Behind the Scenes With Karni and Saul on Their Extraordinary “Wild Summon” Short Film

UK directors Karni Arieli and Saul Freed give Stash readers an exclusive look behind the scenes at Wild Summon, their Oscar-shortlisted and BAFTA-nominated short which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Palm d’Or.

Karni and Saul: “Wild Summon tells the dramatic life story of the salmon but with a groundbreaking switch: replacing the fish with human-like beings. Wearing wet suits, goggles and flippers, these humans follow the exact circular life story of the fish, from egg to stream to ocean and back up the river to spawn a new generation.

“The biggest creative challenge was to walk a delicate line between two strong and established mediums: natural history documentaries and fantasy character-led animated films. On both sides, pushing too hard collapsed the beautiful concept. The character had to be human but not overly animated or vocal like a cartoon. The landscapes and VO had to be realistic but not overly scientific, like a straight documentary film. We wanted it to be poetic and epic, emotional and moving.
 

“The key element for us is making people empathize, connect, and feel for this fish-human woman. It’s a film that talks about how we connect and take care of nature and each other. Hoping we do a better job on both.”

 
“The technical challenge was to deliver over 200 photo-real live-action/CG mix shots on a short film budget while keeping our creativity and message intact. We shot and edited the film ourselves as a family unit (our son is an aerial cinematographer) and created all of the animation and VFX shots in our Bristol-based studio.

“This allows us to bring something very unique to a VFX-heavy film: the happy accident. And magic. It allowed us to use moments we didn’t plan for, do the unthinkable in animation, improvise, and to be incredibly creative in the edit and adapting the storyboard accordingly.

“Tracking and compositing underwater was easier than we thought, and creating complete CG rivers blended nicely with live-action ones. All the usual challenges of this kind of film were, of course, always there, particularly water and crowd simulations, which are not things that a small, single CG operator studio should attempt if sanity is to be maintained.

“The key element for us is making people empathize, connect, and feel for this fish-human woman. It’s a film that talks about how we connect and take care of nature and each other. Hoping we do a better job on both.”
 
 
Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE

Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE

Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE

Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE

Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE

Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE

Wild Summon short film Karni and Saul making of | STASH MAGAZINE
 
Writer/director: Karni and Saul
Producer: Saul Freed, Karni Arieli, Jay Woolley
DOP: Karni Arieli, Saul Freed
Aerial Cinematography: Yuli Freed
Additional Cinematography: Yuli Freed, Ollie Ablethorpe, Uladzimir Taukachou
Animation/VFX: Saul Freed @ Sulkybunny Studio
Additional CG: Amy Dolphin
Production assistant: Kristin Saevarsdottir
Cloud Rendering: Conductor Technologies, Inc

Grade: Halo Post Production
Colorist: Duncan Russell
Grade Assistant: Sumit Malhotra
Post Producer: Oscar Hayhow-Khan
Head of Film: David Turner

Music composer: Saul Freed
Performer: Saul Freed, Roxana Vilk, Peter Vilk
Music recorded/engineered/mixed: Peter Vilk

Sound: Wounded Buffalo
Sound Editor: Jonny Crew
Foley Artist: Rory Joseph
Foley Editor: George Baynes
Dubbing Mixer: Ben Peace
Voice recording: Howard ‘Head’ Bullivant

VO: Marianne Faithfull

For BFI
Executive Producer: Kristin Irving
Development Executive: Phoebe Sutherland
Production Consultant: Helen Brunsdon
Production Manager: Iris Cohen
Head of Production Finance: Ian Kirk
Business Affairs Manager: Vicky Skea
Executive Producer: Adam McKay, Kevin Messick, Guy Nattiv, Jaime Ray Newman, Joel Michaely, Niraj Bhatia

Thank you: Marianne Faithfull, Atli Þór Gunnarsson, Laxá á Refasveit, Magnús B. Jónsson, Nes residency and the town of Skagastrond, Skuli Malmquist, Troublemakers Productions, Sophie Slattery

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