We first spotted Kati Egely way back in 2011 due to the gorgeous work she did creating backgrounds for Péter Vácz’s charming Streamschool. Today the Hungarian animator joins us on Directors Notes with stunning watercolor music video Alegría for Chancha Via Circuito – a reflection on humanity’s disaffected separation from the natural world. We invited Kati to share how Alegría evolved from funded puppet animation to a morphing painted passion project inspired by spontaneity.

When I graduated from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, I already knew that I wanted to go to South America. I chose Argentina because of its free education system and because of an Argentinian friend of mine. I was working hard for one year saving money and finally bought a one-way ticket to Argentina. I was pretty scared but I said to myself: if it doesn’t work out, I can just come back anytime. I stayed there for more than a year studying documentary filmmaking and working as a freelance animator and also, sometimes selling food. It was tough, but it was worth it.

Despite the fact that I already knew and really liked the music of Pedro Canale (Chancha Vía Circuito), I wrote to him just after seeing his show in Buenos Aires, sending him my portfolio stating my intention of working together one day. The following year I made music video Land without Evil for another Argentinian music band called Tonolec right after I got home from South America. This short film, besides the Guaraní mythology, also contains the landscapes that I saw travelling around Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

I won a few festival prizes with that short film and finally Pedro started to work on his new album. He sent me the songs so I could choose. I remember he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to finish Alegría but I wanted a song with no lyrics to have more freedom with the story and I liked this sad melody with the title Alegría which means joy.

In the beginning, I wanted to make a puppet animation with lots of animals from the jungle but since it would have been a huge amount of work and the budget was barely enough for my salary, I tried to get more money. I sent the project to a West Europe focused puppet animation pitching forum in Łódź and it got selected. I went there in October when I still had a bit of a different idea for the story. My attempts were unsuccessful there and in Hungary so again, I started to work on it by myself.

I choose watercolor on paper because it was a new technique and a big challenge for me after working only on a computer for two years while I was travelling. Also, drawn animation provides the most freedom to change one form into another which is my favorite thing in animation. This project was really important to me for two reasons: As I really like Pedro’s music and I’d waited almost three years for us to work together, I had huge expectations for myself and also because of the really personal story.

l think at one point Pedro got a bit disappointed due to having to wait so long. It’s hard to understand for anyone who has never seen the process of an animated film why it takes four months to make four minutes. And actually, it only took just four months because I never stopped working. So at this point, I was just hoping he was going to be satisfied with the results. And now we are both glad.

I love to give space to spontaneity so having the basic idea about the story and the visual concept, I just started to paint basically without a storyboard or animatic – I made both of them when I was already in the middle of the process. Then I really appreciated how much Pedro trusted in me and also I trusted in myself.

Watching how the colors were mixing with each other gave me the sensation that I wasn’t working just by myself but something happened there I didn’t have control over. So in this sense the project gained some spontaneity. Ultimately, I painted about 3000 frames including the ones I didn’t use.

It’s hard to understand for anyone who has never seen the process of an animated film why it takes four months to make four minutes.

I am not a classical storyteller, I know that Alegría doesn’t have a clear story or message but it can have as many interpretations as many people watch it. According to the feedback, people mostly get what I wanted to express (at least partly) and that feels great.

The only thing I still wish to do is work in a team, but this dream also seems to be becoming a reality at least during my next project. In August I will work in a stop-motion workshop in the Peruvian jungle. Right now I am about to start a paper cut animation music video for Diego Perez from Tonolec but this time for his other music project called Nación Ekeko.

Sometimes it makes me smile how weird it is that living in South America I worked with Hungarian projects and since I moved back to Hungary again, I basically work just with South American projects.

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