The Milan-based filmmaker, moving image artist, and animator Gaia Alari talks to Zippy Frames about the music video she directed ‘I Kiss the Night’.
Gaia Alari animation artist tries her craft in an introspective short, the track 'I Kiss the Night' by Dana Gavanski. The song has a retro black-and-white vibe, leading the viewer towards a system of mirroring doors, before leading them into the night. The night is the place where characters move, and images rhythmically dissolve from faces to the night stars, in a smooth transition between images and words.
Zippy Frames talked to Gaia Alari.
ZF: How do you start your creative work? You hear the song, and what do you do next? Do you get a consultation from the music producer/artist? Do you start creating your own work in images?
GA: The process may vary according to how the producer/artist is used to, in that I find myself to be quite flexible but I always do prefer to get to know the musicians a little, to find whether there is common ground before I start figuring the video out. However, so far I have been given a lot of freedom at any stage of the video-making process. Sometimes I am required to prepare a treatment and a storyboard beforehand, especially when I want the video to follow a more narrative direction, but mostly I have creative ‘‘carte blanche’’ to even proceed by images or ideas associations, as in an exquisite corpse game. In this case, in particular, Dana and I have a natural aesthetic kinship: knowing that she also appreciates artists and filmmakers I love and admire, this video took shape effortlessly after listening to the song and to the atmosphere it conveyed to me personally. I do tend to put a personal touch in any video I work on.
ZF: What were the circumstances of this assignment? Did people find you from previous works you made?
GA: In this particular case, I had already collaborated with Dana on a previous music video and since we worked together beautifully, I had the chance to work with her once more. Being a freelance director and animator, normally I am found thanks to the previous works I made or even old-fashioned word of mouth.
ZF: Do you separate your work according to distinct acts related to the song's lyrics? It seems there are distinct acts and situations in the film.
GA: Although it is not a rule, in this particular video you can correctly see a division in acts as you called it, and I do like to follow the lyrics to make visuals that are cohesive with the music and the artist's world, all the while adding something personal to the whole thing. In this case, introduced by the opening and closing of a door, I imagined rooms in which the character goes through, running back and forth from wake to sleep, in a maze of glow-in-the-dark memories, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and dreams.
ZF: Did you have model actors for this work? Or did you animate yourself based on your own visual references? Tell us about the process of animating.
GA: I did have Dana take a couple of videos of herself for the lip-synch parts of the refrain, whereas the rest was animated entirely freehand. The bits that feature the main character are drawings I made, resembling Dana. For the milky white sequence of the memories overlayed on Dana’s face, I did use my own visual references. But yes mostly the video was made quite Alla prima, I wanted it to follow an understated direction, with the linework almost echoing the process of writing, or, on a broader level, the recording of an EEG.
ZF: The video looks effortless, but was it in any way challenging to make, and in what way? Schedule, resources?
GA: First of all, thank you, it was a big part of the initial design of the video for it to feel effortless and understated, I am glad you noticed. The challenging parts were timing so the schedule was a little tight and the lip-synch bits, which are not a super easy task when you work frame by frame in a traditional medium.
ZF: How would you describe the content of the video (‘its heart’)?
GA: I'd say that the video's heart is something personal: I have often suffered from night terrors and insomnia, up to manifesting a couple of episodes of hypnophobia: a haunting, semi-lucid experience that I am still processing and that I felt free enough to visually elaborate for the first time in this animation inspired by Dana’s music. The nocturnal atmospheres evoked by Dana's song had me design a video treatment that aims to represent a dreamscape, or, more precisely, the moment of drowsiness happening right before falling asleep. By entering the door of the liminal space between awake and asleep, the character erases the external world and enters within her brain, experiencing a maze made of layered visions, distorted perception of self, time and space, intrusive thoughts that range from playful - bizarre - uncanny sequences to reassuring memories, in the attempt to fall asleep and finally shut the door.
‘I Kiss the Night’ (2022, 3:19) | 2D animation, music video
Director: Gaia Alari | Song: I Kiss the Night | Artist: Dana Gavanski | Album: When It Comes | Licensed to YouTube by The Orchard Music, Believe Music, PIAS (on behalf of Full Time Hobby)
About Gaia Alari:
Gaia Alari is an Italian visual artist, director/animator of music videos and short films. After an academic career in Medicine, since 2020 she has been focusing almost exclusively on creating and directing music videos and moving image works, specializing in traditional hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation, as a one-woman crew. She regularly collaborates with international musicians/labels and she has recently been working on directing short films. Her video work was screened and awarded at several film festivals around the world, multiple times. She is currently developing her debut narrative short animated film and she is working on a short animation in the role of co-director and animator (in the process of funding). She is especially interested in exploring the expressive potential of storytelling through animation, with a keen eye on existential and socio-cultural subjects.
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