Filmmaker Interview by Jason Knight
For those who have not seen it yet, what is your animated film Shadowland about?
Shadowland deals with the aspects of my favorite subjects: how do we live our lives? What does the near future hold? The film shows the infatuation with cell phones and some of the immediate consequences such as cyber bullying, depression, online shopping, etc.
As an intro, the camera zooming in a colorfully illuminated neo-commercial urban cityscape, is the metaphor for a world of fun, a world of consumption, the image of an outside world. As a complementary mood, zombie-like beings appear in black-and-white images, whose faces only reflect the blue glow of the cellphone screens. They communicate within their filter bubble but feel lonely. As a compensation for their inner emptiness, they catch supposed recognition by buying goods. We subordinate ourselves to a system (matrix!) that relies on uncritical, good and obedient consumers. The result leads to consumption junkies as well as a littered planet. The system collapses. Humanity disappears. The crazy figure who controls the people stands for our own weaker self and/or in a broader context-represents our (western) economic and social system.
What motivated you to do this film?
In a restaurant I watched a couple, each of them immersed on their cellphones. The two didn't speak a word. Basically the relationship seemed to work...but it feels weird and the idea was born. For many people, everyday life without using a cellphone is inconceivable. Twelve years ago there was no smartphone and in this short time a new technology has turned our lives upside down and completely changed our leisure and communication behavior. Our own comfort and the inability to face-to-face communication, reduces our everyday lives to serving a little friend. Senseless consumption of social media cloud our reward system in the brain, which is programmed for recognition, which is compensated by other addictive behaviors (in my film it is a consumption frenzy).
Three espressos later I had scribbled some main ideas of Shadowland on a serviette and knew that I would pull this film through to the end, without any big problems in motivation or workflow.
What did you find most challenging about the experience?
Thanks to the chosen form of a short film (13 minutes running time) the production time of one and a half years (besides my 50% butter and bread job) was relatively manageable, even if the viewer must be aware that the production process contains several alternative versions which were fodder for the bin at the end. Maintaining the motivation was completely problem-free, but the prerequisite was (and is) that I am able to convey the vibes, which I classify as absolutely aptly coherent. At the same time, I am already imagining the music that could set the tone. Finding the fitting tracks of music after the drawing work is for me the most complex part of the entire filmmaking process. Also with regard to my tinnitus, which rages in both ears and completely makes pure hearing impossible.
I also need a lot of patience (and coffee). With my 'underpowered' machine, the complete rendering of Shadowland took two full weeks, clippings in proportion to their size. Annoying when a small detail wasn't satisfactory.
What do you like most about animation?
Acting independently, spontaneous implementation of an idea, the possibility of last minute changes, no discussions. Without a large budget, I am the master of my thoughts.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Know what kind of animation you are really interested in. For me, driving a story is the nicest and most interesting thing about making animation films. I am less familiar in designing characters like that. S o first you know what you prefer, choose and then work, work, work. Picasso is credited with the following quote: Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working. Be a fighter, follow your dreams...and spend money for a high-powered machine. It is very frustrating when the brain is quicker than your working tool. The correct physical aspect does not necessarily count. the message has to come across (if existing), the vibes have to be felt, the story has to give a ride for the audience. And yes, at some point you have to find your own work successful. Be able to put an end to it, because improvements can be found with every review of the film.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on a longer short film that deals with the future working world. What do we do when robots do all our work? Not all of us have the skills to program these robots or work in the elderly care or pursue their hobby. The educationally distant and learning-resistant masses must be kept busy and kept calm. It will be essential to be seen whether the model with consumption will work in the future or not.
Is there anyone you would particularly like to work with?
Not in the field of filmmaking. I love my independence too much. What I can imagine to be extremely interesting is a collaboration with a musician who is developing a score background. Something like dubstep with harp...