A bright, vibrant, sun-soaked short tackling some dark, resonating themes, Prawta Annez’s award-winning Towels may be set on the beach, but its storyline tackles more global concerns. Conceived back in 2017, at the time of Trump’s inauguration and the beginning of Brexit negotiations, Annez’s five-minute film sets out to explore her inner turmoil surrounding the current political climate, whilst also creating something “visually fun to watch”.
“I wanted to film to convey the frustrations I felt”
Inspired by a “funny article” she read about beach etiquette, Annez’s film is set on an unspecified beach, and focuses on one particular beachgoer and their obsession with personal space. Beginning a war of beach towels with a neighbouring sunbather, Towels quickly transforms from conventional storytelling into more abstract territory, as the two battling sides refuse to back down and act rationally.
“I wanted to film to convey the frustrations I felt in 2017”, Annez explains as we discuss the use of towels as a metaphor in her film. “The frustrations of a younger generation watching people in power make life-altering decisions for us that we would have to live with longer than they would. The frustrations of watching a man in power kick about and threaten to build a wall to claim his “beach space”. My friends and I were watching a bad game of Risk in real life and I wanted Towels to be my mirror to society”.
This bigger picture isn’t always clear in Annez’s short and although you’re well aware there are broader subjects breached in her story, Towels also feels like a film that can be enjoyed at a more micro level. Yes, it’s a film about territory and the disputes surrounding them, a subject that will have a larger impact depending on your own personal background, but its smaller narrative about personal space and social distancing also feels particularly relevant in our current climate.
“Everything was done in 2D but to imitate the slightly unpredictable texture that comes with animating paint”
Describing the aesthetic of her film as “a love letter” to some of her favourite artists (Georges Schwizgebel, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth), which sets out to capture “the movement and charm” of the experimental animated shorts she loved from the ’70s and ’80s, Towels was originally meant to be traditionally animated with hand-painted frames and backgrounds. Opting to take a more digital route for financial reasons, Annez and her team experimented with their process to try and “emulate the same texture” they would have achieved with more conventional methods.
“Everything was done in 2D but to imitate the slightly unpredictable texture that comes with animating paint, the characters and frames were painted frame by frame digitally in Photoshop”, the director explains. “The backgrounds were also purposefully kept flat most of the time to slightly mimic the painted still backgrounds found in traditional cell animations”.
Towels was created while Prawta was studying at Falmouth University and has gone on to win a Royal Television Society award and be nominated for a British Animation Award. Now currently working as a freelance storyboard artist in the industry, she has recently worked with studios including Wildseed, Blue-Zoo and Nickelodeon.