“Reel Conversations” highlights filmmakers responsible for some of the official Real to Reel Film Festival Selections. Here, on “Reel Conversations,” Thomas Manning speaks with Tianze Fan, director of short film Con Amore.
Tianze Fan is a 3D animation major student in Savanah College of Arts and Design (MFA program), and his animated short, Con Amore is an official selection for the 21st Annual Real to Reel International Film Festival. Con Amore is a fantasy exploring love, sacrifice and freedom.
Thomas Manning: Share a little bit about your background as a filmmaker/animator.
Tianze Fan: I am a character animator from Beijing, China, and an animation graduate student studying in the Savannah College of Art and Design in the United States right now. I have loved watching animation since I was a kid, especially the Disney princess series, which makes my animation storytelling always feel like a fantastic fairytale. “Con Amore” is the second animated short film I directed during my student career.
Thomas Manning: The story in this film reminded me very much of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Are you an appreciator of Shakespeare’s work? How do you aspire to add creative twists to famous preexisting stories like that of “Romeo and Juliet?”
Tianze Fan: Although I really want to associate my work with Shakespeare’s masterpiece, my inspiration actually comes more from a Chinese 3D full-length animation “Elf Century” that I watched in my childhood. This story is about an adventure and growth journey between stationary figures and toy figures, similar to “Toy Story”. But it is conceivable that maybe the author of “Elf Age” referred to Shakespeare’s romance when creating the story. And then, I added some of my imagination when I was making “Con Amore”. In some ways, it is a romantic heritage. I am a person who stands on top of a mountain and looks at the scenery.
Thomas Manning: The animation here is absolutely beautiful. How long does the creative process take, from mentally visualizing to the final rendering of the animation?
Tianze Fan: This question is very good. For me, the creative process of this animation can be said as a miracle. First of all, I need to introduce that in our school, graduate students in the animation department have a special course that allows us to complete an animation cooperation project in a quarter (10 weeks, 20 classes). Everyone in this project is assigned randomly. In the beginning, our team only had 8 members. In previous cooperation courses, it usually had about 15-20 people to form a team. But, this time, we had less than half of that number. And the school only gave us 10 Wednesdays in total to work on this project. So, in the beginning, we thought this was an impossible task. But fortunately, we have a great producer on our team (her name is Cherry) who helped us get in touch with some help outside the school, such as our sound designers and riggers. And everyone in the team has given lots of time and effort. However, until the end, we were not able to recruit a visual effects artist, so our animation did not have very pretty visual effects, and even seemed to be cheap, such as the part where the glass bottle became the light spots.
Thomas Manning: What were some of your favorite parts about animating this particular project? What were some of the most challenging aspects along the way?
Tianze Fan: My personal favorite part is the shot when the pianist finds that he has to use the clockwork (that symbolizes his life) to unlock the glass cage of the string girl. He finally made up his mind from confusion and entanglement, but he failed and fell to the ground. This section is very realistic and even cruel, because in the real world when people try their best to do something, they may fail to get the results they wanted. So, reversing this bad ending to a happy ending is not only dramatic, but also what I want the audiences to take away, so they can feel the hope and warmth.
In addition, the most challenging part is the animation adjustment of the rotating clockwork. The action of turning the clockwork itself requires two hands to alternate positions, which is very difficult to handle in animation. Fortunately, we successfully completed this performance.
Thomas Manning: What does it mean to you to have film festivals as a path to distribute your film, a film that would otherwise probably not see wider audiences?
Tianze Fan: Every director is a storyteller, and we all have the urge to tell others about our own stories. The film festival is a perfect opportunity. It not only allows new animation directors, like us, to have a platform to show our creations, but also gives us the courage to step to another level. It is a recognition, a glory, and it represents the hard work of my team.
Thomas Manning: Anything else you want to share about the production of the film? Any main takeaway (for you personally, or something you want the audience to recognize)?
Tianze Fan: For the production of animated short films, if you choose to cooperate as a team, you must listen to the opinions of your teammates. But as the director of a film, you have to have your own standpoint and overall view. A balance is needed. Finally, I hope that everyone who has watches this film can experience warmth, hope, and love. “The courage to try and not give up” is my core point.
Thomas Manning: Where can people keep up with your work, whether it be through social media, or a website you have?
Tianze Fan: I have my personal website, TianzeFan.com, where I will post this film after the film festival.
The Cleveland County Arts Council will host films like Con Amore from Sept 9-12, for the 21st Annual “Real to Reel International Film Festival.” Real to Reel will also offer a companion virtual festival featuring official selections Sept. 9 – Oct. 9, 2020.
For over two decades, Real to Reel has showcased thought-provoking films from around the world and offers opportunities for cinema-lovers to embrace the independent vision of this unique art form.
For more information, visit the Real to Reel International Film Festival website.
For more information on Con Amore, visit TianzeFan.com.
Thomas Manning is a member of the NCFCA, and also the co-host of the television show and radio program “Meet Me at the Movies.” He has served as a production assistant and voting member on the Film Selection Committee for the Real to Reel Film Festival. He is currently studying film, television, and English at Gardner-Webb University.
Categories: Filmmaker Interviews