2024 Academy Award Contender for Best Short Film: "Doubt" by Adela Kriovensker

Welcome to Cartoon Brew's spotlight series highlighting animated short films that have qualified for the 2024 Academy Awards. There are several ways for a film to qualify for an award. In this edition, we will focus on films that have won Academy Award-eligible prizes at festivals that are eligible for the Academy Awards.

Today's short film is "Doubt," directed by Adela Krijovensker. The film won the Best Slovak Animated Short at the Fest An.a International Animated Film Festival and qualified for the Academy Award.

A non-narrative video essay, "Doubt" uses the voices of four artists from different disciplines to meditate on the various stages of the creative process. Numerous animation and live-action techniques are combined to create a visual metaphor for familiar themes such as uncertainty, impostor syndrome, and self-doubt.

Cartoon Brew: How did you choose the speakers and stories you wanted to feature in the film? At the time, I was working full time on a show called "Foundation" on Apple TV+, where I met some very inspiring people. One of them was Rory, a production designer who was also my boss, and I chose him because of his strong creative influence and extensive industry experience. Benjamin, also a costume designer, actually never met him, but we recorded a zoomed-in conversation. Kristina and Nina are really close friends and I knew their story well. I recorded an informal conversation with all of them in the studio with Ondrej, our sound designer. At the time I didn't really know what we were looking for, but during the editing process it all connected through the word "doubt." [The idea for this film came from my own burnout. Before this film, I was making bright, character-driven shorts with narrative elements, but I eventually got sick of the process. And I was surrounded by many people with similar stories of despair in their creative lives. I was looking for an easy way to get this Bachelor film done on time, and I was drawn to using other people's voices to tell what I had to say. Suddenly, you could say I had found a film that needed to be put on a time line. It was very clear and I knew exactly what needed to be done.

What did you learn about the production side, the filmmaking side, the creative side, or the subject matter through the experience of making this film? From the beginning, I decided that I would not storyboard the film and I would not open TV Paint. I was fed up with frame-by-frame at this point. So I started getting other people to help me animate and learned how to trust them. The other thing I did for the first time was to create the sound first and use that as a guideline. With Ondrej, our sound designer, we enjoyed this workflow. This whole process was healing, and honestly, we were doing it for just the two of us.

The visual aspect of the film was heavily influenced by my short turnaround time and full-time job. Everything had to be one shot and usable, but at the same time it was not stressful at all. I sat down with Ondrej and listened to the sounds and pieces of music he had worked on and came up with visual ideas for them. I went to my studio and animated exactly what I had in mind. The narrated video essay genre is very forgiving, so I was able to focus on aesthetics. I didn't want to overthink the meaning behind each shot. The film has five chapters, each following the mood I set at the beginning. I also used colors and symbols to connect respondents. As an added bonus to the treatment, I was able to try many techniques I had never used before. Unlike the "proper" hand-drawn ones from before, I almost felt like I was cheating because suddenly everything was so fast and painless.