The challenge of stop-motion animation in Juli Bolaños Durman´s Our Common Hummanity

In this occasion we have had a talk with our in-house filmmaker Diego in relation to the process of working with the multi-disciplinary artist Juli Bolaños Durman.

Bridge IV Films. You work with corporate clients as well as people from the creative sector.  How was your experience working with the artist and designer Juli Bolaños?

Diego. Working with Juli was fun and challenging at the same time. Both of us talk about this work as a synergic collaboration. She is an extremely creative and proactive multidisciplinary artist, and I was very keen on translating her thoughts into the cinematic language. When we first meet we had an enormous brainstorming, basically what was more difficult was to narrow it down and decide what we could make best with the time and resources available. There are many ideas that are still left out of the hat, maybe we will use them in future projects.

BIVF. You have made two films with Juli. Can you explain what was the brief for each of them?

D. Initially we got in touch with each other when she was looking to stablish a creative relationship with a filmmaker for a very particular video, and we produced `Carol. Tales of a Universal Goddess´ (30¨). Our first project together was going to be a very contained film in which we would use a technique that the artist wanted to explore further, stop motion animation. We also determined that this film would be oriented to Juli´s audiences on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook but specially Instagram (were she has a very strong community of followers).

For our second film, Juli got back to me with a bigger project in mind that was commissioned by the NHS Lothian; That later came to be `Our Common Humanity´ (5,54¨). This time we brought back some of the concepts that we could not use in our previous film and combined them with other new ideas. The brief this time was very specific in terms of the target audience and exhibition. The film accompanies a permanent installation design by Juli and is located in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. dealing with the target content and duration of the piece. As a consequence,  we had to think on how to tell our story in a way that would be always accessible for different audiences, and displayed in different scenarios, one of them having muted sound.

BIVF. ‘Our Common Humanity’ seems rather more elaborate than the previous film. It has two parts: a portrait of the artist and an animated story. How do these parts speak to each other?

D.`Our Common Humanity´ is a film that stands for the beauty of imperfection in the context of the human condition. Basically Juli and I wanted to defend the idea that every one of us have everything required to pursue happiness. At times, individuals forget this simplified idea of less y more, but definitely this is an absolute truth regardless our origin, appearance or belongings.

The film is a combination of an observational documentary and a fictional stop motion animation. At first we thought about producing two separate films, but then I considered that with a strong narrative structure we could integrate both approaches into a single piece. The whole film shows a transformative creative process. An idea turns into a sketch and then evolves into a study of color and form, that later inspires the cutting of glass. After that, the glass pieces become independent, the artist is just subjugated to their will.

Visually, in the first section of the film we observe Juli in her study going through those stages of the creative process until she exits the space. It is in the second section when the idea of the piece finding its own identity becomes literal. Listening to the thoughts of Juli in the first part we understand the philosophy that drives her practice. In that section we stablish an emotional connection with the pieces of glass that she works with that then we explore further in the second part. It is then when multiple pieces become one and go through a process of self-exploration and self-discovery. As a whole, the film quite emotional.

BIVF. We are intrigued with the process of making Juli’s artefacts come alive. How did you make it and what was the creative decision behind this?

D. During our conversations we discussed how we could best translate Juli´s practice into the film not just by actually showing her and her studio but also by choosing the right cinematic techniques. Juli wanted to use stop motion animation from the very early beginning and I completely agree with her. This technique is a craft in itself which resonates with Juli and her work.

We wanted to maintain a perception of genuine and rough filmmaking that felt crafted. To do so, we made use of natural light all the way trough apart from the last two sequences of the film when we used some tungsten. And also we used a very rough animation technique, each movement was improvised on location always keeping in mind that we had a solid storyboard behind.

It took us three winter days to shoot the whole animation and as we were dependent on natural light we had to be very careful with the shooting schedule and times of the day. We ended up with a total of frames of which made the final cut. At the end the film that you see contains at a 24 frame rate. And we are very proud of it.

BIVF. Both films were selected for screening in the 2018 edition of Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival in London. What are the implications of having your films selected for festivals? 

D. That is right, both films were screened at Picturehouse Central in London as part of the Real to Reel. Craft Film Festival. Nowadays there are so many film festivals around that it is quite difficult to know where your film really fits best. To be honest, I first knew about Real to Reel when Juli mentioned the chance to submit our film to it. After some research I recognised that this festival was indeed one that really embraced the honesty of creativity and craft making which resonated strongly with the films we had made together.

I would say that there are many positive outcomes when your film gets selected and screened in a festival. Certainly both the artist and the filmmaker gain exposure firstly through the promotional and marketing campaigns, and afterwards by the impressions that the film has caused on the audiences. Even more when you have the luck to be one of the films in the highlights, as `Our Common Humanity´ was. Also, when attending to a film festival festival you find like-minded people who are not just audiences but also creators and multidisciplinary artists. Your network of contacts grows exponentially while sharing your thoughts on what you have just experienced. It was an honor to have our films being projected for the big audience in the silver screen.