There is a young girl, Fofo, who is forced by the pandemic to stay at home alone. She really wants to be proactive, to do all the things she always wanted to do: read books, watch all the movies she didn’t have the time to watch, do exercise. How long will this positive attitude last for?
Although Fofo is not a real person, her struggle is: animator and graphic designer Stavrina Kykalou presented her short movie, Locked Inn, at the Thessaloniki Animation Festival (October 14-24).
Let’s start: how did you get into animation?
My everyday life is very boring for me; I work with numbers and codes. I wanted to do something creative, something with my own hands, so I decided to do a stop motion animation short movie.
(stop motion consists in taking a photo of physical puppets and objects, moving them slightly, and taking another photo. Putting everything together creates the illusion of movement, ed.).
It’s not the first time you present a movie in a film festival. What’s your motivation to share your work?
I want to show my work to many people and have the feedback from them, to see how they can react. Festivals are also a recognition for your job, you can understand if your work is good enough to be selected. And if you actually attend the festival, you meet other directors, other animators, you exchange ideas and thoughts about your works, find collaborations and learn other techniques. An opportunity to connect with colleagues working in the same industry. It helps you to evolve.
Your short movie, Locked Inn, is clearly a product of the pandemic. Is Fofo you?
Not exactly, she is maybe my alter ego. She represents what I wanted to do: relax all the time.
I didn’t have free time at all during the lockdown because I was working remotely, and I was jealous of people who didn’t have to go to their work and have all the time to watch movies and all these things. But then I thought that it was not actually nice to be alone, in your home with no friends, with no family, doing every day the same things. At the end you don’t enjoy this time, you just want to get out. And that was the concept of the film.
We’re going to spoil a little bit the ending of the movie, but why do you think it’s not possible to find a motivation, a purpose during a lockdown?
I think that many people had to fight with themselves; maybe they had psychological problems caused by the loneliness. But also to some other people it was an opportunity because they have a very anxious everyday life, so they got a chance to relax without feeling guilty. But it was a very long period, so I think you can’t really relax in this situation.
Especially when you are all alone, without someone else in the house, or when you are a young man or woman living with your parents, you don’t have the same interest.
Let’s take a step back. In your previous work, Anxie, you use the same style to tell the story of a woman who is suffering from panic attacks. Since the element is present a lot in your works, are you actually talking about your personal fears for the future?
Anxie was again a stop motion film, with the same technique. It took me about a year to finish it. It
was a little bit autobiographic, because that was the time when I was a graphic designer. Then I had to change my job. It was very difficult for me in the beginning, every day was the same, I was going to my office, in front of my computer typing on the keyboard, and it was every day the same, every day the same.
So I wanted to make something out of it using creativity and I came out with the idea of this film. And it was in some festivals, it was nominated for awards and it became the motivation to continue.
Do you know people with this kind of issues who watched your movie?
Some of my friends saw it and they thought it was a funny approach. And actually a friend of mine told me that I took a problem that is a very big problem, turning it into a funny story, and he asked me how did I do it, because he was laughing while watching it. I was very happy.
The most common choice to represent depression and anxiety in movies is to use dark, grey colors, sad environments and visual tips to tell the viewers that it’s a bad situation.
However, I noticed that you always put your characters in cozy rooms, with warm colors, and you use fluffy materials for the stop motion. I found the contrast really interesting.
Thank you! Yes, actually I wanted to give optimistic touch to my film, I don’t want to be very dark. That’s why this contrast between emotions and environment: because at the end I want to leave a happy feeling, showing something that didn’t break my heart. I wanted to make people think of it, acknowledge the situation that some people is depressed or are facing anxiety, but if someone in the public is anxious I wanted to give them happy thoughts.
Often, animation movies deal with mental health. I’m thinking about Coco dealing with dementia, Up with grief and loneliness, Inside out being about depression or Arrugas about Alzheimer. Why is that? Do you think there is a correlation?
It’s because people relate to it. Most of us has issues, so you want to relate with the characters in a film, you want to find something in common with them.
You have to say something that has a meaning, especially in animation because many people think animation is only for kids. So I think they use these topics to show that we can speak about many things, everyday problems, also for adults. Maybe we show them in a different way, maybe in a less dark way, with humor, with colors, with a fluffy world, but we are still talking about you.
And also parents go with their kids to watch these movies so they don’t get bored, they can relate.
For example I think Inside Out taught to children but also to adults how to face and recognize their emotions. It did it in a very funny way. I think everyone could relate.
Will you keep doing this kind of animation?
Yes, I want to make a film with computer animation, with drawings, but I will also continue with stop motion.
I don’t know if you have it too, but we say that when you eat a lot and you are really full, you still have a special place in your belly for dessert. It’s like that. I will always have space for animation.
Great, thank you for your time!
The scientific community agrees that this long pandemic is affecting our minds. Studies conducted so far show that young people in particular are the most vulnerable to psychological issues caused by the lockdown1. Probably the reason is to be found in their stronger need to meet and interact.
An interesting project called CovidMinds programme was launched at the University College of London to collect information about mental health linking scientists in different countries and compare their data. But this is only one example of the many researches around the world on this topic. A topic that is now even more relevant to understand the consequences of the pandemic on every level of the society.
Waiting for the response, we can only try to exorcise our fears and worries as we can, maybe using creativity and art to make our life better.
1. Nature N° 590, 2021