VIFF 2018 Interview: CATERPILLARPLASTY director David Barlow-Krelina

“Discover ultimate beauty! In an advanced society, the caterpillar has divine significance and the people desire metamorphosis. Enter the Iridescent Lifestyle Institute and become the embodiment of perfection.” Director David Barlow-Krelina on CATERPILLARPLASTY which screens at the 2018 edition of VIFF.

Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to VIFF! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Thank you! Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend the festival. I’d love to be in Vancouver right now. The mountains and the ocean are amazing.

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I have been doing visual arts since I was a kid. I studied digital arts and computer science in university, and I quickly learned that my passion was on the artistic side. I love designing characters and telling stories, but computers and programming were useful tools to support my art. After graduating, I was selected to participate in the NFB’s Hothouse program. From there, I worked on a few projects with other NFB directors like Chris Landreth, Sheldon Cohen, David Fine, to name a few, and I made the short film BLESS YOU, which had a good run at festivals. Then I pitched this project to the NFB, and that’s where I am now!

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

These projects always tend to start with the joy of making things. I like drawing and building things in 3D. I do a lot of caricatures, and I wanted to find a context in which to set the story that would give me permission to play around with all kinds of variations on the human body. Cosmetic surgery seemed like a good fit. So I developed it on my own in parallel to doing other studio work, doing storyboards and animation tests and eventually building up material for the pitch. The NFB liked the idea and we got a budget to work with a few animators and a cinematographer, a sound designer and a composer. The NFB was also very helpful in the post-production and providing access to rendering equipment. Rendering in 4K means needing some beefy graphics cards. I finished the film in early 2018 and it premiered at the Oberhausen festival in May. Since then it’s shown at Ars Electronica, Fantoche and Ottawa at the end of September.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

The thing that drives me is always different from project to project. If I’m working with a team, perhaps there’s a bit of healthy competition that pushes things along. If I’m working alone, it’s the drive to connect with a community and share my passion.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

Making an animated film means spending long hours behind a computer screen, and sometimes that can be a bit isolating. This is probably the biggest challenge. Having all this creative energy and passion for the project and not being able to share it with the world until the final release of the project. Seeing everything all come together in the finished frame with movement and music is really the most rewarding part. If people react positively to it, that’s even better!

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

The animation was done entirely in the computer so there were no actual cameras involved, only virtual ones. Planning out the scenes and figuring out angles was done in the same way as playing a first-person shooter game. The cinematographer I worked with, Luka Sanader, had a lot of experience working with live action and plenty of neat tricks to help give the animation a classic film feel. We worked together in establishing digital lens settings, staging and composition to make best use of the wide aspect ratio.

After the film screens at Vancouver, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

I’m hoping it will show at a few more festivals. Let’s see what happens after VIFF!

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?

I tend to be someone who doesn’t like being confrontational. I’m usually OK with that sort of thing if it’s not too intense. After all, a large part of the movie-going experience is enjoying it with other people. The occasional phone buzz or chit-chatter just adds to the ambience. If it really got on my nerves, maybe I’d throw a shoe.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Honestly, I feel like an outsider in this industry, so maybe I’m not the best person to be answering this question. I work alone most of the time as a visual artist/computer nerd. I come up with lots of funny and weird ideas for films that go nowhere, and it’s a miracle that some of them make it through. But yeah, it can sometimes be challenging finding interesting work opportunities in the industry and sometimes it can be painful to put your heart and soul into a pitch, only to be turned away. I’d say it’s more important to find your own personal groove with the craft than to seek validation though an external greenlighting process. Spend time working on your own stuff, and then hop on to projects with other people, and go back and forth between the two. Always make space for an aspect of the craft that gives you pleasure, something to ground yourself as you work on projects that maybe you don’t have creative control over.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

My favourite festival film and favourite movie of all time are two very different questions! Part of what makes these festival films so enjoyable are the reactions from the crowd. I frequently attend the Ottawa International Animation Festival and always get a kick out of the animations by Peter Millard. Something about the warped voices, playful colours and wacky character design really makes for a fun viewing experience.

For more information on the film screenings at VIFF, point your browser to!

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