Beyond the Face

In a world where adults have no faces and wear masks instead, a naive child spends his childhood dreaming about airplanes. During the play, he unknowingly stumbles upon a school catalog in which he notices a new school bag with an airplane design. He convinces his father to go and buy it at a nearby bookstore. The realization of his wish consequently leads to the confrontation with an unpleasant transition into a new world on the first day of school. Nalu has to give up his childhood and with that accept losing the face.

Beyond the Face
Director: Anja Resman
Producer: Boštjan Potokar (University of Nova Gorica School of Arts, Slovenia)
Target audience: Children 10+
Technique: Stop-motion

Beyond the Face is a thought-provoking short film project which was selected in the ‘Rising Stars’ category at CEE Animation Forum 2021. A boy entering primary school who loves airplanes will face a turning point in his life where two conflicting things await: getting a new school bag with an airplane design, and losing his face the same way as all the adults did. We interviewed Anja Resman on her new stop-motion short film project.

Interview with Anja Resman

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you let us know the key points of your new animated short film project that you would like to appeal to the prospective audience?

Anja Resman: There are a few key points that I’m mostly focusing on while developing this film. The most important in my opinion are the story, visual style, animation and sound. I believe that the story needs a strong message for the audience to connect to. For me, writing about something that personalty touched me is a must, because you can use your own unique way of delivering a message to an audience. Visual style is another important part and it needs to attract the viewer. The environment I’ve created is based on reality with a slight fantasy twist. In the last year I have been also focusing a lot on improving the quality of my animation, with the help from Julie Peguet. I recently started focusing more on sound and music even though I’m still in the pre-production to production stage. I actually composed something on my piano, but I don’t want to say too much on it yet.

HN: Where did the initial idea of the story come from and how did the project start?

Anja Resman: Growing up I’ve always felt like an outcast and as a kid you would do anything just to fit in. I quickly learned that my only option was putting on a mask and adapting to my peers. But the longer you try to fit in, the more miserable you become. In the end you realise that you’ve completely lost your own self. I never had a lot of friends and in the end of 2017, right before I started working on this project, I lost all of them. That really pushed me into a reflection of what changed and how much easier it was when we were only kids. I spontaneously stumbled on a quote by Amanda Richardson that says: “In the world where everyone wears a mask, it’s a privilege to see a soul”. The quotation touched me so much that I decided to create a film based on my experiences. I took the quote just as an inspiration and than developed a story around it. From the beginning I knew I would get help from my family, especially from my father who helped me already with a previous short animated film I did in 2016. I created a visual style of environment and puppets and he helped me with building and fabrication.

HN: What are you taking care of the most when writing the story of the film?

Anja Resman: Before I start writing the story I need to find an idea or inspiration that would work as a guideline or motivation. After that I focus on what kind of genre the film is going to be and who will be my main audience. The most important part that I’m focusing on is threading the theme throughout the whole story, including the main character’s motivation, goals, complications, twists and unfolding. I try to develop the characters’ strong characteristics and include them in the story. I have been working on this story for the past two years and I learned a lot about how to write the script, but at the same time I feel it still needs to go more in-depth and develop a little further.

HN: Could you let us know the most important characteristic and goal of the visual design of characters and the universe for the story? What is the main goal of that?

Anja Resman: I believe that the story is timeless. That’s why the old town seemed to me the most suitable environment because the spatial time is indefinite. Even after the first sketches of the street, I realized that I had to plan the scenography more in-depth, so I explored the centres of some old towns in Slovenia. When planning the street, I decided that the scenery will be made in a 1:6 scale. On the ground floor of the houses there are various shops, and above them there are small town apartments. The father is living only with his son in a small old city apartment, that is why I wanted to emphasize his messy and awkward touch when it gets to cleaning and organising the place. Because I developed an environment with a realistic approach, which I wanted to make total opposite with the characters. I played around with their body proportions and specific artistic visual style. The main aim of visual style is creating a perfect balance of reality and fantasy mixed with abstract and grotesque metaphors.

HN: What element of the film did you feel was difficult to develop so far? How did you deal with that?

Anja Resman: I would have to say the facial expressions and facial animation of puppets. As Nalu is the only one in the film that has his own face, I want to put a lot of attention towards making his expressions as smooth and realistic as possible. I started working on this project as a bachelor degree student. For my graduation thesis I created a detailed research on the complexity of facial animation in animated films, which also helped me when I was making puppet expressions for my own film. The technique that I’m using is full-face replacement animation. We’ve 3D-printed over 80 identical faces that had a hole where the mouth is. I sculpted different mouth expressions by hand and tested them under the camera.

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