2016 SBIFF Movie Spotlight: Follow Your Heart

Some say that silence can be just as powerful as saying a thousand words, and Follow Your Heart proves just that.

The 8-minute animated film creates a unique perspective on what it truly means to follow one's heart. With such beautiful animation, the filmmakers are able to create a world where people's hearts exhibit the qualities of a pet, and follows the the saga of Mary who loses her beloved Skip.

The animated short makes its world premiere at the 31st Santa Barbara International Film Festival as part of the "Animated Shorts" section.

Some of the filmmakers took a few moments to talk about the Follow Your Heart and what makes this movie so special.

This is such a genius animated short both for its figurative and literal use of the heart. How did you come up with such a concept?

Michelle Cuevas (writer): I actually got the idea one day while on a hike with my friend and his dogs. We were talking about how they each have such distinct personalities, but the trait they share with all dogs is that they're just all heart. I started imagining what it would be like to live in a world where people were like that too – where the individual, honest heart inside was on the outside for everyone to see. At first I wondered if it could be a picture book, but it just really arrived in my mind as an animated film.

The animation looks absolutely beautiful. How long did it take to complete the project and can you talk about what that process was like?

Rob O'Neill (director): From the start of production design to completing the film was about 18 months. It took about four months just to figure out the design for Mary and her heart Skip. This was followed by a six month production working with Gizmo Animation Studios in Buenos Aires. Like every animation production, the process was intense as every little detail needed to be designed and realized. Luckily, we had a clear vision for the end result so we moved quickly with our animation team to hit the aesthetic goals we designed in the initial concept sketches.

What was the most challenging thing about making this film?

Rob O'Neill (director): By far, the most challenging piece of this production was creating hearts with dog-like qualities. The hearts needed to be anatomically accurate beating hearts but appealing and able to move and act like dogs. All this needed to be combined into something that wasn't gross or alien but was ultimately familiar and engaging. We went through dozens of drawings trying to find the right balance and then spent time designing the shape and motion in 3D to see if it would work in animation. We are really happy with the way it played out.

Do you see yourself in sticking with animated films? And are you working on any other film projects currently?

Rob O'Neill (director): Animation is the perfect medium for telling stories that need to expand on reality, such as hearts having dog-like qualities, or that transcend time like our recent short for Google, "Happy Birthday, Ada," which celebrates the 200th birthday of the world's first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace. There are no boundaries to the stories you can tell with animation so it's a compelling medium to revisit and find new ways to utilize. We are planning to expand both Follow Your Heart and Happy Birthday, Ada into larger projects in the TV or digital series space and have other animated projects in the works.

If there's one thing you really want audiences to leave with after watching this film, what would that be?

Michelle Cuevas (writer): I love the idea of people leaving the film and wondering, "Hmm, I wonder what MY heart would look like? How would it behave? Where would it want me to go?"

Rob O'Neill (director): The heart characters we developed have real personalities and are so fun to watch. When the technical work that goes into delivering great character performances is done well, audiences really connect and become transported into their world. There is unlimited potential in the medium of animation, and I hope this film represents a bit of that incredible potential.

Josh Ludmir (producer): I would want audiences to leave with a new way of looking at their hearts--not just as organs that serve a vital function, but as embodiments of their true selves. And by extension, I would want them to come away with a little more hope regarding matters of love and personal growth and development, and perhaps have a deeper appreciation for the need to really pay attention to and follow their hearts and be their most authentic selves in every aspect of life.

What does it mean to you to have the Santa Barbara International Film Festival screen your movie?

Josh Ludmir (producer): It's an incredible honor to have the world premiere of our film be at the 31st Annual SBIFF, a festival that this year has shown unprecedented support for the medium of animation by opening with the beautiful "The Little Prince." It warms our hearts to be featured in the company of such talented filmmakers in the animated shorts block at such a prestigious, world-class event as SBIFF.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Follow Inklings Creative on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram or visit us at www.inklings.tv for sneak peaks at our upcoming projects.

Follow Your Heart screens on Tuesday, February 9 at 5:20 p.m. at Metro 4 Theater, and on Wednesday, February 10 at 10:20 p.m. at Fiesta 5 Theater.

For a full schedule of movies and tickets, visit http://sbiff.org.

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