The Long Haul

For this documentary by Victor Fokke I created the animation design and abstract storyline of the title sequence as seen above. The film is mainly build around the life of Sir Nigel Rodley. He was a Professor of Law and Chair of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex. Having taught there since 1990 he inspired many students with his knowledge of and activities concerning human rights issues.

Victor and producer Nadja Houben of Human Rights in the pictures asked me to introduce the film by means of a title sequence that sets the mood and takes us into the energy of the film. The time to create a large opening scene was short, so it was a challenge to find a concept that could allow me to bring a lively animation in just a few days.

I already had the idea to work with the never ending energy Nigel put into his work and into educating a next generation of human rights activists and advocates. Sadly Nigel passed away just after the last interviews were held, but his energy lives on through this film and through the people he inspired.

The clip below is a short atmospheric making of video that shows you certain elements of how this opening sequence was made.

First we got together to analyse the existing edit of the documentary. From there we could quickly build a directorial view and talk about ways to build an animation that would add to the existing story keeping in mind that we want the audience to naturally flow into the film in an original way.

The idea already existed to shape the live action footage of Nigel into a drawn perspective, a simple tracing of lines. What I could add to that is that this conversion actually allows us to further expand the idea of Nigel still being around as energy and literally have him transform into a vibrant living atom.

By doing this I would have a ‘character’, a simple and effective living organism on screen, that can go through a somewhat abstract storyline telling us he had many opposing factors during his working life trying to withhold him from reaching certain goals that concern human rights. By pressure, persuasion, patience and by inspiring and educating others, he succeeded often in finding a balance between
This storyline of persisting efforts and educating next generations was to be the red line. Eventually Nigel could continue to expand the attention for human rights in a global society. In the clip the Nigel Atom, as we started to call it, has to avoid getting hit and being eaten by abstracts elements coming towards him. On his journey he gathers friends and help and eventually leaves the screen with a big group of influencers. Some of them you will meet in during interviews in the documentary.

We wanted to match certain design elements in the film to the energy that sprouts from the title sequence. In the film you will find that the titles that describe people’s names and functions also have a little bit of movement within.

The poster that accompanies the film is based on the photograph chosen by Victor and Nadja. Again, I wanted a big deal of energy coming out of that picture. I thought about it for a few days, drawing some ideas, but eventually I thought: “all it needs is to continue that road Nigel has been following”. By expanding that road up into the air and off the paper, to me it feels like an image of a rocket launch, taking off into space on a mission to expand knowledge on human rights issues. We could not fully decide on the colour, so we kept both versions. We will actually expand on the amount of colours available in the outreach package that is being build, the educational project that will accompany the  film.

director Victor Fokke
Produced by Nadja Houben of Human Rights in the Picture
Music by Romina Granata

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