Q: We live in a consumerist culture that is too hung up on obtaining the latest iPhone or complying with the “TikTok Made Me Buy It” craze to consider the existence and strife of other living things. How can entertainment be used to open humanity's eyes to the world that we’re too busy to think about and help us to understand the role we play in it all?
Marie: The struggle is real in our new normal. It’s true that our attention is pulled in a million directions, so it's more important than ever to ground ourselves in the stories that remind us of our shared humanity, inspire empathy for earth’s living creatures, to love our world’s nature that binds us all, and see the cost of the materials we consume and discard so easily. As creators, we can utilize entertainment to raise awareness of our causes we believe in, become its champion, and embrace narratives that challenge our perception.
Stories have a powerful ability to transport us, to introduce us to unfamiliar cultures, ideas, and perspectives. Stories, as old as time, have the power to change our world. It is our universal language that can teach us empathy and compassion.
Having been working in the commercial world for years, I’d be a hypocrite to say that I wasn’t an accomplice to our world’s pollution. It was our job to tell a story to connect with our audience- in the service of selling a product. But we began to realize that our stories had such unintended consequences in the world — that is when we decided we need to pay back for the damages we cause over the years.
Marco: Yes, we are specialized in “makING you buy things”. Can we use that skill the other way around? Not to buy something? Can we harness the power of storytelling to prompt individuals to consider their role in protecting the planet and the well-being of all living things?
Animation especially has the potential to inspire empathy, provoke thought, and drive positive change. I always remember seeing Bambi for the first time and how effortlessLY it shows the impact of humans without ever showing them. It kind of rewired my brain permanently. This is how we hope 'Bottlecap' Will worK.
Q: In what ways does the film itself answer its own call to action, apart from providing this perspective to audiences?
Marie: We are telling our human story, through the eyes of Shelton, our hero— We empathize with this fiddler crab’s wish— to one day become average— Being that he was born underprivileged with two useless baby claws. This underdog story is relatable to all of us, finding ourselves excited for him when he discovers his ‘solution’ which also becomes the major pain point as we know it.
But Shelton is completely blind to its harm, only seeing it for its beauty, its utility that saved his life from a bird attack, that ‘Roundness of Glory’ transformed him to be more than average— We Wanted to leave the audience with the image of the crucifixion of the bird carcass, in the presence of Shelton, oblivious and turning a blind eye to the devastation that the very thing that he holds dear has caused— the death and demise of sea creatures.
This is our call to action- we didn’t want to preach but just present the hard facts of reality- to open AUDIENCES eyes to our human impact on these animals.
Shelton is our version of a Trojan Horse— with the creation of our empathic, ADORABLE character, we wanted to lure the audience in with the his charm and end with a strong gut punch, in hopes to inspire consumers to reconsider the use of single use plastics.
Marco: There is no real call to action in a traditional SENSE. BUT I do hope everybody who has seen the film will feel differently every time they unscrew that little plastic cap on top of a bottle. consumers have all the power to make real change. Maybe THEY'LL put that bottle back ON the shelf?
Q: 'Bottle Cap' is the result of squeezing out the essence of what makes Psyop Psyop. It's "one of those cool projects that was passed down through generations of Psyop artists", as Lead TD Briana Franceschini points out. How did the growing credits list of varying outlooks and skill sets play into the making of the film both in the technological sense and in regard to the film's heart?
Marie: At the heart of this film ( AND EVERY project we touch ) is meaning and purpose, OUR ambition IS to reach the hearts and minds of viewers. We designed the character and its world with careful intention and love. That, in of itself, has always been the root of what PSYOP stands for— we design with meaning.
On the technology point, sometimes you have to break shit to make shit, right? Epic Games granted us the mega grant to make our film - and their only caveat was that we use their Unreal engine for the film.
With innovation at our core, we are inspired by the impossible and driven to endlessly reinvent. Living between the lines of art and technology, designers and technologists reinvent the rules of visual language, medium or tools. And over the years, the multitude of voices and the attitude of each individual creates such an awesome assembly of all disciplines with diverse backgrounds that add so much of our color and texture to our world and our work.
Marco: We do believe that real time rendering plays a huge role in transporting our story across as many different “channels” as possible. We want to make sure 'Bottlecap' is future proof, and Epic is a great partner for this. Our assets can be used in 'Fortnite' or for the new apple glasses or for whatever is coming next.
Q: The gravity of the climate situation has progressed immensely since the conception of the film way back on that remote beach in Brazil, how do you grapple with telling a story so close to your hearts that at the same time has such urgency to get out in the world?
Marie: It takes time to craft a meaningful story, design characters who can inspire empathy, create inventive fascinating worlds we want to revisit - again and again. And most of all, bring out the personality of the characters, with skillful emotionally charged animation. Although we feel its urgency, we have to be certain that we are landing on a story that will resonate with our audiences. We put out this short film as a teaser but next we are tackling a longer form story which we hope will inspire sustainable practices to protect our fragile yet beautiful planet.
Marco: Yes, things got way worse… by 2050 we will be producing three times as much plastic as we do today; there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans. I wish OUR ( longer form ) film was released yesterday.
Q: A message like ‘Bottle Cap's should be accessible to the next generation of change makers and adults alike. What are the challenges of crafting an inter-generational cautionary tale?
Marie: Striking the right balance between dystopian hard facts and charm, adult edge and young humor, and solving the resolution to the story...
Marco: …and reach. The media world is very fragmented between the different generations. The strategy of distributing our content becomes as important as the CONTENT itself.
Q: The camps of people who feel our saving grace is to simply discard Earth and move humanity's operation to Mars are proof that we're a disposal-minded species. It's one thing to craft a profoundly beautiful animated film, it's another to alter habitual behavior. Do you feel this extension of the film to be feature-length will give the story more of an opportunity to elicit the crucial empathetic response needed from audiences to enact real change?
Marie: That’s a HUGE ask. We can only do our part. Perhaps our film could inspire other voices to speak up and perhaps they would enlist others to join. We can only do our best. :)
Marco: Mars is a terrible place to live.