Sil van der Woerd is an independent filmmaker and graduate of the Academy of Arts and Design in Arnhem, Netherlands and attended the Gnomon School of Visual Effects. In 2004, he created Duet and recently released his follow-up Swim. Both works combine live action, effects, and music to carry their narratives and create unique environments.
Soundtracks are a dominant feature of your work. Would you explain your choices of music for both Duet and Swim, and how they relate tothe shorts as a whole?
I pick the soundtracks to underline the films atmosphere. For Duet, I wanted a combination of classical and modern music, since that was the theme of the film. I chose heavy beats because I wanted every contradictory and energetic element opposite the sweet girl and dragonfly.
For Swim, I wanted a pulsing soundtrack, subtle in it's changes. Cold, almost like the sound of the ramming of piles underwater.
"Swim was born out of a collection of sketches and a desire to somehow show how insanely magic the power of life really is."
The concept for Duet was born while exploring the borders of live action and animation. I was thinking about what animation would need to stand up against live action and visa versa. I started playing with the idea of melted contradictions. Modern and classical dance and music, digital and real images, etc. In Duet, my goal was to bring these elements together and make 1 convincing performance out of it. Swim was born out of a collection of sketches and a desire to somehow show how insanely magic the power of life really is. I wanted to create an almost dead, high tech, by humans controlled space, that would shrink to no importance at the moment new life is born and the forces of nature take over.
When creating your works, what is the most important element and why?
Music is the starting point and biggest inspiration. When I listen to music, visuals automatically start pouring into my head. Music is a great inspiration because music is so widely interpretable.
While working in CG, it's all too easy to fixate on the craft of building as opposed to the overall design; a bit like an architect focusing too much on the building methods as opposed to the end product. Do you recognise this problem and if so, how do you avoid it?
I am familiar with the state of being lost in modeling and aiming for a photo realistic look. CG eats up a lot of time because you yourself decide when your work is finished, and if you're a bit self critic like me, it never really is. So to avoid that, I usually work heavily on a model for a short amount of time. Then I step away from it, and finish it once I am fresh again, or have the courage to throw it away. Deadlines also greatly help to effectively make creative decisions in reasonable amounts of time.
"I learned a lot to literally do every facet of the productions myself."
Positive: no boundaries; all you can imagine is make-able and can appear convincingly real. Negative: no boundaries; because everything is possible, one can easily get lost in the techniques and spend months and months while not being very creative. I feel that certain restrictions are helpful to fully use up the restricted space and find it's boundaries.
Would you tell us about the work flow you employed in your shortsand the software/hardware used? And what were the most importantthings you learned while creating Duet and Swim?
I make the films by myself. This means I am responsible for concept, camera handling, light, producing, editing, animation and visual effects. It may not be the most effective way, but I learned a lot to literally do every facet of the productions myself. The only thing I don't have credit for is the music. I learned the software (Maya, ZBrush, After Effects, Boujou) myself while studying at the Academy in Arnhem and during courses at Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. The most important thing I've learned is to make sure that every single function in the pipeline of making a film is of great importance and needs an equal attention. I also learned, that if I want to keep on working on bigger projects without losing my creativity, I need to give certain functions of the process to specialized people, which is what I am doing in my current projects.
How was your time at the Gnomon School? And how does your experiencecompare to your time at the Academy of Arts and Design in Arnhem?
Gnomon was great, I had a wonder full time. Gnomon is all about the technique. They have very experienced teachers. It was the opposite of the Academy in Arnhem where there were no professionals in animation and where it was about the concept mainly. I think these studies were a good combination; at the Academy I discovered my own style and it's importance while at Gnomon I learned to raise the technical side of my work to a more professional level. At Gnomon I also had a great chance to experience some of the film-industry from backstage.
Who are the artists that inspire you and why?
I find inspiration in old Disney movies, Bjork, Chris Cunningham, Arvo Part, Speedy J. To me, these are artists whose work is close to nature or is the exact opposite of it.
What aspirations do you have for the future? And what are youworking on at the moment and when will we see new work from you?
Right now, I am focusing on being a director of music videos. In the future I hope to direct a feature film. At the moment, I am finishing a music video for singer Lolly Jane Blue. The video, called 'Worms' is almost 6 months in production and will be released on Thursday October 4th 2007. Worms will be available on my own website www.microbia.nl and on the singer's website: www.lollyjaneblue.com