Q&A with award-winning animator and artist Fierrany Halita

The ReelOzInd short film festival is on for another year, bringing together Australian and Indonesian filmmakers in the hope of highlighting our common bilateral struggles and friendship. This week we hear from Indonesia-based animator Fierrany Halita, whose film Acquiescence won Best Animation and Co-Best Film for 2017!

Watch Fierrany’s winning film HERE.

What is Aquiescence about, and where did the idea come from?

Aquiescence is a short animation that tells the story of Fig, a magical banyan tree who survives a wretched incident that causes her to lose her friends and surroundings. She tries to adapt to her new environment, but the changes never stop; it’s a never-ending cycle. Fig becomes the witness of all the changes that happen, every hello and goodbye.

In this animation, I choose to tell the story from the perspective of a tree because trees have been given deep and sacred meaning throughout the ages. Humans have often seen them as powerful symbols of growth, death and rebirth. Trees also have a longer lifespan than humans, some living for thousands of years, and because of that, trees are often considered a symbol of eternal, immortality and fertility.

So how does it feel to be a tree? To be something immortal, seeing every change without being able to do anything? If we think closely, as an individual human, we can’t really do anything to change the entire world. We see how modern technologies are growing fast, and although we might want to prevent them from growing even further, we might never defeat technology, ever – all we can do is adapt.

What was the animation process like?

For the 2D animation technique, I decided not to used the traditional hand-drawn animation, which takes a long time to finish perfectly. As this was an individual project with a limited timeframe, I picked an easier and more unusual way of working, using a program called After Effect because I LOVE anti-mainstream stuff. Basically, it works in the same way that motion graphics work. I was inspired by certain artists, animated films and games that use the same technique, such as the detective game Jenny Leclue, the Disney Junior television series Jake and The Neverland Pirates, and some of Daniel Gies’ works.

What is your background in animation?

I was a student of animation at Binus University in Alam Sutera, Jakarta. This short animation was my final individual project for graduation. At university, I learned about the entire animation process, from pre-production to production and post-production, but mostly in 3D – so we used 3D software such as Maya and 3Ds Max. But as I chose to make a 2D animation for my graduation project (because I LOVE 2D animation!), I needed to learn by myself by watching several tutorials, and also did some extra training independently outside my major.

I had an internship experience as a 3D animator at Infinite Studios, working on Disney Junior Octonauts, Sonic Boom, and Bob The Builder projects. But I currently work as a storyboard artist and visual development artist at BASE studio in Bali.

Have you found success at other short film festivals?

Yes, indeed. At the beginning, I never imagined that I would be able to find success at film festivals, including both local and international competitions. I have now won at seven festivals (local and international) so far, and have been officially selected for screenings and nominations at 20 other festivals.

What have been some of your major animation influences?

My biggest influence in animation is Disney, of course! I like the styles, the colorful styles, the fantasy themes and its extraordinary imagination.

What is the most important thing for emerging animators to remember?

One of my favorite quotes from the Frozen Artbook in on page 15: “A strong story will carry a weak animation, but the most polished animation can’t save a weak story.” Story is the most important thing on every film, no matter how beautiful the visuals are. By contrast, with a weak story the whole film will turn for the worse.

And one more thing is RESEARCH. Research really helps to develop ideas and the imagination.

Do you have any insights on the Indonesian film industry?

The Indonesian film industry, especially in terms of animation, still has a long way to go in chasing the Hollywood standard. But we’re getting there!

Well done to Fierrany and the other winners! Watch her film here.