Rok Predin was sitting in a bar in Slovenia, drinking a pint with a colleague from Ljubljana’s Academy of Fine Arts and talking about his new calling. After trying his hand at both music and painting, he had finally discovered his love of animation and he made a pledge that if his new career did not take off after a year, he would move to London.
Today, the London-based 30-year-old has just released his most ambitious short film to date. Winter Poem unites rich visuals with a bizarre array of dark influences including voodoo, Norse mythology, East European folklore and John Masefield’s Box of Delights.
Predin takes an unusual approach to film-making, in which script is secondary and the emphasis is on creating a feeling. ’I generate images and if they have visual meaning to me, then I search for their literal meaning,’ he explains. ’First, I just look out for the right textures, colours and composition, and then I listen to the image and find a story for it.’
Winter Poem began as a simple picture of a forest. As Predin drew, he invented characters and finally a narrative in which a soldier gets lost in the forest, and in his vulnerability is toyed with by the wood’s spirits. Predin continues, ’It’s a fantastic journey. What is most important to me is its visual aspect- the rhythm and atmosphere of the whole thing. I was going for something that is closer to a poem than to a script, narrative, or something we’re used to watching.’
Predin’s upbringing in Slovenia – part of the former Yugoslavia – contributes a great deal to his style and approach. As a child, he watched Soviet animation and Eastern Bloc movies alongside modern, Western TV shows. Material from the 1950s would be juxtaposed with the contemporary.
’After 1991, after the Wall fell, we embraced Western culture, but we are still marked by a certain visual dialect that comes from somewhere else and is really quite different. For us, a picture tells a story and the way you assemble a picture is how you tell the story.’
In the case of Winter Poem, the story is told with naive simplicity. There are no words, just music and the actions of puppets made of gorgeous, vivid textures. Although the imagery screams ’hand-crafted’, nearly everything was accomplished in After Effects. Only the trees, hand-drawn by Sara Savelj, were conceived in the physical world. While every corner of the creative industry is reaching out for the handmade vibe right now, Predin loves pushing himself in the digital realm.
’I don’t see computers as being impersonal or devoid of human contact, although I’m a painter originally,’ he says. ’I think it’s the contrary. It’s like dealing with words or writing rhymes. It’s totally abstract. You can’t really feel it in your hand, you can’t touch it, but it touches your mind – you see a texture, you see the surface, and it scratches your mind.’
Predin’s process might sound unusual, but it is the basis of all his work. Shortly after moving to London, his talents were snapped up by the Clerkenwell production company Trunk. He has since created animated backdrops for performers including Take That and Keith Urban, and he is about to embark on a new series of animations for BBC channel C Beebies called Show Me Show Me. At the same time, Predin is working on a new visual style that he hopes to roll out with his next personal project.
’I have plenty of ideas for images and animated shorts that will intrigue people, but they will be done in a different way,’ he says. ’I don’t mind if it’s a commercial, a background for a performing artist or a personal project. I think it’s all the same as long as it comes from the same well, and it’s honest.’
You can watch Winter Poem at http://vimeo.com/19302624