Scannain caught up with director Aoife Doyle of Pink Kong Studios to talk about her IFB-backed Frameworks short film Departure. The film sees an Irish grandmother’s unexpected departure from her lonely life.
Departure is a funny yet emotional film. “That’s what we were going for. To try and bring a tear to your eye and make you laugh as well throughout. That’s the feel we were going for at the start. We set out to do that.”
The film is dialogue-free “We felt that it could travel further and connect with a wider audience if we didn’t put dialogue in it. And it also challenged us to make it work through the visuals. To be really concise with what we were putting in. That was a good decision too. We wanted music and the sound effects to carry it.”
The film is set at Christmas and will premiere in July “If we had a release date closer to Christmas that would have been ideal, but maybe when it makes its way to television then it’ll be on at Christmas. That would be good. Christmas is one of the times when if you are apart from your family that you feel it the most, so it just made sense to make a Christmas film.”
That separation from family is a really Irish thing “It’s a really familiar story for most Irish families. There’s not many that have been untouched by immigration or people being abroad for long periods of time. With the three members of our crew who were most heavily involved in this, we all had a sibling that was away at the time. It was something that we all really wanted to make the film about. It was something that was close to our hearts.”
Departure is the story of Alma, but it didn’t start out that way “It started out with more people’s stories in it but through the writer’s room process it just ended up being focused on the one character. To see Alma’s journey throughout the film. It’s a day in the life of, but it’s a non-linear day so we made it a bit more interesting that way. We start off towards the end of her day and go back to the start and see how she got to that point until the end. It was an interesting way to do it, and we all really enjoyed it.”
It’s has a very striking visual “We wanted to push the visuals. We were inspired by very 1950’s UPA-style adverts. We had a load of the airline posters from that time as reference material at the start. It was Aer Lingus and TWA and these other defunct airlines now. We took inspiration from all of that real graphic look. We wanted to push it and bring it forward a bit more and have the characters be soft. And to have colours that you could identify with. They are soft shapes and they stand out against the harsher lines in the background and the harsher scenes. It’s nice that they are little bubbly characters that can carry through the emotional scenes that we have.”
The film plays with colour in a great way “Yellow is the thread in it for family and Australia, so there’s very little yellows at the start and as it goes on you get more as it moves towards the climax.”
The story starts in Dublin, but it’s not instantly recognisable “We tried to make it a bit like Dublin, and have the houses. But you are going with a style so we tried to push it back. We put little things like the post box and signs on the street so that at least Dubliners might know that it’s Dublin. But I don’t really mind if people don’t know that it is. Because if it’s going to an international audience it’s more important that they are just in two different countries. That was a thing I worried about. It was going so far into a stylised look, and it was just a housing estate so you don’t really get to feature the Dublin skyline. We wanted Alma to feel like she’s everybody’s grandmother so it’s just in an everyday housing estate.”
Departure is longer than you realise when watching it “It’s over 9 minutes, but we aimed for 6. We just didn’t have the heart to cut some of it out. It feels good. Half takes you one way, and a half takes you the other. When we were in the edit the guy was like “I can’t believe that it’s nine minutes. It didn’t feel like it. You kept me engaged the whole time.” I was delighted! There’s something pulling you to the next sequence all of the time. It was getting longer as we edited the panels together and we ended up dropping a whole sequence from it. Next time I’ll write something shorter with less characters and not put the team under so much pressure!”
Animation is a very collaborative process “At script I came with an idea that was a bit more elaborate. Then we went into the writer’s room and myself and Leo Crowley tore it apart and pieced it back together. We settled on the path that it would be Alma and we worked together on the art direction and then we worked on the colour palette.You get input from all of the artists that work on it, even the background artists that we got in. You give direction but it’s not exactly what you have in your mind’s eye, but then something amazing comes out of that. Likewise, with the animation, you might get characters behaving slightly differently than you had them behaving. It’s a very collaborative process when you’re working with artists that contribute to every frame that is in the film.”
Departure plays as part of the New Irish Shorts 7 programme, which will world premiere the shorts backed by the Irish Film Board on Saturday, July 15th in the Town Hall Theatre at 12pm.