InsightOut: Animating a Change of Heart

Claudia Miatello earned a B.A. in English literature at St. Michael’s College and studied accounting and finance at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. She then worked in various business roles at Ernst & Young and at U of T. In 2020, she graduated from USMC with a Master of Theological Studies degree, having rediscovered her love of art in  2017. 

Her animated film, Buon Ferragosto, screens at the Toronto Short Film Festival on March 20th at 6:15 PM at the Paradise Theatre on Bloor Street. Watch the trailer for Buon Ferragosto here:

Q: What is your animated short about? 

A: Buon Ferragosto tells the story of a boy who cannot celebrate Ferragosto (Italy’s national holiday) at the sea because his father has to work. So, instead, he has the adventure of his lifetime in the city of Florence with an unexpected friend. It’s lighthearted but also comments on how we can lose meaningful connection with each other. Living in a lifeless home, it’s difficult for him to form a relationship with humans, so he finds friendship with a cat! But he still manages to stay full of life, even around those who reject him – and of course, this all takes place in the beautiful city of Florence, which is full of music and colour. 

Q: Did you study art & animation? 

A: I was studying English literature at the University of Toronto and taking art courses part-time at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD U). In those days, you could study up to three courses at OCAD without enrolling in an art degree. After I graduated with my B.A. from U of T, I prepared a portfolio for the animation program at Sheridan College. I also applied to business school at the Rotman School of Management. At the last moment, I chose to study business over animation. Now, after 30 years, here I am, so you can say that one’s passions never die. 

Q: Why did you choose the city of Florence as the setting for your film? 

A: I’ve always been in love with Florence. My father is from Florence so when I was a teenager, we would travel from Canada to Italy to spend summers in the city. I rode on vespas with friends and cousins, went to the sea on the weekends, and ate bomboloni in the mornings for breakfast. It was a very happy time for me. Since then, I’ve visited many times over the years and I always come back home with beautiful memories. 

Q: How would you describe the characters in your film? 

A: I draw very simple characters. People are essentially very simple – we like to believe that we are complex but if you look at the core of humankind, we are all alike and have the same simple needs. 

Q: Why did you create a boy protagonist instead of a girl? 

A: I think whether I draw a boy or a girl doesn’t matter so much – the feelings of loneliness and the desire to connect with someone exists in all genders. I think in this film I created a boy instead of a girl to hide the fact that Jacopo Conti in many ways is me – I think he is many of us. 

Q: Why did you choose to include very little dialogue in your film? 

A: I prefer images to words. I prefer to watch a film where you have to work a little bit to figure out what is happening by watching the action and expressions rather than being told things through dialogue. I think people’s actions and expressions often reveal much more about who they are than what they choose to say. 

Q: How do you develop the stories for your films? 

A: I try to use my intellect in the creative process as little as possible. I enrolled in a theology course in homiletics at university and had to write an Easter sermon for an assignment. I used my intellect to come up with an astute sermon that was doctrinally sound. Since I had never written a sermon, my professor offered to read it before it was due in order to give me some pointers. The next day he returned my paper with only one comment written on it: “Your doctrine is correct but I’m not sure that you, as a preacher, have arrived at Easter in your heart”. With that one sentence, everything fell down around me like a house of cards. My approach to life had been mostly with my head. This was a real turning point for me and I started to let my heart lead – shortly after that, I left my accounting career and started to draw in 2017. 

Q: Does your film have a theme? 

A: I wanted to address the theme of loneliness but, at the same time, to create a film full of joy – I wanted my film to evoke laughter and compassion for the characters, not pity.

Q: Since you write, draw and animate your own films, how long does it take to create them? 

A: It took me almost 10 months to create this 6-minute film. It takes me a couple of weeks to draw up a scene and another week to animate it. But I started drawing a few of the scenes in this film four years ago, so it took me all these years to finally figure out how to finish them.

Q: You could have ended your film with the cat never coming back. Why did you choose to create a happy ending? 

A: I always want to create films with happy endings – of course, along the way the characters might feel anger or frustration, but my films end right on the upswing of a down moment – right before another wave in life hits them again.

Q: What do you hope for with your film career? 

A: I will create films as long as I have something to say. To me, what counts is not how many films you make or how many people you are able to reach with them. If you are an artisan of beautiful rings, is it bad if you are only able to produce one beautiful ring for one person in your lifetime? Are you more successful if you produce hundreds? I don’t think so. 

Read other InsightOut posts