Thomas Harnett O’Meara‘s first foray into film-making was an E-Sting for Channel 4 – a project that saw him turn the basement of his student house into a life-sized swamp, much to the dismay of his landlord.
He has since directed a bonkers stop motion ad for Maynard Bassetts and a short film inspired by David Hockney’s paintings to promote an exhibition of the artist’s work at Tate Britain. He has also been working as a puppet builder on the set of Wes Anderson’s upcoming feature film Isle of Dogs.
O’Meara studied illustration at Manchester School of Art. He fell in love with stop motion animation after making friends with some filmmakers at university.
“Stop motion felt like it walked an interesting line between live action and animation,” he says. “It covers so many of my interests, be it writing, cinematography, acting or design. I like how you can move from one discipline to the next and come out with a film.”
O’Meara moved to Belgium after graduating and worked with animation studio Beast before moving to London to hone his skills at the Royal College of Art. He graduated from the RCA’s MA animation course in 2015 and won awards at BFI Future Film and Durham Film Festival for his final project, I’m Good With Plants – a six-minute short about a man who lives in a greenhouse suspended from a crane above a city. The film was his first attempt at “a proper script” (he won a Best Writing award from BFI) and O’Meara says he is keen to develop more narrative projects.
He recently teamed up with Blink Ink and Wieden + Kennedy to direct a surreal stop motion ad for Maynards Bassetts. The film features a table with legs and a giant hand trying to grab the brand’s chewy sweets.
“There was a completely open brief, loosely based around the theme ‘chewy’ and luckily they picked the most bonkers idea I had,” explains O’Meara. “I think what really makes the piece is the sublime character animation by Andy Biddle though! It really was a dream project, with a lot of creative freedom and so much fun to put together.”
He also created a short film for Tate Britain to promote the launch of its blockbuster Hockney exhibition in February. The film captures the vibrancy of Hockney’s famous paintings of sunny Los Angeles in the 1960s. It was created in camera and the team had just two days to work on post production.
“The amazing Sofie Roberts at Tate asked me to pitch and I really put everything into it!” says O’Meara. “The inspiration was Hockney’s L.A. series of paintings and the man himself. We wanted it to feel like Hockney was hanging out by the pool on a hot hazy day.”
He has since been working on the set of Isle of Dogs – a stop motion film set in Japan that tells the story of a boy searching for his missing dog. A trailer for the film has yet to be released but a poster shared online last week revealed a US release date of April 20 2018. The film’s cast includes Yoko Ono, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Yoko Ono and Jeff Goldblum.
“I was working in the armatures department for a while – this is the team that puts together the internal mechanics of the puppet so that the animator can get very specific and subtle posing for each frame,” explains O’Meara.
“After this, I moved to the puppet hospital where we fixed the broken puppets and made sure they were ready to go on set. On an animated film, the cast are recorded before any filming starts so that animators can work out the lip sync – unfortunately this means I have not met Jeff Goldblum!”
O’Meara is now working on a pilot for a children’s television show with animation studio Parabella and a video for philosopher Alain De Botton’s School of Life. He is also developing some personal work including an abstract short. Whether it’s a stop motion short or an original series, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a lot more of his work in future.
New Talent is part of Inspire, a year-long partnership between Creative Review, Facebook and Instagram showcasing outstanding creative work and emerging talent on both platforms. More advice and inspiration for creatives using Facebook and Instagram is available at facebook.com/ads/creativehub. You can see more of Thomas Harnett O’Meara’s work at thomasharnettomeara.com or follow him on Instagram at @thomashomeara