INTERVIEW: Kata Gugić, author of animated film Nightbloom

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Surreal and humorous „ode to the night“ is being produced by Bonobostudio.

Your new project Nightbloom, produced by Bonobostudio, has won two of the most important awards at the CEE Animation Forum: for the Best Short Film project and participation at the Ciclic Residency program in France – congratulations once again. We’d like to take this opportunity to learn a bit more about the film, which is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

Kata Gugić: Thank you very much. This achievement is a huge motivation to keep working and provides an important tailwind. Nightbloom is my first professional film and it deals with the theme of the night and those who are awake at night. It is set in the nighttime, from dusk to dawn, and features an entanglement of characters who appear briefly and occasionally encounter each other. The emphasis is on a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere with a touch of off-kilter humour.

Until recently, your short animation Cockpera (2020), which was also your graduation film, successfully screened and received awards at different international festivals. What was your motivation, and how and when did you start working on Nightbloom?

K.G. As with Cockpera, the motivation for Nightbloom came from thinking about what kind of movement I wanted to work with in the film. While still working on Cockpera, I knew that on my next project, I wanted to approach animation with more freedom and experiment with the bodies of the characters. Nighttime as a subject-matter started to interest me partly owing to my experience with insomnia, and it also proved to be the best time for creative work. I finally put the concept together and elaborated it prompted by the deadline for applications for the Rise & Shine program, where I started developing the screenplay.

Where, that is, in which city did you set the film and how do you go about creating the nighttime urban atmosphere?

K.G. The city where the story is set is not a specific, real place, but it is largely inspired by Zagreb, Croatia, where I have lived all my life. Since I have watched the city from my window many times at night and wondered what the people in the apartments where the lights were on were doing, the film offers my slightly quirky version of the answer to that question. Some of the scenes are directly inspired by certain locations around Zagreb, but I doubt that even the people of Zagreb will be able to recognise them. If someone does recognise any of the locations, they’ll get a reward from me ;)

Judging by the film visuals that we have seen, the characters in Nightbloom are varied and not only of a human disposition. Who sort of characters are there in the film and how do you employ them?

K.G. Like I said, my idea was to approach the characters very freely, so that they can take on different forms and go through transformations and distortions as they move, especially in terms of group depictions. This is something I’m particularly looking forward to. The ubiquitous flowers, which are a kind of embodiment of the night itself, will also play a key role. They will become the means by which the night influences the characters and plays with them, but also a visual metaphor, for example, for intense emotions and sounds. There will also be a few cats here and there.

The Ciclic Residency program is a great opportunity to work on a project. Do you already know which part of the production you will be tackling in France, and will you be sharing your drawing board with any collaborators?

K.G. The plan is to do the film’s entire production, that is, all the animations, at Ciclic. At the moment, we are still in the process of putting together a team, but I would definitely like to collaborate with another skilled animator, since the film will be quite challenging to pull off. Even though I originally planned to do all the animation myself, I am now super excited to have the opportunity to bring some of my esteemed colleagues’ insanely talented minds to the project.

(Photo by CEE Animation Workshop)

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