Interview with director Ervin Han

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I’ve always loved cartoons and animation growing up but it was my first year at university where I discovered the films of Hayao Miyazaki that really seeded my interest in animated storytelling.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely essential. I certainly didn’t as I only did one year of film studies in university before focusing more on media studies, expecting to go into journalism as a career. Everyone’s path is different – some more conventional, others less so.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

It’s harder to get a passion project off the ground. It could take years and often it never happens. Meanwhile you find ways to keep yourself busy and inspired and do work to pay the bills. But whatever work you do, be it your own projects or commercial work, it’s still your work being put out there that someone will see. I would say do not chase your dreams too relentlessly and trust that you’ll figure out a path to reach them, or at least get closer.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

It’s not so much a lesson but I’ve gradually realized that with some films you get different meanings from and relate to in a different way depending on what stage of your life you’re at when you watch them again. They may not even be your favourite films. I tried to make a film that would mean different things if you’ve seen it as a child, a parent, or a grandparent.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Animation has significant differences in the filmmaking process compared to live action. We couldn’t really move forward into production unless every creative, story and artistic choice has been laid out as we work through pre-production. The film is essentially ‘made’ during pre-production in animatic form. Hence, overall, there were very few, if any surprises during production and post (for better or worse).

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Making it 13 minutes, to be honest. I wanted a shorter film.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

We formed the team from within our animation studio, so we’re not strangers to begin with, and I knew the individual strengths of each member. I believe strongly that for an animation production crew, the filmmaking journey is just as important, if not more, than the final film. Every project is a chance to grow, become closer and learn about each other. Once the film is done, it’s not really ours anymore – the audience will judge it however they want. The only thing we get to keep is the experience of making it, and the relationships within the group should be stronger for it.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I don’t think there’s an absolute answer to this. It depends on the project. I feel it comes down to a balance between a filmmaker’s desire to tell a story in a specific way and the capacity for a given audience to be surprised. I don’t believe you can ever ignore the audience per se. It’s more important to have a good grasp of them.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

They’ve been a necessary platform to get our work out there and hopefully gain some exposure and recognition, particularly for shorts. Any festival selection is always gratifying and fuels the desire to do even better the next time. Success at festivals also helps towards getting the next project off the ground.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think it’s entirely up to the filmmaker and to an extent, the material. I would only say that as a filmmaker you don’t want to stay in a comfortable zone for too long. Filmmaking is a journey, and the point of any journey has to be to grow. You can only do that by challenging yourself.