On 6th of February…
I have received the following email:
Thank you for your application. We are happy to inform you that you have been selected to participate in the Nisi Masa Stop Motion Workshop march 11-18!
“How?” you might ask.
Three weeks before that confirmation, I received an email from organization where I’m working at, Media Education Centre. They forwarded me an application form for that NISI MASA STOP MOTION WORKSHOP (Malmö, Sweden) with statement: you are qualified for this. Well, of course I am, especially when my boss telling me that. So, I fill that form and few weeks later I received that positive answer.
More about that NISI MASA’s“call” you can read here: http://ww.nisimasa.com/?q=node/420
Target audience between 7 and 12 years old.With my reputation? Seriously?
When I read that application form, it was more than obvious that I would apply as a director. The biggest problem for me after that decision was: what story? I never, but seriously, never made story for the children. For that reason you should always have a group of friends who are somehow related to that ‘children story’ making process, if possible. So I called my friend asking her for help, she agreed, and as the deadline approached, she screwed me up so badly that I was on my own. Well, not completely, a lot of friends also tried to help me, giving me some ideas, but nothing that I’d like. And my selection process is simple: If my (twisted?) logic can’t accept it as my own point of thinking, that’s not good enough. Of course, it’s foolish to except from someone to guess your taste. In this case I just seek for some kind of foundation for my story, that’s all. And I got it finally. Suggestion was simple: why not something about rabbit and wolf, kids will like that. And that’s true, but it’s so… not me… But it was good start at least. Soon after that I saw these animals kissing each other in my head, and I said, oh how cute, kids will like that for sure! And almost immediately after that I realized that both of these animals are male. If you had asked me at that point why or how, I would not know how to answer. Anyway, I liked what I saw, and just in case, I was advised by reliable source who studied Swedish literature. She gave me a blessing, and my last check was a friend who is also an animator like me, and he understands my style. If you tell him the synopsis of your story and if he is able to make from that piece a whole story of thirty minutes in length, just by shooting from his head, you know you are on the right track. And finally after all these checking I wrote “A Different Fable”, LGBT love story between wolf and rabbit. With some plot and moral added, of course.
The division of teams, preparation and truth about my story
So, NISI MASA has formed five teams, and members of my team were: Rebecka Ryngfors (Sweden) applied as Director of photography, and Sven Sosnitski (Estonia) who applied as Sound designer. In real life Rebecka is working as animator (really good one!) and Sven is music composer (with really unique style!). We introduced to each other via email and immediately start working on preparation (from our homes). In this stage Rebacka has been in charge of designing characters and drawing some part of the storyboard, and Sven was in charge, of course, for creating sounds by looking my notes from script. In the meantime I got a tutor who is a professional writer for children, Janne Vierth, and his job was to help me to polish my story. After only few Skype meetings, the script was polished and ready. And I was aware that he will ask me the question like: why same sex love story? In that time I already knew the answer. Main reasons are exam in cultural anthropology and gay pride. Don’t even try to connect these two, I will tell you immediately what all is about. Gay pride is somehow still, or rather always, fresh wound in Serbia. Government won’t give to that population they right on that pride and period. Safety reasons, of course. Meanwhile in my Cultural anthropology, book that counts more than 900 pages, I read about ethno centricities. I already knew everything I need to know about it, but in that period when I was about to make story for the workshop, something pushing me even harder to think how some cultures react on this LGBT ‘celebration day’. I am cultural relativist, and I don’t give a damn about conformity. If some subculture wants to celebrate something, give them what they want – democracy for God’s sake! So, main idea with my story was to provoke children to discuss about LGBT topic. And I think it’s a good way, because when you see same sex animating characters, gay “situations” looks less taboo (of course in some cultures it’s not taboo at all) than in real life. I don’t want to discuss why it looks like that, you can investigate on your own, or even write thesis about it.
Anyway, script was ready and I started to work on scenery design, and I decide to make (almost) all backgrounds/foreground in 3D. It was a brave decision from my side because I didn’t know what kind of equipment waiting for us on the workshop. To make it clear, if our characters will be made out of clay, and all background and foreground are made digitally, that means that characters needs to be captured in front of green screen. In post production that green color needs to be ‘washed out’ with digital background and voila, you have some really interesting results. How long it took my computer to render all that, I don’t want to mention.
We manage to prepare everything on time, 10th of March came, fantastic concert in Belgrade by post rock band called God is an Astronaut, and next morning airport. Good friend of mine took me to the airport that morning and I flew to Copenhagen. Yes, Denmark, not Sweden. When I saw my booked flight I thought some mistake has been made, but if you are really bad in geography like I am, just by looking geographic card you will notice that distance between Copenhagen (Denmark) and Malmö (Sweden) is ten times shorter than Malmö and capital of Sweden (Stockholm) where airport, which my air company uses, is situated. Now, one advice if you ever decide to visit Scandinavia countries. Don’t even think of to bring cash with you, especially not Euros! And especially not in Sweden! These countries respect their own currencies, and in markets, shops, restaurants, etc. in most cases will not accept euro, and chance to find currency exchange office is equal to the situation where you see a rabbit ridding a squirrel. Not gone happen. And if you find it, it will cost you, a lot. Credit card in your pocket equals less agony. From Copenhagen’s airport I take the train, buy cipro antibiotic online (they accept euros but will give you change in Danish krone if you don’t point out differently) and in 20 minutes I was in Malmö. Hooray! With too many Danish krone in my pocket! Shit… Anyway, I was on Malmö’s train station, with map in my cellphone. Bad idea. As much as I zoom on that screen I can only read names of the streets, but can’t see in which direction I should go (it was picture of map in pdf). It was time to ask someone on that train station for help. Police officers (three of them) were my first (and only) target in that moment. On my question how to get there and there, one of them replied with robotic voice: “We are not from Malmö, but we can help you”. After that answer one of the officers took out a map of Malmö, size of almost 2 square meters, from his back pocket, and they start searching. Finally they showed me where to go.
In 10 minutes I got lost, again. There was some bakery store in front of me and I entered inside searching for help. I set my eyes to sparkle, and with an irresistible smile I ask worker from that bakery for help. She was so kind that I even get printed Google map with navigation where to go from location where bakery is. I wanted to say thanks by buying something from that store but as I mentioned earlier, I had only Euros and Danish Krones. Shame, I know. In 20 minutes I was finally in hostel where all participants are placed. I get my room, and something was not quite right. I have to share room with three girls. And Iwas the only guy who needs to share room with girls in whole hostel. I immediately start explaining to those girls that it was not my idea or decision, that I know it’s unpleasantand that I also have my manners… and their response was:”We have nothing against to share this room with you.” I shut my mouth.Mingling time. In afternoon we had welcome cocktail from best of NISI MASA’s team: Lina, Anna and Peter – project managers.
The Workshop was located in Mediagymnasiet. God, it’s a huge school building, almost like some kind of factory. And by the way, their educating system is just fantastic. Students from Serbia, like me, can only cry with sadness, because Serbian education system looks quite ridiculous compering to Swedish one. Anyway, workshop started with master class by one of the best Swedish animator, Lotta Geffenblad. That master class pretty much reminds me on my master class that I hold last year in Greek university for media and new technology. And it was fun. Lotta is really amazing animator, full of experience and it was really pleasant to hear what she has to say about medium called Animation. Now, about equipment they give us for this workshop purpose… To each team is given Apple MacBook Pro laptop, Canon DSLRcamera with professional filmtripods (really big ones with fluid heads)and we had dozens of professional lights to choose – there was at least 10 tungsten lights up to 800 watts, each one equipped with soft box diffuser and different color gels.And they even bring ‘Kino Flo’that I asked for my green screen purposes! It was like shopping in candy store! And there is only one word for that NISI MASA’s crew: AMAZING!
Setting up high budget equipment was pretty easy job – easier then setting up web camera and table lights, believe me. And we got really good instructions of how to use animation software called Dragon Frame by great Swedish animator Mikael Lindbom! Only difficulty for my team was lightning – for green screen you need to kill all shadows that may appear on green plate. I spend at least one and half hour just setting those lights, and in that time rest of my team already starts working on something: Rebecka was creating characters, and Sven starts organizing sounds we’ll need.
After that we were more than ready to animate. Animating is something I really love, and this was my first experience with Claymation technique. My previous experiences were mostly in digital 2d and 3d technique, and from stop motion I’ve been using only cutout and pixilation. But if you are an animator, you should know that principles of animation are the same for all kind of techniques, even if you want to animate with sand. Except for the fact that you can’t use ‘pose to pose’ – animators will know what I mean. And I made few mistakes from very beginning, because I am not used to moving around soft objects such as clay. Every movement was to jerky. In one hour or so, by repeating and trying, I finally got used to it.
And we were quite good. And very fast too. We finished animation process before everyone, postproduction again before everyone, and we were also first in delivering our final work. I’m mentioning this not because I want to say that my group is something more special from the other teams (but for me my team is sacred!) but instead I just want to explain how everything was so fluid for us. And I didn’t sleep 35 hours in one moment, but who cares! It was worth it for sure.Again, here I can speak just for my team (because almost every hour inSweden I spend with them) and only I can say is: we were really great!
Screening ceremony & goodbye party
The public screening of all our films were shown at place called Victoriateatern (small city theater). Everything starts with public master class with our tutor Janne Vierth, professional writer, and his talking about how to be better writer for children. After many great advices, they start screening our films. All five films are accompanied by applause.Soon after that we were invited on the stage to talk with audience. After answering on their questions, big applause signalize that everything is finally over. And I was honored that in audience was my good friend from Sweden, which I have not seen more than two years, Sarah. After screening I went with Sarah for a short walk, in a beautiful city park.
What to say about this workshop and people who were there in general. We are all come there from different cultures (Estonia, Spain, Russia, Romania, Hungary, UK, France, Netherlands, Serbia… including Sweden) but sense for humor stays the same. And not only that. Working and laughing, listening the music together, discussing about everything, without nervous, without pressure – followed us all from very beginning to very end. Fear of ethnocentricity which has haunted me and forces me to make my film was not there anymore. There was absolutely no space for that. My final impression of this workshop? Pure success. Thanks to NISI MASA’s project managers, their sponsors, and of course, to all participants.
Film of my team can be found here: