Creating Emotional Robots: Behind the Scenes of Spike Jonze's Short 'I'm Here'

I'm HereSpike Jonze is one of those unique filmmakers that both takes huge narrative and visual risks in his films while still making them relatable and marketable. His latest project Her does just the same -- a story about a man who develops a relationship with his operation system "Samantha". However, Jonze's entire body of work makes use of his strange, off-beat sensibility, and in this video by The Creators Project, we take a look behind the scenes of his 2010 I'm Here, and learn how Jonze and his team developed the emotion in a short film about two robots who fall in love.

First, take a look at the trailer for I'm Here.

Like Jonze's other films, including Being John Malkovich, Adaptationand Where the Wild Things Are, it's not enough to be different and "out-there" to create an engaging narrative -- emotionality is the key. The film is interesting in that it chronicles a love story between two robots in a world in which their kind and humans coexist. (The idea behind these robots, according to the filmmakers, is that they represent the working class -- bus drivers, clerks, and laborers.) A story that includes robots and humans -- and the love story belongs to the robots.

As you'll see in the behind the scenes video below, though it's a short film, the production was a full-scale operation. The filmmakers used live actors wearing robot costumes, and then developed the visual effects to animate their facial expressions -- something that was integral to creating the emotion of the story. Jonze tackles this idea again in Her, with Joaquin Phoenix's character falling in love with an operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

The Creators Project also did a great interview with Spike Jonze, so be sure to check it out.

What do you think of Spike Jonze's theme of love and emotions played out between non-humans? Does it actually help to convey emotionality between beings that aren't human? Let us know in the comments below.

[via The Creators Project]

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I thought it was a decent short. My roommate found a copy of it last week. Surely it was the quickest 30 minute short I'd ever seen. The female robot keeps losing body parts, presumably through clumsiness but they never touch on why or how except maybe once; it just sort of happens. Loved the theme overall and the ending was nice.

It was more cool to us seeing our neighborhood in the film. Like the Target parking lot at Eagle Rock and Colorado ;)

January 6, 2014 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I felt the short would have been just as good with actual people instead of robots. But then, the conflict and ending wouldn't have been possible.

I don't feel the short touched on our relationships with machines like Her did because all of the young humans seemed totally accepting of the robots from the beginning. That may itself be a commentary on how the youth of today are much more tolerant than generations past.

January 6, 2014 at 12:39PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


"You're not allowed to drive!" Is the one hint of a bias against robots. And that's an elderly woman.

January 6, 2014 at 5:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I think he might have been commenting on self-destructive tendencies via robot girl. Visual metaphor.

January 6, 2014 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Martial Miles

It's a great take on Shell Silverstien's "The Giving Tree". Saw this short 2/3 years ago when it was released. Good stuff.

January 7, 2014 at 7:15AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM