Net neutrality is a principle that states internet service providers (ISPs) should not interfere with what people see online and that everyone should have access to the ‘same’ internet. While packages are sold to customers with varying speeds, ISPs can’t change data speeds for specific sites or block them. The US has strong regulations surrounding this, which were established under the Obama administration, but since July the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has spoken openly about proposals that could potentially overturn these rules. Despite protests from some of the biggest internet companies and more than half a million people reportedly calling Congress to register their objections, plans are set to be voted on in December.
To shed more light on the repercussions of this issue and to defend the principle, animator and director Louis Wesolowsky has worked with Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group for digital rights on a short animation. “Fight for the Future was looking for someone to design and animate a video to coincide with the 12 July Net Neutrality Day of Action. Being a subject so near and dear to my heart, I jumped at the opportunity to help out,” explains New York-based Louis.
While the creative has only recently put the video up on his Vimeo channel, the short serves as another call to action with the impending FCC vote. The short sees Louis animate the narration in a style full of bold colours, nostalgic references and playful compositions. “Net neutrality is a very serious subject, but I see the internet as a very fun place,” says Louis. “I tried to focus on what I love about the internet and let that guide the design. I think that style and friendliness creates an easy entry to the video.”
The ideas and insight presented are easily digestible with Louis’ accompaniments visualising concepts such as internet gatekeepers and moving data. The animator was given a lot of creative freedom on the project and was also able to work with several creatives he admires. “After the storyboard was in place I had a day to come up with the visual style and colours that would be used through out the video. Once Fight for the Future gave the green light it was heads down and full speed ahead,” explains Louis. “At that point I brought on Chris Zachary, an amazingly talented animator, to help out with the more complicated and time consuming shots. Chris was extremely generous with his time and let me bounce different design ideas off of him during the first half of production.”
Louis also worked with Wesley Slover from Sonos Sanctus on the sound design for the project. “Collaborating with Wesley was personally one of the most rewarding parts of the process. There was so much pressure during the design and animation, once we got to the audio it began to feel like a party,” says the animator. “Wesley is ridiculously talented and was beyond easy to work with. Through psychic powers he somehow figured out exactly what I was thinking of for the sound even though I didn’t know how to put it into words.”
The most challenging part of the project was the time constraints but it proved to be an opportunity for Louis to push himself. “It really forced me to let go of control. “When time permits, I love to endlessly tinker and fine tune my work. I constantly double guess myself so an obsessive level of tweaking, pushing and prodding gives me comfort. With this project I had to let that all go,” Louis says. “There was no time to double guess a design or animation once it was done. If a shot was in place I had to quickly move on to the next. It turned out to be an oddly satisfying break from my usual way of working.”
The animation is a great example of how complex, fact-heavy information can be communicated in a clear, open and colourful way, and Louis hopes to convey just how important net neutrality is, though we’ll have to wait till 14 December to see whether the FCC agrees.