Ton Meijdam - Kapitaal

7:04, 2006, Animation
A typographical stroll through a Dutch city revealing the influence of graphic design.
DirectorTon Meijdam, Thom Snels And Bela Zsigmond


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Who is behind Studio Smack?
We are Ton Meijdam (33), Thom Snels (28) and Béla Zsigmond (31). We’re all graduates from AKV / Sint Joost, School of Fine Arts in Breda. Me (Ton) and Béla studied graphic design and Thom studied animation. I met Thom during my study in the pub and Béla after I graduated. He asked me to work with him on his animation ’De Een Minuut Mens’, which won the Items / Spinhex-industrieprijs 2004. Together we formed a collective by the name of Studio Smack. Other members of Studio Smack are Joris Dieleman, Adri Kamp, Ron Bel and Michael Verhoef. In ever changing combinations we produce animation movies on our own and under assignment.

Why filmmaking?
Ton: For my graduation project at the AKV / Sint Joost I decided to combine all of my interests into one ’Gesamtkunstwerk’, an alliance of music, poetry, the visual arts et cetera. Since then I never stopped doing animation.
Béla: Actually I’m a parttime filmmaker. I’m also a graphic designer. During my study I tried to explore the borders of graphic design. That’s how I started to do short animations and that’s how I met Ton (thanks to René and Hartmut for that!). I’m from Hungary, a land with a great animation-background, so I had a lot of inspiration in my youth. Furthermore, we just want to save the world...
Thom: After having studied different forms of art at AKV / Sint Joost, I realized animation was the one art form in which I could express most of my ideas. I’ve also been drawing and sketching all sorts of characters on every possible material since I can remember. Eventually they would have to be set in motion.

Your film is about...
Kapitaal (Capital) is a typo-animation about legible signs in town. It’s an impression of the enormous amount of visual stimuli that plague us every day. The amount is so big that its commercial value has become utterly dubious.

Financing your movie?
Kapitaal was financed by De Beyerd, Museum for Graphic Design, Breda. They organized a symposium about graphic design and asked us to make a movie about typography. Since ’Kapitaal’ is an animation we didn’t have to form a production crew or anything. We did all of the animation by ourselves, so the only thing we had to do was work our asses of.

New Media; a challenge for film makers?
Ton: The new media gives everybody the possibility to become a filmmaker. In the old days you needed loads of money to even start making a movie. Costs are much lower now. This allows independent filmmakers to make films on a shoestring budget. Hence a new kind of filmmaker is born. Now everybody who has a pc at home and the right software can become a filmmaker. It’s very simple! Everybody can do it: you make a movie, put it on the internet and you’re finished. But that’s not really true. In the end it’s still about telling a story, creating an experience or showing a vision or idea.

Do your films have style, just as some painters have?
Ton: Someone once compared some of our films to the style of George Méliès and Terry Gilliam. That’s probably because of the cut and paste technique we used in some of our films. We don’t have a favourite technique but try to invent a new formula for every movie we do. It all depends on the concept we come up with. The concept of ’Kapitaal’ was that we wanted to show the overload of legible information in town. The city we had to create had to be a non-existing one because we wanted the viewers to relate to it as ’their city’. Something like Metropolis. Finally we choose for a black and white 3D technique. The funny thing is that a lot of people think that the film was shot using a real camera and afterwards edited.

Not one, but we can name a few: Charlie Kaufman, Fritz Lang, Arthur Rimbaud, Michel Gondry, Joel & Ethan Coen, Homer, Jack Kerouac, Charles Baudelaire, Elvis Presley, Stanley Kubrick, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin, Jim Morrison, Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Umberto Eco, Quentin Tarantino, Franz Kafka, Freddy Mercury, George Orwell, Alfred Hitchcock, Marcell Jankovics, The Beatles, Sandor Marai, Francis Ford Coppola and many, many more.

Which film related websites do you frequent?
Filmstart- A great site where filmmakers can find almost everything they need. Festivals, funding, distribution, publicity et cetera.
Filmland - Similar to filmstart.
AWN- The world’s largest animation database.

Individual film making or co-operation?
All of us started as solo animators but very soon decided to bundle our forces. The advantage of working together is of course that we’re much faster that way. But also that we act as a soundboard for eachother. This makes that we don’t hesitate too long before making a decision. Besides animation our main specialities are concept and form. When a new project is started we come up with a lot of ideas and concepts during late-night brainstorm sessions. Once the best idea is chosen we start doing a lot of research. And then finally the form flows out naturally. Only then we start animating. Form follows function.

Your plans and dreams...
World domination!

Did you ever have another ambition in life than to become a filmmaker?
Ton: Yes, rock star or superhero.
Thom: And jet-fighter pilot of course.
Béla: All of the above with one addition: grandfather.

Digital or classic?
Ton: Our work has a wide range of variety in both content and form; varying from Stop Motion to 3d Computer Graphics, from 2d Cut-outs to Traditional Cell Animation. Someone once said that our films don’t look like anything at all. I take that as a compliment.

View other work
More of our work can be seen on our website at http://www.studiosmack.nl. We just received the SAM Award 2006 (1st prize) at the Keying into the Brain Festival for ’Kapitaal’. ’De Een Minuut Mens’ won the Items / Spinhex-industrieprijs 2004. And ’Let it Rain’ got a special mention at the Holland Animation Film Festival in 2002.
Our films were screened at numerous festivals. Keying into the Brain, Anima 2006, Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival, Centraal Museum, Dutch Design Week / Visual Power Show, VPRO Nachtpodium, The Academic Film Centre Belgrade, Tulsa Overground, Synch Festival / Athene, ALTER-NATIVE International Filmfestival Romania, 21st International Short Film Festival Hamburg, UC Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive, Annexia’s Bo2 Festival, Internationaal Festival voor Nederlandse Film- en Videokunst / De Balie, Versionfest Chicago / Acces Network Television, Skif-9 Festival / Modern Arts Center / Sint Petersburg, Cinefantom / Moskou, Anthology Film Archives / New York, 12th New York Underground Filmfest, Offpopvision / Berlin, The Red House / Sofia / Bulgarije, Chicago Independent Media Centre, Impakt Festival, Theater ’t Hoogt, Theater Kikker, Flatland Gallery, Academiegalerie, Casco, Expodium, 1e Pluk Theater Zeebelt, Theater Festival Galerie Hustege, True/False Film Festival / Columbia and many, many others.
And Ton just curated a film program for the Chicago based Version Festival 06 for which he collected movies from some of his favourite young european filmakers such as Jan van Nuenen, Baris Azman, Floris Kaayk and Bernard Gigounon.

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