Best animated film of the month of June 2017, “Between Sand and Tides” got finalist to the Best of the Best of the year. Even if the “Blind Eyes” got voted best by our Judges, we wanted to know more about this intriguing and elegant film, so we sent some questions to its director, Ruifan Wang. 

Can you tell us a little about you? 

I am a Singaporean animation artist. I was trained in digital animation, but since I began my master studies in animation at the Royal College of Art in London in 2014, I have changed the focus to handcrafted stop motion animation. I graduated in 2016 and moved back to Singapore at the end of the year. Now I work as a freelance artist while developing my next film.

It seems you are doing well in the festival run.

I finished the post production of “Between Sand and Tides” in Late February 2017, and entered the film in its festival run a month later. Since then it has been screened in various festivals around the globe, namely, Holland Animation Film Festival, Melbourne International Animation Festival, the recent Animation Block Party in New York, and soon in Montreal at ANIMAZE 2017 and Festival Stop Motion Montreal. Besides receiving the animation award to the Paris Play festival, the film has also received best animation award at London’s EuroShorts International Film Festival in late June, and a Bronze Award at the Libo International Children Animation and Comic Festival in China. I am glad that the film seems to be doing well at this stage in its festival run.

Your film is in stop motion, isn’t it? Can you describe your creation process?

Yes, the film is in stop motion.

Well, I started with a rough idea for the animation. Then, many parts of my creation process happened simultaneously. While working on the story, I was also researching on the techniques that would bring the film to life.

For this film, I chose stop motion for its handcrafted tactility.

I tend to focus a lot on the look of the film. I believe that the materials used in making a stop motion film are also effective storytelling devices as they articulate the atmosphere. There’s a lot of research for finding the right materials that are suitable to build, able to replicate the look of sand, and fall within the production cost. Once, certain part of the story is boarded and characters are designed, I started building the set and puppets. Building took a long time, it continued into production time. I built as I animate and shot the film.  I also communicate frequently with my composer/sound designer about the film because sound and music add another layer to visual storytelling…. At the end, I would normally spend a long time doing post production.

The drowning sequence: is it classical 2D animation?

No, the drowning sequence is still in stop motion, not in classical 2D animation, though the look of that sequence gives that impression. This sequence was animated on a multi-plane set up: where puppets, sand and foams balls are animated simultaneously on different glass planes vertically places above/below on another, with the camera taking the frames from above. Light was shone from the floor upwards, through the planes, so only the silhouettes and some part of the edges of the puppets can be seem.   

What does represent the big animal the girl meets?

The big animal is an anteater and it represents her depression, slowly and cunningly draining away her vitality.

At first it may look as a protector, but then he clearly turns into a direct threat… And in the end the beast remains alone. What was your script, the story you wanted to tell?

I wanted to make an animation film based on my experience with depression; mistaking it a “personality trait” that guided me, realising what it actually was, how harmful it has been and then trying to overcome it.

I didn’t want a film with cliché motifs and direct references, because I have never related to those.

So after much research on the topic and reflections on my own experience, I rendered the story to a journey to an “exit” showing the struggles to find vitality and hope in an unfavourable setting with an unpredictable creature.

I don’t think the beast can be killed. There’s always the possibility of a relapse, so the film ends with the beast alone waiting.

Did you also build the set, or was it a painting or any other illusion?

Yes, 90% of what we see in the film is built physically. I designed and built the set, props, and puppets. I made the girl and the anteater in 3 different sizes for different shot sizes, and was fortunate to have a few classmate and helpers to replicate the props in various sizes to create a false field of depth. There are also some evident CGI effects, for example, the waves behind the huge arch, collapsing arches in the distant, flying sand, etc. to give the film a little more details.

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