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Fresh Takes: COVID-19 Meets Mad Max in ‘Mad Mask – Fury Roll’

Produced in France during the lockdown, Stéphane Berla’s funny animated short shows how nothing can stop a horde of frenzied shoppers, or post-apocalyptic raiders, in their quest for vital supplies.

French film director Stéphane Berla has shared with AWN his funny new lockdown-produced animated short, Mad Mask – Fury Roll, which begs the prophetic question, “In a post-apocalyptic world, just how far would you go to grab the most vital of household supplies?”

Berla, originally a graphic designer, has directed a number of commercials and music videos for French bands such as Dionysos, Matthieu Chedid, Matmatah or Gaétan Roussel. He also co-directed with Mathias Malzieu the 2013 CG-animated feature, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart.

The idea for the film came while the director was safely quarantined at home, playing around with his VF headset, and “just for fun,” he started animating a toilet roll. “I didn't think about a short film at this time, I just wanted to create a small animation and send it to my friends,” he explains. “But quickly, I thought it would be funnier to add some people running after this little pink dude. I probably had a [George] Romero zombie film in my mind at this time and wanted to create a supermarket around them. The animation started to be funny, but it missed something essential: the star. The COVID virus is supposed to be very small and I didn't know yet how it would run after people. I thought about motorbikes, cars... suddenly, a name dropped in my head: Mad Mask. I had to make the short film.”

The 3D/CG short took 45 days to make, using free software and a $1,000 computer. “I created all the assets and animations in Quill, a VR painting and animating software,” Berla says. “Then, I imported the animations and synchronized them in Blender. I worked on the landscape to add details, created the shading, lightning and cameras animations. I don't have a fast machine, so I used Eevee, Blender’s real-time render engine. It’s less accurate than other engines, but with some tweaking, it can create amazing results.... very fast. Also, I didn't have time to lose on the compositing, so I skipped that and created the result directly in Blender. My workflow couldn't have been faster. I did the editing and color grading in Resolve. My software cost me $0.”

His biggest challenge was learning Blender while making a film at the same time. “It wasn’t easy to manage so many moving CG objects while learning Blender at the same time,” he notes. “I already used it on small scenes, but I had to train myself very quickly to achieve what I wanted to do with Mad Mask. I spent a lot of time on tutorials.” The director hopes his film goes “viral” in the literal, positive sense. “If it could contaminate people in a positive way and they start sharing it, I would see it as a fantastic snub to COVID-19.”

You can find more of Berla’s work here:


Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.