In a forgotten village, where everyone is cut from the same cloth, a new, self-proclaimed leader arrives changing the local way of life. Dividing lines are carved out as the once unified society is torn and segregated.
THEM is a cautionary tale of misguided ideologies, destructive leadership and of being an outsider. But most importantly, it is a film about celebrating what we have in common rather than what separates us.
While the world of the film is entirely fabricated and deliberately artificial, the inspiration for the story was very much grounded in the the real and the present. From problematic leaders to the culture wars, from racism raising its ugly head and becoming mainstream again to the exploitation of natural resources, it can sometimes seem as though our world is becoming more divided than ever.
I wanted to tell a simple tale in a complicated way so that it could resonate with any culture and be understood by a child. The actual beliefs and values of the leader who takes over the village are irrelevant, and merely symbolic of ideologies in general.
After a few months of testing with some basic miniatures and rotoscoped silhouettes for characters, I teamed up with Mika Ceron (Director of Photography) and Mathias Schwerbrook (Producer) and the project slowly gained momentum. The miniatures that I had previously built were remade into bigger and better versions (Berton Pierce, Claudia Brugnaletti, Alex Friedrich), and we went on to shot for 5 days in a small studio. Here we shot a large portion of the background plates of the village and the landscape, capturing as much in camera as possible, before going into the first round of editing.
Only after the shoot and some more research did I decide to create the characters in 3D using motion capture. I had no previous experience with character animation or motion capture so the learning curve was steep. Using a system designed for VR, we captured all the motions in one day with actor Ryan James, before going into an intense round of postproduction. After finishing some scenes, I built some extra models and did another 6 days of reshooting on my own in my apartment.
As the film started to approach picture lock, Thomas Moked Blum began composing the score with a combination of world instruments and electronic sounds. Although there is no real language spoken in the film it was clear early on that adding spoken word would the characters come to life. I had several recording sessions with friends who would improvise or read bits of made up sentances that I had written after listening to various tribes and foreign languages. Foley artist Carsten Richter created all of the sounds to bring the world to life and everything was fine tuned and mixed by Frank Kruse.
The process of making this film was a long one and I invested a lot of time and energy into many of the details, but in the end it would not have been possible without all of the support that I received from everyone who helped to make this film a reality, it takes a village. Thanks to all of you!