A Case Study
Narrative | Dramatic Features
Film Name: A Head Shorter
Genre: WW2 Animated Documentary
Date: November 2019
Director: Sasha Sivan Bortnik
Producer: Sasha Sivan Bortnik
Writer: Sasha Sivan Bortnik
Cinematographer: Nick Morr
World Premiere: Rhode Island International Film Festival
– Remi Award from Houston Film Festival
– Audience Award at Cinequest
– Grand Prize Winner Robinson International Short Film Competition
– nomination Best Animated Short at Carmarthen Bay Film Festival
indieactivity: What is your film about?
Sasha Sivan Bortnik (SSB): A Head Shorter is a 2D animated documentary short narrated by Naftali Deutsch. The film begins in the spring of 1944 when Naftali and his entire family are forced to leave their home in Kimyat, a village in the Carpatho-Ukraine region, and sent to Auschwitz. Naftali recounts his harrowing journey as a 12 year old boy in the Holocaust and how he survived multiple concentration camps.
Tell us about the festival run, marketing and sales?
Sasha Sivan Bortnik (SSB): The film has screened at Rhode Island International Film Festival, Norwich Film Festival, Cinequest. Bend Film Festival, Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, LA Femme Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival and Hollyshorts. A Head Shorter received a Remi Award from Houston Film Festival, received an Audience Award at Cinequest, was nominated for best animated short at Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, and was the Grand Prize Winner of the Robinson International Short Film Competition.
Give the full Official Synopsis for your film?
Sasha Sivan Bortnik (SSB): A Head Shorter begins in the spring of 1944 when Naftali and his entire family are forced to leave their home in Kimyat, a village in the Carpatho-Ukraine region, and sent to Auschwitz. Naftali recounts his harrowing journey as a 12 year old boy in the Holocaust and how he survived multiple concentration camps.
Development & Financing?
Sasha Sivan Bortnik (SSB): The narrator of A Head Shorter is my great uncle. I decided to interview him with the intention of just capturing him on film telling his story – something for me and my family. After the first few hours of shooting, however, I decided I needed to turn this into a film and share it with others. I secured finances by reaching out to people in my community and using fundraising websites like Indiegogo.
SSB: We shot for two days and I walked away with about 6 hours or so of footage. I then hired a transcriber to transcribe all the interview footage. Once I had the transcription, I wrote the script. This was by far the most challenging and rewarding part of the process. This story was so personal for me that I struggled when it came to editing, but once it was done I felt empowered and excited to move forward. After the script was finalized, I worked with a video editor to edit the footage to match the script. Once I had a final cut of the edited interview footage the animators and I started the process of the animatic. When the animatic was finalized they began animation. The composer was working in tandem with the animators. Once all of that was finished, I hired a sound designer to clean up the sound and add any needed sound effects.
Festival Preparation & Strategy?
SSB: I prepared for my festival run by really focusing on why I did this film and reflecting on how I understand my process now and what the film means to me. I wanted to be prepared for interviews and Q&A’s, and taking a step back and assessing my process and my relationship to the film was key. I felt that Cinequest gave me an edge in terms of confidence and momentum – it was the first festival I was accepted into and it’s an Academy Award qualifying festival that’s super innovative and forward thinking so it was all very exciting and encouraging. All PR was done by me – social media mostly and primarily Instagram
The Official Trailer for A Head Shorter written and directed by Sasha Sivan Bortnik
SSB: I haven’t released the film yet.
Advice from the Filmmaker?
SSB: Don’t be afraid of mistakes or unknowns – it’s all about how you pivot and adjust and adapt.