Me + Her, a Sundance-nominated short film, tells a devastating story of love, loss and rebirth, set entirely in a world of cardboard. At first glance, the film appears animated, but the reality is much more impressive. “About 98% of the short is shot live action, in camera,” director Joseph Oxford tells Co.Design. “The characters were moved by a team of puppeteers in real time.” Oxford used Adobe Illustrator to draw exact outlines of his cardboard puppets and cut them with a laser cutter. Because of this precision, he was able to create elements of the puppets’ faces that could be manipulated by wires, just like the rest of their bodies.
Oxford began work on the project in 2008. “The last two years [I was working] seven days a week, 14 hours a day, designing and building and eventually shooting,” he says.
Oxford stumbled upon the idea to use cardboard by accident. “I was waiting for something to render out on my computer and there was a scrap of cardboard, rubber band, and pencil on my desk,” he says. “I assembled them into a crude, makeshift guitar. It didn’t make any sound, but the rubber band looked a little bit like lips across the cardboard, so I drew a pair of eyes on it and had the first, very rudimentary, version of the puppets.”
From there, he considered what kind of world the puppets would inhabit. “It was important to me that cardboard wasn’t only the construction medium, but also a central element to the the story and the way their world works,” Oxford says. His vision is dark, a world where everything can be recycled and the dead are just garbage. The ending may not be happy, but it’s bittersweet and real, even if the puppets aren’t.
The whole film is available to watch at the New Yorker.