A chat about “A film about a pudding” with director Roel Van Beek

A woman drops her groceries in the street on her way home. She should probably pick up the mess, but she doesn’t. The mess turns into a pudding that keeps growing, and growing, taking over the city…and still nobody bothers to do anything about it.
This is the premise of the clever, darkly funny animated short “A film about a pudding”, Roel Van Beek’s graduation work from the MA in Directing Animation at NFTS (National Film and Television School). The film was screened in the student competition at Annecy festival recently and caught our reporter’s eye. The director answered few questions for us about the ingredients of this pudding:

Nadia: Why a pudding? How did you come up with the concept?

Roel: For me it was important to make a film about the behavior of ignoring. I think it’s very interesting, people are constantly ignoring a lot of the things that are happening in the world and I wanted to explore this behavior in the film, but I didn’t want to make it about a specific thing. I wanted the film to be more about the behavior than necessarily about what was being ignored. I tried to think of something which could be a bit more abstract, and we had several ideas. At some point we said, “what about a pudding? That actually really works!” And when talking about it with people I always got a good reaction.

Nadia: So the film is about looking the other way when something bad is happening.

Roel: It’s about ignoring the responsibility. I think we all have the responsibility to take care of our situation and a lot of people don’t do that. I don’t either, sometimes! It’s the easiest thing, to not deal with your problems. But I think we should! And I wanted to make something about what could happen if you don’t deal.
Nadia: The main character is responsible for the pudding; she drops the ingredients and obviously she is the catalyst of everything that follows because she doesn’t pick up the mess. But then, nobody else in this universe is doing anything either, and there’s a contrast between how she is increasingly more anxious, and everyone else is just not reacting. What’s the dynamic on that?

Roel: What do you think? I will answer, of course, but I’m interested to hear your interpretation.

Nadia: Well, I think it’s denial. People don’t like thinking about bad things. Obviously, we saw that with the Covid pandemic as well: in the beginning, everybody was saying, “no, nothing is going to happen” and it just got worse and worse, but people were still denying that anything was happening. I think denial is a very strong force.

Roel: Exactly, and that’s what I wanted as well. I wanted the other characters to not care about it either. In the beginning the protagonist may think there is a possibility that someone else would do something about the pudding. She has the hope: “I won’t do anything, but it will probably solve itself and someone else will take care of it”. No one will! You have to do it yourself.

Nadia: The other characters seem like they are sleepwalking through life. There is a scene at the beginning with many people cramped together in an elevator, and they don’t notice that the elevator won’t start unless someone gets off.

Roel: That’s why I wanted the elevator scene. Of course, they’re ignoring the pudding, but the scene is there to show that they were displaying this behaviour anyway. Now it’s a pudding, but it could be anything else.

Nadia: Do you think that they’re happy living this way?

Roel: I think they’re just numb. Neither happy nor sad.

Nadia: I noticed that the pudding is very real and textural. It looks like a real pudding, but the universe it is taking over is very minimalistic, the characters are almost stick figures. Tell me a bit about the visual choices.

Roel: The pudding is real! We made a lot of puddings for this. Our production designers and model makers designed the 3-D pudding in a computer, we 3D-printed it, we made a mold, and from the mold we began making puddings. We had three different sizes of the mold, for every different set. It was important to make it a real pudding, for it to be an outside force sticking over this flat, minimalistic world. It’s very fluid, and the colours are completely different, and it feels tasty. In every shot it had to feel like a pudding that you, as an audience member, could actually eat. But in fact you wouldn’t want to eat it! There’s a lot of starch in it, to hold it up, and the syrup was made out of glue.

Nadia: What was the process of making the film like? How long did it take? How many people did it involve?

Roel: I think the concept came in December 2019 and we finished it in March 2021. There were a few people that I have worked with through the entire process: the producer (Jack Pollington), the composer (Madison Willing), the editor (Raluca Petre) and the DOP (Sonja Huttunen), the production designer (Freddie Burrows), the sound designer (Henry Sims), those are all people that were constantly involved, from beginning to end. And then there were also a lot of different people who were involved for smaller portions.

Nadia: You made the film while we all went through a real-life catastrophe. Did that influence the film at all, how it was made and how you thought of it?

Roel: We ended up being able to go to school to actually make it, so in the end I think the making of it is quite similar to what it would have been without the pandemic. I’ve worked with a few assistants who were helping with animating and doing backgrounds and they had to work from home. In terms of influencing the film…Well, it’s interesting. A lot of people read differently into the film. One of my tutors who watched it said: “It’s crazy that you made a film about the Coronavirus”, and I was like, “Oh, did I? I didn’t know. I guess I did!” Some people thought it was about Donald Trump, others thought it’s about environmental change. For me, it’s about all of those things. Basically, whatever you are ignoring, that’s what it’s about.

Nadia: Where are people going to be able to see the film next?

Roel: It’s at the start of its festival run, it’s been submitted to a lot of festivals and hopefully it will be screening in a lot of festivals. After a year or so, it’s probably going to go online. I do hope that it will screen in some cinemas and that people actually see it with a with a proper screen in a proper sound system, my sound designer and DOP would definitely love that, and I would as well.

A film about a pudding
• Director: Roel Van Beek
• Producer: Jack Pollington
• Screenwriter: Julie Nørgaard Bonde Jensen
• Editor: Raluca Petre
• DOP: Sonja Huttunen
• Production Designer: Freddie Burrows
• Composer: Madison Willing
• Sound Designer: Henry Sims
• Model Maker: Beth Slater


Nadia Barbu