See the world through a different lens with The Comma, our monthly editorial takeover featuring social and environmental perspectives from inspiring filmmakers, journalists, experts and activists from our community.
This month we sat down with Jai Vellala Wilson, animator of one and artistic director of our newest WaterBear Original we have developed in collaboration with Oxfam GB: Climate Dispatches - a series designed to raise urgent stories from young Earth Defenders through immersive audio-visual postcards imagined in full colour by three up-and-coming animators.
An animator's take
Words: Jai V Wilson Images by: Jai V Wilson and Climate Dispatches
Originally from London, Jai Vellala Wilson is CGI (Special Visual Effects) director & animator based in Amsterdam with almost 10 years of experience working with a wide range of clients across art, design, film and music. His work rotates around character design, composition and storytelling.
What inspired you as an animator to get involved with the message behind this film? What has been your journey from animator to activist?
Both my journey as an animator and as an activist were inspired by members of my family. I first became interested in animation through a family friend (the closest thing I had to a big brother) when I was in my young teens. He ran a successful animation studio called Treat Studios where I got my first experiences of work pre and post university.
My first experiences as an activist came from my mother; as a baby we were often going on anti-war and later climate protests.
A few years ago, I slept on Waterloo bridge for 2 weeks during the Extinction Rebellion protests and was arrested at the pink ship.
I am a firm believer in green energy and just transition and I think our government should be doing more to regulate the use of greenhouse gasses and better subsidies electric vehicles.
What was your experience of making Pavel’s episode of Climate Dispatches?
Making the film hasn't been the easiest process, it was initially outlined to be 2 minutes but after a beautiful 22 minute recording from Pavel it wasn't possible to cut down his response much more than the current piece. At almost 6 mins I had to be creative and resourceful to get it done before the deadline which meant lots of late nights and weekends.
I'm sure most creatives will understand that when you're directing and producing a short film like this, it becomes your baby and you want to present it in the best way possible.
I still had to cut a few corners to get it done in the timeframe but I'm still super happy with the final outcome and I am glad I got a chance to let the rainforest carry the film and narrate Pavel’s beautiful story.
Oxfam’s campaign Make Polluters Pay petitioning the UK Government to tax the richest oil polluters is what these short films are made for. What do you think of the campaign’s message?
Well, I'm not sure I can fully relate to the statement made by Pavel in his audio as we come at it from opposite sides of the planet and he is mostly talking about polluters in the rainforest. I agree that polluters of the rainforest and deforesters should be brought to justice, but my focus is better suited to what can be done at home.
I believe our governments should be more committed to making it easier for average citizens to afford greener alternatives; such as green vehicles, starting investment initiatives to install solar panels in places where there is a lot of sunshine i.e. Africa (who would also benefit from the energy produced) and introducing green technologies to replace plastics, paper wastage etc.
It was great to hear that at the COP28 summit last week, 120 countries pledged to triple nuclear power energy capacity by 2050, saying the revival of nuclear power was critical for cutting carbon emissions to near zero in the coming decades, which I think is a great step towards divesting in fossil fuels and gives me hope that the political class in charge is finally starting to listen.
What advice would you give to people interested in using their skills to join the climate fight?
Get involved locally, contribute to local initiatives or start some. In Hackney, London, 2019, we co-opted an unused piece of land (turned out to be a Transport for London land) and created a community garden with vegetables and wild flower that is still going to this day (even though TFL told us they were going to kick us out and use the land for something else). This is the transformation that individuals can make and it can inspire others, most people are simply uneducated whether it comes to cooking with less meat, using less energy and these types of initiatives can help. The rest is on the government to make the necessary changes, I think the Extinction Rebellion movement generally does a good job at this.
For young creators it is certainly a time to be adaptable and learn as much as you can.
It's an exciting time but can also be an intimidating one and fighting the flow of change that is coming with AI will not work. I used AI a few times during this project to upscale and I couldn't have finished it without it so embrace it, it might just save us.