Combining Genres

Motus is a project of Slovenian director Oton Bacar and art director Voranc Kumar. Both having a background in visual effects they wanted to create a short tale that would combine aesthetic visuals, powerful instrumental music and dance performed by their friends Nika Burazer and Žiga Jurecic.

A: Motus follows a young boy as he witnesses two statues coming to life. As it is based in an imaginary world, how did you begin to construct the environment in your own minds, and how did this translate onto screen?
Actually, the development of the story was done in parallel with the development of the environment where the story is set. We didn’t have a two-stage process which would divide the story development and environment design. This is most likely because the environment actually plays a significant role in the story itself. The architecture with its history in a way represents its own character with which the boy interacts at the beginning. The virtual environment is heavily based on Slovenian coastal towns, which have a very long and interesting history with a beautiful Venetian architecture, originating from medieval times. They are much like York – an old medieval cultural treasure, but located by the sea. That’s why we decided to capture the wisdom of these old towns in our own interpretation by giving them a “voice” in a way, rather than just having a dull environment in the background.

First we took hundreds of reference photos of Koper, Piran and Izola which was the starting point in designing the environment. Most of the architectural elements (doors, windows, walls, graffiti, etc.) seen in the film exist in real life, because everything was modelled and textured based on photos taken on location. Many of the smaller elements were designed in a modular manner so we could reuse them over and over again with modified details, but most of the buildings, rooftops and other significant elements needed to be crafted individually for every shot to meet our expectations.

A: As this is the project between you and art director Voranc Kumar, how have your collective backgrounds in visual effects fed into the production? OB: The central idea of two statues coming to life was conceived back in 2012. At that time Voranc and I wanted to shoot a short dance film with Ziga and Nika, the two dancers and we came up with this simple concept. The film was never produced though. Three years later we updated the script with the little boy and luckily, we received the funding. The budget however didn’t allow us to shoot the film on location. I worked with Voranc on a few projects which relied on VFX, including a full CG car commercial. We decided to go with this crazy solution of filming the actors on a sound stage and to use our VFX knowledge to create everything else in post. We knew it would be technically the most challenging project we’ve ever done however this was the only way to do it. 80% of visuals seen in the film were done by the two of us, due to the budget constraints. Having said that, we are very grateful to the handful of our friends who helped us out and we couldn’t have made it without their help.

A: There is a performative aspect to the short film – incorporating dance and music. Could you discuss your experience with collaboration and how you think creating dialogues across different media is important?
OB:  This was the first time I’ve directed a dance film so it was a completely new experience for me. I could say Motus is not just a dance film, it’s more like a hybrid between different genres, but is revolving around dance. Excluding dialogue was our artistic choice with intention to persuade the audience into the emotive narrative through sound, motion and visual aesthetics. This is the reason collaboration between our composer, choreographers and art crew was crucial in the early phase of pre-production. As soon as I could, I edited the animation using storyboard stills and the first draft of the score which was the foundation for further development of the tone, mood and rhythm of the film. As the first version of the animation was ready, the choreographers started working on their part, Voranc and I started imagining the world for our story. It’s about both and we tried to do our best to find a balance between the two in order to keep the audience engaged in a simple, (hopefully) emotive strong film.

A: How do you think that the short is about sensory stimulation as much as it is storytelling?
OB: It’s about both and we tried to do our best to find a balance between the two in order to keep the audience engaged in a simple, (hopefully) emotive strong film.

A: Could you discuss how the music score was developed and how this affected the construction of the short?
OB: Music was key for the development of the film because everything revolves around it. As soon as we got the funding I contacted my friend Niklas Aman, a very talented composer based in Stockholm. His music style is very powerful so knew he would be a perfect fit for our film. He liked the story and agreed to make the score for the film. Ten days later I got the first draft of the score in my inbox and I immediately knew we are on the right track. Just a few minor tweaks later the score was ready for the shoot.

A: Having screened at ASFF in 2016, have you screened at any festivals since?
OB: Montreal World FIlm Festival was the biggest festival we were part of, but ASFF was definitely an amazing experience because of its richness and diversity. It was a pleasure to finish our screening season at ASFF and hopefully we will be back soon. We are planning to send Motus to more festivals in 2017.

A: What do you have planned in terms of future features / projects?
OB: I have a few short scripts ready to shoot, hopefully soon and I am also developing a story for a feature.

ASFF is open for entries until 31 May. To enter your short film for consideration into our 2017 Official Selection, find out more: 

1. Still from Motus. Courtesy of the filmmakers.