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Interview with director Shi-Rou Huang

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

In fact, after finishing Girl in the Water and getting lots of feedback from people, I’m more certain of becoming a filmmaker. I used to feel indecisive whether I should choose animator or illustrator as my career. But after this experience of creating, I found that animation is much more suitable to tell a story. My animations are able to bring people many different feelings, and people usually resonate with them. I have to say I love illustration, but I love animation more.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I don’t think so. The most important thing is that you have to make time to create. Personally, the greatest thing during my graduate studies is I could have plenty of time to create, and try the new style or the way of telling a story. It was after many attempts that I finally succeeded in finding out the style of Girl in the Water.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

It seems to me that they are both not so easy. Usually, I would encounter many difficulties during the process, and I might feel lonely and exhausted. The idea of giving up would cross my mind from time to time. Also, it won’t be easy to push myself to create my next film. I always have plenty of things to handle at the same time, as a result, the plan of creating my next film would often be postponed.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The negative emotion might someday become the idea of creating. In fact, the inspiration of Girl in the Water comes from my experience of heartbreak. At that time, I was so sad that I drew an illustration, which depicts a girl siting in the water, looking at the boat on the sly, to heal my broken heart. I liked this illustration so much, and I found that the feeling of heartbreak is unique. After that, I conceived the idea of turning it into an animation.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Producing a hand-drawn animation is an extremely time-consuming process. Because it’s too difficult to draw every single part of the animation oneself, I would use After Effect to make some visual effects, such as mist, ripple. And therefore, I gradually strike a balance between drawing on paper and digital art.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

In my opinion, the hardest choice is to adapt my previous work for the new one. In fact, Girl in the Water is adapted from its pre-version Scar. Therefore, there are several similarities between them. I made this decision because I really love this idea. In the film Scar, I didn’t handle the context very well, so I decided to tell Girl in the Water in another way. Besides, the points of two films are different: Scar focuses on the joy of love and the pain of heartbreak while Girl in the water talks about the pain and self-healing after heartbreak.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I found my music composer Peilin Wu through google. Communicating with each other and trusting each other are able to strengthen the relationship. We would like to make some unique soundtrack which can show opposite effect at the same time. Instrument can not only create pleasant music but also grating noise. Therefore, instead of using existing soundtrack in real life, we play instrument to make such metallic squeezing sounds.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

As a filmmaker, it is necessary to consider how the audiences would feel. Creating is a way to convey my thought to others, so I must build a bridge between my works and the audiences. If you compare Girl in the Water to Scar, you will find that the former contains more specific plots or clues, or it even distinguishes among reality, memory and feeling by colors. In this way, I am able to make audiences realize the different stages of heartbreak in my film.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Festival really plays an important role in increasing exposure and publicity of our films, in particular shorts. Compare to features, it is really uneasy to find a platform for exposing shorts to people. Participating in festivals are almost the only way for animated shorts to be seen in many countries, especially in Taiwan. As a filmmaker, I definitely hope my works could be seen by people, and know more creators, production managers or even distributors further. Festival is one of the best ways to achieve this.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

In my opinion, it is crucial to be original and fresh, for the reason that these elements are the most charming parts of a remarkable film. Creating is a process of providing audiences with novel ideas and getting feedback from them. It can’t be done if a filmmaker just sticks to classic but safe.