We love to spotlight great work coming from the Pond5 team, so we’re thrilled that our own head of video acquisition, Avtandil Chachibaia, is picking up steam with his short film “The Bear.” A captivating blend of live action and animation, “The Bear” is screening this weekend at the 2016 Katra Film Series in New York. We sat down with Avtandil to get some insight into the creative process behind the film he calls “a moral fable about a revenge-seeking bear who nobly forgives the humans for their wrongdoings.”
How did the idea for “The Bear” first come about?
I was in film school about three years ago, and I wanted to do something like this, where the story would be about a bear, and the bear would be a kind of metaphor for nature. But I was still in school and I simply couldn’t find the budget or the right actors or a way to have an animatronic bear, since it’s a tremendous amount of money. So I kind of forgot about it.
Then, at some point, my friend and production designer on this project found this guy in Canada who’s an amazing animator who works on projects he likes. He’s very experienced, with a bunch of amazing stuff and work at big studios. I sent him the story and he really liked it — so he did it for a token of what he usually charges, because he was interested in the subject and the animation part of it. So we did it. It took about a year to animate and do the post-production, and because it’s a ten-minute film, it took quite a long time.
What was the inspiration behind the film itself?
I like fables, particularly moral fables. I always loved telling stories from that perspective, where animals represent more than they are. In this story, it’s man versus nature, and how, at times, man can be very disrespectful towards it. It’s about how nature maintains its grace and its power and ability to forgive.
Would you say, compared to your other films, that this is your biggest undertaking?
I think if you want to do something you really want, you’ll do it, even if it takes a lot of personal investment and challenges to overcome. Creatively, it was challenging, because you want to see it through and it takes forever. But then the reward is so bittersweet, because you’ve been continuously working on something and now it’s done.
What sorts of challenges did you face while filmmaking?
Mainly, the challenges were related to filming without an actor, so we had to imagine where the character of the animal would be and rehearse and choreograph. My cinematographer did a phenomenal job of imagining with me and the rest of the crew to put this together, at times completely blindly. I would have to sketch on each key frame for my animator to know where I wanted the animal to be positioned. He took it from there and did the skeleton of the animation. We then continued to tweak it until the end.
What do you want your audience to take away from the film?
I hope the main thing would be that everybody thinks more about how we treat nature. How we sometimes are unfair to it, and how nicely we can actually change and affect it if we are humane.
What are your future plans for “The Bear”?
We’ve had a couple of film festivals. It won one prize in Europe and it has been selected by six or seven festivals so far. It had success at the Barcelona Environmental Film Festival, where it became part of the educational program “Road Trip in Spain,” for school kids to learn about the environment. I’m really humbled with the results so far. It’s not the type of film for everyone; it has visual qualities that are not necessarily familiar to audiences yet. It takes lots of risks and I’m happy that so far it’s been screened around and has been seen. The goal is not to win awards to put on the shelf; it’s more about sharing the film, sharing the idea and sharing the story.
Can you talk a bit about what you do at Pond5, and how this work may have inspired or informed your process while making “The Bear”?
I’m the head of video acquisitions at Pond5, and I’ve been here since the very early stages, almost five years ago. I work mostly with artists and video-specific content. At Pond5, I’ve met many, many experienced filmmakers throughout the years, and continue to do so. Their visual styles and storytelling are so inspirational. Outside of that, I have phenomenal colleagues who have always supported my endeavors in film and other projects, and I’m lucky to have them.
You can catch “The Bear,” along with a slew of other short films, at the 2016 Katra Film Series in NYC on February 6, from 4:30-10:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here.