The butterflies of a first encounter take flight Zachary Zezima's forthcoming animated short, It's a Date. Rolling with darkly-lit neon hues, the film begins with a casual text conversation laying out plans to meet up. But things quickly take a turn for the unexpected, after a car collision takes hold of one of the daters. A sharp cut to the setting of a bistro restaurant, however, keeps expectations at bay, and things seemingly progress without a hitch. We've all been here—the initial date jitters, punctuated by personal thoughts, sometimes erotic, sometimes just plain weird (including one sequence where the woman pops the man’s zit).
It’s a Date is a deeply engaging little exercise in storytelling, brought to life with vibrant, moving illustrations. Animated characters are charmingly plain, not presented in realistic proportions, but instead as pared down renderings—created using gouache-painted backgrounds, pencil-on-paper animation, and digital coloring, with a straightforward, childlike appeal. Both daters are mild-mannered, and the encounter stays pleasantly afloat—that is, until the mention of “holographic cameras” comes up. The ensuing storyline transforms into a bizarre but convincing tell-all straight out of a sci-fi universe.
Zezima shares a few insights on the engaging short to The Creators Project: “The story itself is part truth and part fiction. A friend of mine actually went out with a man who revealed one their first date that he's an alien, and then tried to prove it." Speaking about the date premise of the film, Zezima describes his thought process: "When I first meet someone, my mind really travels through different scenarios and memories based on our conversation, and I wanted to portray that sense of distraction but also investigation. While this film on the surface is about an alien trying to be human, his existence is more of a metaphor for human connection. We all want it, and it doesn't always go so well when we try to get it."
Zezima, straight out of animation school, previously wowed us with Cruising, a lonely short about the deadly banality of family cruises. He first studied illustration, and tells The Creators Project that he made it a goal to combine his skills to tell the story of It's a Date.
"Through color, light, perspective and scale, each section of the film was planned to evoke a certain kind of emotion in the viewer," the animator writes over correspondence. "I used a 4:3 ratio instead of the standard 16:9 widescreen in order to convey a more claustrophobic and 'full' feeling, hopefully enhancing the general anxiety of the film."
Saving any spoilers, you can watch a preview of It’s a Date below:
_It's a Date _will begin its festival run, screening in full, at the Raindance Film Festival in London on September 25, 2016.
Zezima currently resides in Los Angeles, and you can find more of his projects on his website. He's also the co-founder of Circle Line Projects, a collective of multidisciplinary, animators, and directors in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. To learn more about Circle Line Projects, click here.