22 April 2016

From College Project to Award-Winning Animated Short Film

Written and directed by Gerard Seymour, Somnium won silver in the Student Film category at The New York Festival’s 2014 International Television & Film Awards. Now a full time animator with TopLine Comms, we caught up with this Cape Town-based creative to find out more about the film.

Gerard and his six-strong animation team took the better part of nine months to complete their third year project. With a running time of five minutes, the film tells the story of a young girl who uses her creativity to break free from the oppressive societal system she finds herself in.

What was the original brief?
We were asked to make a 3D animated short film that was anywhere between 2-8 minutes long. What really appealed to me is that there weren’t any story restrictions or limitations, which meant we could get as creative as we liked.

How did the idea come about?
As a creative child growing up in a school system that didn’t really cater for creatives, this story just felt very natural in my head. Almost like it was meant to be told. Around this time there was also a lot of tension around the topic of social control through a controlled media. (This was the same year Edward Snowden was indicted for leaking classified information.)

Who conceptualised it and what did that entail?
As the lead on the project as well as the one who came up with the original idea, conceptualising the story fell to me. A lot of it entailed researching topics I wouldn’t normally research, which was really interesting. But because the idea had been brewing for some time, it was mostly a matter of writing down what was already in my head.

What kind of research did you need to do?
I did a lot of Google searching and watched a bunch of conspiracy theory related documentaries as well as films that tackled the same topic. I also spent some time just contemplating life, which probably looked a lot like I was just lying on the couch doing nothing. Ha ha.

Can you take us through the character’s developmental stage?
The character was inspired by a collection of people in my life whose creative genius has left them largely misunderstood. I named her Wednesday, because just like the deadpan daughter in the movie, The Adams Family, she’s also nothing like other kids her age.

I knew from the outset that the main character needed to be female, perhaps because I find a woman’s emotions more believable. Creating her in 3D proved to be quite a technical challenge, especially because we decided to give her hair and clothes gravitational pull to make her more lifelike. None of us knew how to do this, so we ended up spending a lot of time learning. We ended up behind schedule because of this decision.

How did you piece together the elements to create the whole?
We split the pipeline into separate tasks and allocated them to each of the six members in the group. This gave us a better idea of how to accurately schedule our time and also ensured that the workload was spread equally among us.

Looking back on the production, are you pleased with how it came out?
I’m definitely pleased with what we accomplished in the limited time we had. But looking back now I can see how much more we could have done if we’d scheduled our time better and not used such complicated hair physics systems. All in all though, I’ve learnt so much from this experience and had a lot of fun working with (and learning from) my teammates.

When he’s not dreaming up movies to make, Gerard puts his talent to good use on TopLine’s various client and in-house projects.

16 April 2016

5 Fun and Interesting Facts about Tahiti and its Islands

Tahiti is a dream come true for many people who are looking for a place where they can enjoy perfect weather, beaches, and solitude (if needed!). But how much do you know about this amazing little part of the world?

Check your knowledge and learn new fact right away, because bellow you are going to find five best, funniest and the most interesting facts about Tahiti and its islands!

Fact One
The Tahitian alphabet is made up only of 13 letters. That includes such as vowels a, e, i, o, u and the consonants f, h, m, n, p, r, t and v. Noticed something missing? Apart from such missing letter like y, w, x or z, there is also no letter b in the alphabet. And that is why the infamous Bora Bora Island is actually pronounced Pora Pora by locals. Translated from Tahitian, that directly means “first-born”, but apparently because of simply human mishearing, early visitors heard it as Bora Bora and therefore named it officially.

Fact Two
The word tattoo originated in French Polynesia apart from the fact, that tattoos are pretty widely spread among many different nations and cultures. Tattoos have long been considered signs of beauty in Polynesian culture, and in ancient times were also a sign, of a person reaching adolescence. It is also believed, that the very first people who came to Tahiti and discovered people walking all covered with such body paintings, developed the English word ‘tattoo’ which directly originates from the Tahitian word ‘tatau.'  In fact, here you can also try to get a traditional Tahitian tattoo as well since there are many local masters who will love helping you out!

Fact Three
The Tiare flower is considered being the national symbol of Tahiti. So, it is very loved and used in many different ways. For example, both men and women wear these flowers as an accessory: either as a necklace, crown or behind the ear. There are also some traditions or ways of communication as well. Therefore, if you wear this flower on your left ear, you are showcasing that you are taken, while if you put it in your right ear - you indicate that you are free for romance.

Fact Four
Tahiti receives fewer tourists in an entire year than Hawaii gets in one day. That means that this paradise on Earth is one of the most exclusive destinations in the world. However, that doesn’t mean that it is somehow pricier or harder to afford. 

Fact Five
While staying in many different Tahiti islands, you might get a chance to meet one of the friendliest men, women in the world and… the third sex. The latest – as locals call it mahuor rae rae – are men who behave and or just dress like women. However, they are not considered being some kind of outcasts. In fact, mahu were always considered as people who combined the best of both the male and female gender. It is also safe to say, that homophobia is uncommon in Tahiti and other islands. It indeed makes it a real paradise on Earth, where everyone can just relax and enjoy the sun!


Dan Warner has the job of nightmares.  He works as a desaturator in a world where color can be used as energy once it is extracted from any object.  Yet he also has a secret which is about to be discovered.  Directed by Jackson Miller, Prism presents a dystopic future which, when you examine the visual metaphor, is a statement about what large multinational companies are doing to our planet and its resources – right now.

10 April 2016

Genghis Khan Rides Again: Huge Statue of Emperor Dominates the Mongolian Steppe

Just over thirty miles east of the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator the old Emperor, Genghis Khan, rides again.  Sat atop his horse, surveying his dominion (which was after his death to become the largest contiguous empire in history) a huge 131 feet statue of Genghis Khan dominates the steppes of Mongolia.

The sculpture, designed by D. Erdenebileg and architect J. Enkhjargal stands at the banks of the Tuul River.  It is here that the great emperor was said to have found a golden whip at the age of fifteen – though there is no exact evidence to support this.  It was, however, this whip that is said to have inspired the young Temujin (his birth name) to go on to conquer much of the known world.

3 April 2016

A New Dawn: China Meets Myanmar

All too often we hear terrible news stories about enormous, faceless corporations trampling over the interests of local people who stand in the way of new and lucrative projects. So, for once, it’s refreshing to bring you the story of a coming together of one group of people and a large company, made all the more remarkable because it happened during a period of immense political upheaval.

Myanmar recently elected its first civilian president after half a century of military rule. This was the culmination of years of internal struggle with a regime which would make deals with overseas investors with little or no thought for its own population.  A few years ago the residents of Myo Kyo Pyin village were told, with no consultation, that their entire settlement was to be relocated to make way for a mine owned and operated by Wanbau.

Fifty years of being told what to do did not stop the villagers from taking matters in to their own hands, however.  They barricaded the company’s new premises, effectively blocking it from the outside world.  After ten days the government intervened.  Yet instead of sending the troops in it set up a commission which eventually decided that the mine could go ahead but with some conditions.

Myanmar Wanbau even went further.  It brought in a British risk management advisory British company, China-I, to identify the social risks and the main factors behind the company’s problems. This remarkable video shows how all of this worked – a lttle history in the making as this was the very first time a Chinese company had asked a British company for help in the resolution of an international reputational risk issue.

As I said at the beginning of this post, we’re so used to seeing multinationals trampling over the interests of local people.  However, as this video shows, perhaps the way forward is to deal with crises not through escalating the issue but instead by cooperating directly with the people whose lives are affected.

2 April 2016

The Best Star Wars Street Art We Could Find

Star Wars has embedded itself in to public consciousness throughout the world – these pictures serve as ample proof of that.   It has also served as inspiration for artists who have grown up with the movies and ultimately develop their own artistic take, not always it has to be said in a strictly legal manner.  Graffiti is loved by some and loathed by many but it would have to be a hard hearted Star Wars fan who didn't crack a smile when confronted with these. Here is a brief whistle stop tour of the coolest Star Wars graffiti we could find.

Brick Lane, London
Image Credit


This short film gives a brief insight in to the work of an emergency call operator who has to deal with all sorts of issues.  Here Kate Dickey gives a tour de force performance as the operator who gets the kind of call they all must dread – the one where lives are at danger because a fire has broken out.  Operator was written and directed by Caroline Bartleet and edited by Yann Heckman.