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.