Flutter by Howie Shia

Flutter © Howie Shia

The ani­mated short Flut­ter was writ­ten, directed, ani­mated and scored by Cana­dian artist and film­maker Howie Shia. It is a black-and-white urban fairy tale about two school kids: an ath­lete and a graf­fiti artist, who reluc­tantly part ways to pur­sue incom­pat­i­ble paths. The emerg­ing adven­ture is told using a mix of ink, graphite and dig­i­tal draw­ings ren­dered entirely by hand and fea­tur­ing a mish-mash sound­track of elec­tron­ics and jazz – per­formed by past and present band mem­bers for some of Canada’s top artists, includ­ing Feist, Esthero, Chantel Kre­vi­azuk, the Worst Pop Band Ever and LEO37.

Soon after Toronto based stu­dio PPF House (estab­lished by Shia and his broth­ers) fin­ished the short with the help of the Foun­da­tion Bravo!FACT and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), it won Shia this year’s Open Entries Grand Prix at the world’s largest anime exhi­bi­tion, Tokyo Inter­na­tional Anime Fair (TAF). Flut­ter is the first non-Asian pro­duc­tion to win the prize.

Com­ment­ing on his win, Shia said, “I think North Amer­i­can ani­ma­tors and car­toon­ists have always admired and envied how promi­nent and influ­en­tial ani­ma­tion and comics are in con­tem­po­rary Japan­ese cul­ture. To wit­ness it now first-hand in this hyper-concentrated set­ting is pretty spec­tac­u­lar. I’m stunned and hon­oured to have won this award — the cer­e­mony today was an incred­i­ble experience.”

In Flut­ter, Shia has cre­ated an incred­i­bly tac­tile world in which you find your­self immersed even before the title of the short is dis­played. If you allow your­self to become one of his char­ac­ters you could almost smell a city made of ink and graphite. The extreme cam­era angles in some scenes are rem­i­nis­cent of Peter Chung’s work, albeit a com­pletely dif­fer­ent style. But Howie exploits these inter­est­ing points of view spar­ingly, allow­ing you to appre­ci­ate the world of Flut­ter in an uncon­t­a­m­i­nated way. Although the short por­trays an every­day urban envi­ron­ment, His dis­tinc­tive sketchy style gives it a unique sheen.

With a great sense of tim­ing and a knack for nar­ra­tive this delight­fully inno­cent story breezes through its seven min­utes and leaves the viewer want­ing more. With few facial expres­sions and min­i­mal use of detail the char­ac­ters’ phys­i­cal act­ing takes over, with remark­able effect. You can vir­tu­ally read their minds. This short film is absolutely enjoy­able and you’ll find your­self want­ing to keep on fol­low­ing Howie’s char­ac­ters to see what else they find in this world of theirs.

Flut­ter will have its world broad­cast pre­miere on “Bravo!FACT Presents” (which airs on Bravo!, Citytv Toronto, Citytv Van­cou­ver and four A-Channels) in autumn 2007.

—orig­i­nally writ­ten for Pixelsurgeon—