Director, art director, animator, and script writer of animated films Bára Anna Stejskalová has a specialization on stop-motion animated films.
In her latest film Love Is Just a Death Away (Jsme si o smrt blíž), love comes to worms in an animated short from the Czech Republic. Brutal and dark, yet whimsical amid the dystopia of its setting. I was truly captivated by this charming story about finding love even amid utter decay.
Stejskalová was gracious enough to take part in my 5 Questions With… series after the film’s premiere at SXSW.
HM: Perhaps it’s good to start by asking what are some of your early influences with respect to animation and film?
Bára Anna Stejskalová (BAS): To be honest, I was not a cinephile until I actually started studying film at university, so my first influences were mostly kids shows, which I think brought me to animation. I totally loved Space Jam, Hey, Mister, Let’s Play and Pokémon. I was sort of in a bubble. I never even had a crush on some boy band or owned a single poster. Now I am caught up with everything, but it is hard to say who actually influenced me, (although people say Love Is Just a Death Away is something Tim Burton and Wes C. Anderson would make together), as I am mostly inspired by daily life.
HM: In your film work, you have chosen to do stop motion animation, a personal favourite. How did you decide this is the medium for you in terms of filmmaking?
BAS: It was simple! It is just so magical! I really enjoy the whole process, making my own little world, creating little beings I can hold in my hands and bringing them to life. Guess I might have something like a God complex [she smiled here]. Plus with stop-motion, you can move around a little bit. If there’s anything I really hate, it would be sitting in front of a computer all day.
HM: For your films, what is your process in terms of writing, production design, animation and all that?
BAS: It always starts with an idea crawling inside of my head. But the wonderful thing is that the concept is mostly finished already with the first thought. The story, the characters, the look of it, etc. Then all I do is leave for a different town, where I do not know anybody and spend my days running around the forest with my dog and putting the story on paper in the evenings.
Of course, it also requires some polishing and different versions and lots of drawing, so that I can show other people what I am seeing inside. But it is very natural. When it comes to animation, I am lucky to be surrounded by very talented animators who happen to be my friends, so it is easy to explain the style of the movements I require.
HM: Congratulations on your graduation film, Love Is Just a Death Away, making the festival circuit including SXSW! I read this is a story about differences, and the need to find someone with whom we can be close, and also about the freedom that love gives us. It translates so well to the screen; it’s so good. Could you share more about the concept, mood and look of the film?
BAS: Thank you! We were really excited when we got the news about SXSW, and I am very happy you like the movie. The concept was first actually not about love, but soul. The landfill was a metaphor for the inner state of the mind, and I was playing with the idea of the difference between what is inside and hidden versus the outer appearance, and how it is difficult to translate if they do not align.
The look of the film was inspired by the beauty of decay itself. It sort of fascinates me, how pretty mold can look and how lovely flowering rust can be. I am a big admirer of all gorgeous things in life, so I was trying to put it all in the film.
HM: I’m curious to know what other projects you have lined up… anything you can share?
BAS: I am currently working on my next short, which will be about Fran the Mantis shrimp and her friendship with deep sea blind fish. Mantis shrimps are amazing creatures with very unique eyes that allow them to see colors people can’t, so I am very excited about experimenting with all the beautiful things we can do with that.
I am looking forward to more from Stejskalová. I also hope many of you are able to watch Love Is Just a Death Away at a virtual screening near you.
For more updates on this film and Stejskalová’s other works, please visit her website.