Animate it! in Baku
Telling stories with words, pictures, movement and sound
Film is a language spoken all over the world: A unique combination of words, pictures, movement, and sound, introducing great possibilities for communication.
New techniques have made the language of film available to everyone, offering new tools and expressions, especially for schools.
My name is Erling Ericsson, animator, educator and TV producer. I´ve been working with children for more than 20 years, teaching them how to make animated films, and developing a pedagogical model for filmmaking, which has spread all over the world.
I was invited by the CIFEJ Secretary General- Mohsen Chiniforoushan- to go to Baku and introduce animation for Azerbaijani children and young people and to train trainers to continue the project after I left.
The workshop was planned to go on for about 5 days, located at two places, " Cultural Center" and the "European Academy".
I had never been in Baku and I was not familiar with the language and the conditions. But after many years on travel, I’ve learned that children are able to do the most amazing films, no matter what the conditions or their level of education is.
In Baku, neither the level of education nor the conditions were a problem. First, I was introduced to a number of children in the morning on 8th of December. About 12 children and young people was waiting at the Cultural Center and we started immediately by dividing them into 2 groups. Each one equipped with storyboards and pencils.
This is usually the very start of a workshop. Tell a story and write and draw the story on the storyboard paper. To see the faces, the smiles, and feel the energy from the groups and see the storyboard papers filled with drawings and text. This is for me one of the happiest moments in filmmaking with children.
When the storyboards were completed, the next step began: the artwork. Characters and background based on the story were created.
This was planned to be done the next day, but, most of the groups finished their storyboards earlier than we anticipated. Very good! A good day work at the Cultural Center and we had a break for lunch and after that the introduction of the project at the Academy: A modern school equipped with computers, talented students and interested teachers; the best situation I could ever think of.
The same step by step work started with 32 students divided into 8 groups, and to my surprise, the children not only came up with eight (8) stories on their storyboards, but also, the stories on the storyboards were colored. Eight interesting stories from 32 children, and this first day, they were already able to start working with the artwork.
Conclusion of the first day: Talented student at the Cultural Center as well as at the school, a very interesting day.
The problem is usually that they all want to animate their films immediately. And we were working only with one box.
Never mind! I had to learn and introduce the trainers in the project. Mr. Payam Vahdat, an Iranian dentist student from the University in Azerbaijan and a young filmmaker, learned quite fast how to handle the equipment. With the good help of my translator, Ms. Sheikhi, we managed to continue the next day with the several kinds of stories and characters that had to be animated. Both at the Center and at the school, the atmosphere was very nice: Happy children and teachers. This is, on the other hand, the most important thing for me: Keeping everybody happy and "on track".
The next two days we were animating about 5 films. Frame by frame. Then, we still had at least another 6-7 to animate.
One thing I appreciated very much was the fact that the whole project was documented by Mr. Almassi, the cameraman, on video and by Mr. Tohid Mahdavi, on still pictures; also, the friendly and nice atmosphere at the workshops. But the most interesting thing was probably the great interest I received for the project. More and more children and people were involved and it ended up with at least 10 films made during the period of 5 days. Exactly how many children were involved, I don’t know.
I had to leave it at this point to the people in charge at the school and at the Cultural Center. I had paid more attention to the continuation of the project. I didn’t want to leave before I had a feeling that the continuation was secured.
Mr Rabbei’ told me that the intention was to add a camera to the box and find out about an animation program to be downloaded in the computer.
The cameraman, Mr. Almassi, was the right man for this work to whom I had given all the information concerning equipment; he had done some very important things like copying the videotapes of the films in his computer for editing and sound-making. This is the way I work in Sweden and it worked also there in Baku.
He will continue with this work and will provide the DVD copy of the films to be delivered to the school and the Cultural Center, and he will try to continue the animation program with, as I hope, some of the trainers. I will keep in touch and I like to know as much as possible about how the project continues in Baku.
Someone has to be in charge and keep me informed. There is a very good chance that the Cultural House as well as the school will continue if only there is someone behind. One person in charge with a little bit of knowledge about the project.
Please remember the storyboards. Copy them and leave them with the children. They will tell their stories and you don’t have to make animated films on all the stories. Sometimes, it´s just important to tell a story.
I did my best, but, I have to keep in touch for the continuation. It has to be organized with whom I should communicate. I guess it will be with Maryam, and she will get information from the people in charge in Baku.
Thank you for inviting me. Our cooperation has just started.