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True Story, Almost — Wade

Design Log 18 Aug

For this week’s log, we interviewed ‘The Ghost Collective’ - makers of crowdfunded short film ‘Wade’ comprising Kolkata-based animators Kalp Sanghvi, Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Nikunj Patel. We learnt about their film, how it was conceived, the perils of self-making it, its current situation and more.

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Artwork by Kalp Sanghvi

The Ghost Collective is a team of animators and collaborators who started out a year ago. From being freelancers, they moved onto larger collaborative commercial efforts, and finally solidified during ‘Wade’. “We work in the spirit of easy collaboration, with commitments based purely on interest and availability. Together, we’ve worked on music videos, title sequences, promotional videos, animated feature films and of course, short films,” they said.

Their short film ‘Wade’ is a completely crowdfunded and handmade affair - an Indie animation centred around the theme of climate change and the eminent vandalism of the world in its wake, currently under production. Set in a future Calcutta, its protagonists are a band of refugees wading through the skeletal remains of the city that has been deluged beyond recognition as an aftermath of the sea level rise, and an ambush of tigers all faced by a man eater.

The aspiration of the film was simply to let young designers get into creating their own films and start adding motion to their practices.

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Process images from Wade

Since January 2016, they’d all been talking about pooling our efforts into a short film. “We threw around quite a few ideas, across genres, till we came across an article describing how the entire island in the Sunderbans was going underwater purely owing to climate change. We did a lot of reading about climate change and the probable impacts on the cities around the world, which have, over time, lulled themselves into a complacent assumption of immortality,” they shared.

They decided to put across an uncomfortably believable story that would show their hometown, Kolkata, put directly at the mercy of sea level rise and soaring temperatures. One ‘what-if’ led to another and they asked “What if the tigers of Sunderbans were forced North (into Kolkata, basically) when the Sunderbans go entirely under the sea?”

When asked how easy or hard it was to crowdfund the film, they said, “We had a great experience crowdfunding with Wishberry.in. What we tried to do well before the campaign was build momentum and interest by teasing aspects of the story, building intrigue about the man-vs-tiger angle of the film. Artists from around the country contributed teaser posters on an almost daily basis, so there was a point where our digital audience was seeing quite a lot of ‘Wade’.”

Teaser posters by Kalp Sanghvi

When the campaign went live, they hit their goal in two days! Contributions came in from all over the world. This gave them the confidence that there is a substantial audience out there willing to see the film through to completion, people actually interested in the story they had to share.

“Films need to be worth the viewer’s time. Our run-time is about seven minutes and while we do have a message (or a warning) woven into the story, it is important to engage, excite and occasionally surprise the viewer and build a believable world for the viewer. We can’t offer a universe with the backstory fleshed out in such a duration, so we try to use the power of suggestion so that the viewer can enjoy the detail,” they added.

They think the perils of making a movie cease to exist if one sticks to the vision and sees the film through, and gives the audience an engrossing seven minutes, by telling it with honesty. The story is then bound to resonate with somebody.

When asked how they went about using and dividing their funds, they said, “We’ve used the funds to hire additional animators, compositors and soon sound designers. Our main commitment, has obviously been to finish the film, apart from the crowdfunding rewards. And we enjoy showing our work in progress whenever possible.”

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Character design sketches

When asked about where the film is currently situated and when they are slated to release, they said, “We’re currently working on the backgrounds and the clean-up animation. We’ll be putting out a new trailer very soon, and hope to release the film into the 2018 animation film festival cycle.”

The love and appreciation that they received was overwhelming and inspiring for more such animators to go down the same road. “It was encouraging, and only means that we can keep making more such stories. We’re already working on numerous film collaborations from all over the country, and some from abroad too, as a consequence of being noticed” they added.

The audience was well informed, and ensured the very best of feedback. “There are some amazing creatives in India, and they serve to inspire us to do better. We enjoy working with illustrators and comic book artists so that we don’t get lost in the medium, but rather use it broadly to the end of telling a story. The film industry here, both in Mumbai and the other cities, serve as an excellent place to practice,” they shared.

Concept sketches

But with all its successes and wins, making the film was far from being a cakewalk. It involved numerous all-nighters, being locked up in a room for days slumming it out and trying to get the film and campaign out on time. “We hired a few interns and convinced them to come to Calcutta to work for the film in one common space. At that point, we paid all these guys out of our own pockets. Because otherwise we were nervous about the campaign seeing the light of day and the amount that we had aimed for. We followed a strict marketing strategy for 2 whole months in advance for things to go according to plan,” they said.

The journey was smooth for the most part, but a large slice of that success belongs to them, because of their own initiatives and undying gumption. No brands or conglomerates ran to them with money after the teaser was put out. It was purely because of their marketing skills, intelligence and willpower that they were able to raise the funds. “We built the required awareness in the right time period and the audience reacted well. The overall animation situation is still raw and maturing and has a long way to go. We are only trying to make the most of what we’ve got,” they concluded.

Moving along, they’re looking at a new line-up of short films to go into production next year. They’re also working on a theme-based anthology of animated short films, and collaborating on a feature length animation film being produced in Europe. After that, they have a good mind of putting their experiences together to work on their first feature length animated film.



The Wade film teaser

Design Log is a weekly design document logging every relevant art and design occurrence in India.

Image source: The Ghost Collective