Alex Grigg’s animated short film Born in a Void is utterly enveloping – not least because of the hypnotic use of perspective, shape and colour the animator used to create an interstellar landscape. This, partnered with the jazz-infused soundtrack, create a unique world for Alex’s abstract characters.
The film was made for Late Night Work Club #2, which centred around a theme of Strangers, and was initially conceived while Alex was taking part in Japic – a ten-week filmmaking residency in Tokyo. Starting with an idea of “seeing yourself as a stranger,” Alex solidified the concept while in Tokyo, where his feelings of being “alone in a void, torn between enjoying solitude and needing connection” are reflected in the narrative.
“At the heart of the story is a character who is born alone in a strange void,” Alex tells It’s Nice That. “After exploring this colourful new world, it discovers its own reflection and becomes obsessed, unable to look away. I think ultimately I wanted to explore the double edged sword of isolation, the freedom and creativity it brings as well as the loneliness and destructive myopia.”
Fittingly, Alex’s visual approach stemmed from an experimental self-portrait, using aliased lines “the sort you might see in MS Paint,” in Photoshop using pared-back shapes and vivid block colours. This sketch led to a series, and eventually formed the basis of the animation. “The design started with a doodle, trying to use big fun shapes to draw a version of my own face. Spontaneous doodles like this are hit and miss, most don’t see the light of day, but I was really into the feeling of the silly face that ended up on my screen.”
Its abstract visual style was also, in a way, a reaction to Alex’s commercial work. Though it’s a different challenge, he says, commercial work always requires explicit clarity in its communication and storytelling. This being his own personal work, he was able to leave more room for the viewer to interpret, and “let intuition guide the process”.
As for the sound, Alex explains why it feels so interwoven and impactful to the final effect. “Usually the sound for a film is made after the picture is locked, but for Born in a Void, Skillbard started making music almost as soon as I’d finished the first drawings. This meant they had a more meaningful influence on the atmosphere and rhythm of the film.
You can read more about his process in intricate detail on his Medium post about the making of the film.