We spoke to CG Spectrum graduate Felix Swahn about his powerful artistic style, his award-winning short film Being a Dog, which featured at 50 film festivals worldwide and won 12 prizes.
Since Felix graduated from the Advanced 2D Animation Course he has launched an impressive career as a 2D animator and filmmaker. He takes us through his process of creating Being a Dog (for which he received a Draft Selection award in the 2021 Rookie Awards) and how he uses film to express the human condition. Let's delve into the fascinating rabbit hole of Felix's imagination!
Why did you choose CG Spectrum above other courses?
I wanted to learn the handcraft of 2D animation. And I was looking for an animation course that leads to employment in the industry. I googled CG Spectrum and I found it more attractive compared to other courses online.
You started expressing yourself at a very early young age. Was being an artist something you always aspired to? What made you decide to be a 2D animator?
I started to talk when I was five years old and started to draw when I was two years old. Drawing is my mother.
For me, moving pictures are the strongest form of communication, stronger than verbal language. I have always seen movies as the best way to express feelings & thoughts.
I love communicating through film, I grew up watching 2D animation and I find it the most charming style.
You have a strong, distinctive visual style. What are your influences? Who are your favorite animators?
For Being a Dog I wanted a film noir look. I studied Alan Moore and his comic Batman: The Killing Joke, as well as Sin City by Frank Miller. Another influence is Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece which deals with shapeshifting. I like a lot of different animators. The favorites I’ve stuck with for a very long time are Hayao Miyasaki, Tim Burton, Stephen Hillenburg, and Swedish animators Per Åhlin and Johan Hagelbäck. I findHagelbäck’s Matrast especially funny, he animates in yogurt.
Being a Dog, award-winning short film by Felix Swahn.
Congratulations on your short film Being a Dog doing so well on the festival circuit, it has already picked up nine awards. What was the inspiration for the film?
For a very long time, I have been extremely sad about not having a girlfriend. I felt like an outsider for not having satisfactory relationships because of my autism and how different I was compared to others.
I wanted to express how it is to be me from my perspective and wanted to say how it is to be a human being from my point of view.
I thought that if I expressed my feelings by doing an animated film maybe it would release my pain over my lack of relationships because of my autism. Making this film released a lot and I am very happy about that.
Can you share your process for creating Being a Dog?
First I did a script in the form of a comic book. In it I developed the characters and found the style with which to express the story. I used the comic book as a storyboard and script. Before I did an animatic I needed voices for my characters. I got a scholarship from Stockholm City and I spent it on professional voice-over artists and a sound editor. Then I made the first version of the animatic.
I had a team of people to collaborate with besides the voice actors. My editor Henry, sound editor Fabian, sound mixer Max, music composer Caspar, and my coach Josef Fares. After I had the voices, music, and sound I finished the animatic, and I started doing animation sequences. I animated the film all by myself which was the hardest part of the film process. It took a long time. I learned how to sync the voices, the sound, and the music. That was challenging but now I know how to do it.
I submitted it to various film festivals. I made a trailer I was happy with. It takes a lot of work to market a movie for festivals. You have to find the right festivals, send out interviews, you have to work hard and have patience. But of course, it is very rewarding when an award comes your way at the end of the process.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
I have several projects in the works. I am working on an autobiography about my first 20 years, and I have an idea about an African tale for an animated project. The moral of the story is that we as human beings have the free will to understand that everyone is part of both the problem and the solution. Power is corrupt and no one should have absolute power. It’s hard to find the absolute truth, what we think is good for us might not be.
What is the most gratifying thing about being an animator? When you write your films are you influenced by the visuals first or by the story?
The most gratifying thing is being able to make a story that affects other people.
Animation is easily understood by everybody. Words enhance the story but it’s very much told through moving images. It’s magic to visualize feelings into a story that other people can relate to. It’s a powerful way of communicating.
I love to share stories that need to be told. I am influenced by the feeling of a story first and then I am influenced by the visuals. The flow of images tells me that the feeling of a story is right.
What does the future hold for you as an animator? Do you have any big projects in the pipeline?
I would love to do more animated 2D short films, to double the length of my present shorts. I ́ve been doing films of around 10 minutes duration, I would like to do a longer animation. Still in short format but longer, around 20 minutes. My dream is to be a film director/animator for the whole world. To do stories that need to be told that touch people’s hearts. I have lots of ideas rolling around in my head that I would love to do films about.
Want to create your own unique 2D animation worlds?
CG Spectrum is an authorized Toon Boom training center, offering 100% online courses taught by industry professionals. If you need to express your vision of the world through your art and want to make it your career take a look at our 2D animation courses. Our mentors and online community will help you unlock your creativity, and guide you towards your dream career. Unleash your imagination, tell your stories, and create new worlds!