Director David Blanche’s short animated drama The Shipping Forecast follows the lives of Thomas and Alis: a retired couple in a small and tranquil British coastal town dealing with the harsh realities of dementia. Created during his time at The Arts University Bournemouth, the film comprises sensitively drawn scenes accompanied by a sombre palette, both of which beautifully illustrate the duo’s relationship. The piece screened at ASFF 2015 as part of the Official Selection animation category last November. We speak to Blanche about the inspiration behind the film and hear about his working process.
ASFF: Your short animation The Shipping Forecast follows the lives of a retired couple. Where did inspiration for this film come from?
DB: The film is inspired by personal experience and my interests at the time. My grandfather’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year prior to production, and I saw the strain it put on him as he became a carer rather than a husband. I started looking into the disease and its progression, and became more aware of issues surrounding assisted dying and the right to die. My development into understanding these issues helped morph the film into what it is, and helped me to visualise the difficulties presented to sufferers and, more importantly, the people around them.
ASFF: What draws you to create short films, and to work specifically with the genre of animation?
DB: Shorts are a great way for me to explore an idea or concept concisely, and gives me the opportunity to develop my craft, whether it be practical technique or filmic language. Along with this, it grants me an opportunity to present my own mark on a piece of work for an audience to see. The nature of the production often keeps a team small and close knit, which helps in developing both the story and aesthetic. I work in animation really as that’s what I know and what I trained in, although the process of creating everything from the ground up appeals to me greatly. It also provides an excellent vehicle to convey more abstract concepts and express internal experiences to an audience such as Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day and Mosaic Film’s works on Postnatal Depression for Animated Minds.
ASFF: The film was created during your time at The Arts University Bournemouth. How do you see your work developing in the future, and do you have any projects in the pipeline?
DB: I still work closely with the AUB and look to develop the life of animation graduates within both the local area and, in time, nationally. I am in the early stages of development for an 11 minute animated short to be created here in Bournemouth along with producing a pilot for a series. Both will be utilising graduates and students in order to further their practical skills and help them understand a professional production pipeline. Much of my current work is international through connections with filmmakers and organisations in Dubai, and hope to create a solid partnership in which we can include a diverse range of perspectives and socio-political issues in the work, both here and abroad.
ASFF: What encouraged you to become a filmmaker and study Animation Production at university?
DB: I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, which I think is quite common. I completed a Foundation Diploma at the now non existent UCA Maidstone in Illustration and Graphic Design and found that both areas offered little creative stimulus for me. What first drew me to the course was the chance to draw and create art in a practical capacity, one that could be seen by a large cross section of people. At the time, areas such as fine art seemed exclusive and reserved for a small demographic, and graphics seemed an over saturated market and constricted artistically. Animation provided a way for me to develop and show my work to as many people as possible. It also gave me a chance to tell stories and construct my own worlds that play out how I wish, and to combine my love of film with my skills.
ASFF: As an emerging practitioner, what advice can you offer to future filmmakers starting out?
DB: Try and keep creative control of your work. It can get soul destroying working within a project dictated by outside forces that have a very linear and constricted view. It’s not always the case, especially when working with clients in commercial sectors. That being said, don’t be afraid of rules and boundaries. They help drive the narrative and aesthetic of a piece, and force you to solve problems that can lead to interesting results. And lastly, learn to work in a team. This is the single most important part of creating a successful film. Your team will keep your ideas in check and will often develop them into something that would never have occurred to you.
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