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16th ÉCU Film Festival 2021

Simone Giampaolo  

Celebrating the environmental youth movement 30 years in the making, ‘Only a Child’ is a visual poem giving shape and colour to the original words spoken by Severn Suzuki at the UN Summit in Rio in 1992. This film has been created by more than 20 animation directors under the artistic supervision of Simone Giampaolo.

Hi Simone thank you for talking to The New Current, how are you holding up during these very strange times? 


Because of the restrictions on live-action film sets, 2020 (and the first third of 2021) has been extremely busy for the whole animation industry. I've been working from home almost non-stop since 12 months ago, directing three different mini-series for three different British studios. I need a holiday!

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration or opportunities? 


Avoiding daily commuting in London has definitely helped free up some time, which I have been able to dedicate to a few personal projects. However, the ideas are always too many, and the time too little! 

Congratulations on having Only A Child selected for the 16th ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films? 


It's a great honour to be selected for such a prestigious event and I hope the audience will enjoy our short film ONLY A CHILD. It means a lot to the whole team.  

Is this the first collaborative film you have worked on and how did you go about selecting the animators to work on this project with you? 


Yes, this is the first collective project (or 'omnibus film') I've directed. Interacting with artists who use so many different animation techniques has been an incredible learning opportunity for me. The film received fundings from the Swiss TV and government (Switzerland is the country I'm originally from), therefore most of the team had to be Swiss or located in Switzerland. Selecting the team among so many talented independent artists was a real challenge and took a long time, but I was very happy with the talented, diverse 'troop' we managed to assemble.

When did you first discover Severn Cullis-Suzuki speech and what was it about this speech that connected with you so much? 


I heard it many years ago (I think around 2010, when Youtube became 'a thing' in my country, but then I re-discovered it in 2018, a few months before Greta Thunberg and the #fridaysforfuture movement became world-famous. It really shocked me (and moved me) because it is still so relevant today, almost 30 years after being pronounced at the UN Summit in Rio (in 1992). 


"Be patient. Even short films may take years to make, patience and endurance are the keys to success."

Can you tell me a little bit about One A Child, how did this project come about? 


After listening to the speech, I started envisioning it as a collective animation created with several different techniques (a metaphor for many different 'countries' coming together for reaching the same goal). I got in touch with Severn via e-mail, and she sounded enthusiastic about the idea of turning her words into an animated film. 

What where the biggest challenges you faced brining this film to life? 


Production-wise, the biggest challenge was certainly managing the budget by splitting it into 20 different sub-budgets (each different per every 'segment' of the film), keeping in mind the different pipelines and workflows that each animation technique requires (sand, paint on glass, stop-motion, puppet, CGI, 2d, etc). Working with so many different independent artists forced us to become flexible and quite open to experimentation. As a director, my main challenge was to provide each creative mind involved with enough artistic freedom while maintaining a 'fil rouge' throughout the visual narrative.

Where did your passion for animation come from? 


I've been drawing and writing stories since I can remember. This passion for visual storytelling developed throughout my childhood and teenage-hood into illustration and comics, and later (after I turned 20 years old) into animation. 

From working with at Blue-Zoo Animation and the iconic Aardman Animation how has this experience helped to shape and inform your approach to your projects? 


Working for so many fantastic animation studios has helped me learn how to handle a large team of artists in order to craft a high-quality animated product while respecting a schedule/budget and satisfying a client. That's what commissioned animation is about. However, ONLY A CHILD was different. There wasn't an actual client and everyone who took part in it did it for the love (and meaning) of the project. We did it because we believed in it. This kind of 'dream productions' are rare though. 

Is there any advice you have been given that has really helped you?  


Be patient. Even short films may take years to make, patience and endurance are the keys to success. I'm an impatient person by nature, I always want things to happen and move fast, therefore I often end up suffering during the creation of a short film! 


Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell? 


Of course, it is their responsibility and moral duty.

What tips or advice you would you now offer a fellow animator?  


I'd remind her/him that every animator's (or artist's) path is different and that comparing yourself to other people's journeys isn't always healthy. You may have a longer road in front of you (without shortcuts nor offered rides), but that won't make the panorama reached at the end any less beautiful.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Only A Child? 


I'd like this film to make the audience reflect on the lack of environmental action taken by the nations' governments in the past 30 years, since Severn gave her speech to the UN Summit. Could we (or our parents) have done more? Of course, but pointing the finger now won't help solve any humanitarian/environmental crises. 

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