“What do you think is important for people around you to understand?” Deepthi asked. She was launching an animation project with youth in Bangalore, India, and having this conversation was the first step in crafting a message they cared about.
Deepthi recalls, “We had seen a lot of trees being cut down for widening of roads and constructing of buildings.” From what they were observing in their community, the group brainstormed a list of issues for their media project, including global warming, drought, forest fires, and the effects of all this on living things. “We had the message but we did not have a storyline. This was a challenge. Having ideas was one thing but being able to implement them was another.”
To arrive at their message, Deepthi asked the youth “to write down anything and everything that came to their mind. At this stage, we did not discuss animation. We just discussed the message.”
Once the message was clear, they discussed “how to represent the issue,” how to put their ideas in action. They came up with the concept and generated a list of objects/characters – animals, humans, trees, cars, planes – for the story. “The list was endless,” Deepthi recollects. In fact, they had to simplify the storyline to make it achievable in the time given.
As the youth artists set to work on the pictures, they realized that they liked the look of the drawings done on paper and imported into the software, rather than drawn in Flash. Besides, with Flash installed on only two computers, Deepthi explains that drawing the pictures by hand first meant “we could not only involve all students, but we were able to get the students introduced to Photoshop, Flash, and Premiere” in the course of production.
The result is a vision and a kind of thought experiment. In their Flash animation, the youth artists imagine what it would look like if CTRL Z, the computer keyboard shortcut for “undo,” worked on the environment. They depict deforestation, pollution, and urban sprawl, leading to global warming, then they rewind or “undo” the damage.
Throughout the piece, sound effects and music accompany the visuals, setting the tone and conveying their meaning without need for words. But the message at the conclusion is transcribed, and very direct: “It’s not this easy to erase and redraw. Let’s get it right the first time. Save Earth. Save Us. Save Yourselves.”
“This was an exciting learning experience,” for the youth artists, Deepthi reflects. She feels that “the hand-drawn pictures also gave the whole animation a personal touch.” Whatever the process, for the youth to invest themselves in the media work, to make it personal, breathes life into the message it carries.