The animation – which is being shown on WeTransfer’s content channel WePresent – follows the daily lives of an enormous bearded man and his daughter, whose life in the forest becomes increasingly fraught as he’s consumed by the need to keep a log fire going. The father’s obsession with chopping wood is, more or less, a stand-in for the myriad distractions of everyday life – something filmmakers Tom Judd and Ed Barrett are closely acquainted with.
“We realised we should make a film that meant something to us, hence the parental storyline,” says Judd, who co-founded Animade with James Chambers in 2010. “We’ve both had kids over the past five years, and gone through this whole experience in terms of work and how it can pull you away, and also this idea of mobile technology pulling you towards your Facebook feed when you should be having time with your kids.”
WeTransfer Editor-in-Chief Rob Alderson commissioned the film, giving the studio an open brief that allowed them to treat Tend like a passion project – a chance to “let their imaginations roam a bit wider than the short, snappy work that they’re renowned for,” as he says.
The only requirements were that the animation be over five minutes, and be universal and relatable enough to speak to WeTransfer’s base of international users. Tend answers the challenge of translation by foregoing dialogue altogether, instead offering up engaging snippets of sound or graphic details such as the increasingly dishevelled beard of the father as he uses it to spark the fire, and the interactions between the daughter and passing woodland animals.
“Very quickly we realised we wanted to do something that was a bit deeper in tone and stretches emotional boundaries a lot more,” says Judd. “We love to distil ideas down and explore the bones of them, and I think we pushed everything away and got it down to this father and daughter, and their lives and the fire.”
“The story they came back with really resonated with me as someone who gets his priorities wrong all the time, and I love that different people read different lessons into it,” adds Alderson. “On the surface it’s a really simple tale, but there are lots of threads to unpick depending on which you want to follow. I think our best projects have that in common.”
Tend is part of WeTransfer’s WePresent platform, which is now increasingly focused on original commissioned projects – everything from podcasts and photo series to documentaries. It recently premiered director Sean Mattison’s Mr Wash short, which follows an American prisoner who spent 21 years painting behind bars, and documented a Baltimore dance workshop run by musician FKA twigs.
“Arts funding has never been harder to come by,” says Alderson. “At the same time, we believe creative thinking has never been more vital, to help us think in new ways about a world that feels like it’s spinning out of control. I think that’s where we can help.”
“I’m not saying it’s the only solution and I understand why some people are wary of brands becoming commissioning bodies. But there is a space there, and if done in the right ways, with the right people, for the right reasons, then I don’t see why brands like us can’t help creatives realise some amazing projects.”