Ever since he can remember, Tom Kariv would spend his time drawing and illustrating. The only problem, is that for some reason he never got along with his art teachers – “it just didn’t work out too good,” he tells It’s Nice That. After middle school and attempting to attend an art school, Tel Aviv-based Tom found himself moving to California with his family for two years. “I almost failed my art class there as well.”
Luckily Tom persevered despite facing a constant backlash to his creativity. Returning to Israel, he later found himself surrounded by street art – which in turned blossomed a healthy obsession with the graffiti world and kickstarted multiple design and illustration jobs. Now, he works across the board and approaches his work with a multidisciplinary point of view – dabbling between design, illustration and animation for clients that include musical giants such as Major Lazor and Guns n Roses. “I usually find myself jumping into a new field without having the proper experience,” he admits. “I believe that’s the best way to find the creative solutions I’m always after.”
His recent endeavour takes the form of an animated short, titled The Postman. Compiled as his final project during his studies in the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, based in Jerusalem, he didn’t have much experience in the 2D animation realm at the time. Nevertheless, the outcome is something of a wonder. Inspired by two songs, Return the Sender by Elvis Presley and The Gift by The Velvet Underground, the film is in fact, predominantly influenced by a more sincere approach. “I decided to write a short story about a lonely postman, a profession which is slowly disappearing from our world. As a kid, we used to see them every morning, saying hello and greeting each other. My parents even used to give our postman gifts for the holidays,” says Tom. “These days. I have no idea what my postman looks like. Actually, I don’t think I have ever seen him. It seems like people are more self-centred these days, not knowing the name of the guy at their regular grocery store and not saying hi to the bus driver in the mornings.”
A beautifully simplistic animated short, the outcome features defined line work, fantastic characterisation and morphing perspectives. The series of events follows a protagonist – the postman – as he goes about his daily job. Working with Jon Steiner on the sound, the character navigates through a desolate land with gusting winds and plenty of silence. “As the wind got stronger, so did the drama – pushing the story forward,” Tom says. “When the wind stopped, it let the silence jump in which makes every reaction feel bigger.”
The character design and acting takes cues from Buster Keaton, also known as “The Great Stone Face” – a nickname given to the American actor who’s known for his deadpan expressions, big eyes and silent films. “In his movies,” says Tom, “Buster used to move along a single axis across the frame in all directions, and then he would break these rules when trying to capture the audience’s attention. I tried adopting Buster’s flat world, telling the story through visuals and motion around the frame.” Much of the animation was created using a Photoshop timeline, while other parts were formed in Adobe After Effects.
Additionally, Tom pulls references from the visual language of the mail industry – commonly associated with black letters, lines on white paper and the only hint of colour found among the stamps. “I wanted to represent those modest and minimalistic rules in the film.” Plus, the unusual and effective decision to place the frame in the centre of the film was somewhat of a creative challenge for Tom. “I have tried to learn from visual storytellers like Henri Cartier-Bresson or Jean-luc Godard on how to understand the frame differently and use it in alternative ways to tell the story. By doing so, I had the ability to create depth, move from a close-up to a wide-angle without cutting, showing multiple shots at once or using it in order to draw attention to a specific point in the scene.” Utterly captivating, The Postman is a work of complete charm and skill – one you will watch to the very end and happily watch all over again.