This article is part of “Animationweek’s Selection”, where we deliver to you interviews with young creators from the CEE region on their short films, as part of our special issue “CEE Animation x Animationweek”.
Way of Sylvie
Sylvie´s life beats in a rhythm of responsibilities. And she is efficient, flawless, wonderful and – tired. A small accident happens and everything changes… or maybe not.
Director: Verica Pospíšilová Kordić
Writer: Verica Pospíšilová Kordić
Producers: Ondřej Šejnoha (FAMU, Czech Republic) / Anika Homolová (FAMU, Czech Republic)
Editor: Matěj Pospíšil
Music: Filip Nebřenský
Sound: Adam Bláha
At the online version of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2020, we came across an attractive student film, Way of Sylvie. The film is a story of a busy woman who is constantly keeping up with the many demands around her in everyday life, with a lively animation style and a clever metaphor regarding the human mind.
Way of Sylvie is the graduation film of Verica Pospíšilová Kordić at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) in the Czech Republic, one of the leading animation schools in Europe*. The film has been selected as part of the programmes of several international film festivals, including Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2020 and Hiroshima International Animation Festival 2020.
We would like to share with you the words of Verica Pospíšilová Kordić, the creator of the film, on the story behind the film.
*: You can find more information on FAMU in our special issue “The Leading Animation Schools Across Europe” (2019).
Interview with Verica Pospíšilová Kordić
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Where did the initial idea of the story come from?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: The idea for the story came to me when I was having coffee many years ago with a friend of mine. We were talking about life, and at one point she said: “A woman has to be so many things to a man – she has to be his friend, a mother and a lover.” I never thought about men-women relationships like this before. But this idea intrigued me, and after that I started observing the women around me more closely; my mother, sisters, friends, acquaintances, and I realized that women truly do play many roles in their lives, and not only in their relationships to men. And I saw how difficult it was to manage all of them.
I had a chance to test this truth for myself when I became a mother and a wife several years ago and during the making of the film. All of sudden, new roles came into my life, and Sylvie´s story suddenly seemed very personal.
HN: What message do you want to deliver to the audience the most through this film?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: I would like for those who identify with Sylvie and her story to realize that many other women live and feel the same way, that they are not alone. Our film has a difficult theme that was intentionally made into a comedy, a dark comedy to be more precise. The reason is that I believe in humor – its ability to effectively pass on a message but especially in its power to heal. So, I would also love for the viewers to take with them the feeling of “yes, life can be miserable but I can laugh at it and keep on going.”
HN: What did you take care of the most, in terms of visual designs and the animation of the film?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: Something that I put a lot of emphasis on was the proper rhythm of the film; this was very important to me. In terms of the visual designs of all of the elements: the visual of the characters, the backgrounds, and the transitions were similarly important in the planning and production phase, although I did take the most pleasure in coming up with the transitions. I also thought a lot about the individual symbols and the role that I wanted them to play in the film, such are the horizontal and vertical lines (somewhere representing the blinds or a dog leash, in other places representing the imprisonment), the bird(s), the cigarette, the cuckoo clock and the colors used.
HN: Not regarding visuals, but in terms of the development of the storyline, what was the most difficult thing and what did you take care of the most?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: In order to set up the story right, I had to show the repetitiveness of Sylvie´s life, so there had to be a day 1, day 2 and minimally a day 3. I quite struggled with finding the balance between providing the right amount of information and boring the viewer.
Another thing that was very challenging to conceptualize was the transition phase in the last third of the film between the “normal life” and the “crazy life.” The culmination of that part of the film was something I spent several months trying to figure out.
HN: Could you let us know what were your stylistic intentions behind having some of the animation (notably the characters) remain in black-and-white?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: Color is quite important in the film as each color of the brain and the background represents Sylvie´s given role. In order to keep this as clear as possible I left the characters in black and white. Only Sylvie´s hair bears color, and this is because I wanted the color red to symbolize the force of life secretly lying in Sylvie that was never lived or shown. Sylvie was also visually inspired by my Mom who dyed her hair with henna, leaving it looking reddish.
HN: I’m interested in the story behind the music creation for the film. How did Filip Nebřenský join your film project and how was the collaboration with him? What did you take care in the most for the music in the film?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: The film has no dialogue as I wanted to put the emphasis on the sound. My plan was to use, but not overuse, realistic sounds. After trying real birds singing for the the second main character of the film, namely the bird, my husband, who is a musician and an editor, and I came to the conclusion that it would be best to replace this realistic sound with a woodwind instrument. And because Filip is a terrific woodwind instrument musician and also one of the band-members in the band where my husband plays, we asked him to make the music for the film and he accepted. The collaboration with Filip was wonderful, although at times difficult due to the fact that this was a very low-paid project for Filip and he had to work on other projects at the same time.
Aside for not wanting to overuse the realistic sounds I wanted for the foley effects to be somehow incorporated into music, to create the melodies of their own (for example, the typewriter at the office). I also wanted for the individual sounds to come together in the end, to create this big mish-mash and in that way support the chaos occurring in Sylvie´s life. Filip fantastically managed both of these requirements and I am very happy to have been able to work with him.
HN: If you have any animation creators who has influenced your style of animation, could you please let us know about them?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: Joanna Quinn, Pavel Koutský, old Disney animators, UPA animators.
HN: What do you think is the attractiveness of 2D animation as a visual medium to tell stories for you?
Verica Pospíšilová Kordić: I love drawing and I find it very natural to express my thoughts and emotions through line. I tried working in 3D animation and computer cut-out animation in the past, but these computer techniques had always drained me because mouse-clicking never really felt like animating to me, even if the outcome would turn out well. Drawn animation (whether it be on paper or on a tablet) offers a lot of possibility for play, for transformation and morphing. I love the “messiness” of it, when you leave the line unclean. I love the dynamics of it, as the line becomes thicker, then thin, then thick again. And I love the line´s incredible ability to communicate an idea, even if it is very simple. The drawing makes me feel alive; that is why I think my future projects will definitely be drawn.