"We have a choice in how tech influences our societies. We control it, not the other way around."

An interview with Christopher Angus | Futureworld | VMA19 Best Animation Semi-Finalist | May Edition


Futureworld’ is a 2018 Canadian animated short, written, directed, and animated by Christopher Angus, a talented artist with a unique style in terms of storytelling.


With a really clever use of irony, Futureworld let us travel in time through our past, present, and most of all the next future, where our mindless choices of today led technology to taking total control over our emotions, and our freedom to yet make conscious choices.


We interviewed writer-director Christopher to hear more about the making of this really interesting animated short, and talk in deep about serious topics, so extraordinarily timely today.

• Hello Christopher! Please tell us about your background. When did you become interested in animations, and what made you want to choose animation techniques to convey your unique perspective?


I grew up on a farm, in a farming community, on the Canadian prairies. I first became interested in animation while attending a Commercial and Graphic Arts course in the early 1990s, as there was a segment of the course about animation.

As to choosing animation for this film’s perspectives, it’s what I understand the most and what my natural inclinations are. Animation takes a little longer to make than live action film, but it can also be made with few people and without the worry of making the sets and props that would be needed for the variety of future environments found in the film.

Animation also seems to have a better fit with the short film format (at least to my mind). Animated stories can often convey more in a shorter period of time and can feel more complete.

I’d say that, generally speaking, we are also societally influenced to accept short animated film as often being a professional product in its own right, whereby we, again generally speaking, tend to think of short live action fiction films as being training films part of a filmmaker’s next step (not that they all are, of course). This allows me to hopefully make a film with some creativity, silliness, and ideological weight, while having a little more leeway of what I can get away with, without it being perceived as too unprofessional. Not that most live action shorts are unprofessional, or even that I think mine is incredibly professional, I am trying choose my words carefully to hopefully convey what I want to say.

Animated film also tends to have a greater longevity to it.

So, animated film is what I do, but even if it wasn’t my primary artform, I’d see value in telling this story in this way.


• Let’s talk about the making of Futureworld. Your animated short tackles a very complex theme, which highlights what we could become in the near future. Our current choices, although done almost always mindlessly and regardless of the long-term consequences, are the things we should pay more attention to. Where did your inspiration come from?

A lot of our current choices in regards to technology are indeed being done almost mindlessly by many people. Part of what I want to do with this film is to address this very thing. Let’s start to be a little more mindful of the ramifications of all of this on humanity and the planet. Other films have, of course, addressed the current and potential impact on the planet, but what I wanted to really look at was the heart and character of mankind and what flows out of this. In the film, what happens to the planet is a consequence of this issue, and the main concern isn’t just ecological, but the destruction of a beauty that helps to transform character.

The pictures of people on the farm at the start of the film are actually pictures of my own family in a bygone era. Essentially, my inspiration comes from an observation of what has built meaning, character, joy, ethics, and fullness of life, in previous generations, and the comparison of that to some in the current zeitgeist, and from there, the consideration of what may be lost in the future.


A perfect world without travail might leave us void of the character needed for love, joy, and a general understanding of being alive, like we find in the residents of Futureworld.

• What has been your personal approach to writing and designing such a complex project? Was it difficult to put your ideas on paper? How long was the making of Futureworld, from the idea to the finished product?


I had actually come up with the central ideas (including the revelation of the machines near the end) many years ago in the mid 1990s. For years, I couldn’t see how to pull off what I wanted to do, especially without making the film too dystopian which I didn’t desire and has already been done. I wanted there to be an element of hope.

So when I finally came to making this film, I set forth trying to craft it so that it dealt with some pretty heavy stuff in a light sort of way, so that it had a very dystopian element but because of it’s structure and the related ideas connected to that structure, it wasn’t bound to that dystopia in the end.

I also had lots of fun with some other interrelated ideas. The film is intended to be a bit of a puzzle with more to pick up on if a person chooses to watch it several times. I don’t think people can perceive all of the ideas on their first viewing - they aren’t supposed to.

I like films that leave me to ponder something for a few days, and then when I go back to them, I find something else within them. Hopefully, this film has a bit of that. • Your animated short describes very well the dark side of technology. It seems to leave no room for our mistakes as human beings and wants to enslave us with the illusion of "perfection”. What is your own view about it?


I think that we’ve already made plenty of mistakes, but we still find that technology is very helpful in some circumstances.

There are some really big blunders that we are on the edge of making (in my opinion). Stories like this one can lead people to consider ramifications and not make those mistakes.

I certainly didn’t want to create an illusion of perfection. In fact, the film looks very fondly upon people who were living in a time of a very imperfect world in regards to some of the travails that they had to go through in everyday life. But that imperfect world built their character. A perfect world without travail might leave us void of the character needed for love, joy, and a general understanding of being alive, like we find in the residents of Futureworld.

That’s of course not to say that we shouldn’t try to use technology to end suffering, or even that I don’t think some tech is kind of cool, but there’s also something valuable about doing some things by the sweat of our brow without it, or by being out in nature separate from it, or by simply realizing that our lives won’t be made better by replacing everything difficult with it.

It would be nice if the film can serve to do its small part in helping us to move into the future in a balanced way, by looking at the outcome of an an easy lifestyle created by tech, as it impacts human character and dignity.

• Despite the difficult subject to deal with, the intentional use of funny characters and comedic moments allowed you to send your message more easily. Why did you decide to address this topic in this unconventional way? 


You pretty much answered the question for me. It allows for the message to be expressed in a more attainable way.

It’s also intriguing how story can have something like this that is a little silly and humourous, but when a person looks underneath the hood a bit, what is being conveyed is kind of horrifying.

Basically, most humour has an element of tragedy at a distance. It helps us to cope with the tragedies we observe or walk through.



• Your unique animation style and skillful use of colors make Futureworld a brilliant eye-opening experience. Tell us more about your stylistic choices. Which books, or artists, influenced your vision to create your own style? And which are the characters in the film you identify the most with?


It’s a matter of interacting with a variety of styles. I would say that the biggest influences on me when I was developing my drawing style were Don Martin of Mad magazine (remember him?), and the experimentation of the National Film Board of Canada animated films that I, as a Canadian, had been exposed to. Those NFB films also had a real sense of not being bound to Hollywood conventions and a desire to at times tackle heavy philosophical matters in a unique way. I see this film as walking a bit in that tradition.

Of course, the style in this film is also influenced by some of the B-movies of the 50s, which others have done since, but I put my own twist on it. I tried to throw in some quirks on those movies in the styles, colours, and humour, but it all hopefully worked to bring out what I was wanting to convey in regards to the different places in time found throughout the film, and this in relationship to the story and its ideas at large.

It was all about serving a story which in turn served the ideas. I’m not sure that some of the ideas in this film could have been served by any styles or story that wasn’t a little bit outside of the normal.

• In the scene where the four elders fight, the viewer finds out that they are no more human beings, but brains that command a machine, which seems a great visual metaphor to describe us in the future you pictured as devoid of feelings, empathy, and common sense. Do you believe that with our bad management of technology, we are doomed to become like them soon?


I think we could, yes. But I don’t actually suspect that we will, because I think that humanity (with God’s help) is continually avoiding straying too far into ditches on either side of the road on the path we are on (although some people within humanity at large can stray pretty far).

We won’t become like certain characters in the film if we see potential consequences and adjust to avoid them. That’s part of what I’m trying to instigate with this film.

• The good news is, if we just "shut down” for a bit the technology that misleads us, we might realize how much beauty surrounds us. As if having something less in terms of technology would enrich us with quality time for the simple things in life. Do you believe that technological advancement can also have positive aspects if used for healthy personal growth?


Yes I think so. It better, because technology and it’s advancement is likely not going to end. But we can be mindful of the direction we take it and of our societal response to it.

For example, maybe people will realize that just because they have access to a high tech way of going to school (or heaven forbid - just plugging in and having school without ever leaving their home), that it might actually be more enjoyable and beneficial to leave that at home and just walk there or hop on a bike and enjoy the day.

We have a choice in how tech influences our societies. We control it, not the other way around.


We won’t become like certain characters in the film if we see potential consequences and adjust to avoid them. That’s part of what I’m trying to instigate with this film.

• What other projects are you currently working on? Where can our readers follow you and your work?


Right now, I’m working on the backgrounds for a 13 minute long fully animated short film. Some examples of those backgrounds can be found by clicking on the ‘In Production’ tab on my website www.attic-films.ca

I plan to update that page from time to time with new drawings, character designs, etc.


• Thanks, Christopher for this interview, we can’t wait to see more of your unique animations!


Thank you for your kind words. I’m working on it. In the meantime, if anyone wants to go to my website and shoot me off an email, I’d look forward to hearing from them.

Hopefully, you enjoyed my little film and will like what is coming.


WATCH THE REEL:




LINKS:

Website: www.attic-films.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Futureworld-181536459117319/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Attic_Films

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