Case Study: Oxygen
Rocky Grispen and Violette Belzer use animation to open up a very relevant debate.
With a first idea being born in 2008, filmmaker Rocky Grispen went to great lengths to get the short he wanted. Together with animator Violette Belzer, he created a science fiction-world to confront viewers with the problems we're all facing. Oxygen will be part of the upcoming Euregion Film Festival.
"We want to open up a discussion about socially relevant themes through animation, because we believe in the power of the image."
25 februari 2021
The inhumane dilemmas we're facing
"The idea for the film was created in 2008, during the last financial crisis. There was a lot of uncertainty and fear in the world. So one question popped up in my mind: What if our survival is threatened and humanity starts to derail?"
"Oxygen is a moving science fiction-film that explores how far someone is willing to go in order to survive. Oxygen offers a jet-black vision of the future, intended to wake up humanity. The film is a metaphor and makes us think about our own lives. We want to hold up a mirror to people. Just like the main character, we are already facing inhumane dilemmas and these seem to get bigger in the future."
"We are more than eager to draw attention to socially relevant themes and want to open them up to discussion so that people become aware of them. We want to do this through short adult animation-films because we believe in the power of the image. An image speaks volumes, after all. This way of communicating is easily accessible."
Building the screenplay
"I worked together with scriptdoctor Ed Vanderweyden (Broken Circle Breakdown, Rundskop). We worked more than one year on the script and made ten different versions. With each new version, we added a new layer to the story. We started with the dramatic goal and character arc of the protagonist and from there we added the following new story elements:
Six plotpoints (Inciting Incident, Startplot Scene, Point of No Return, Crisis moment, Confrontation, Cliffhanger)
Genre elements of sci-fi
"Because we created a new sci-fi world, we had to give a lot of exposition: the setting and the characters are complete new for the audience. So we needed to show that exposition in a creative way, so it wouldn't be boring to watch."
"The story had a classical four-act structure, but there was one problem. I couldn't find funding to develop this idea. So I decided to fund it myself. On the internet, I found animator Violette Belzer. She liked the story but told me that the screenplay was too big for one animator. So I had to rewrite the story to a three-act structure. In the original story, there were two astronauts who crashed on the planet and they start to fight for one oxygen tank. Because of the large amount of animation, we needed to kill our darlings. In our case this meant one astronaut."
"Violette and I worked three years on the animation, by Skype and Dropbox. Little by little, we completed our animation and finally we needed to solve one last problem: to find money to pay our composer and sound designer. In december 2020, I decided to pitch Oxygen at the International Filmfestival in Leuven and won a grant of one thousand euros."
"In March 2020, we finally finished our short. We are an independent production, so I took the distribution into my own hands. We created a Facebook page and started to submit our project to film festivals around the world. We have three target groups: Sci-fi and fantasy festivals, independent festivals and festivals that like narrative shorts."
"After seven months, we already have 27 selections. We started our filmfestival journey in August at the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival (Oscar qualifying). Then we had the honour to be part of the Hiroshima International Animation Film Festival (one of the big four)! We also had three nominations at the St. Louis International Film Festival (Oscar qualifying)."
Aiming for the future
"Our short was a proof of concept. It's our mission to create a TV-series of this sci-fi concept. For the moment we're developing an animation bible. The BBC liked our short film and they are willing to look at the document when it's finished. So fingers crossed!
Our final advice for filmmakers consists of only one word: Story! Story! Story! I see a lot of short films without a story structure. My advice to young directors: work with a good script doctor."
(c) All visual material is used with the filmmaker's permission.
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