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18th November 2014
Drawing a line
Title of film: Wallflowers
Director: Bjorn-Erik Aschim
Production Company: The Line
In a new series on animators, Benoit Berthe talks with the Line Studio's Bjorn-Erik Aschim

Your colourful and humorous portrayal of Wallflower characters is amazing – especially for the different body languages that you’ve captured perfectly. The characters seem paradoxically lonely, shy, while also trying to be integrated or seen. Please tell us how the idea for this film came about and what was behind your decision to do it?

I think it came out of a single drawing that I put down on my blog ages ago. I didn’t have the idea for Wallflowers at that time, but it was a seed that came to life later when everyone at The Line was pitching ideas to each other for our next film. The drawing was of a guy in a nightclub looking completely out of it, like a zombie. I think I might have channeled some of my own exhaustion at the time into the drawing. I was going out quite a lot and not really having as much fun as I had when I first moved to London. I was just sick of everything at the time and working too much, my head seemed to be at work when I was going out and going out when I was at work. I remember drawing it on a Friday night wondering if I should go to the pub or not, I think I probably went to the pub.

The film resonates with a truth that we’ve probably all felt at sometime. What part of the story is your own experience, observation or pure creation and invention?

The film actually has a few locations that are directly taken from London, nightclubs and pubs. East Bloc is in there, The Dolphin. All very classy establishments obviously. So yeah, I took inspiration from a few places. As for the characters. Some of them are based on my friends, some situations in there are from my own experience, other people’s stories etc. It was just fun to sit down and come up with some awkward situations really. Things that kind of summed up that feeling of being “there” but not being a part of it at all. I think it’s a pretty universal thing that everyone goes through. If you’re a young girl at the high school dance or out with your mates in a loud nightclub, you find yourself in these absurd, forced, hyper-social situations where you just feel totally utterly alone.

What was behind your decision to use this square format?

Instagram, Vine. The square format has become quite a familiar way for people to capture and compose images and it seemed like it was the right format for the film. You could almost imagine that it would have been filmed on someone’s camera and uploaded to one of these services. We initially thought about trying to release the little clips on the Vine platform, but it didn’t really work. Also keeping it square meant that it would feel crowded without adding any secondary characters at the edges. Less work!

You directed this short, created the background and also animated it in collaboration with other animators. How did the team collaboration work?

I storyboarded it and designed all the characters. Then I put them together in an animatic and placed some temp music on top. Each one of us in The Line took a few characters and animated it. Once the cleanup and colouring was done Max Taylor and I composited the film in the space of a few weeks making sure all the lighting and effects were working well. We realised we couldn’t use any of the temp music because of licensing reasons so Box of Toys helped us out composing about 12 original short tracks for the film, they did an amazing job!

Did you have any budget to make your film, and how long was the production?

No budget. From conception to finish, we started in July 2013 and released it in December working in between other jobs.

What were the key lessons you learnt from the project? And how did your earlier film, Everything I Can See From Here, inform your later work?

I think the main thing I learned from working on this is that you don’t necessarily need a big story or narrative arc to get people to watch your film. The film was pretty much based on one single idea. I remember putting a very basic animatic together with three images and some music. When I showed it to people, they got it instantly. They could see the whole film already just from that test. Beginning with something like that is great. You just have to do the actual leg work, the drawing and the animating, most of the thinking and problem solving is done.

Also, we had a lot of ideas for funny gags and things that would happen to these people, but as soon as you do something too silly, you start laughing AT the people rather than with them, and I didn’t want that. It needed to be funny because you empathise. There needed to be some pathos, some sadness in their eyes. I don’t think EICSFH had too much influence on this actually. It was a different universe with a different kind of approach.

Please tell us about your professional and educational experiences. What brings you to London?

I came to London because all my friends were moving there. I’d come from working on two features and wanted to try being a freelancer. Also I was broke from travelling around the world for about 8 months.

Are you currently working on a new short film?

Yeah, we’ve got a couple of films almost ready to be released. Probably sometime in the new year. I’m also journalling a short film idea that I’ve had for a while on my blog. It’s called Tigermine and is in very early pre-pre-production. You can follow the progress at www.bjornsblog.com

Credits

Wallflowers

Directed by Bjorn-Erik Aschim

Produced at The Line.
thelineanimation.com

Sound & Music by Box of Toys Audio
boxoftoysaudio.com/

Animated by Bjorn-Erik Aschim, Kristian Antonelli, James Duveen, Wesley Louis, Tim McCourt, Jonathan Djob Nkondo and Sam Taylor

Composited by Max Taylor

Backgrounds by Bjorn-Erik Aschim

 

Everything I Can See From Here

Directors:  Sam Taylor and Bjorn Aschim for The Line Studio

Producer: Fritzi Nicolaus

Sound & Music:  Box of Toys Audio

Animation:
Sam Taylor
Bjorn-Erik Aschim
Adam Hodgson
Alexander Petreski
Dante Zaballa
Geoff King
Hozen Britto
James Duveen
Jim Round
Kristian Antonelli
Tim McCourt
Wesley Louis

3D Modelling and Rigging: David Hunt

3D Modelling: Max Taylor

3D animation: Max James van der Merwe

Backgrounds: Bjorn-Erik Aschim

Compositing: Bjorn-Erik Aschim,  Sam Taylor

Cleanup:
Adam Hodgson
Beth Witchalls
Caspar Rock
Clarice Elliott
Denise Dean
Freya Hotson
Hozen Britto
Hugh La Terriere
Isobel Stenhouse
Jessica Toth
Jose Saturno
Stewart Wagstaff
Tom Loughlin

Making of: Luke James,  Owen Philips

Website: Tom Loughlin

Special Thanks:
Our Ma’s and pa’s
Jerry Fleming
Chris King
Andrew Lim Clarkson
June Frangue
and Winnie