Interview with Filmmaker Chenxin Yang (SEA OF INK)

Chenxin Yang’s short film SEA OF INK was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2016 ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival. It’s a two-minute animation about an artist struggling with his creative block and his journey under the sea.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Chenxin Yang: This animation is more like a reflection of myself. The more I explore, the more deeply I can know about myself. Apparently, self-exploration is a universal topic. I believe that doing such an animation not only provides some clue to life’s questions, but hopefully also has an emotional connection to my viewers.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

CY: I spent one and half years to write the story, design the character and finish the production of the animation.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

CY: Struggle, Release

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

CY: One of the most difficult tasks for me was to make connections between the live-action and animation. I completed at least three versions of the opening title in different styles, but none of them matched my concept design. My thoughts were totally blocked at that time. Combining live-action footage and animation was not as easy as I expected because the footage was so naturalistic compared with the hand drawn style. With a sinking heart, I felt as if I were drowning in the cold deep sea, just like my character, and could not find a way out. Meanwhile, my actor began to scrawl on the paper until the pen ran out of ink. His action inspired me to continue the story. So in the final version of the opening title, the actor wrote the title on the paper. Discovering that there was no ink anymore, he lost his patience, swung his pen angrily, and finally gave up. Here I added one more shot of the actor shaking the pen, resulting in extra ink spewing out of the pen onto the paper. Then the character sank into the sea of ink.

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

CY: I am so glad to hear about these positive feed back from the audiences. They mentioned about “texture””ink brush style” which I spent so much time during the production to achieve the best visual results. And thanks to my music composer Colleen. She is my favorite experimental musician, I knew her work since four years ago. The idea of the gloomy dark ink was based on her album cover “Les Ondes Silencieuses”.

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

CY: The initial idea of the story comes from my own experience as an artist. When artists create artwork, psychological struggles and unconscious choices that are part of the artist become major influences on their work, how they look at the world and the aesthetics they create.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

CY: All the animations from Pixars, LAIKA studio.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

CY: I am working on a new animation short related with colorful designs, food and love. Hope to get released next year.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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