Tomasz Śliwiński (director of the short film "Ondine", which was shown at the Raindance Film Festival 2020)
We've all seen this recently – the global COVID-19 pandemic. This experience is especially traumatic when you're a creative person with tons of projects and suddenly you're stuck at home with your partner and two young children running and screaming and fighting with each other all the time. You don't have time for anything. It is easy for you to get frustrated, depressed, etc. Emotions vary widely.
For me and my wife Magda Hueckel, however, it was also an amazing opportunity to watch how we change during this experience. And this mix of emotions and how they have changed throughout the pandemic has inspired the creation of an online series called Plague Chronicles.
How we maxed out the pandemic experience
It all started with an online blog that Magda started writing at the beginning of the pandemic. It was called "Plague-Time Diaries". By carefully analyzing her own experiences as a woman, mother, woman, artist during these strange times and turning them into humorous short stories, she was able to really capture the essence of these strange times. At one point our friend Lena Frankiewicz, an actress, told us that this blog was amazing, that it clearly reflected how she felt during that time and that we should do something artistic about it. We initially thought about plays, but they closed all theaters. So the only option was homemade web series. And that's how it all started. Lena's partner, Tomasz Maśląkowski, actor in the puppet theater, got in. We applied to the Polish Ministry of Culture for a small financial grant aimed at funding online art forms to support artists in times of pandemic. We did it (much lower than expected, of course). But we were so excited about this project that we already had so many crazy ideas how we could do it, so we started right away. We didn't have much time. It was the beginning of June 2020 and the project should be finished and started online before the end of October 2020. So it was only five months to get the entire project off the scratch.
All four of us worked like crazy, using all of our skills, with a very limited budget. We got the idea that the whole series would be Be a collage formula that includes a living actor, puppets, and animation. We knew that Lena would be a leading actress, Tomasz would do the puppet animation, Magda would be a production designer and stop-motion animation, and I would take care of the direction, camera and editing.
The first challenge was to turn Magda's blog, which was enormously long at the time and consisted of many unique funny entries, into the final script, which was broken down into nine episodes, with the right dramaturgy but in keeping with the mood of the blog . So that was the first job I and Magda did. Then Magda spent a lot of time on the production design of all the elements, all the dolls. Then we all met and literally started cutting them out of paper – we felt like little children. We made tons of dolls, the more we made the more crazy new ideas we had. The project grew and grew and all the scenes became more and more complicated. But we all had a lot of fun with it. We recorded all puppet animations with an iPhone only and only used a professional camera to record with the living actor.
Fortunately, two great artists have joined our team virtually: great music composer Stefan Wesołowski and also great animator Natalia Bucior (she worked from Iceland !!!) and all of this added extra layers to our collage web series.
It was a very intense time, but we did it – the final episode was released on October 31stst, 2020. Personally, I am very happy with the results, I love this series and can see it all the time. My two children also fell in love with her. But the most important thing is that we really enjoy it. And I hope you all will enjoy watching it too.
Plague Chronicles is a nine-episode online series that depicts a family of four in a home isolation situation caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. The short, humorous episodes document the various phases of the lockdown and go through accompanying feelings – the pandemic experience that has happened to all of us in the past few months. The collage formula, which includes a living actor, puppets and animation, combines elements of horror and grotesque. With the main character Malena, we recreate the complicated process of coping with the new situation. Thanks to this, we tame our fears. "Plague Chronicles" should be an inspiration to reflect on our own attitude and our actions and to look for joie de vivre and humor.
After the Polish premiere, it was unveiled in Georgia in December 2020 and will soon be released in Slovak.
Watch on YouTube:
Check this out on Facebook and the official website too
Script: Magda Hückel, Tomasz Śliwiński
Director, camera, editor: Tomasz Śliwiński
Visual concept, production design, costumes, stop-motion animation, color correction: Magda Hueckel
Actor: Lena Frankiewicz as Malena
Puppet animation: Tomasz Maśląkowski
Music: Stefan Wesołowski
Animation: Natalia Bucior
Sound: Maciej Adamczyk
Color correction: Mateusz Zieliński, Magda Hueckel
Coproduction: Hueckel Studio
© 2020 LALE.teatr, Hueckel Studio
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