This week we had the chance to ask Lina Kalcheva some questions about her short film Other Half, and her thoughts on the filmmaking process and the short film industry in general. Here’s what she had to tell us…
Interviewer: What inspired you to make this film?
Lina Kalcheva: The very original concept had to do with codependency, and Laura, Michelle (my writer and producer) and I were talking about ideas to represent that as a physical thing happening to the body. And as we came up with the idea of merging and sharing bodies this reminded me of this Ancient Greek myth about love which is from Plato’s Symposium – that humans were all originally combined creatures with two heads and two sets of limbs, but they were too powerful this way so the gods split them in half – and this is why we look for love. And once we thought of drawing from mythology, we all got really excited to make it this epic heroic journey, but that is essentially just about someone going on dates and trying to find love. Then it became about finding these archetypal figures for types of toxic relationships and the things we sacrifice in order to be with someone.
Interviewer: From the lessons you have learned through your experience, what advice would you like to give to aspiring filmmakers?
Lina Kalcheva: The most valuable thing I got from this project, which is the longest film I’ve done so far, is that I tend to do better and stay more engaged if I need to keep problem-solving on set. Our technique meant figuring out a lot of things on the go so often we wouldn’t know exactly how we would pull something off until we had built and set it up – which can definitely be stressful but I actually found that it kept me on my toes and really focused throughout the shoot (which was about 8 months). Animation is so long and doing the same thing over and over again can be a bit soul-crushing, so having all these different challenges kept things interesting. I was also really lucky to have an amazing team, who were all able to offer solutions that I myself would have never thought of – so trusting them, their knowledge and talent was really important and made the whole process more fulfilling.
Interviewer: Other Half is stylish stop-motion animation. Can you tell us more about the process of character concept development?
Lina Kalcheva: This was my most tactile film so far! My background was more in 2D and painting, and I had done a couple of really short, basic films in stop-motion. I knew something physical would serve the story better, because it would have a bigger impact if you see materials physically merge together – so the materials used for the characters would have to be something fluid like clay or plasticine. But I’ve always really liked animating characters, facial expressions and lip sync with drawing, so I came up with having their bodies being plasticine but painting on top of them with oil paint. In terms of the design, I wanted them to all be other-worldly but familiar – on the mythological level kind of like monsters for the hero to defeat but on a more realistic level like the kind of people we’ve dated or seen our friends with. The design had to be simple enough for the technique to be efficient so I focused a lot on shape, colour and facial features being distinct and characterful. The spaces that they inhabit were just as much a part of their personalities too – that’s how we wanted to convey who they were as soon as they’re introduced, as a kind of shorthand for the type of relationship they represent.
Interviewer: Although the characters are genderless (physically at least) we see hints of mansplaining from different characters. What do you think about ghosting and love bombing concepts?
Lina Kalcheva: Yes, we wrote and design the characters as genderless because as we spoke about the concept, it came down to the fact that we wanted to represent universal issues with romantic relationships rather than tying them to a specific gender or sexuality. With mansplaining, as well as ghosting and love bombing, to me it seems like it’s all to do with imposing an unbalanced power dynamic – making the other person feel inferior, manipulating them, holding all the cards. It’s all ways of projecting and overcompensating for your own insecurities at the expense another person, avoiding real vulnerability in front of them. Since Ren, our protagonist, is very sincere, vulnerable and naive, having characters that exploit those qualities with this kind of behaviour seemed appropriate, as a way for Ren to stop trying to please others at their own expense.
Interviewer: Why do you think Short films are important?
Lina Kalcheva: I like short films because they can be really personal and creative. The lack of massive teams and budgets means that it’s often a close group of people trying to tell a story that is really important to them – and I think that really comes through when done successfully. While it’s usually a stepping stone to doing bigger projects for people, I find watching them exciting because it’s the type of project where you can really take risks, try something new and be innovative, without having to make big artistic compromises – so it’s a really good way to understand someone as a filmmaker.
Interviewer: Where do you see the film industry going in the next 3-5 years?
Lina Kalcheva: I’m not an expert but I’m personally hoping for more diverse and inclusive stories, as well as filmmakers. Selfishly, I also hope there is more and more space for artsy, adult animation, both short and long form – particularly features which haven’t been as prominent in the mainstream. I know there is a trend for more immersive and interactive storytelling, which might increase as the technology improves but I think watching films as they are now will always be exciting. It would also be nice if all the remakes, reboots and endless franchises died down a bit to make space for more original content but I don’t think that will happen for some time! I do hope that through the existence of various streaming platforms there is an increased demand and visibility for independent and short films, since it’s a way of distribution that wasn’t always possible, and could potentially make a big difference for emerging filmmakers.
Watch Full Short Film Here: