Borderlines by Hanka Novakova

I recently watched the short film Borderlines by Hanka Novakova and really enjoyed the story and character design.

At the beginning of the film the audience is presented with a problem; there is a loose stick that continually falls and needs to be propped up. In the subsequent scenes it is revealed to the audience that this stick is part of a wall which separates two characters. The two characters look similar, the only discernible difference is their colour – one is orange and the other is grey.

We become aware quite early on that these two characters are very different. The orange character is careful and considerate, whereas the grey character is greedy and selfish. Hanka reveals these traits by showing the audience how the characters react to certain problems.

The orange character is the first to prop up the stick, and does so in a careful manner. However, when the stick falls again, it is the grey character who returns it to it’s original place. When he does so he also leans on the wall, which collapses, trapping the orange character in a small box. The grey character reacts to this, not by helping the now squished orange character out of the confined box, but instead uses the box as a table to put his food on.

The audience becomes aware that the grey character is greedy because of the way he eats his food. He swallows the chicken whole, rather than eating it with a knife and fork, and continues to eat the plate and a vase of flowers. Due to this overeating the grey character physically grows larger taking up more of the already confined space.

By contrast, the orange character is shown to be much more diplomatic and considerate. When the orange character is left outside of the house he politely knocks on the wall waiting to be let in. When the grey character ignores his knock the little orange character crawls through a cat flap and occupies a small space on the floor.

As the story develops and the dispute over space has escalated to the two characters having no house at all, the audience is shown again how good the orange character is. As the sticks supporting them become unstable the grey character falls and slides over the edge, but the orange character runs to catch him. As the camera pans out we are shown that there are many characters who are in the same position as the the grey and orange character. They begin to work together with the scarce material they have to build a big shelter for them all to share. 

The story demonstrates very simply and clearly the importance of coexisting peacefully with others. There is no location attached to this story because the background is white, and there is also no dialogue which makes the story universally accessible and relatable to everyone.

Here is a link to the film:

Rudolf Laban’s Movement Theory

Laban’s Theory of Movement is a theoretical and practical system for the observation, description, interpretation and performance of Human Movement.

The theory was developed and taught by Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) who began his career at the Ècole des Beaux Arts in Paris studying graphic arts, anatomy and architecture. Having always been fascinated by movement and dance, at the age of 39, Laban set up a Dance Theatre Company in Germany. Over the next 10 years he created 25 schools teaching dance to amateurs and professionals in Paris, Germany, Latvia and Zagreb.

(1928) Laban lecturing on his dance notation system. Available at: Accessed: 20 October 2017

According to Laban’s assistant Newlove (1993, p. 15) Laban explained that true dance had lost its way, becoming an artificial art form and a pale reflection of earlier times when it had fulfilled an important role in society. This may be why Laban took so much care in developing a system that observed and described movement so closely. The fact that Laban recognised dance was becoming an artificial art form also explains his ambition to teach students to ‘recognise the need of the mover and to become aware of his inner attitude which precedes the action.’ Newlove (1993, p.11)

Laban teaching his students. Available at:  Accessed: 20 October 2017

The Basics of Laban Theory:

Working actions  ——  elements

        Gliding  ———————————- • Light/Direct/Sustained

           Floating ———————————- • Light/Flexible/Sustained

Dabbing ———————————- • Light/Direct/Quick

   Flicking ———————————– • Light/Flexible/Quick

          Pressing ———————————- • Strong/Direct/Sustained

   Punching ——————————— • Strong/Direct/Quick

        Slashing ———————————- • Strong/Flexible/Quick

           Wringing ——————————– • Strong/Flexible/Sustained

Laban’s Theory of movement is not only helpful for Dancers but also for Actors and Animators. Laban’s terms and techniques help the Actor or Animator question how their character is feeling  and decide how this would affect their character’s movements.

When analysing or creating a character it helps to begin asking questions based on the factors listed above: ‘Does this character have a light or strong intensity about them? Does this character have a sustained or quick tempo? Does this character have gliding or dabbing actions?

2D Character movement. Available at: Accessed: 20 October 2017

Thank you for reading!

Reference List:

• Newlove, J. (1993) Laban for Actors and Dancers. United Kingdom: Nick Hern Books. United States of America: Routledge

• (2009/2010) (Accessed: 20 October 2017)

• (2012) (Accessed: 20 October 2017)

• (Accessed: 20 October 2017)

•   (2011) (Accessed on 20 October 2017)

The Wild Woodland


Here’s a little bit about our short film ‘The Wild Woodland’.

The film is a one minute short and was created using a Canon 600D camera. The cast is made up of a talented group of shadow puppets, each crafted from black paper and bamboo skewers.

The Narrative:  A young boy travels alone through a frightening forrest. He is startled by a terrifying monster who chases him through the woodland. The boy is caught and bitten by the monster. The venom of the bite transforms the child into a monster. From behind the trees a crowd of monsters emerge to join the transformed child. 

The Design: After discussing and settling on a story we began to design the characters. Originally we were going to have two monsters in the film. We decided the best way to create the two characters would be for everyone in the group to design a monster and to combine elements of each drawing. However when we saw the sketches we decided that each of them were very interesting and striking as they were, and thought they should all be included in the film. This resulted in the crowd of monsters who gather in the final scene. 

The Sound: As the short film was live action we had to accompany the acting with sound during the recording. We crunched dried leaves to demonstrate the boy is walking through a forest, and members of our group provided the roar and scream of the monster and child.

On reflection I would have added more sound to the film in order to give a better sense of atmosphere and to aid the narrative further. I watched Gul Ramani’s short puppet animation ‘A Gazelle’s wish’ first without sound and then with sound. It was interesting to see what a difference that made. Without sound the narrative still made sense, but there was a lack of atmosphere and I wasn’t as engaged in the story. While the characters conveyed emotion, the overall feeling and mood of the movie was lost as a consequence of not listening to the sound. Movement and design can show a characters emotions, feelings, age, thoughts and so on, but movement and design alone cannot create atmosphere as effectively as music and sound can.

Thank you for reading!