Interview with Filmmaker Juha Flilin (DIVINE CONSULTANTS – THE BEGINNING)

DIVINE CONSULTANTS – THE BEGINNING was the winner of BEST VISUAL DESIGN at the July 2019 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Juha Flilin: I wanted to create meaningful and diverse content for the youth. Divine Consultants is not only an adventure with comedy elements, but a growth story in a corrupt and divided world. Our young hero, Joy, must defy her own moral insights to expose the mystery. She loses everything, but rises from the ashes and faces the wrath of the gods. We still bring a positive message: Joy can beat the corrupt system!

‘Divine Consultants – The Beginning’ is actually written as a Web Series. The format and style are not of a typical animated short film because I want to make sure the young audience will find it.

The main character, Joy, lives in a divided world. For some people, this world is utopia, the ideal society, and for others, dystopia, the perfect opposite of the ideal society. Joy belongs to a discriminated minority, rumored to spread a dangerous disease. She tries to merge into the mainstream.

The significance and analogy of Joy’s story can be sought in today’s world, where distorted power structures take the power from the individual and divide society into artificially opposing groups.

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

It has been a long process. I started writing the first DC themed short film back in 2012. Then it turned into a series script in 2015. In 2016 I produced and directed an animated short film called ‘Job Interview’ that was based on the same story world and main character. The short film did really well at film festivals around the globe and it helped me develop the next stages of the project. Even though we had success of ‘Job Interview’ I wanted to change the visual style from 3d to 2d. The production of the ‘Divine Consultants – The Beginning’ motion comic took 16 months, because we had to re-write and redesign quite a lot in between the process.

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

Motion comic.

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

First obstacle was funding it. I managed to get the Finnish National Broadcasters on board and resource some self financing towards the production costs. Once we got the funding together the next obstacle became the story. The first production draft was not engaging quickly enough and some concepts were not clear. However, we were in production and thought we must finalise the pilot to get first feedback, which helped us to evaluate the work done as well as assess the necessary improvements. Finally, we realised that we had to rewrite everything again and there was various re-writes in that process. The re-writes made us think bigger and open up the story world as well as the characters.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was really excited to hear and see how well the audience picked up the underlying themes and meanings of the film with such confidence and understanding. Really impressive!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea was born from the need to explain the events and conditions before the main character Joy has to enter the corrupt afterlife (in the next series in development). Me and my writers had created a complex and rich afterlife where Joy struggles against some more and some less divine enemies. To tell about Joy’s background I needed to make a living world that is aligned with the afterlife.

It was clear that the world was going to be dystopian and corrupt. I wanted to avoid stereotypical dystopian views and therefore looked closer to the living life of my young adult children. Joy’s life needed to become mainstream or being casted out of a group seemed like a driving force – and her growth story became about understanding that these external things won’t help her family’s problems. In the end, Joy ends up at a point of no return – she can’t be what others want her to be, but she has to find her own identity.

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

Most likely it is ‘Being John Malkovich’ which I used to watch a lot back in the day.

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

FilmFreeway is my favourite platform without a doubt. I use other platforms too, but generally I would prefer to be able to submit all my film information in one place as it takes quite a bit of time.

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

This is a difficult one! I have always liked so many different artists and styles of music: Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’ as teenager. Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ in my twenties. Sizzla’s ‘Rise to the Occasion’ in my thirties and now in my nowadays it’s probably 2pac feat Dr.Dre ‘California Love’ as it’s turned into our local BBQ anthem. However, to go to sleep my go has always been Erik Satie’s ‘After the Rain’.

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

I’m still producing and directing more episodes of the Divine Consultants motion comic web series until the end of the year. At the same time we are developing and financing a fully animated sequel for it, which will be in more a traditional TV Series format (13×11′). The TV-Series will twist the dystopian world to another level and our hero Joy will have to fight even bigger and more dangerous obstacles in a corrupt, privatised afterlife. The working title for the series is ‘JOY ETERNAL, a Divine Consultants story’.