Welcome to Evently

Lorem ipsum proin gravida nibh vel veali quetean sollic lorem quis bibendum nibh vel velit.


Stay Connected & Follow us

Simply enter your keyword and we will help you find what you need.

What are you looking for?

Lessons in Bravery

How do you face your fears? This is a question young Vanja learns to answer in Marita Mayer’s award-winning short film I’m Not Afraid! Dressed in a tiger onesie, the little protagonist steps outside into the dark night during a game of hide and seek. A series of scary, unrecognisable shapes jump out from the shadows. Gradually, however, Vanja realises that not everything is as alarming as it seems. Led by Norway-based animator and director Marita, the project premiered at the Berlinale in 2022 and went on to achieve huge success at festivals around the world, such as winning the award for Best Family Friendly title at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival last year. We caught up with Marita, who shared insights into the process of bringing this marvellous story to life, such as the personal experiences that sparked the initial idea for the film; observations on childhood friendship and alliances; and how this was truly a family project.

ASFF: I’m Not Afraid! is little Vanja’s journey to overcoming their fears. How did you land on the idea for this film?
I was afraid of the dark when I was little. I remember being especially scared walking down into the dark basement or during the night when I woke up after a bad dream about monsters chasing me. When I started the project, my kids where three and five and we talked a lot about those experiences and what we can do when we are frightened. The story evolved with their help. I think it is a theme most kids (and adults) can relate to. At the same time, it is also important to understand where our fears are coming from. There are many things that only seem scary but, as soon as you know what lies behind, they are not (or not as scary) and you can even have fun and embrace the dark.

ASFF: You’ve worked across both stop motion and 2D animation in the past. What drew you to 2D for this particular project?
At the beginning, I was considering doing 2D animation in a stop-motion set and did some tests, which were a lot of fun. In the development process for the final styIe, I worked with some great artists: Katharina Rival, Friedrich Schäper and Alba Dragonetti. Together we found the final design. We started in autumn 2020 so everyone was sitting in different towns and countries due to the pandemic. It was a good choice to stay in digital 2D and I am still in love with the design.

ASFF: How did you approach designing the characters and the settings?
Firstly, I was working with a great team. In terms of the design, I like to find references from existing artwork to better explain what I have in mind. It was a big learning curve for me to precisely describe what I was aiming for – how I envisioned the design in my head. We went through several rounds to find the right balance of lines, shapes and textures. It is important to me that the characters and the backgrounds fit together well and form a cohesive unit.

ASFF: The film begins with Vanja happily playing with her sister, Thea, until Thea’s friend Tarek arrives. This way we get to see their different relationships – from friendships to siblings – unfold. What considerations did you make when it came the dynamic between Vanja, Thea and Tarek?
Vanja is the main character and we experience the story through their eyes so I wanted the audience to root for Vanja. To achieve that, I needed Thea and Tarek to form an alliance. I thought about my childhood and how my own children interact with each other. It’s interesting to observe how their behaviour changes as soon as other kids show up. I grew up with two sisters, (I was in the middle) and several other kids in the neighbourhood. We formed different groups depending on what games we played or who was available. That is also what happens between Vanja, Thea and Tarek. It was important to me to show that, despite the teasing and hiding, the kids are good friends and have a loving relationship with each other.

ASFF: It’s exciting to hear that you are currently expanding Vanja’s universe by working on an animated TV series, Vanja’s World. Could you tell us more about this project?
We fell in love with the characters when producing the short film and wanted to see more of Vanja. The series is a poetic comedy in which Vanja uses their imagination to explore the big and small questions of the world and daily human interaction. In each episode, Vanja is dressed as a different animal and uses their special attributes to empower themselves and find creative answers and solutions. We are currently looking for TV-stations, distributors and co-producers and hope to start production in 2025.

ASFF: What does it mean to screen and win the award for Best Family Friendly Film at Aesthetica Short Film Festival?
It is a real honour to receive this award and see that the film is appreciated. Recognition in this genre means that I’m not afraid! is not only for my main target group but is fun for the whole family. This is especially rewarding since my kids and my husband were involved in the project by giving their voices to Vanja and the dad –  it is a real family production for families to watch.

ASFF: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I am currently in production of the animated documentary short Grandpa has a broken eye (working title) for age 8 + about aphasia. In this film, four children – aged between 5 and 16 share – share what it feels like to live with a family member who has a speech impairment due to brain damage. I hope to finish the film in autumn this year.

Watch more incredible family friendly movies at Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2024, which runs from Wednesday 6 November until Sunday 10 November. Tickets available from mid June 2024.

Learn more: asff.co.uk

Entries for #GamesLab2024 are still open. Submit your project by 30 June, here.


  1. Ich habe keine Angst! / I’m not afraid! (2023), dir. Marita Mayer