking rooster twist to the Simmonds Bro's distinctive 'documation' style, which uses 2D animation and audio to portray real-life events. The 2001 shooting made national news, and Paul Holmes' and Carol Hirschfield's coverage features alongside local reaction.
This Simmonds Brothers short zips through five generations of their family history, from Croatia to the Kapiti Coast, plus a shipwreck near Auckland. Described as a 'documation', the voices of yarning family members are married to their cartoon likenesses, to comic and ultimately moving effect. The film opens with Mariano and Elizabeth Vella's great great granddaughter and moves to a dramatic re-enactment of the Dalmatian settlers' so-called "very nice honeymoon" on the steamer SS Wairarapa, when it was wrecked off Great Barrier Island in 1894 (131 people died).
On an evening stroll in 1996, two elderly Paekakariki twins suddenly encountered a ropey bull. Caught in an unexpected predicament, they tried patting it, praying, and holding onto its horns for dear life. Using an audio recording in which Pearl Mills matter-of-factly retells the experience, the Simmonds Brothers utilise colourful animation to bring the whole homely tale to life. Following on from their first film — based on interviews with people from Paekakariki township — this ‘documation’ short was again inspired by the stories of ‘ordinary’ people.
Wellington rockers Paselode certainly weren’t the first band to conquer, argue, then combust; but this film offers an unusual view on the group’s internal dynamics. Inspired by the legendary Creature Comforts films by Aardman Animation, The Paselode Story takes real-life interviews with bandmembers, and animates the results. Expect possibly tongue-in-cheek revelations of how singer Gerome Mills charmed — or bribed — his way into his brother’s band with his Dad’s help, before revealing his true colours. There are also live action scenes of Paselode in action.