Fight the battle with insanity;
Fight it for the rest of their lives with adversity.
Animation can touch the wildest string of imagination and the deepest chord of reality through emotions and creativity. An upcoming animated short film Mila that’s been in production since 2010, consisting of 250 artists from 25 countries with one goal in mind, denotes the clear picture of the aftermath of war, the turmoil faced by a victim kid ‘Mila’ and the misfortune of the lone survivors. Probably, the creators should speak for themselves.
AnimationXpress got in touch with director Cinzia Angelini (How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda DVD specials), producer Andrea Emmes and visual effects supervisor and executive producer Valerio Oss (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 127 Hours) of the animated film Mila.
Cinzia: I always had the desire to write and direct a short and when I had the chance to start, I decided to write the script finding inspiration from stories that my mom told me about her experience as a five year old child in the middle of World War II.
What really affected me in particular was the story as to when the bombers would approach and the terror, the anxiety and sense of void that she felt. War is unfortunately a terrible reality that keeps repeating itself.
How did you go about with the script and the storyboarding process?
Cinzia: The character that inspired the story – my mom, reacted to the bombings by freezing and not being able to run or take shelter. Of course a passive character is not that interesting for a film so I kept the core idea of what my mom experienced and created the story around it.
I think it’s important for a director to get someone you trust to interpret your script, to avoid being too close to it and lose perspective. The storyboard is drawn digitally using Photoshop.
Why did you think of the little girl as the protagonist?
Cinzia: The little girl was inspired by my mom but represents all children in the middle of past and present conflicts. I think a five year old girl is the best protagonist for such a film as she represents innocence but also strength and resilience. She represents hope.
What were the softwares used?
Valerio: Maya for the 3D part (but also some small use of 3ds Max). Nuke for compositing, Houdini for FX and of course Photoshop and other extra tools for texturing.
What is the work done in terms of VFX?
Valerio: It is especially done in a couple of sequences. We have various war sequences, explosions, fire, water and other difficult VFX sequences. We are still working on them and I think these will be the late sequences to be finished due to the great difficulties in developing them.
What has been the most challenging part while creating this film?
Valerio: Coordinating all the artists. It’s difficult to keep everyone in sync between the various departments. Of course there is still a challenge in transferring files, because many times we talk about gigs and gigs of data, and to keep them up to date is challenging.
Cinzia: For me, it’s keeping the creative part of things going as I am often trying to fix technical issues due to the fact that we are a remotely connected team with no budget.
Andrea: Yes, keeping track of everyone all over the world, staying on top of communication, understanding the most effective way to work with different cultures and language barriers. Even though everyone on Mila speaks and writes English, 85 per cent of our volunteers have English as their second language. Another issue is when there are errors in scripts or with a model or rig, not being able to get together in one room to troubleshoot or see what the other is doing so we can address and fix things quicker has been challenging.
What do you aim to portray through the film?
Valerio: A message – Consider and help children involved in wars around the world.
Cinzia: My main goal is that we really make a difference, even if that means changing only one child, maybe a future leader that might make a difference.
What is the budget of the film?
Valerio: No budget at all, and this is the real challenge. We just had a 50,000 Euros grant from Italy Trentino Film Commission and 14,000 Euros from the Fondazione Cassa Rurale but that’s it. We are striving to get more to finish the film sooner, but this is a volunteer project and that’s the philosophy of all.
What are your plans for the film?
Valerio: Of course festivals are the main target. We want everybody to see it! It is not a film, it is a message, a movement. The more number of people that see “Mila”, the more will get the message against war and how it affects those left behind, especially the children.
Andrea: We want to make a difference. We want to talk about the kids caught in the middle of war. It’s a pretty unconventional theme for an animated short film. We want to start conversations around the world where people are discussing what is happening to the millions of children like Mila around the world today!
How much of the film is completed till now? When will it be out?
Valerio: 60 per cent of the film is completed. Next year it will be ready.
Cinzia: It took a long time to get to where we are but all the assets have been built and we are getting more and more efficient as a team.
Andrea: We have been working steadily on the film since 2010 and we have wrapped Modeling, Texturing, Rigging, most of the Layout and are currently working hard in Animation, Lighting, CFX, End Credits and Compositing/Rendering. We’re looking really good to finish production by the end of this year so that we can have it fully rendered and packaged by early 2017, just in time for the festival circuit.
This project has been co-produced by Ibiscus Media and Pixel Cartoon Animation and VFX in association with the UNICEF.