Shanghai-based animator Shen Jie arrives on Close-up Culture to tell us about his new short film, Splash.
Q: I don’t want to give too much away, but ‘Splash’ is a fascinating and uneasy experience. Can you tell us more about the film and what you wanted to delve into?
A: The idea for this film came from a photograph during the 2016 Paralympics. It was of an armless contestant hanging to the edge of the pool by biting on a towel, poised to shoot his body backwards into the water. The image shocked me. That’s when I started trying to make this film.
I want to try a more abstract way to narrate a little story.
Q: ‘Splash’ is a tribute to artist David Hockney. Can you tell us about your admiration for Hockney and how his work informed this film?
A: I’ve always liked David Hockney’s work a lot. When I finished writing and storyboarding this film and started drawing the scenes, I found my colour design going in that direction without realising it first. Thus, I went back to Hockney’s swimming pool paintings and had the idea of paying tribute. Referencing his work helped me improve the colour design, and had a direct influence on the shapes of the splash and the mountains.
Q: Can you tell us about working with designer Luo Keju and the role of sound in ‘Splash’?
A: Luo Keju is a great collaborator. This is the fourth film we worked on together.
I am in Shanghai and he was in Kunming, so we usually spoke via video calls. He finished the majority of the background sounds remotely. We then spent a few days in Shanghai to finish foley recording together. Foley is very important since it’s a crucial storytelling element in this film.
Luo lives and works in the US now.
Q: How did you originally get into animation?
A: I’ve been practicing painting for years. I first got into animation when I was in college, and I have been intrigued by it ever since.
I made RUN! in 2012 as my graduation project, and most of my films after that were made in my spare time. I quit my day job in 2015 to focus on animated short films. For me making films require a lot of energy.
Q: I hear you are part of an exciting scene of emerging animation filmmakers in China. What is it like being part of this scene and being an animator in China?
A: I don’t actually know much about other animation filmmakers in China. I know a few friends who also make their films in their spare time, and have fun doing it. I also know some artists who engage in all kinds of projects, with animation being one of them. I think identity is not important. The quality of work matters more.
Q: ‘Splash’ will screen at the year’s Berlinale. What are your hopes for the film?
A: I hope the screening is successful. It would be great if the audience enjoys the film.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future?
A: I’m making a new short film. And I recently started to write poems and some little stories.