Skip navigation

Writer's Block

Leon Cmielewski

Writer's Block is a film about automata, machine intelligence, inspiration, hallucination and sleep deprivation.


A sleepless writer proves no match for a typewriter and other rebellious domestic objects occupying his table. The writer is attacked by the malevolent machine, leaving him unconscious and tattooed with words, overwhelmed by the tools of his trade.

The typewriter's 'soul' emerges in the form of an animated creature composed of the springs and levers from the typewriter.

With some ingenuity it escapes the boundaries of the table and ventures out into the world.

Director's statement, September 2013 

"Films that do a lot with a little have always interested me, I like seeing ideas communicated with an elegant use of minimal resources. Animation is ideally suited to this modest approach. A tin can might be made to represent the universe; a can opener could be the hand of god.

I'm particularly attracted to taking everyday domestic objects, things whose purpose we understand implicitly, and redefining their being. An old surrealist trick perhaps, but to me still a potent one.

The animation process used in Writer's Block is as old as cinema. In 1896 when Melies' camera jammed momentarily while he filmed a Paris street the resulting images showed a bus transform into a hearse. The possibilities of filming what cannot occur in reality are still being explored today.

Writer's Block was made with a basic 16 mm Bolex camera mounted on a tripod. When a moving point of view is shown the camera is simply being pushed along the floor in small increments while each exposure is made, resulting in a realistic blurry looking shot. A lot of time was spent crawling about on the floor, bumping the camera along, trying to achieve the right amount of wobble.

To shoot the live action sequence, Mark Thomson who played the writer had to drive 700 km overnight after finishing a days work and then act throughout the day which gave him the perfect tired, exhausted expression. Perhaps being an animator makes it easier to treat your live actors in such an inhumane way, being used to pushing bits of wire or plasticine to breaking point without a second thought!

Writer's Block is a film about automata, machine intelligence, the unconscious, inspiration, hallucination and sleep deprivation."

Cmielewski HOW, – via Vimeo 
Cmielewski WHY, – via Vimeo 
Leon Cmielewski, excerpt, 'Writer's Block' 1994 – via Vimeo 
Leon Cmielewski 'Writers Block' still,
Leon Cmielewski 'Writers Block' still, – via 
Leon Cmielewski 'Writers Block' still,
Leon Cmielewski 'Writers Block' still, – via