In director Will Anderson’s Have Heart, we meet a GIF whose work involves, well, doing the same thing over and over. Sounds familiar?
In the 12-minute short, a GIF in the form of a pixelated duck grows frustrated at his repetitive job, which involves having to continuously crash and explode into pieces. It soon takes its toll on him and his relationship with his wife.
It’s not hard to see why Have Heart has received critical acclaim at the London International Animation Festival, as well as having received a nomination for the 2018 British Short Animation BAFTA. The film is relatable as it serves as a metaphor for existentialist issues we come across daily. We wake up, we go to work, we come home and go to bed. It’s as if our lives are looping GIFs!
In addition, the short also touches on social media and how it affects our happiness. It portrays this through the little hearts that the protagonist constantly seeks out. Sounds familiar too, right?
While the film doesn’t give us the answers to all our work-life balance problems, it does show us that there is one place we can turn to whenever life glitches out on us: home.
Endearing and relatable, Have Heart is a short you need to watch – especially if you’re in a rut at work (which is to say, always).
We spoke to Anderson to learn more about Have Heart.
Where’d you get the idea to make a short film based on a GIF’s life?
“Being an animator, between making films, I find myself designing characters and making little loops. The opening loop from Have Heart was one of those that was compressed as a gif to then be uploaded online.
“After uploading it to Twitter, I found the character more and more intriguing, and felt a kind of empathy for him. On one hand, he is endlessly trying to fly and failing. On the other, he isn’t giving up.
“I also am aware that being alive online is a curious thing. We all have these streams of media whirling through our lives constantly, all with a distinct clamouring for attention and approval. To therefore talk about identity online, and my feelings and worries about it, it made sense to me tell it through a gif who is trapped on there.”
We really enjoyed the animation! Could you take us through the film’s creative process?
“Well, after I made the opening loop and worked closely with a sound designer, Keith Duncan, who brought an intense, digital sound to it, which convinced me that I wanted to carry the original loop through to an animated short film.
“It was made slightly less conventionally than shorts I’ve made in the past, with no storyboard or animatic. Instead, the film was made chronologically, to allow for as much freedom as physically possible in an animated film.
“I love the idea that the characters are actors on a screen, so I try to give them an openness with room for improvisation. It flies in the face of how animation is made, but it keeps me on my toes and keeps me excited about the medium. I essentially made the whole film silently this way, then spent a long time with Keith as he built up the audio.
“This was all brought together with work from a composer, Atzi Muramatsu, who brought a beautiful and intense digital score to the film.”
We heard that you did this is a side project during your commute back and forth to Edinburgh. How long did it take you to finish everything?
“Yes, I made a huge amount of the film commuting to and from work in Glasgow from Edinburgh. I found that I was travelling for two hours a day and often had nothing to show for it. I therefore spent as much time as I could animating on my laptop between the cities. In all the film took about one year from start to finish.”
What type of impact would you like this film to have on your audience?
“For me, the film zooms in on a character who has real fears and worries about his work, his relationships, and ultimately what he’s there for. As his life is judged by ghosted hearts or ‘likes’, he needs to perhaps take notice and appreciate the things that are real and tangible around him.
“If anyone feels that sometimes, I’d like them to empathise, and perhaps pay closer attention to more tangible things around them, like their loved ones.”
What are you working on next?
“Over the last few years, I’ve been making a hybrid documentary with another animator, Ainslie Henderson, and the Scottish Documentary Institute. It mixes fact and fiction when an animator is faced with his mother’s mortality out of a cancer scare.
“It’s an emotional, personal and strange film, which we are really excited to finish and share next year.”