“I just discovered one day that animation was the answer to all my problems,” says Paulina Ziólkowska, an illustrator and animator based in Berlin. Having turned towards film as a means of determining creative solutions, the medium’s ability to illustrate a storyline with complete freedom is something that Paulina strives for. “It doesn’t matter if you created the problems or obstacles yourself, animation will fix them,” she tells It’s Nice That. “Making a film is the way to answer the questions that I have in me; it’s a dialogue I can have with myself.”
Paulina’s most recent animated short sees her tackle a somewhat timely obstacle: the seasonal winter sneeze that, as the colder months arrive, tends to take command of us all in an unstoppable manner. Coincidentally, Bless You! was derived during a time while the animator was sick in bed. “I had a lot of time to think,” explains Paulina on the topic of where she found her inspiration. “With a little help of a fever, this film came to life.”
Yet rather than focusing solely on the virulent nature of a bug, there are subtle hints of a deeper meaning running throughout: “It was about me observing patterns, how people follow certain fashions and unify with the crowd,” she says. “I was concerned about how we influence each other with our existences, emotions, moods and thoughts.” Therefore, she developed this concept with its likeliness to a disease – “something you can’t really avoid and something that just happens naturally on another level, which you can’t really control. Another person secretly enters your brain and grows there.”
Looking back, Paulina first ventured into the realms of animation during high school when her biology teacher helped initiate the creation of her first film – “[he’s] an amazing person, I am very thankful,” she says. “But he couldn’t cope with teenagers anymore, he’s now teaching dogs.” Alongside this early influence, Paulina has been continuously fond of inventing things. Her process begins by laying down in bed, half asleep, so that she can allow some time to think. As well as a good excuse to take a nap during the day, she uses this moment to encapsulate her imagination and to work out the finer details of what’s currently formed in her mind. “I am very detail oriented – I start with creating scenes and situations, then I see what story I can tell.”
For Bless You!, Paulina’s process formed entirely from the digital, primarily due to a lack of production time. Yet despite the constraints, there are no details missed – with a storyline that twitches through the contagious journey of a sneeze, you’re instantly besotted by her painterly character design as each quickly becomes infected. Fuelled by a passion for colour, these characters begin as grey shadows and, as soon as they catch the sneeze, become repeat with vibrancy. “I new that each character should have a different colour, and needed to be able to mix with the others and create a new shade,” she explains. “I also think that the explosion of colours was my protest against the greyness of the Polish winter cities and winter clothes that we wear during the months of the flu.” Indeed standing against the bleak months of the year, we view this film as a poetic reminder to break away from the norm, and to, of course, always carry a bottle of hand sanitiser.