Writer directors Will McCormack and Michael Govier’s simply illustrated 2D animated short If Anything Happens I Love You has received a lot of praise for the subtle way it handles a complex and tragic subject matter. The short, which debuted on Netflix in November, centers on the emotional journey of two grief-stricken parents who try to face life after they lose their young child in a school shooting.
The short was produced by Govier, Maryann Garger, Gary Gilbert and Gerald Chamales and exec produced by Laura Dern. Gilbert Films financed the short and produced it along with Oh Good Productions. We had a brief interview with McCormack and Govier about their powerful short.
Your short takes a very minimalistic approach to explore a tragic subject that has plagued our country in recent years. Can you tell us about how this project came to be?
Michael had an idea about telling a story through shadows. That the shadows represent the feelings that humans cannot reach in times of great agony. We wanted to illustrate and explore grief. The film, with its minimal style and leanness is designed to feel and look like grief — soft greys leaking into open white spaces. The negative space in the film is just as important. It has a feeling of the space that can be seen in Japanese calligraphy. What is not in frame is just as important to what is in frame.
How long did it take to finish the short, how many people worked on it and which animation tools did you use?
We began pre-production at the top of 2018 and finished in February 2020. We animated from April to Dec 2019. About 28 people worked on the film, but we only had three animators, all women — Youngran Nho (lead), Haein Michelle Heo and Julia Gomes Rodrigues. We used TVPaint, and it was edited on Adobe Premiere.
What was your ballpark budget?
When you build any film with very little money, you must get creative. In our case, we could not afford to reanimate sections multiple times, so we spent a year on the script to be precise about what we wanted to communicate. We had to make sure everything we used was on the screen. We could not waste a frame.
Do you think it’s easier to handle darker, serious topics in animation than in live action?
Animation can bring you closer to the characters. It can pull you deeper into the story more than live action could, which may distance you because of the seriousness of the material. Animation felt like the appropriate gateway for this film.
What do you hope audiences will take away from your short?
In times of great pain and loss, the most powerful tool we have is our presence, that we can be there for one another. We bond and grieve together, and that union can lead to growth, rebuilding and healing. If Anything Happens I Love You was created for the ones lost, and the ones left behind.
What do you love about working in short format animation?
We love the challenge of short form animation in storytelling. This format requires such specificity and leanness in style and structure. The parsimony of the medium is really appealing and exciting.
Can you address the importance of diversity and representation in animation?
It’s paramount. Our animators, composer and lead producer are all women. This is a wonderful time in animation where vital stories are being told and we are proud to be part of that movement.
Do you think there have been real advances in the field, especially in 2020, or has it been more lip service?
Our company values and promotes diversity and representation and will continue to do so with each film we make.
What was the biggest lesson you learned working on this powerful short?
Connecting with others about their grief is powerful and essential to the human experience. Moreover, if you have a good story to tell, tell it! The only person stopping you is you. Tell your story! The world needs more voices.
You can currently watch If Anything Happens, I Love You on Netflix.