Interview: Michaela and Dávid
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Michaela Mihalyi & Dávid Štumpf: We tried to make the trailer enjoyable for everyone
This year’s visual identity of the festival was designed by the Slovak creative duo of Michaela Mihalyiová and Dávid Štumpf, whose award-winning film Sh_t Happens will be screened at Anifilm as part of both the International Competition of Student Films and the Czech Horizon national competition. We asked the authors about how they created the dynamic, cheerful trailer and designed the overall colourful visual identity alive with many quirky characters.
What was your reaction when you found out you were selected to create Anifilm’s visual identity?
Michaela: We have always wanted to design some visual identity. We love all the visual identities Anifilm has had over the years, among other reasons because the festival appeals to new people each year. We talked with Dávid on many occasions about how much we would like to create both a trailer and the entire visual identity for Anifilm, and this year, we finally got to do it, so we were very excited.
Did you have to pass through a selection procedure, or did the festival ask you straight away?
Michaela: Two years ago, I participated in a closed competition held by the festival’s organizers to choose the author of the 2019 visual identity. I competed with two other people, one of which was Veronika Zacharová, who eventually won the commission. And then last year, I was approached right away, but we decided with Dávid that we would design the whole thing together. Since there were two of us, we were able to cope with all the work it entailed quite well.
Did you have complete freedom as to what the visual identity should include, or did you have to follow some instructions?
Dávid: The visual identity was quite heavily influenced by the relocation of Anifilm to Liberec, which became one of the main themes of this year’s trailer. The festival needed to inform a wide audience that it was moving from one city to another in a fun and colourful way, and it was also necessary consider how the colourful identity would fit the new location. I think that is why they approached Michaela.
Michaela: Yes, we agreed with Anifilm that the trailer should be colourful and that it should revolve around the festival’s moving to another city. So we, for example, included a character that represents the Ještěd mountain with its iconic television tower, which is near Liberec.
D: We came up with seven characters that represent what the festival means to us and its visitors. Each of these characters represents some group of people or some of the festival’s characteristic attributes.
M: For example, there’s an animator holding a huge pencil, a mug of beer, a fish, which is a reference to the lakes around Třeboň, a visitor with a festival pass on a skateboard, and one of the characters symbolises Anifilm’s award.
D: And children, who are also an integral part of the festival.
Did you know right from the start what the visual identity would look like, or did you work with different versions?
D: We were working with several versions. One of our initial ideas was to combine live-action footage with animated characters and show them moving from one city to another using their real-life shots.
M: However, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to use several different characters and not focus on just one. We had various versions of the characters, whose shapes and colours we kept changing. We wanted to use colours that would go together well and that could be later used in print, etc.
D: Michaela’s brother Matěj, who works in visual communication and graphic design, helped us with our drafts. We extensively consulted him about how the visual identity would be used, what colours are the most suitable for print, how the catalogues should be wrapped… Moreover, we wanted the visual identity to reflect not only the theme of relocation but also the overall theme of this year’s Anifilm, which is the relationship between animation and music and sounds. So we knew we would be working with rhythm and music in the trailer and that we would need to come up with some choreography for the characters to follow.
Who designed the sound for the trailer and who composed the fun funky music?
M: As to the music, we contacted composer Olivier de Palma, who composed the music for our film Sh_t Happens, and asked him if he had anything suitable to go with the trailer. He has a great talent for making funky music.
D: He sent us some drafts that he had on hand, and we chose one, which we then adjusted together.
M: And the sound was designed by Jan Richtr, with whom we had worked before on one video for Annecy, for which he had created these interesting stylized funny sounds. We wanted to include a more abstract sequence at the end of the trailer, for which we needed a sound montage, and we knew Jan would have no trouble making it.
D: Another great thing about it was that Jan also frequently works as a sound dramaturge. I had also worked with him earlier on several projects and he has never let me down. We trust him a lot.
Where did you draw inspiration for the visual identity? Did you know, for example, what the previous festival trailers looked like?
D: We definitely knew the previous Anifilm trailers, but I wouldn’t say we were influenced specifically by them. Rather we drew inspiration from trailers for many different festivals in general. We did look at all the older Anifilm trailers to see what had been done already, so that we could avoid repeating it.
M: Right from the start, we knew we would be working with a lot of bright colours, and in this respect, we were inspired by bags that we had got several years earlier at a Cartoon Network party at the Annecy Festival. Cartoon Network was celebrating some sort of anniversary and they had well-made merchandising with beautiful designs and lots of stylized iconic characters. So we didn’t draw inspiration just from festival trailers, instead we did our best to approach the design of the visual identity in a comprehensive way, and we considered all its parts from the very beginning.
Could you describe in detail how you designed the visual identity?
D: At the beginning, we met all the time to create the characters and kept writing down various ideas. After we decided on the basic concept that each of the letters in “Anifilm” would get its own character, we started thinking about how to characterise the individual characters. Michaela drew a few sketches and then we met with the Anifilm’s team almost every week to get their feedback. Originally, we wanted to make the trailer rather morbid, but then we realized that many of the festival’s visitors are children, and the visual identity has to take them into account as well, so in the end, we tried to make the trailer enjoyable for everyone. The visual elements were designed primarily by Michaela, and I was mainly in charge of animation.
M: Before we got to the trailer, we created posters for advertising and worked on social media posts, which gradually revealed parts of the visual identity.
D: Since social media posts are usually static, we decided to make ours different by animating them using simple animated loops.
M: This gave us a rough idea of how the trailer would look. Based on that, we created a storyboard and started animating. And at the same time we started designing merchandising.
D: When we were creating the storyboard, we realized we would need to introduce a lot of characters in a relatively short time, and this was something that we struggled with for quite a while. For this reason, we had to think about editing even before we started animating. Eventually, we made the trailer a little shorter than we planned, but I think it worked out quite well.
How long did the entire process take?
D: The original deadline for the trailer was in April, so I was finishing colouring work during the state of emergency. All in all, the trailer took us roughly two months to complete with a few interruptions.
M: Then we were supposed to start working on merchandising, catalogues, and another set of posters, but after the festival was postponed, everything else kept getting postponed as well, and in the end, we worked on the visual identity throughout the whole year.
D: Yes, it’s hard to say how much time the entire process took overall because there were so many interruptions. Originally, we planned to move on to other projects in May once the festival was over, but because everything was repeatedly postponed, we kept jumping back and forth between the visual identity and our own films depending on who had time for what. So in the later stages, we didn’t even work on the identity together anymore, we both just did whatever needed to be done as it came up.
What did you enjoy the most about working on the visual identity?
M: What I enjoyed the most was designing the merch, because it was completely different from what I usually do. And I like the physical aspect of it. I liked the idea that it would be displayed somewhere and that people would be able to buy it and perhaps wear it even after the festival was over, which motivated me to approach its design responsibly. It was important to me to design the merch in such way that it could be worn and used even after Anifilm ended. I myself often look for merchandising at festivals that I attend as a visitor, and I’m always happy when I can buy something that I’ll be able to wear elsewhere as well.
D: I had the most fun creating those short animations for social media. They take just a few days to make, and at the same time you can play around with them, and they look nice.
And what was the most challenging aspect for you?
D: That the whole process was constantly being postponed and interrupted because the festival was postponed. It was quite hard to keep in mind all the activities related to the preparation of the visual identity for an entire year, and after some time, I would have preferred to be able to focus fully on my own projects.
M: I agree. It seemed to me that worked on the festival identity all the time, even though until the very last moment, we weren’t sure if it would even take place. And towards the end, as we were finishing the merch, I wondered whether anyone would ever get to wear it if the festival got cancelled.
Your award-winning film Sh_t Happens is competing both in the International Competition of Student Films and in the Czech Horizon national competition. How do you feel about it? How well do you think it will do?
M: We love Anifilm, so we are very excited that we not only got to create its visual identity but also have our film included in the programme. But I don’t dare even guess how it will do in the competitions. The student films competing at Anifilm have always been great, so it will be interesting. I’m really looking forward to the screening of our film – I can’t wait to see how the viewers will react to it.
D: And we will also be presenting our art in the Domased online gallery. Our film will have tough competition, but that’s a good thing. I’m curious about who will win, and I too am looking forward to the screening of our film.