Barcelona Short Film Festival 2022
The Wind and the Trees
Deep in the boreal forest, a mature pine tree and a seedling begin a conversation. As the years pass, they observe the ever-present wind and the many ways it affects them. A quiet story about the circle of life.
Hi Todd, it’s great to be able to talk with you about The Wind in the Trees. What does it mean to you to be able to bring your debut short film The Wind in the Trees to Barcelona Short Film Festival this year?
It’s a very special moment for me, the film, the team I’ve worked with on the film. The Wind and the Trees is the first film I’ve directed and its screening in Barcelona is the European premiere. Barcelona is a city I’ve adored since I first visited 30 years ago, it is such a unique place, and yet I feel it possesses a similar creative culture and identity with my hometown, Montreal. I’ve always felt inspired and comfortable in Barcelona and it’s a real privilege to show the film here.
The Wind in the Trees is based on your award winning picture book, had you always intended to turn this into an animated film?
The basic story of the book is about two trees that get blown around by the wind. I spent a long time imagining and developing a style of illustration for the trees that conveys this movement. Even at an early stage in the book, it had always seemed a natural progression to turn these illustrations into animations. When the pandemic came along, I had the opportunity - and the time - to really dive into developing this project. We were fortunate to receive project funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and away we went.
How did you go about adapting your book into a film, did you have any apprehensions about making your first animated film?
I have worked on other film projects in the past as an illustrator, but had no real idea how to put it all together. I’m very fortunate to have a network of friends who are artists and creators, and I was able to assemble a team of six superstars in sound design, music, animation, and production. Everybody approached this work with enthusiasm, support, and professionalism, and our work was a true collaboration. I feel this project was successful ultimately because we shared that deeper personal connection.
It helped that the book was already published and had been well received, and it served as a reference and guide throughout the development of the film. My work as a picture book author and illustrator has given me a good understanding of creating a narrative, storyboarding, and pacing. Once I created the images, I trusted the competencies of the rest of the team and their ideas and opinions guided our decision making throughout, from music and sound design - my sound designer Gordon Allen’s work was crucial to a film without dialogue - to the animation.
I want to single out the work of Kara Blake here. I was fortunate to have her work on the film’s editing and composition, but as a successful filmmaker and director in her own right, Kara mentored me through every step of the process and made me feel comfortable from the get go. I am also grateful to Joanne Robertson, my producer, who kept everything rolling and organised, and allowed me to focus on the images.
How vital are festivals like BSFF in providing a platform for filmmakers and short films?
I’m newer to the festival circuit in a director’s capacity but have already gained a lot from exchanging and sharing with other film-makers in a context where people are so excited and enthusiastic to watch good films! Making connections with a diverse group of interesting people around shared interests makes the world go round. Festivals such as BSFF are crucial for providing the spaces for these connections to be made.
How important was the creative collaboration between you and your animator Brigitte Archambault?
I have so much respect and admiration for Brigitte and the way she works, we’ve worked on other projects together and we have a great working relationship. Developing a way of portraying the movement of the trees was obviously so important to the film’s success. We spent a good couple of months figuring out how to do so. Ultimately, we ended up having me draw each tree three times and while cycling through these images, Brigitte developed an animation using a puppet tool software, which allowed for a more natural movement to the tree’s branches. I left it all up to her; I am over the moon with the way the animation worked out.
"...I would take any project that came my way; when working on more personal projects, I'd constantly try to find different ways of working and learning through these processes."
Throughout all of this process what have you discovered about yourself as an artist and what does this film/book say about you?
This film was my pandemic baby. I’m generally an introvert and tended to navigate the isolation of curfews and lockdowns. However, this project was a true collaboration, which is not the way I usually work, and I feel it sustained me through the last two years. I’ve benefited so much creatively and personally from working with this group and I can’t wait to get started on another collaboration.
You are a self-taught printmaker where did your passion for art come from?
I’ve always lived in my imagination and drawing and developing weird stories was always something I got up to as a child. My parents weren’t creative professionals but they encouraged, or at least didn’t stand in the way, of my creative ways. I moved to Montreal as a kid fresh out of school and grew up around the creative energy of the city at the time. At one point I found an old silkscreen frame in the garbage, Montreal was a great city for garbage picking at one point; I had friends in a band who needed a poster done and we learned on the fly, doing silkscreen on the living room floor of my apartment. (These friends are Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, who ended up doing the music for the film, 20-odd years later. That’s how Montreal works).
What have been the biggest changes to the way you approach your projects changed since you started out?
At the beginning, because I was learning all of this on the fly, my schooling wasn’t in visual art, I would take any project that came my way; when working on more personal projects, I'd constantly try to find different ways of working and learning through these processes. Now, I know what I’m good at, and I know how my brain best handles creative problem solving, and I trust that I’m better now at certain ways of working, and I stick to these ways.
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer any emerging printmaker or illustrator?
Looking back at my younger self, I’m kind of amazed at the, was it lack of fear? or simple naïveté or youthful enthusiasm? that guided my decision making and allowed me to jump out of my comfort zone and into projects that made me confident enough to commit to this life. It’s easy for me to just say at this stage, “just go out and jump into the unknown”, but this philosophy has really guided the way I have always worked.
I also realize I am incredibly fortunate to have lived in a city where I was not only surrounded by other artists and inspiring people, but where at the beginning, the cost of living was such that allowed me to make mistakes and be poorly compensated for the work I was doing. So find that right place to work, if it still exists. It’s tougher to do now, I think. Maybe it’s online now.
And finally, what would you like your audiences to take away from The Wind in the Trees?
I mean, I love trees. I get so much from trees. If there’s one thing I’d like people to take away from the film, it’s maybe a deeper appreciation for the wonder of the forest