Written by Lindsey Lowe Osborne
Illustrated by Veronique Vanblaere
You know what they say: Give a couple of creative minds some crème brûlée, and magic is sure to abound. Well, maybe they don’t say that, but perhaps they should—in any case, that’s what happened when Jen West met up with Véronique Vanblaere in the town of Wilmington, North Carolina, to catch up over wine and dessert. West had been on a creative sabbatical and Vanblaere visited, her own creative ideas in haul. Vanblaere is an artist and gallery owner, and she told her friend she had an idea for a short film. West is a filmmaker, so the collaboration of the two seemed natural when Vanblaere shared her idea. “I’ll never forget that magical night. I was in Wilmington for a little over a month before Véro came to visit, and I was in desperate need of a familiar face,” West says. “She was just the creative jolt that I needed! The idea of doing a film together came up naturally, and the concepts flowed as easily as the wine that night. There are few things better than the excitement of a potential new project. I knew that Véro would create something beyond expectation.”
Vanblaere’s idea was to tell the story of a young girl moving from Belgium to America; in fact, it was the story of Vanblaere herself. She moved to the U.S. from Belgium in 1996. After that night with West, she was encouraged to go for it, and her film, Bottomless, was born. West signed on as the producer, and Joe Walker joined as editor and animator. “Bottomless is a true story based on my experience of moving from one culture to another, with all its comical misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Vanblaere explains. “Jen gave me the green light on all the creativity, because she believed in me. She said, ‘You should be the writer and director.’ It scared the hell out of me at first, but once the story started, it just took life immediately. After I wrote the story itself, every single scene was drawn and put together for Joe Walker to edit within three weeks.”
You know what they say: There’s nothing to it but to do it. (They do say that!) And so do it they did. The trio hopes to produce a film that speaks to a number of human experiences—namely the one of stepping into a brand-new world. Still, a great truth is that no matter where we are, we are not alone. “I hope to give [people] a diverting moment (albeit a very short one as the film is ultra short!) while learning that it can be a challenge to transfer from a life we know to a new unknown world, that including all stereotypes that are out there,” Vanblaere says. “But despite all these differences, we are all looking for the same things: friendship, love, and success in life.”
Bottomless may be short, but it has a big message. “Animated films are always very special. They can truly take you out of reality and into a completely different world. They can hold your attention and show you extremely unique perspectives of stories,” Walker says. “Véro is one of the most well-known and respected artists I know and to be able to transform her work into something that moves on the screen is a true honor. To make it even more interesting, her story is truly captivating and different…and beautiful. I would hope at the very least people would see this film as something fun and different, full of talent and love, made by passionate artists and filmmakers, and to see a unique story to be told on the big screen in less than four minutes.”
After Walker completes the editing stage of production, the film will go to Boutwell Studios for audio. Then the filmmakers will shop their gem to festivals around the world, including Birmingham’s own Sidewalk Film Festival, which takes place Aug. 28–30. Be sure to keep your eye out for the girl with the red pigtails, and remember—where there is crème brûlée, magic abounds.