August 2018 Featured Animator Interview – Juan Pablo Zaramella – Luminaris and the Tiniest Man in the World!

Internationally awarded, independent animator Juan Pablo Zaramella is ANNY’s August featured animator.The Bueno Aires born animator’s Luminaris – with it’s quintessential 40’s bootstrap story to the backdrop of a classic Argentine tango- has the Guinness World Record to the Most awarded short in history, the Audience Award and Fipresci Award at Annecy 2011,and was included in the Oscars Shortlist for Best Animated Short. He also directed “The Tiniest Man In World” tv series – a French-Argentine production of minute long stop action shorts following the misadventures of a tiny, Charlie Chaplin esque man navigating the giant human world.

1) What inspired you to make Luminaris?
The inspiration was the tango song “Lluvia de estrellas”, and i decided to extract the storyline from the music. Of course that it didn’t happened in a easy way, by the contrary it took to me several months and tests with the technique to see what worked and what didn’t for the film. But it was a very interesting creative process for me, because i didn’t work like this before.

2) What were some challenges and innovative solutions in making the short?
The big challenge was shooting outdoors combining the gradual advance of the sunlight and shadows mixed with pixilation. From moments, it was a nightmare! We spend around one month shooting without any good result. When we had the first real good take it was amazing for the team, it gave us back the enthusiasm and energy that we needed for doing something like this.

3) As a tango enthusiast, I was thrilled to see a Fantasia like animated short featuring Lluvia De Estrellas (A Rain of Stars), a dreamy, upbeat Argentine tango from the 40’s, to help carry the story. Of course, the music genre fits the time period and location of the story. How did you come about choosing this tango in particular, given its not as renowned as other tangos?
Of course that Fantasía came to my mind when i started the project, or some Norman McLaren films like Blinkity Blank. It happened because i always loved this music. Although is an amazing song, mixing genres, like what Gershwin did with jazz two decades before in usa, but this time what Osmar Maderna did is to mix tango with classical elements. The song it’s not only magical, but also very narrative. I wasn’t looking for a tango piece, i found it when i was a child because my parents and grandma listened it at home, before i knew i wanted to be a filmmaker. And I always founded on this piece a strong narrative sense, a melodic evolution that expressed de development of a dramatic piece, not only music. It seemed to be the soundtrack of something, but it wasn’t. So, years later, when i had to choose a new project for a short film i decided to finally use it.

4) On the topic of music, how did you come up with the melody for the World’s Tiniest Man?
It was inspired by Nino Rota’s soundtrack of “Giulietta degli spiriti”, the movie of Federico Fellini. In fact, when i did the first pilot (coffee) I borrowed the first song as a reference of what i wanted. The composer of the series was Yan Volsy, and he told me recently how pressured he felt when i showed him as a reference a song from his idol Nino Rota. However, i think that it inspired him because he did a great and fast job in relation to it. For me the music of the series was as important as the character: i wanted something very unusual, with a lot of identity. As the episodes lasts only 1 minute, i wanted people recognizing the series easily without seeing the screen.

5) The Tiniest Man gets into a lot of wacky scenarios and resolutions – like overdosing on coffee, using tooth picks as chopsticks, getting a normal sized car or going to the moon – how did you and your team come up with the stories?
It was an easy game: we just spend a period thinking how the tiniest man could solve our everyday activities. I remember me (and it also happened to the other writers) taking notes on the public transportation, walking on the streets, on holidays, working, meeting with friends, etc, because it’s supposed that he wants to live a normal life. So we simply put him in our place in everyday actions.

6) At the end of one Tiniest Man short, the Tiniest Man is hiding in a toy nativity scene as baby Jesus, only to be found and gushed over by nuns all joyfully screaming `Oh My God!’. Is this a reference to another short of yours Lapsus, about an animated nun who only says Oh My God to everything?
Yes of course! it was an idea of Yan, the composer of the music, that also worked on the sound design! Of course that i accepted to include it immediately!

7) How has your work evolved since Lapsus to now?
It’s difficult to say. For me Lapsus represents the kind of films that i want to do more: synthetics, direct but with several reading levels, and cheap to solve. But i can’t stand going in only one direction and i usually try as many production and creative ways as i can.

8) The show “The Tiniest Man In The World!” is genuinely hilarious. Will the show get state side showings? Will there be more episodes?
I really hope so! Now the series are on distribution, and many countries acquired it around the world. We are thinking now in a new season with longer episodes, with more story and character development, but still keeping the format of a series without dialogues.

9) What are some projects you are working on now?
The script for a feature and a new short. I’m looking for founding for the short and a developing budget for the feature, and as usual open to coproductions.

10) What would you like audiences to take away from your works?
At least a good moment, and hopefully inspiration.
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