Night cap with Average Happiness

Meeting with...

Interview with Maja Gehrig, director of Average Happiness

How did you get the inspiration for animating diagrams?
Actually the inspiration for Average Happiness came from a spelling error. I was writing a proposal for another film project and I had to enclose an “organigramm” (organization chart). Instead I wrote “onaniegramm”. This gave me the idea to treat diagrams like characters and bodies, to uncover their hidden potential for lust.

Are the diagrams used in the film made of real statistics or only of imagination?
All the diagrams are based on existing diagrams from the internet. Sometimes I made some minimal changes in color, form or text. Through the combination and animation of the diagrams I created a new context and content. Even the lecture (voice over) is found footage. The author of the presentation gave me permission to use his lecture in the film.

Did you work on the sounds and graphics together or was one of them preceding the other?
As there are no “real“ characters with a human psychology, music and sound are very important to interpret the imagery and to trigger emotions. I started with the foleys and sound atmosphere in a very early phase, later my sound editor changed and adapted the sound. Joy Frempong, the composer of the music, started to develop the music pieces at the very beginning of the preproduction of the film. So sound music and graphics advanced at the same time and influenced each other. This process resembled a puzzle.

How did you build up the different sequences, are they some sort of living paintings?
For me it was very important to show the overdose of big data and statistics. We are surrounded by diagrams, often they are used outside their context and difficult to read and understand. It was not enough to transfer the diagrams into bodies and characters. I wanted to have as many diagrams with different topics and out of different contexts in my film as possible. That was only possible by using different diagrams in the same shot. First I started to play around with bar charts somehow they seemed like a skyline. I decided to go for the cityspace and I was looking for other scenic potential in the diagrams. Finally I had my sceneries where I could stage my “protagonists“. Another story line is the Powerpoint presentation, the lecture that we follow. It is meant as a framework action. I decided to interrupt the sequences several times, this helped me to find the rhythm of the film. During the development of the dramaturgy I discovered the narrative potential of the cursor. At the beginning of the film the cursor is an annoying side effect of the presentation, then it starts to take over and to interact and trigger the diagrams. At the end I puzzled this different aspects and layers together. With the help of my dramaturgical advisor Paul Bush and my crew. The sequences consist of many different layers. I was adding diagrams, removing text, shifting shapes and followed my instinct regarding color and form. So in that sense you could call them living paintings.

Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
Yes definitely. In a short film you can create a universe that is far more abstract and denser than in a long format. It is possible to go very experimental, especially in animated films where there are  other means to tell stories. Movement, color and form, it is like poetry where you play around and you work with words in an abstract way that would be difficult to transfer to a novel. I just love to make short films! Also because you can tell stories with metaphors.

What are your reference works?
I watched a lot of city symphonies. Maybe I was influenced by Futon by Yoriko Mizushiri and Una furtiva lagrima by Carlo Vogele. The way that I worked with the collection of diagrams is probably influenced by Paul Bush’s films. But I guess I get inspiration out of many animated shorts, for this film none of them was particularly important.

Average Happiness is part of Lab Competition L1.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *