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Interview – Cinzia Angelini & Andrea Emmes – ‘Mila’ – A Short Film


Posted June 8, 2016 by

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Interview – Cinzia Angelini & Andrea Emmes

Here at Film Debate, we are huge champions of independent film, and when we heard about Mila, an animated short being created by a ‘virtual studio’ comprised of artists from no less than twenty-five countries, we had to find out more. Director, Cinzia Angelini, and Producer, Andrea Emmes, were kind enough to take the time to talk to me about this exciting project.

To learn more about Mila, take a look at our original promotion:
[Promotion] – ‘Mila’ – A Short Film


Interview – Cinzia Angelini, Director & Andrea Emmes, Producer

Hi Cinzia, hi Andrea! It’s so great to have the chance to talk to you about this film. Can you tell us how the idea for making Mila came about?

Interview - Cinzia Angelini & Andrea Emmes

Cinzia Angelini

Cinzia: The story of Mila is very personal to me because it was inspired by what my mother went through during WW2 in Italy.  She can still remember the sounds of the planes flying overhead and the bombs exploding in her home town.  She would just freeze and not be able to move from the terror and others had to pick her up and take her to safety. Thankfully, she didn’t incur any losses of family, but many people did, as you know, but the fear and the memories still haunt her. This got me thinking about how tragic events, especially war, affects children and how that will stay with them forever. I really wanted to create Mila so that hopefully we, as a society, can start a conversation not only amongst ourselves, but with our children.  If we can help change the course of one future leader’s actions away from unnecessary war, then I feel that we might be able to help avoid history repeating itself.

So this is a real labour of love for you?

Cinzia: Yes, it really is. It’s personal to our whole family, but it has also become very personal to every volunteer who is and has worked on the film. You don’t have to have directly been affected by war to understand the core of the message behind Mila. Mila, after losing her mother and being rescued from the destruction the bombs created, she finds a way to connect with the woman who saved her and find strength and joy, to find hope in such a horrible situation. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to present the film through the eyes of five-year-old, Mila. Children are so strong and resilient and we can learn a lot from how they deal with things. Of course, something like war and loss will stay with you forever, as I’ve seen with my mom, but there is always hope and always a way that we can keep striving to make the world a better place, whether it’s globally or just within our own personal circles.

Cinzia Angelini & Andrea Emmes in conversation

Andrea Emmes

This project is highly collaborative. What are the main advantages and challenges of working in a ‘virtual studio’ and co-ordinating contributors based in so many countries?

Andrea:  One of the amazing things having volunteers working on Mila all around the world is that someone is working on Mila 24/7. It’s exciting to be able to have so many talented artists and passionate people working on Mila that might not have had the opportunity from where they live or because it is so difficult to get into a big animation studio.  There are many challenges when trying to hold to a deadline or if there is a problem that needs trouble shooting and we aren’t able to get a response right away because of different time zones. Or if someone has to drop out for various reasons then we have to hand off their task to someone else and ramp them up. Communication can be one of the biggest challenges as there are cultural and language differences, but with patience all of this is possible.

Cinzia: I think one of the big advantages is to be able to work with people that are highly motivated because they get a chance to work with a quality of animation that might not be available in their countries. There are so many great artists everywhere in the world and it’s a great feeling to know that thanks to technology we can reach them. It’s just a matter of connecting and collaborating. I think that a remotely produced production if well-structured and organized can be way more effective than traditional ones because they utilize twenty-four hours instead of eight.

Why do you think animation is so perfect for tackling difficult subject matter?

Cinzia: I think that animation is a magical medium. Anything can be done with animation, any subject can be treated, and, as they say, your own imagination is the only limitation. Animation is able to deeply touch the hearts of the audience because it brings you back to your childhood. I think that any subject matter can be done with animation, the audience will go with anything as long as you set the rules and hold their hands as you bring them into the story.

Andrea, I believe you do some voice acting yourself. Mila does not use dialogue at all. What drove that decision?

Andrea: Yes, I’ve been a voice actor for over fifteen years. The most powerful thing about art is that you can get across such emotion through visuals alone. And when you pair it with music, it can really take the experience to a whole new level. This film doesn’t need dialogue. The visuals, animation, and music really tell the story in such a poignant way that anything else might dilute its effectiveness.

How important is the music in Mila?

Cinzia: It’s extremely important. Music touches and moves the soul and we’re so lucky to have an incredible composer, Flavio Gargano, who composed a full orchestral piece for the film. We were able to record the trailer score live and it takes the film to a whole new level adding more layers of suspense and drama that truly captures what we’re seeing on the screen.

To what extent is this filmmaking process – bringing so many artists from different countries and cultures together – a reflection of the themes within the narrative?

Cinzia: Mila is about surviving through an extremely rough time in life, and for Mila it’s WW2. We all go through hard times in our lives whether it be big or small, and the perseverance and sense of hope, the ability to take this terrible situation and make the most of it and find joy again resonates within us all. It’s the story of Mila that has seemed to bring people to us more than any other reason and that says something. People want to be a part of something that matters. People want to make a difference and I think with our film, one of our messages “Let’s Choose Hope” really rings true to everyone around the world as we just want others to join in and choose hope. Choose Peace. #LetsMakeADifference together.

The team behind Mila have created a community of artists, and keep fans and supporters updated on various aspects of the animation process. How do you think social media is changing the way films are funded and made?

Andrea: It’s quite crucial actually. If we had tried to make Mila the way we are now, remotely, ten years ago, it would have failed. With the advancement of technology and social media to instantaneously reach millions of people around the world, it gives us a platform that is so readily accessible, it is incredible.  Having the internet has now become a life staple that we all must have; for work, staying connected to family and friends, entertainment. So, making sure that we learn all we can about how to best utilize what social media has to offer is a big part of our success. We can make a beautiful film, but if no one is there to see it…then it doesn’t matter.

We love our social media family and want to give back as much as we can which is why we try to keep them updated, have contests and just say “hi” from the Mila Family. Another aspect of social media, especially for an independent film like ours is crowdfunding. Right now we’re in the middle of our Indiegogo campaign where we really rely a lot on social media to get the word out. To reach others out there in the world so that they can be a part of our movement, become an extended Mila family member and help bring this film to life. The response has been incredible and we are really humbled, but we have a couple of weeks left and we still need more help. Every little contribution helps, so for anyone out there that feels inspired to donate because of the film’s message to help child survivors of war, then we ask for you to please go to our Indiegogo campaign page and donate whatever you can. We have some amazing perks or you can just donate what you feel from your heart. Here’s the link: . Also, please share this will your social media pages, your friends, family, rich uncle… lol. Every dollar and every share helps.

Talking of social media, you’ve had some surprising celebrity endorsements, including one from everyone’s favourite Irish twins, Jedward! How did that come about?

Andrea: Jedward! What lovely young talented gents! They actually contacted us as they heard about us via social media and that started a really nice friendship that we hope to have for a long time!  They were so kind to take a moment out of their busy schedule to make a sweet video of them talking about our film!  Another example of how powerful social media can be.  Through social media, we’ve also were able to start a conversation with UNICEF Italy, through Twitter actually, and now they are on board to lend their support! It’s incredible. More are starting to come on board to help spread the word and it’s really exciting!

You’ve both had varied and impressive careers and worked for some of the biggest names the entertainment industry. What made you want to strike out alone?

Andrea: I think it is the natural evolution for any artist as it is extremely fulfilling to take all of the knowledge and experience we’ve garnered over the years and to then be able to create something completely on our own.  We’re creative people and we need to create. When you are in a big studio, you are doing the studio’s story, their vision, their art direction and that is extremely exciting and an honour to be a part of such an acclaimed project, but it is really nice to be able to do a project that is 100% YOURS.

Cinzia: At some stage in your career you get to a point where you have to let out what has been with you for so many years. Everyone has something they truly and deeply care about. It’s a natural course for the artists and it is key to listen to the inner voice and choose to talk about that story, moment or idea that feels yours and close to your heart. I am still working for main stream projects in major Hollywood studios so it’s nice to change gears on your own time and dedicate your talent and the experience you gathered along the years to do something totally different. Making your own project is not only a way to prove to yourself and the world what you learned and what you can do, but also a way to keep learning at a totally different level.

What’s the most invaluable thing you’ve learnt so far, while creating Mila?

Andrea: For me, I’ve learned more about having patience and the joy of understanding several different cultures and how people “work”. It’s been key to understanding how to pivot when needed, make hard decisions when they come up and work very hard to keep everyone on the same page and happy.

Cinzia: I definitely learned to have faith in my inner voice and listen to it but at the same time listen to all the feedback that comes from the team. It’s important to keep an open mind and value anyone’s opinion no matter who they are. I also learned the power of “fresh eyes”. It’s amazing how “blind” we get when we are too close to a project. Someone new could come in and easily notice something that was not seen before.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in animation?

Andrea: Study! Learn the foundations in art and animation. From 2D to 3D. While in school, find like-minded people who are excited about a project and dive in! Find a project like Mila where you can get “real world” experience and then soak it all in. No matter what level you are in your career, there is always room to learn more and to grow. So be open, stay humble and find the joy in what you’re doing because animation is time consuming. It’s a long process and very technical. But it’s fun and worth it!

Cinzia: Be ready to work extra hard but also to set a goal for yourself and keep working in that direction until you reach it. Don’t take no for an answer. I also advise anyone that might want to be a director at some point to work on your own short. You will learn so much from all point of view that once you’ll get that opportunity as a director you will be totally ready.

I also advise to try and specialize in a couple of things. If you love animation, be a great animator but also try to specialize in something else. The market can be unstable and unfair at times and being proficient in two or more departments will give you more job stability.

FD: Thank you both so much for taking time out of a hectic production schedule to speak to us, and we can’t wait to see the finished film!


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Katie Young
Katie Young – Author
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