Marta Magnuska’s 2d, hand-drawn film Misaligned is one of the year’s top animated shorts, and qualified for the animated short Oscars race by winning the Golden Dove at DOK Leipzig’s international animated short competition.
Magnuska’s and her team gave Cartoon Brew exclusive access to a new making-of video in which they discuss the choices made during development and production that resulted in the film’s minimalist, charcoal aesthetic.
More information about Misaligned can be found on the film’s official website.
Misaligned was made with charcoal drawings on paper. It premiered during the Locarno Film Festival and was the first ever Polish animated short film to screen there. Magnuska’s short is a beautiful, minimalistic study of the relationship between two people sharing a domestic space.
“I have a feeling filmmaking is a kind of therapeutic process for the creator, and we are sharing a big piece of our personality and our current emotional state in our films, whether we want to or not,” says Magnuska.
Behind the story
The idea for Misaligned was loosely inspired by a short story written by Italo Calvino titled The Gecko’s Belly. In the story, a couple follows a daily ritual of sitting by the window and watching a gecko hunt for flies. The initial idea evolved numerous times through the development process. Its final version focuses on relationships between women and men, although the gecko remains in the story as a sort of catalyst to the events and a silent ally of the woman, who tries to reconnect with her partner.
In the film, we observe sequences of repetitive actions performed by both men and women. At some point, the way they move reminds the viewer of the erratic and chaotic movement of the fly as its tracked by the gecko predator.
Repetitive sequences and their increasingly rapid appearance further emphasize the growing tension between characters.
Magnuska explains, “I was interested in the idea of finding parallels between the observed microworlds and our macro reality. As if our daily routines are part of some bigger system where all the elements coexist and are part of the even bigger universe.”
It took three years to make Misaligned, and production companies Animoon (producer) and Atom Art (co-producer) contributed significantly to the process. The short is a Polish Film Institute Co-financed Production & Promotion.
“Marta has shown that unlimited passion and talent can replace large teams of artists. We are proud that Animoon could help this spark to develop. This intimate production, created with impressive precision and depth, now stands on the doorstep of Oscar nominations, shows that true art does not need grand sets to move the hearts of the audience,” Animoon’s Grzegorz Wacławek explains.
Misaligned was created by a small team of artists, with Magnuska serving as writer, director, concept artists, and primary animator.
“First, I was working alone on the concept of the film and on the animatic while I was often discussing and consulting the ideas with the team of producers from Animoon production company. It was a great pleasure to be able to share my ideas and discuss the progress with them. Mostly because besides the production support, the studio offered a lot of valuable creative feedback.”
Magnuska admits that this kind of support in making artistic choices was particularly valuable for her as it’s dangerously easy to lose perspective and get lost in the concept while working alone for months.
“I enjoy working with Animoon as I know Grzegorz Wacławek and Piotr Szczepanowicz have a background of being filmmakers,” says Magnuska. “They know all the stages of creating the film as a creator, not only from the production side. I appreciate that I could count on their honest feedback and their advice concerning the artistic process.”
While working on the animatic, Magnuska teamed with editor Ewa Golis to organize the film’s structure and rhythm.
The two previously worked together on Magnuska’s student films. “I think it’s quite challenging for the editor to work on the very rough animatic, where sometimes only the director knows what is drawn on the very sketchy frames. But somehow, Ewa manages to imagine what the final animation may look like.”
After a long process of creating the animatic, Magnuska started working on the animation with two animators, Martiņš Dūmiņš and Kristine Zvirbule, from Atom Art, a Latvian co-production studio. The director animated her previous films on her own, so it was a new experience to share that work with others and have to explain her ideas.
Michał Fojcik created the sound design for the film, which added definition to Magnuska’s initial idea and enhanced the final images seen in the short.
“I wanted to make a film using a traditional animation technique of drawing on paper. I enjoy drawing, and hand-drawn animation is the technique I feel most comfortable working with,” Magnuska explains.
With each new project, Magnuska tries to experience something new. This time, she used frame-by-frame charcoal drawings on paper.
It’s a time-consuming technique, but it adds expression to the visual, often creating unexpected results. The technique allows the artist to emphasize the sketchiness of the style, with all the imperfections, dirt, and unintended accidents defining the technique.
Magnuska’s main goal was to use visual means of expression rather than literal ones to depict the relationship dynamics between the protagonists, create a mood, and build up tension.
The film’s sound is, by design, as minimalistic as its aesthetic. Magnuska did not want to use a traditional soundtrack for this story. “First, at the stage of the animatic, I made a very rough sound sketch that helped me later to work with the sound designer Michał Fojcik to define the key switching points of the film,” the director explains.
Magnuska and Fojcik worked together to figure out how to best organize the structure, build up the rhythm and the tension, and emphasize the turning points and mood changes using sound. Tension is built with increasing pace and repetition of sounds. Magnuska wanted the soundtrack to reflect the rough, sketchy character of the drawings.
Writer, director, designer: Marta Magnuska
Animation: Marta Magnuska, Mārtiņš Dūmiņš, Kristīne Zvirbule
Editing: Ewa Golis, Marta Magnuska
Sound: Michał Fojcik MPSE
Producers: Piotr Szczepanowicz, Grzegorz Wacławek
Supervising producer: Zofia Jaroszuk
Line producer: Karolina Barciszewska
Co-producer: Sabine Andersone
Co-production: Atom Art
A Polish Film Institute Co-financed Production & Promotion