17th British Shorts, Berlin
"There was a lot of freedom to try out different techniques - I animated with sand, coffee, play-dough, cut-out and much more and all of that in the end influenced my 2d hand drawn animation practice."
An old lady feels alienated from modern city life, but when she embarks on a magical dreamlike journey, she finds wonder and a newfound appreciation for the place she lives in.
Hi Silvana, thank you for talking to TNC. Congratulations on Waldeinsamkeit being selected for the 17th British Shorts in Berlin, how does it feel to have your film be part of such an amazing line-up of short films?
It’s a true honor that Waldeinsamkeit is amidst such an amazing selection of short films, some of which I had the pleasure of watching at other festivals and some that I am very excited to see for the first time. To be a part of a festival that hosts so many artists that I admire and have been following for a long time feels very special.
This is also the first time that my film will play in my country of origin, and for that to happen at a British focused festival is a full circle moment for me and makes me really happy.
Waldeinsamkeit is your Graduation film, and you’ve already had an incredible festival run so far, what has it meant to you to see your film get such an amazing response?
After all the hard work, often in solitude, it’s such a rewarding experience to get to share the result with the world and to see other people connect with it. I’m very grateful to the Edinburgh International Film Festival for including it in their animation programme, there could have been no better way to kickstart the festival journey. It was my first time at a film festival and I was so excited. Since then it has traveled to a few smaller festivals in different countries and was even broadcast on British TV. It means a lot to me that people want to see the film and I hope it goes to many more places.
What has the experience for you been like honing your skills as a 2D animator at the Edinburgh College of Art?
I loved studying at ECA. When I started the programme four years ago I had never animated before, and so it was great how we were encouraged to get stuck into making things, get our hands dirty and most importantly to experiment. There was a lot of freedom to try out different techniques - I animated with sand, coffee, play-dough, cut-out and much more and all of that in the end influenced my 2d hand drawn animation practice.
The emphasis of the course was to develop our skills and sensibilities as directors of our own creative vision and to oversee the projects from start to finish and I think I really profited from that.
How important are festivals like British Shorts in creating a platform for short films?
Very important - such a well-known and respected festival that programs a wide range of films is the perfect place to create a platform for artists to share their work, meet other artists, which might lead to new collaborations etc.
It’s amazing that it is creating specifically a platform for British short films but on an international level through hosting it in Germany.
What more can be done on a local/national level in the UK to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?
Online festivals make films more accessible, but that still mostly applies to audiences who are aware of the festival circuit. I personally would love it if short films were more readily available on streaming services (possibly after they had their festival run and in well curated programs) and I believe it would draw in viewers who don’t normally go out of their way to attend film festivals.
"Trying to find a title for this film is a good example. The working title was ‘Leaf the city’, all I could come up with in English were cheeky puns which were fun but didn’t fit the tone of the work."
Did you have any apprehensions at all about making a film that was almost entirely done with pencil and ink?
I was told that it would be easier to try to recreate the look of pencil and ink digitally, there are brushes which can emulate it and it likely would have saved me some time. But I like a challenge and I prefer the way pencil and ink feel on paper rather than drawing on a screen and so I went ahead and did it the old school way. And I don’t regret it; I love being able to physically hold this massive stack of paper that made up the film in my hands.
Working analogue feels less controlled, a bit more messy and imperfect when compared to drawing digitally (for example there are fingerprints, smudges and still visible erased lines in the final images) which I really like and find quite charming.
The facilities and technical support available at university played a role as to why I made that decision as well, it requires a bigger setup and pipeline than just computer and graphic tablet and so I wanted to make the most of that as long as I had access to it.
Can you tell me how Waldeinsamkeit came about, what was the inspiration behind your film?
The inspiration came from sketching lots of concrete buildings and trees on long walks through cities and forests. The visuals were informed by reflections on lockdown time, my relationship to big cities and the importance of green spaces and spending time alone in nature. I remember that during those two years of on and off lockdowns I felt a heightened sense of claustrophobia and loneliness living in a small apartment without a garden and not being able to leave the city for months on end. The parks and green spaces were understandably flooded by people and so I started taking night walks which was really therapeutic. I also thought a lot about how forests have this way of making us feel small and insignificant but in a beautiful and uplifting way that I wanted to contrast with some of the animosity and overwhelm that cities can evoke. So it all came about visually and thematically much more than through a specific idea for a narrative.
Visually I was really inspired by Adrien Merigeaus film ‘Genius Loki’ which is also created traditionally and beautifully uses watercolors; and I referenced one of my favorite films, Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki, in the scene where the grass sprouts out of the concrete as the main character walks barefoot through the city.
The music for Waldeinsamkeit was composed by Enya Liao, with Andrew Howie creating your sound and you were assisted in the animation by Renata Javorka & Magnus Baird. What was the process like working with your team on this film and how important is this creative collaboration in order to bring the vision you want for your film to the big screen?
It was a really cool experience to collaborate with this little team. I haven’t had a collaboration with more than one other person on a project before and so it was all very new to me. In the beginning I was a little bit intimidated to direct and give feedback to other artists, but everybody responded so well and had a great sense of what I wanted to achieve with the film. I think the best thing was seeing how they interpreted certain scenes and then came back with something new and surprising that fitted perfectly and elevated whatever vision I had for that part. I’m so grateful for their help, without them I would not have been able to make this film.
Now you can be reflective. What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from making Waldeinsamkeit?
I struggled a bit with not having a clear narrative for the film, there were so many themes I wanted to include that I was getting lost at times. While I don’t think it’s necessary to follow a conventional narrative I do think it would have been useful to write a script or treatment (instead of only creating storyboards and animatic) which locks down the plot early on, because I kept changing things around well into production. I took that on board for the project I’m currently working on.
What is it about 2D animation that spoke to you as an artist?
What always fascinated me about 2D animation is that it is simply drawings that move and, as someone who is constantly drawing, that is pure magic.
I am incredibly inspired and excited about hand drawn animation every time I watch a Ghibli or Cartoon Saloon movie or works by artists like Joanna Quinn who are able to give life to complex and fantastical worlds and characters merely with pencil and paper. It was only during uni that I was introduced to animated independent short films and the versatility in approaches and visuals just blew my mind. It’s almost like the limitation of working in a 2 dimensional space encourages creativity and thinking outside the box of pure realism, it offers endless forms of expression.
Has there always been a passion to want to use film through animation to tell stories?
I always loved telling stories through film, writing and drawing, and have always been a big fan of animated movies, but I only started animating at 25. I saw animation as a way to combine all of these things that I was passionate about; it’s an artform that includes so many other disciplines and that was something that really excited me. So I had no doubt I would love it when I started my degree.
Coming from Germany and now based in Edinburgh, how much do these two different cultures help shape your work?
The longer I live in the UK the more I find it difficult to attribute something to one culture or the other, they have become all entangled.
I notice it the most in the language. I adore the way German is such a logical language, like building blocks and at the same time very poetic with many words that don’t translate to English. Trying to find a title for this film is a good example. The working title was ‘Leaf the city’, all I could come up with in English were cheeky puns which were fun but didn’t fit the tone of the work. It was very late into production that I stumbled over ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ (literally translates to ‘forest loneliness’, a Romantic ideal describing the spiritual connection we can feel when being alone in a forest) and I thought wow that encapsulates exactly what I am trying to say with this film.
What are you currently working on?
I am in the process of directing my next animated short film, a commission by Gmac Film backed by Screen Scotland. It's a film about the distraction and pervasiveness of phones in our everyday lives and follows a young woman's struggle to unplug. I just finished writing the script and I’m very excited about this opportunity.
What does Waldeinsamkeit say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell?
I think that through making Waldeinsamkeit I realized that I want to tell stories about mental and spiritual well being, human connection and environmentalism. I think the film demonstrates my love for whimsical, textural, experimental and at the same time cartoony hand drawn animation. As a filmmaker I really wish to deepen my understanding of storytelling and cinematic language and I hope that I will have many more opportunities to improve and experiment.
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Waldeinsamkeit?
I hope audiences like the visuals and can connect with the themes on some level.
When I watch a film that I really like it stays with me and lingers for a while longer, makes me see the world through slightly different eyes and I’d feel honoured if someone felt that way after watching Waldeinsamkeit. But most of all I hope it reminds people to take a walk and appreciate our green spaces.