Interview with Filmmaker Michelle Brand (SYNCHRONICITY)

SYNCHRONICITY played to rave reviews at the October 2020 Animation, Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

The film is loosely based on ideas around Synchronicity, which believes that there is such a thing as meaningful coincidences. Less to do with fate, it’s about how there perhaps is a greater connection to things that seem to meet for no particular reason. It’s about the connection between ourselves and others, and our world and the bigger world out there.

I got really fascinated with this idea for a very long time, especially because while it means that we are all little ants floating around out there, we aren’t floating around alone. We are constantly, consciously or unconsciously, moving in and out of little spheres of other people’s lives, creating one universal big picture that we are unaware of, because we are too small to see it, and are part of the picture ourselves.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Roughly half a year, it was part of my first year MA animation course at the Royal College of Art in London.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Intertwined people.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle was finding the right visuals for this idea of connectivity, and how to highlight this moment that happens when people’s movements overlap. I was thinking about sound, colour, style etc. a lot, until I realised the simplest and perhaps most suitable idea was to have people’s lines overlap and take out all the lines that don’t overlap between two people. The result is an abstract shape that carries human resemblance and movement, but can’t exist without another person’s presence.

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I think everybody has similar ideas when they walk through a street and wonder what kind of people live behind these windows, or when they walk past somebody and catch a glimpse of their conversation they’re having on the phone. There is so much information that flies past us in public space that you can’t stop trying to connect these little dots. I got so fascinated with this idea of people’s connection in public space that I just had to process all of these thoughts somewhere.

The film then became like a visual thought process, discussing these philosophical ideas, and it turned into an instrument to capture overlapping moments in time and space between me and strangers forever. The audio that can be heard in the film are recordings of me walking past people and capturing glimpses of their conversations, yet they remain unintelligible. So in a sense, the film carries on overlapping forever, between myself and the strangers, between the strangers and the audience, between me and the audience, between little ants and big spheres.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably the old Disney animation ‘Pocahontas’, just because when I was little I didn’t have a lot of video tapes, so I would just watch the same few films over and over every evening.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I think it’s great because it makes the lives of filmmakers much easier, but it’s also a bit tricky to scan through festivals well and know which ones are the right choice for your film, it’s the usual trouble of too many options! In addition, not all festivals make it very clear what they do, so you really have to spend a lot of time researching what you want for your film before you pay a lot of random festivals an entry fee.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I have created a special playlist on Spotify for when I animate, because animation is such a slow process, certain kind of music keeps me going for a long time – it’s a 20h long playlist which I listen to again and again nearly each day! It mainly has a bunch of experimental, rhythmical songs to it, for example work by Josiah Steinbrick, Yann Novak, and even work by Max Cooper, it’s a real mix of energy!

10. What is next for you? A new film?

After Synchronicity I made another film called ‘Any Instant Whatever’, a short experimental animation about our perception of time and space, which is touring festivals right now and up on Vimeo recently. After that I needed a little break from lonely filmmaking, so I’m currently freelancing around and enjoying working on a lot of very different, exciting projects. Once I’ve enjoyed that for a bit, I probably will go back to sitting in a dark room animating, while staring into bright light.

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