love and death in 17 minutes
I speak with Alberto Mielgo the day after receiving his last Emmy for Jíbaro, a story of love and death. Enjoy the sweet moment that short films live, an ideal format for the culture of immediacy in which we live. “The short makes much more sense now, because we have less and less time and we can see them on the bus, on the subway…”. The windshield wiper, the piece that has given him the Oscar, lasts 15 minutes and 17, Jíbaro. The latter, like La witness (2019), is part of the series Love, Death & Robots, on Netflix, a platform that, he explains to me, retains subscribers with short films like his. And despite being global projects, he confesses to me that his producer David Fincher (the director of Seven), gave him total creative freedom. And that’s what motivates him. “If I didn’t feel passion for a project, I wouldn’t get out of bed.”
Oscar, Emmy… I see you released this year.
America recognizes when someone does things right. If your work interests them and they like it, they hire you and even reward you.
Will you continue working in Hollywood after the Oscar?
In Spain there are no animation projects of more than 15 million euros and I think that it depends a lot on subsidies. Here, on the other hand, 40 or 50 million euros is a low budget and there is a lot of private capital interested in investing.
He has reached the top being self-taught…
I never went to a school with the intention of training my drawing or improving my technique.
Why did you draw then?
Since I was little what has moved me are personal projects that fed my passion and led me to work in the narrative field. To tell my stories I have used drawings, and that is what has led me to evolve in the field of art.
Is that passion what also made you take risky steps, like going to London?
I had a decent job in animation in Madrid, but I was very young, I don’t know if I was twenty years old, and when my girlfriend left for London I went there, but not to look for a better career, although I later found it, but to to be with her. I had to work as a waiter to pay the rent.
And a stroke of luck came?
Of course, life is full of coincidences and quite incredible moments. I am obsessed with how our existence is changed by decisions you make in a moment; if you took them a minute later everything would be different, not only in your life, but in that of the people around you. Without what happened in London, you and I probably wouldn’t be talking now.
What exactly happened to him?
I met producer Charlie Bean and he liked my work. I became an art director and production designer for Tron: Uprising a sci-fi animated series for which I won my first Emmy.
On the other hand, the protagonist of one of his most celebrated shorts, The Witness, is where she shouldn’t be.
Yes, but there I did not use my experiences as much as those of people I know, capable of working in dark and dangerous worlds, from which they come out without receiving a scratch. Those kind of people inspire me a lot.
What is animation today?
A mix of all the arts. There is no artistic process that is not involved in an animated film: drawing, painting, narrative, dance, sculpture (in the case of 3D, the characters are sculpted), music… It is the art of the arts, very sophisticated and technically complex. You have to be very good to do animation, it’s not enough to want to express yourself internally.
Have animators removed the stigma of working for children’s audiences?
Animation is not just for children. In fact, it started as an art for adults. Mickey Mouse was a character of arms to take initially. And in the first cartoons there was quite a bit of violence. Popeye was totally for adults.
But then came Disney.
Yes, and he put out a very successful and wonderful product. I am the number one fan of Disney, let it be very clear. I would never criticize them. Disney are the best at making Disney. The problem is that the formula has been copied ad nauseam, and everything with the same patterns and the same moral.
And that’s not what you like best.
I want to make a different animation. Instead of a superhero, I prefer a super looser the antihero.
Is it closer to reality?
Narratively, the model of the hero’s journey is always used, the character that evolves, and I find it more interesting to study a character who does not necessarily have to learn anything from his experience or evolve, because humans are like that.
What movies does the Oscar winner like?
Those in which you morally question things about yourself. That is the cinema I want to make.
Can children see it?
Some kind of children. The children are very smart and the adolescents are incredible. When I was 12 years old I ate Bergman, because my sister was cultureta and she watched her tapes.
Is it true that you are going to make the leap to feature films?
My mission in life is to be able to make an animated feature film that I feel really proud of. We are now with storyboard It will take time, but in this feature film, which will last 80 or 90 minutes, my whole world will be reflected. It’s going to be brutal, I swear.
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“Animated cinema is not just a children’s thing”
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