March 28-2013
Climb Media Bags ASSOCHAM INFOCOM EME AWARD 2013 for Animated Short Film ‘Like Sisters’ in Best Public Service Film Category- In Tête-à-Tête with Nikhil Warwadekar – Studio Head, Climb Media

Animated Social Message has left a winning impact!

Mumbai Based Climb Media’s animated short film ‘Like Sisters’ has won the ASSOCHAM INFOCOM EME AWARD 2013 in the Best Public Service Film Category. The short film was created for leading NGO CHILDLINE India Foundation.

Along with Like Sisters, Climb Media has produced two more animated short films for Childline India Foundation titled ‘Education Counts’ and ‘The Rose’ out of which ‘Education Counts’ was also nominated for the awards.

To get a deeper insight into the kind of efforts and vision taken for developing ‘Like Sisters’ , AnimationXpress.com’s Zeenia Boatwala had a tête-à-tête with Nikhil Warwadekar, Studio Head, Climb Media.

Congratulations on winning the award for Like Sisters!! How do you feel about it?
[smiles]The whole team is on seventh heaven. It is always an amazing feeling to have our work appreciated by people other than friends and well wishers from the industry. The hard work of the team has paid off a sweet dividend.

When and how were you approached by Childline India Foundation for this film and what was the brief given by them and your initial reactions?
We were approached by Childline India sometime during May last year. They wanted to make 4 films on various topics. Due to our past association with UNICEF international, NCERT and other NGO bodies for whom we have made animation short film earlier, they were clear they wanted to work with us. Besides, Team Climb Media was pining to work on short films, something we hadn’t done for the longest time. So it was a good opportunity for both.

What is the synopsis, storyline, the targeted audience for the short film?
Synopsis –

Like Sisters - The death of her best friend due to miscarriages and abortions caused by child marriage leads to a strong transformation in Priya. She channelizes her sorrow to help empower young girls to take right decision at the right age.

Education Counts - The convent going Roshan finds an unlikely friend and hero in the street smart kid Ajay, a construction site worker. Soon he learns the bitter truth behind Ajay’s painful life as a child laborer and decides to help him.

The Rose – Mani is physically battered by his insensitive teacher regularly. When the teacher asks the class to bring a full grown rose for their project, Mani’s anxiety deepens. A timely intervention by Childline Didi helps reclaim Mani’s life.

LIKE SISTERS had to be short and sweet and had to touch the emotional chords of every viewer to connect with the subject of the film. The target audience for the film ranges from 8yr olds to adults, an audience mostly concentrated in the rural areas of the country where the issue of child marriages is rampant.

According to you, which aspect of Like Sisters has made it an award winning short film?
We knew right at the onset that due to the budget constraints, we had to make a simple film in 2D riding on the best possible story. We believe no film is appealing if the story is not strong. We concentrated on the simple and emotional connect storyline that is the foundation of the film and the film works beautifully.

The title sequence where we see Maya and Priya sitting on a tree branch looks simple and good! Can you share more on this?
The film was emotionally challenging, even if technically simple. Raviraj Kumbhar, the lead colorist and Background artist on this really helped us a lot in enhancing the emotional quotient, at the same time keep in mind the essence of the story’s simplicity. While there were many concepts created for the film, this particular visual was chosen because it beautifully depicts the bond between two friends who are as close as sisters.

Please share more on the kind of vision and approach you followed for creating the short film?
The issue of child marriages is particularly rampant in the rural areas where the problem of illiteracy also exists. The story is being said in a non-linear format. Writers Tehzeeb Khurana and Kireet Khurana came up with a bold strategy of writing a live-action script and trying to portray the emotions using animation. Therefore, it is the first of it’s kind for us. Director Prashant Shikare who also designed and did the storyboards for all the 3 films including LIKE SISTERS, did a fabulous job of maintaining the emotional key of the story. The execution style of the film is interesting and different yet does not overpower the storyline.

Prashant Shikare : Storyboard, Design & Direction

May we know more about the team behind this short film?
Childline Team: Nishit Kumar, Nipa Bhansali
Storyboard, Design & Direction: Prashant Shikare
Creative Producer: Kireet Khurana
Story screenplay: Tehzeeb Khurana / Kireet Khurana
Visual Direction : Raviraj Kumbhar
Animation Director : Vishnu Jadhav
Compositing : Arvind Shirke
Music : Ashish Jha / Pravin Jain
Sound design : Pranay Sane
Animation Producer : Nikhil Warwadekar
Exec. Producer : Raviraj Wade

As we all know, the story boarding is a preview of the movie, please inform more on the story boarding phase for the short film?
The Story Boarding phase maps out a logical progression of the flow of the film. But before logic, the storyboard artist is expected to go wherever his imagination takes him in terms of recreating the script in the form of visuals. So in the first draft Director Prashant Shikare took complete liberty for visualization of the story to allow for emotions. In subsequent drafts, he polished and tightened it further, with correct emphasis given in places required.

Prashant Shikare, was very clear on his vision. The storyboard underwent very few revisions as he was easily able to translate to visuals what was required in the script. Being an animator himself, Prashant was able to make a comprehensive storyboard that also eased in the next phase-animation.

Each scene in the short film is given a subtle color blend; also the staging of each scene is amazing, can you share more on this?
The good thing about films be it short or feature length is that the director is at complete liberty to add subtle layers of information to every visual. Plus, for short films, where a lot of information has to be conveyed in a short time, it is the prerogative of every film maker to ensure that everything he wants to say is available to the audience, be it in the form of colours that indicate the mood, or specific settings that bring out subtle nuances of storytelling.

Please share more about the protagonists and other characters in this short film? Can we know more about the initial concept and story finalization stages?
The 2 protagonists and their moments were depicted in a non-linear, emotional pattern. Many incidents which would be our cherished childhood memories were explored. It’s a relatable story. Everyone has bunked school, everyone has had a best friend as they were growing up etc. Yet there was contrast, joy, happiness, sadness, guilt, empowerment and finally bliss. So the story went through a beautiful curve as did the character arcs in the journey of their lives. And the end line nails the contrasts between the characters when Priya says “Not all stories have a happy ending…” So the film has a down ending, yet ends on a happy, empowered note, depicting the ironical realities of life. But not without change and empowerment

Do you relate this short film to any real life experience; has it been adapted from any real experiences?
Yes, the inspirations for the films have been real life experience but not one single incident that inspired the films. These are awareness films and were made to educate the uneducated and so the plot revolves round the collective real life experiences of the masses.

What is the duration of the short film?

Like Sisters – 4min 53sec

The Rose – 5min 10sec

Education Counts – 6min 31sec

I love the shot when the camera zooms out of the classroom and highlights Priya and Maya eating mangoes? Is it your favorite shot too?
I think everyone can share a similar incident from their own childhoods. I myself remember bunking class to go scale a guava tree in our school grounds. Incidents like these resonate universally and serve to quickly link the viewer to the story. In answer to your question, yes this particular shot is everyone’s favorite.

How much time did the character designs take? Any real life references that you’ve taken for the characters?
Characters design for all the 3 films took 2 weeks with minor changes on approval stages from the Childline team. No real life references were taken, as the character designs needed to look simplified for this particular style of film making.

For sure, you must have re looked at the movie from the audience point of view and then made some improvements and add ons? Can you share it with us?
All our stories are written form audience point of view. Tehzeeb did extensive research before finalizing the stories for all the three films. Once the story was locked and approved from the Childline team, no changes were made. There were a lot of experiments done during the storyboard phase.

How much time did you take to complete the production and post-production of the short film?
It took us nearly 5 months to complete three films. Considering the total duration of all three16 min40 sec, the team did a fabulous job.

Animating emotions keeping in mind a social message like child marriage, how challenging does it become?
Animation is nothing but emotion in motion, is what we at Climb Media live by. The same ideology was taken forward during production for the films. It wasn’t very challenging because if we drifted, Kireet Khurana would pull us back to the definition of animation.

I was touched seeing the scene, when Priya touches Maya’s hand with so much affection when Maya is unwell, what’s your take on this scene?
That particular scene was one of the highlights of the film as it depicts the adverse effects of child marriage. It is a very poignant scene where Maya is at her deathbed and Priya comes to meet her after 6yrs. The viewer connects with Priya’s inability to help Maya even in her last moments.

What was the most challenging aspect in developing the short film?
The most challenging aspect was developing the look and feel for the films.

Like Sisters is part of a series of 3 films; the other two being ‘The Rose’ and ‘Education Counts’. These films are to be shown in various villages all over India. The audience’s visual and emotional connect with the films was very necessary. Keeping the films visually attractive and at the same time not overpowering the story was our mandate.

What is the production budget of the short film?
Childline India is an organization which helps children in need. The films were made with the budgets which barely covered costs incurred. The intention of making these films were to make them for a social cause and not for profit.

Nikhil Shares more on the animated short films, Education Counts and The Rose

In Education Counts, the concept of showing child labour and the sad effect is a nice idea, was this initial idea for this short film?
What best way to explain something to a child, than from their own viewpoint. Through Roshan’s eyes we see Ajay’s world, first in a positive light and then in a negative one. With Roshan, we experience the emotions he goes through as he sees something that looks inviting on the surface level and then when he finds out the harsh truth behind everything and decides to stand up for Ajay. There were many approaches to showing child labour, but none so effective as from Roshan’s POV.

The story in ‘The Rose’ progressed wonderfully; I didn’t expect the little boy to smash up the rose in anger, nice! Can you share more on this idea?
Most times we forget that children observe our every action and unconsciously emulate us. The authority figures in their lives are responsible for molding their minds from a very young age. Here too, Mani believes that for something good to happen there is only one way and that is by harsh punishment. And this is a direct result of his teacher’s behavior towards him which has affected his mind negatively. We wanted the audience to connect with Mani’s action and his emotions. Also, the shot works because it comes so unexpectedly in the film.

In The Rose, a captivating scene according to me is when the little boy expects a pasting and he is gifted with a chocolate by his teacher- Please express your thoughts on this!
Most times, after having experienced something bad over and over again, we start expecting only bad things to happen to us. This is a universal emotion and it stays in our psyche till something good happens to change our perceptions. A child with burnt fingers dreads fire, and so does Mani, when his teacher calls him. It is only when he is gifted a chocolate instead that his mindset starts to change. When we were designing this sequence we were definitely looking for a universal emotional connect, and this was the best way to go about it.

Expressing Happiness on Winning the Award, Nishit Kumar, Nishit Kumar, Head, Communication & Strategic Initiatives, CHILDLINE India Foundation, shares, “
“CHILDLINE’s need to reach out to children in schools and communities on the issue of Child Labour, Corporal Punishment, Child Marriage and Child Sexual Abuse through a friendly medium led us to the format of animation films.

It was critical that the animation films keep in mind societal traditions that exist yet convey a strong message calling for behavior changes, giving children a better life.

When we set out to find an agency specializing in animation, there was no contesting the skill set and portfolio of Climb Media. From day one, their dedication, grit, skills and social sensitivity to the cause of CHILDLINE showed in everything they created for us. From the script, storyboard, illustrations to the final edit, the team’s creativity and hard work showed in numerous ways. We are delighted to have worked with Kireet and his team at Climb Media, who have become true ‘Dosts’ of CHILDLINE over the past year!

We are delighted that two of the films have been nominated for awards and one has already picked up awards.“

Education Counts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtoD5B1dfIc -

The Rose 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kN60wTiLk8 -

connect@animationxpress.com

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