Microflix 2020 Progress Diaries with UTS Animation Students – No. 1

Hello Fellow Flixers!

With less than a month to go til the submissions deadline date (August 31st), many of you filmmakers, animators and storytellers are progressing somewhere through the second half of your projects! Maybe you are near the end or have already submitted? Or you are just beginning your Microflix now and are in need of support to get through the tough bit: just doing it.

Microflix partners with UTS Animation students every year where the students create an animated Microflix to submit to the festival. Deborah Szapiro has lead this alliance since 2018, and this year her students have been kind enough to provide information on their progress so far. Hopefully their progress will inspire and support your Microflix progress until the submission deadline.

Today I am delighted to present two groups and their adaptation progress so far, who have chosen texts that depict themes of loneliness. Daisy Allen, Olympia Schulte, Jay Towney and Abhi Carvale have chosen to adapt Earthquake by Karen Whitelaw.

 ‘We chose this text as the themes of anxiety and loneliness resonated with us. We were initially drawn by the idea of exploring mental health through abstract storytelling and finding an interesting and unique way to portray this visually.

Screenshot from their adaptation of ‘Earthquake

And Alex Banks, Jasmine Tran, Sophie Bal and York Li have chosen to adapt With the Moths on Ash Island by Kathryn Fry.

‘The manner in which she described Ash Island was visually compelling, and the characterisation was very strong for such a truncated piece. The text acted as a jumping-off point for further research into the real person that was Harriet Scott, a renowned artist who experienced much hardship and prejudice during her life.

Screenshot from Zoom meeting for “With the Moths on Ash Island”

With many ways to approach an adaptation process, the groups begun their projects differently, as the microlit texts they had chosen portrayed the theme of loneliness differently. On one hand, Earthquake portrays this visually and metaphorically, so as a group they:

‘Began this adaptation process by interrogating what exactly we wanted to say in our adaptation and which details of the story would be the most visually interesting. Through multiple iterations and discussions, we narrowed down our themes, which over time came to be an exploration of the anxiety and world breaking emotions that come with the end of a relationship.

With the Moths on Ash Island conveys this through the characterisation of a historical figure, and so:

‘We wanted to communicate certain facets of Harriet’s background in a non-intrusive manner, encouraging audiences to pursue their own research just as we did. As such, we created a fairly literal adaptation, cautious not to fabricate or overly exaggerate aspects of the historical figures who made up the cast.

Storyboarding ‘With the Moths on Ash Island’

Texts that include historical figures do deserve more research than others, which Alex’s
 group has done by contacting the author.

‘We created a quite thorough list of questions for the author, seeking counsel regarding characterisation, and attempting to unify our references and inspirations. They replied with textbook extracts that provided insight into those areas of learning, and we were able to get a better idea of what Kathryn Fry was passionate about.

The authors interpretation can sometimes impact your own interpretation of story, however,

‘This interaction reassured us that our approach was respectful to the original text, and that our research was similar to that of the author’s, putting us on somewhat equal ground.

Storyboarding ‘With the Moths on Ash Island’

And even without historical figures, like Earthquake, some sort of research into the author can be helpful in understanding the text, like Daisy’s group who,

 ‘Explored her Twitter feed and blog posts on the author’s website which added some context to the author’s background.

Storyboarding ‘Earthquake’

Getting the actual film done while COVID-19 restrictions continue has shown to be a challenge, especially for animation teams like Daisy’s group who found,

‘Our greatest challenge was not being able to collect first-hand reference material due to lockdown, as well as having to coordinate an efficient production pipeline from home. Sharing material between group members was difficult, but we were able to develop organised shared folders and crucial naming conventions.

Storyboarding ‘Earthquake’

Similarly, Alex’s group found that,

‘We did struggle somewhat with time management and convenient file sharing. Our method of file sharing over Google Drive was sometimes confusing and made it difficult to find files, as we didn’t have a consistent naming convention for uploaded files.

Not only did the teams have to coordinate the whole project in their teams of four through Zoom, both groups also collaborated with a UTS Sound Design student to create the audio, facilitated by Sound Design tutor Felicity Wilcox. The sound for With the Moths on Ash Island was put together by Rosemary McClelland and Mark Sahin, and the sound for Êarthquake was created by Sarah Bonnet.

In the end of their production, Alex’s group were,

‘Happy with the outcome of our sound designer’s work, however our creative vision shifted during the process of production, which resulted in our overall theme that we wanted to portray to change, so our film’s music gave us a somewhat different tone then we were aiming for.

And Daisy’s group, in recognising their inexperience with sound design,

‘We strived to give freedom to the specialists we collaborated with. By providing broad suggestions and inviting regular consultation, we believe we were able to cultivate a healthy working relationship with those students. As a result, they produced a very successful soundtrack for our film, especially considering the limited access to facilities, which inarguably elevated the final product.

Final stages of ‘Earthquake’

Now that both groups have completed and submitted their projects, they are able to reflect on the most enjoyable aspects of the adaptation process! For Daisy’s group this included,

‘Learning about the character and being able to uncover her real life, and interpreting her emotions into a living form. Figuring out the style and aesthetic was an enjoyable process as we explored different kinds of animation.

And for Alex’s group they found,

‘The collaboration aspects of the working process was the most enjoyable part. Being able to bounce ideas off each other and draw new inspiration from the different ways each member interpreted the story was immensely helpful to the adaptation process.

For those of you reading this that have finished their adaptations already, please leave a comment telling us what your most enjoyable aspect of the process was. Or if you’re just starting yours then I hope this post has provided support and inspiration. We’re looking forward to your submissions in the meantime!

Good luck! Taj

Anastazija (Taj) Luksic is a student at University of Technology Sydney, where in 2017 she completed her Media Arts and Production degree, and is currently finishing off her Creative Intelligence and Innovation bachelors. During her degree she worked on personal documentary projects, with one screened at the Focus On Ability Film Festival 2017. She also volunteered on a number of sets ranging from a commercial for Batyr, to ‘The Horizon’ web series.