Jamie Caliri's opening titles for United States of Tara feature a host of frighteningly good characters mostly hosted by the brilliant Toni Collette's Tara, herself a Kansasian mother and artist suffering from dissociative identity disorder and related memory suppression.
Tara's alters; "T," a temperamental teenage tart, Alice, a strong (and strongly repressed?) 50's housewife, and Buck, the brawling, chain smoking, self-proclaimed war vet all pop up for reasons unknown. At the end of the sequence Tara emerges in ascension as it is she who shelters her alters. And she is derailed. And she is saved.
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Design
A discussion with JAMIE CALIRI, title sequence director for United States of Tara and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Tell us a little bit about how you were approached to do this sequence; what were some of the early conversations?
JC: I first met with the writers and producers of the show. They had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted. Dave Finkle had sketched out a loose story board that showed the camera moving through a series of paper pop-up environments. Each environment represented a different Tara personality. Over the course of sending story boards back and forth, we decided to add actual characters into the pop-ups. We would keep her face hidden until the end.
How much of a character sketch did you have for each of Tara's alters?
They showed me the first few episodes, this helped a lot.
It seems like the sequence combines real-time action as well as stop-motion action? Is this the case?
The piece is stop motion from start to finish. Some shots had minimal animation and others more. We attempted to build as many actual working pop-ups as possible
How did you work with the musical element? (Did you have it beforehand?)
The music came in about half way through. We started cutting and shifting things a bit, but not much. It all just worked out. I did shift the music at one point to land a big boom sound over the falling foot. I thought this was Tim's intention. It turned out to be a happy accident.
What equipment did you use?
We shot with both the Canon 40D and the Nikon D300. We used Dragon Stop Motion to capture our 3K files. We did a bit of multi pass and multi exposure shooting. We composited in After Effects.
What is the most important thing you learned while creating this sequence?
That building pop-up books is an art and a science. I understand why they call those folks paper engineers.
What recent work has taken you by surprise?
I loved Raf Wathion's Electrabel spot with all of the tea lights – amazing!
View the credits for this sequence