Two times Oscar nominated Russian animator Konstantin Bronzit talked with us about the “birth” of his funny and pensive short films.
Info Shymkent: How are you, Konstantin? Where are you now?
Konstantin: That’s a very broad question. In recent years, he has put me into a stupor. I understand that if I answer: “Sucks” – then I will be right. But if I answer “That everything is very good with me”, then I will also be right. That is, in different positions (in different areas of life) the answer will be different. And – I still live in St. Petersburg. Russia.
Info Shymkent: Can you tell us about yourself?
Konstantin: How much detail? I was born. I live. Sometimes I make cartoons. Until I die. So is that enough? 🙂
Info Shymkent: In your short movie you created some funny characters. Where do you get the inspiration for these characters and stories?
Konstantin: This is another very broad question. At first: I don’t like the word Inspiration. I do not know this condition. Rather, I am familiar with the painful conditions of obsession, passion, compulsion (when I should do). As you can see, this is not about inspiration. Over the years, I have learned to start a new film only when I understand that I cannot stop to make a movie. What does it mean “I can’t stop to do” – it means the film, its idea, its feeling, settles in me, like an Alien from British director Ridley Scott‘s film, and begins to torment, that is, to devour me from the inside. And if I do not make a film, that is, I do not release this beast to freedom, then this may affect my mental and physical health. That is, the process of making a film for me is a kind of self-therapy – forced self-treatment. By the way, that’s why I rarely make films for an average director – I make only one short film about once every 4 – 5 years. So as you can understand: I don’t choose stories at all – they choose me. And in every story there are already characters. I begin to feel these characters. Story always dictates its own rules. If you don’t follow them, you will break the story.
Info Shymkent: Two famous short animation movies are about Cosmonauts. The profession Cosmonaut was your childhood dream?
Konstantin: Never. Although I was born on the Cosmonautics Day on 12th April. But there is no need to look for any connection here. All matches are random. And most importantly, my films are NOT about cosmonauts and certainly not about cosmos and its conquest. The cosmonauts in both films are just characters through whom I try to convey my feelings of being. The first film is not about friendship, as many viewers think. That is, it seems as such only at first, very superficial glance. But if you work hard and look a little deeper, you can understand that such friendship between people does not exist in life. This is my invention, a fairy tale. So in this fiction, my feeling of existential longing for such a relationship was manifested. I would really like that in real life there would be at least a small part of such mutual understanding between people. But in fact it is not, so we are all very lonely. That’s what this film is about – it’s about loneliness. I was not worried about the cosmonauts, but the feeling of loneliness. Also in the second film I was not worried about this cosmonaut, but his fate, his destiny to be a cosmonaut. The destiny was born in him and so he did not choose his profession.
Info Shymkent: What was your favourite film project in your career so far? And why?
Konstantin: This last film – He Can’t Live Without Cosmos. Because it turned out to be the most personal, the most complex and the most layered. Personal because he is partly autobiographical. I didn’t choose my profession either. I realized a long time ago that someone appointed me somewhere to be an animator. Therefore, from early childhood, I have been drawing my cartoons in notebooks all the time. Even when I did not know such a word – profession. Just like my cosmonaut in this film, who until he grew up did not understand who he really was.
Info Shymkent: You were nominated two times for an Oscar. How was your first reaction after you got the information to be nominated for an Oscar?
Konstantin: Of course, this is your professional holiday. It is a wonderful feeling that something happened to you that you never even dreamed of. But it was the second nomination that impressed me especially. Because over all these long years I managed to understand how many directors get nominated and even get Oscars just by a lucky coincidence, almost by accident. But such an accident, of course, happens to them only once, and then these directors disappear to no one knows where, and no one after that sees their new films. Therefore, when I got into the nomination for the second time, I realized to myself how not accidental my success is, how natural it is. As athletes jokingly say: stability is an indicator of class!
Info Shymkent: How much time on average do you need to paint one second of your short film for example in He Can’t Live Without Cosmos?
Konstantin: Here are the most average numbers. Today it does not take much time to paint a second of animation (if we talk specifically about coloring), because all this is done on a computer, and not literally with paints and brushes, as 30 years ago. If there are 1-2 characters in the scene, then a second (20-25 pictures) can be painted in 20 minutes, or in an hour. But maybe more. It always depends on the complexity of the characters. But you need to understand that a simple mathematical addition of these spent minutes and seconds will not give you the correct idea of how movie is made and why, for example, it takes 3-4 years of work for me to make a 15-minute film. Coloring is almost the final stage of the work. It is almost mechanical – one-two, one-two … The most difficult thing is at the beginning of the journey, when the story must go from the head to a storyboard, when you need to come up with everything in nuances and details so that every moment of the action on the screen is extremely accurate and unique.
Info Shymkent: We read that you are working on a Stay-at-Home version of At the Ends of the Earth. Is it already released? How COVID-19 is affecting your work?
Konstantin: Haha! Where did you read this? I didn’t “work” on it – they made a big deal out of it. It’s not a movie. I just sat down and made this video joke in one day. It was in the early spring, when we were all forced to stay at home. I immediately posted this video on my Facebook page. As for working in quarantine, we were all immediately sent from the Studio to remote work, where we are still. There is no less work to do. Suddenly, it turned out that animation is an area that is immune to such situations, and therefore it is almost not affected. In quarantine, people and their children need to watch cartoons on the Internet even more, so the production of TV series has not stopped, it even accelerated. Fortunately, unlike the feature film industry, cartoons can be made from the comfort of your home. And since I work for a large Studio, I have something to do.
Info Shymkent: You are also a teacher for Animation at СПбГУП (St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions). What can you recommend to youth who want to create animation movies?
Konstantin: This university does not train animators and directors in the literal meaning. This is the faculty of multimedia project directors. There I tell something about directing, about animation, teach them how to watch films correctly and analyze them. That is, rather, I am engaged in “general” education. And I teaching only twice a month for just two hours. But for more I do not have time.
And I always advise the same thing, and this is not at all about animation or about other professions. Once I read the words of our wonderful philosopher and theologian Pavel Florensky, who, like most such great people, was shot by the Bolsheviks in 1937. He said this: «Whatever you do, train yourself to do it distinctly, dashingly and with dedication, don’t blur what you do, and don’t do anything in a sloppy way. Remember, you can lose your whole life to “sloppy”. Being distinct and doing things in their time, even when they do not seem to matter so much, you, on the contrary, can gain a lot, and that might become a vast source of creativity for you… Those who do sloppy, speak sloppy. And words that are careless, blurry and imprecise turn your thoughts vague as well. Don’t let yourself think loosely, my dears. For thinking is God’s gift, and it requires care. Being distinct and mindful of your thoughts is key to one’s spiritual freedom and joy of thought.»
Info Shymkent: When we can expect to see your next beautiful animated short film? What are your plans for the future?
Konstantin: There is only one plan – to live longer for your own pleasure, and think less about animation. I hope every time that the new Alien will not settle in me, and I will not suffer. As long as I am free, and would like to continue this road. Otherwise, my profession will simply kill me – it takes too much effort from me to create even a small film. So, if I were you, I wouldn’t count on me yet.
Info Shymkent: Thank you very much for this wonderful interview and your time, Konstantin. We appreciate it very much. We hope that a new Alien is not suffering you very much – but we are looking forward to see another beautiful films with funny – but also deep pensive meanings.
Watch and read more of Konstantin Bronzit: