Dear Europe

I may be a bit biased given the fact that I contributed to the project, but I think there is something truly special about Erica Gorochow’s new collaborative film, “Dear Europe.” What makes this project so unique isn’t just the look of it but, more importantly, its message and what it means to us as animators and designers.

As many of you may have noticed, we are living in turbulent times. With so much divisiveness it can be hard to cut through all the noise. It’s even easier to get swept up in all of the drama and to forget that we have power and can contribute. For those of us working in the animation and design world, our job is to communicate, inform, and to bridge gaps. We are a tremendous resource and it’s times like these that we stop just selling sugar water and invest our efforts in causes we believe in, causes that just may be able to change things.

Thankfully, Erica is the woman with the plan and is here to show us how it’s done. The following is a conversation between her and me about “Dear Europe,” what it means to her, and what she hopes it accomplishes.

Q&A with Erica Gorochow

Whoa, that was a wild ride! Can you tell us how “Dear Europe” came about?

The election in the US just devastated me. It left me with such a feeling of emptiness. But over the course of 2016, I also reflected a lot on being in the business of communication. And feeling empowered by that. People do pay us to do this, after all.

Also, I had seen a video that went viral in Austria right before their election in December. Before that vote, the far-right candidate was widely expected to win. But in the end, the green party candidate prevailed quite handedly. I’m not saying this video changed the election: but I wonder how many saw it and decided either to change their mind or vote when they previously had not planned to.

So at the end of last year, to combat sinking into anger and anxiety, I dumped ideas into a big, rambling deck. Something concrete so it was easier to share and discuss. One of the ideas I kept coming back to was a collaborative video about the elections in Europe, which are directly in front of us now. Inspired by Claudio Salas’ model, I thought bringing together artists in the US and the UK would naturally underscore our message.


What were some of the notes you were hoping to hit with “Dear Europe” and what are your hopes for the film?

I spent around 2 or 3 weeks on the script and got a lot of outsiders to give me feedback. Many of them from Europe, so I could check how the tone was coming off. This was really helpful. Their feedback made the tone a bit less… pedantic.

I wanted to be both diplomatic but sharp. To be emotional without being sweeping. I tried really hard to come off as honest. To just say: look, many of us really didn’t think it’d happen here. If you’re liberal or moderate, don’t make the same assumptions we did.


This is obviously a really big topic and I’m sure writing the script was a daunting task. What type of research did you do for the project?  

I have previously lived in Germany and have friends there, so while I’m no expert on European politics, I do pay some attention. I had also been naturally reading a ton about Brexit and our election. My twitter feed is like 65% politics now. (For better or worse, I’m not sure).  To make the video, I read even more. This article from FiveThirtyEight really cut deep. (This one too). I think the key is turn out. Young people just do not vote with the same regularity as older folks.


I’m sure this was a unique experience for you leading such a big collaborative project. What was the hardest part about it?

I always had to be ready to answer an email and be as prompt as possible with 22 people across different time zones.

I think to make these kinds of projects work, you really, honestly, have to have it together. If you drop the ball, everyone suffers. I tried really hard to see obstacles and opportunities way in advance, so that we wouldn’t have to double back and change things (too) last minute.

And the easiest?

Not doing 2 minutes worth of animation all by myself! Also, compliments to everyone involved. Considering how many people there were, I really didn’t have to wrangle *too* much. Ross and Cody from Upright T-Rex Music are also so brilliant: they basically nailed it on the first try.


Similarly, what was going through your mind when you were reaching out to people to get involved and how did you decide who was a good fit for the project?

I tried to first, ask people who I knew were upset over politics. People I either knew personally or who I saw speak out online. I really wanted to invite people who cared about the message to participate.

I started with a small group, reaching out to you (Joe) and Bee Grandinetti to help be point people to bring others on board. I feel like my network is decently big in the US, but not so much in the UK. They both helped provide personal intros to animators who they were friends with, some of whom I didn’t previously know.

Some invitations I also sent cold — I crossed my fingers — and sometimes got lucky! I also tried to get a good mix of industry vets and younger animators who I think are wonderful. Decent gender balance was important to me, too.


Do you have any cool guerilla marketing (haha) underway to help promote the film and help it gain traction?

Yes. Through other side projects, I’ve gotten a very basic sense of marketing strategy. I thought a lot about people watching the video on mobile. So we made a vertical version that looks great on your phone. Statistically, people just watch vertical videos all the way through, and I really wanted people to get to the end. We even did a version optimized for facebook. We also subtitled everything on Vimeo and even recorded the VO in French, Dutch and German.

Also, the video will be running in Two Dots just before each country’s election. It’s playing in the Netherlands now, as the election there is March 15. If you’re a mobile game company, I’d love to talk to you.

This is your second politically themed project, was there a particular flashpoint that made you want to do more?

Yes. Third actually. My fiance and I also threw together calltrumpout.com very late last year. Before that was VoteGif.com.

I’m someone who has always paid attention to politics, but rarely wanted to discuss it, especially online. But so many things Trump is doing deeply concern me. I can’t stay silent. Doing projects like these, using my skills to these ends, helps quell a nervousness inside me — and channel my frustration into something, hopefully, constructive.


For anyone out there wanting to get involved and do more, what advice do you have for them?

If you’re looking to make work about subjects like elections or politics: It’s really easy to yell. (I’m not above it. Sometimes you gotta.). But, ask yourself, how do you build a bridge to bring people over to your side? People still want to gravitate towards something positive and to feel productive. How can you create that?

Finally, now that this project is wrapped, what’s next?  

I really gotta do paid work now!

Lastly, here are some additional thoughts from a few of the talented people who worked on “Dear Europe.”

“In the UK, the referendum was intended to settle the debate on Europe but it only seems to have made it more caustic, and the ‘winning’ side seem angriest of all… Following both Brexit and the US election, I was overwhelmed by a sense of the relative triviality of my work, my interests, and my everyday concerns. So when asked to contribute to Dear Europe, I saw it as an opportunity to use whatever skills I have to engage positively with issues that can often seem insurmountably large and complex. An appeal to reason isn’t in itself a solution, but it has to be a decent place to start.”

— Robin Davey

“As creative professionals, we can no longer accept the status quo of leaving our social consciousness at home when go to work each day. We can no longer rely on the right-wing government to protect our interests, our health, or our planet. The stakes couldn’t be higher and we must take a stand. Our hands have been trained for years at crafting concise and powerful visual communication and yet the tragedy is that when we go to work each day we are asked to use them in service of corporate overlords who continue to push the stability of our earth off a cliff so that they may improve their quarterly earnings. Our act of resistance is to re-appropriate these skills in crafting a message of warning to our European brothers and sisters from our place of hindsight; warning them to avoid the hell we’ve found ourselves in at all costs.”

— Ege Soyuer

“I really hope Europeans actually go vote, not just protest a result they didn’t vote for. ”

— Yukai Du

 

Credits

DIRECTOR

Erica Gorochow

MUSIC + SOUND DESIGN

Upright T-Rex Music

ENGLISH VO

KK Apple
Jordan Craig

GERMAN

Saskia Wariner (VO)

DUTCH

Wouter Boon (VO)
Martin Pyper

FRENCH

Julie Saunders (VO)
Adrien Joulie

SCRIPT

Erica Gorochow

THANKS

Liz Marks
Marcus Eckert
Lorenzo Fernandez
Gustav Vella
Jeroen Krielaars
Bee Grandinetti
Joe Donaldson
Paul Murphy
Ross Wariner
Cody Uhler

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About the author

Joe Donaldson

/ www.jodie.work
Joe Donaldson is one of the editors of Motionographer. Working closely with Justin Cone, their hope is to help grow our community while celebrating the exceptional work being created on a daily basis. Additionally, Joe recently joined Ringling College of Art and Design where he works as a professor in the Motion Design department. Before joining Ringling, Joe worked as a director, designer and animator in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and has had the honor of directing work for clients such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Instagram, The New York Times and Unicef.

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  • Beautiful work 🙏

  • Jan De Loore

    nice work!
    but here’s a different view on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS9EMvbBq_U
    an animated synopsis of a book about elections by renowned belgian writer and thinker ‘David Van Reybrouck.
    motion design by kitchhock.be (that’s me :)

    • Marc Zwaneveld

      Thanks for adding this. A much more informative piece than the one presented above.

      • While “Against Elections” presents an interesting idea, comparing it to “Dear Europe” or asserting that they are “on the same subject” feels intellectually disingenuous.

        Whether you agree with its message or not, at least understand that “Dear Europe” is a video intended to change electoral outcomes in the near future. Its call to action is clear and attainable. Its scope is limited and focused.

        “Against Elections” presents an argument for challenging the entire notion of democratically elected officials. It has no obvious call to action, and it’s implementation would be a gargantuan task, even if everyone agreed on it. The video’s scope is enormous, requiring countries to fundamentally rethink they way they are structured and operate.

        Comparing the two videos is like comparing a PSA about the value of regular teeth brushing to a PSA encouraging you to pull all of your teeth out. Both will prevent cavities, but they are so wildly divergent in their scope that to disparage one over the other indicates either intellectual dishonesty or (worse) profoundly stunted powers of cognition.

        • David Van Reybrouck

          A wonderful and extremely well done video, Justin. I really like the visual language. I am the author of Against Elections and wrote the script for the video Jan De Loore just shared. I agree that there is difference between both videos. “Dear Europe” speaks about 2017, “Against Elections” about 2017-2027. But my proposal is not a radical as pulling all your teeth out. Lottery is already being used today. In Ireland, as we speak, 99 citizens drafted by lot discuss whether abortion should remain in the constitution. It was the Irish Government that drafted them! In Rotterdam, the second biggest city in the Netherlands and the biggest port in Europe, the Mayor and the City Council agreed last week that some local boards should no longer be elected but drafted. In South-Australie, politicians asked citizens to come and decide about solutions for nuclear waste. In all these cases, normal people were given time, information, access to experts, and, most importantly, trust by the government. So, it is happening, with all 32 teeth still in place. The video Jan and I made tried seems to have inspired quite a number of people. All best!

          • Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, David!

          • Erica Gorochow

            Echoing Justin, thanks for that response (both of you). I enjoyed the Against Elections video and glad it’s made a difference. :)

          • thank you Erica and Justin for your honest opinions.
            When I read the book about a year ago, I contacted David and proposed the idea of making an accessible animation to help inspire a broader public. you saw the result.
            Dear Europe shows the current political situation, but Against Elections shows the roots of the problem: our so called democratic system is not that democratic as we think it is.
            instead of emphasising the differences, the ideas of both videos could be merged to inspire a better and more democratic future.
            btw: I contributed Against Elections to the motionographer awards.
            hoping for a democratic outcome of course, with this film getting more exposure ;-)
            cheers, jan

          • It’s great to see this forum discussing such weighty issues. I think those of us who work in marketing too often pretend that what makes our work important is how cool it is, or how eye popping it’s effects are… but we are much less open to discussing the actual social and even psychological impacts our work makes. I am glad we have these two videos to compare as I think their difference in style, approach and tone do not only reflect the different approach and vision of their creators, but also their different effect on the viewer. HonestLiar is right, these are both propaganda, but Justin is also correct that we need not be ashamed of creating propaganda, particularly if we are aware that’s what we are doing.

            In “Dear Europe” Erica and her team have created a piece that, like a novel, presents what is clearly a subjective point of view, appeals to your emotions, and attempts to represent a broad cry for action. Both the youth of the narrators, and the variety of voices will appeal primarily to younger people, while the animation, fluid and full of personality also fits into their image of what is ‘cool’ and ‘creative’ while making an intellectually complex idea into a simple, easy to execute, call to action. While there is clearly an anti-populist leaning to the piece, by carefully avoiding name calling or finger pointing, it allows the viewer to keep their own point of view.. even if you accept the conclusions of the ask.

            “Against Elections” on the other hand, feels more like an essay. It comes as single voice of authority, backed up with charts and black and white figures to subtly convince the viewer that the thesis is an obvious and evidence supported ‘new discovery’ about democracy. Using photographs, and names and an animation style free of obvious personality; the viewer does not enter the imaginative thought space of ‘Dear Europe’ and so their choice to believe the argument or not is not based in feeling, but in rational thought. Unlike ‘Dear Europe’, ‘Against Elections’ does not care what your political viewpoint was previous to watching, it suggests that whatever it was, your only correct action is to embrace the idea presented. It does not create space for your own opinion.

            Motionographer’s own Bran Dougherty Johnson is one of the most brilliant designers out there when it comes to ‘benevolent propaganda’ and I’ve met many more in the industry with deep knowledge about the subtle power of influence in our work. But I rarely see such an awareness with the younger artists… which makes me wonder if we are missing out on theory in the way motion graphic artists are trained, at least in the US.

          • Thank you for the thought and energy you put into this comment, Ash.

  • HonestLiar

    capitalism is bad, sovereignity is bad, you dont understand consequences, vote for left, vote for undemocratic, central planed socialistic globalist europe… its propaganda… nicely animated, but still propaganda

    • Just for context, here’s the relevant definition of propaganda from Miriam Webster:

      “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect”

      Yeah, that sounds absolutely horrible. Let’s never try to further a cause of any sort.

  • Christoph Meyer

    Great work! And currently here’s something happening in europe and people are waking up: http://pulseofeurope.eu

  • Amazing Erica! I am so glad you made this! sharing with everyone I know.