You know that feeling when you’re framed for a crime you didn’t commit? That’s the set up for Catastrophe, which is being screened at the English Riviera Film Festival. The supposed culprit is a cat, and the alleged victim, a bird.
Catastrophe: a short disaster
Subtitled ‘A Short Disaster’, this animation was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere. Then it was show nation-wide in the Netherlands before Spider-man Homecoming screenings.
Here’s the story:
when a little bird suddenly drops dead in it’s cage, all eyes are on the cat. Desperately he tries to make everything right again, but actually making everything worse in the progress.
This was director Jamille van Wijngaarden‘s first animation. We got in touch to find out why she decided to go into animation and what attracted her to the story of Catastrophe,
D&CFilm: What inspired you to make the film?
Jamille van Wijngaarden: I often get inspired by tragic characters who mean well but who’s actions have disastrous consequences. In this case my own cat is one of those characters. Knocking things over as it tries to come up to you for a cuddle. He was the starting point for this story.
And combined with a little bird you create a classic expected scenario which turns out to be quite the opposite. Cats are the stereotypical bad guy in the cat-bird stories. So playing with that concept led to making little birdie a devious character.
What I love is action-consequence sequences that grab the viewers attention. A fast domino-effect that sets things in motion and in our case goes from bad to worse.
Animation really lends itself for that kind of storytelling and I gladly used those techniques to make my vision come to life.
As much as the characters have inspired me to come up with the story. The arena, my home, the city of Amsterdam, has equally contributed to making this animation. The style and overall look very much comes from the organic nature of this city. Not a single house is the same and everything being crooked means it is in itself very animatic.
“A slap-sticky animation with very heightened reality and a darker edge”
Using this as inspiration It meant for me I could make a slap-sticky animation with very heightened reality and a darker edge. But even though we’re being thrown from one end to the other, we finish our film with a positive feeling when we see our cat falling in love again despite what he’s just been through.
Love conquers all.
D&CFil: Why did you decide to make an animation?
Jamille van Wijngaarden: As a live-action director I’ve made films where I can create my own world. A bit larger-than-life with eccentric characters.
In animation you can make these characters as ‘out there’ as you like which opens up a whole new world of creative freedom.
“Dark humor has always been a re-occurring factor in my work”
Dark humor has always been a re-occurring factor in my work. Catastrophe uses this kind of humor and the style of animation needed to contrast that. I felt a strong need to play with the audience’s expectations. A seemingly sweet and innocent environment, using organic shapes and warm colors juxtaposed with a cruel story.
Also the city of Amsterdam, with its unique unsymmetrical shapes and crooked buildings formed a good starting point in creating the arena and its characters.
D&CFilm: Was it different making an animated film?
Jamille van Wijngaarden: Being a live-action director and relatively new to the process of animation, meant that there was a lot to learn.
“I wanted to bring my knowledge of storytelling… into the world of animation”
I wanted to bring my knowledge of storytelling in live-action into the world of animation. Although there are many similarities in the workflow/methods, it’s actually a different beast all together. So for me this meant to adapt what I knew and had to make it work with the team.
With an animation every frame costs a lot of (render) time and money, so in the animatic phase you have to be aware of every frame you’re using.
One of the biggest challenges I faced were mostly during the blocking-phase. The lack of detail at that point in the process really demands a lot of your imagination and vision to make the right decisions.
D&Film: And why do you think it’s been so successful?
Jamille van Wijngaarden: The story has an universal appeal. The lack of dialogue and an easy to follow rhythm makes it a good watch for everyone. The whole animation is essentially a big domino-effect, one thing leads to another. Dialogue wasn’t needed to tell that story, so the tiny bit of dialogue we did use was just jibberish.
Also the city of Amsterdam gives the animation an unique character.
D&CFilm: Jamille van Wijngaarden, thank you!