Jun 162010

Some of you may have read my review of the SIFF program Animation for Adults, which included Vladimir Leschiov’ Wings and Oars, a five minute short that blew my mind. It blew my mind because it was poetic, but also accessible. I didn’t necessarily understand exactly what was happening every second, but I didn’t need to – I was mesmerized by the images and the feelings they evoked, and felt I understood. I came home and bought the DVD, waited patiently for it to arrive from Latvia, and was pleased to discover that it came with two painted cells from the film. This prompted me to contact Mr. Leschiov and he kindly agreed to answer some questions for me. I tried to ask the PERFECT questions. I wanted to know technical things about his work process and career, but also about his artistic decisions. So rarely do I get to ask these things of animators I truly admire! Below are my questions and his unedited answers.

1. Your films seem to strike this incredible balance between linear, ‘traditional’ storytelling and abstraction/fantasy. How do you arrive at such a balance? How do you decide what is too abstract, too incomprehensible, and what is too staid or boring?

I think that all kind of story models are already invented. But there are still possibility for new story construction. This is very interesting subject for me and I am trying to combine logical thinking – things which we can explain by mind, with subconscious part of mind, which we can’t explain but use everyday. I know, it is complicated to understand, but it is more complicated to explain my working process over the film, since it is most painfull time in my work. It is like music – you like it and can listen it more and more, but you are not able to explain, what exactly you like there. Because music or art are things, which works with some hidden parts of our mind. Have you ever tried to follow your thinking process from a side, process which is going on in your head every second? It is absolute chaos! But somehow we manage to work with it. When I work with story, first of all I create a new space. This is space for imagination, slow food for brains. What does it means “boring” or “abstract”? For many westerners it is extrimely boring to spent hours watching at flowers – it is boring, but japanese can really enjoy this time.

2. While you’re still deciding the story, do you ask for feedback, and if so, from whom?

I never ask for any feedback. Everyone has his own true. I don’t expect that everyone will like my work. This also makes me more free.

3. Your last two films were scored by Normand Roger, and the music is very good. Are you very involved with the music, or do you let Normand do his thing?

I have some thoughts about the music instruments or kind of music. But Normand is also artist, like me and he is professional in his field. He knows about sound much more, than me.

4. In Wings & Oars, the foreground elements seem to be animated stop-motion style over many frames. Are these then scanned and composited with the background elements? If so, what software do you use?
As you can see from drawing I sent you, all elements were done separately and after scanning composed together in Adobe After Effects. This is not the best programm for composing, but I have no other software.

5. How do you support yourself as an animator?

I have my own studio. As everywhere in Europe we have some fund and film institutes, which support financialy film projects. It is not easy to get this support, but somehow I was lucky to get it. There are no much animators and animation directors in my small country. Sometimes I make workshops and lectures.

6. I’m curious about your DVD. Were your early films available on DVD before this? Why did you decide to put out a compilation DVD instead of just Wings & Oars by itself?

Yes, my early film were available on DVD before, but it was in very limited quantity. Usually I have presented it to my good friends and people, who like my films. I made this compilation of 5 films, because it is period of my life, 8 years working professionaly in animation. I wanted to make kind of conclusion for this period. Also, some people asked me to make compilation with all films including the last one. Some likes my previous films, some like the latest. Now everybody can get all in one:).

7. Do you have an assistant helping you with the festival submission, DVD etc?

No. But usually Latvian Film Centre (kind of Film Institute) sends 35mm prints to the festivals and coordinates prints traffic.

8. What are you working on now, and when are you hoping it will be finished?

I am working over two new animated shorts. One of them is a coproduction project. Both of them supposed to be completed in 2011-2012.

Thank you Vladimir Leschiov for answering my questions so thoughtfully.
If you’re thinking of buying the DVD, it includes four of Leschiov’s previous animated shorts (also lovely), it plays fine on computers (seems to be region-free) but may look funny on your TV because it’s PAL not NTSC system. Find a bio of Mr. Leschiov and descriptions of all his shorts here.

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