The film is a visual and emotional representation of someone’s final journey between life and death. Each chapter symbolizes a separate
of that process: a movement towards the light, the last physical kicks, an outpouring of love, a release of fear, and a final acceptance.
See the film at http://www.themill.com/work/exhale-a-short-film-by-dan-williams.aspx.
Dan Williams explains: “I wanted to take a big idea and try and distill it down into a series of simple and arresting images. My main aim was to create something beautiful and resonant, imagery that will linger in the mind. It’s purposefully abstract so that the audience can take what they want from it, drawing their own conclusions and interpretations. Things in life aren’t generally spelled out, and I don’t think they should be in art either. To me, it’s the subjective nature of the film that is its real strength.”
He continues. “When I came up with ‘Exhale,’ I was looking at Tumblr sites a lot and was struck by how much dark imagery people were putting into their blogs. Death seemed to be far from the taboo subject matter I initially felt it was, and this gave me the confidence to follow through my vision.”
Williams also talks about some of the key challenges made with the creative and production support of the Mill New York.
“I was fortunate to have the support of my producer Zu Alkadiri, who was with me throughout the entire journey. As this was our first film together, we had no template to follow, so every stage of the process felt like a jump into the unknown. All we knew was that we didn’t want to compromise at any juncture. I spent a long time creating the treatment and this enabled me to attract a lot of very skilled crew and talent who kindly gave their time and services for next to nothing.”
He adds: “The characters represent different elements of the human psyche. It’s important that you connect with each one immediately, so the casting became integral to the success of the piece. We scoured New York for the right talent and found them from a variety of sources. Two were models, one was a dancer/actress, and for the old man, it was his first professional engagement. I was particularly pleased with the honesty of his performance.”
“I’ve been working in postproduction for a long time now, so the levels of finishing you see in ‘Exhale’ derives from my experience as a Flame artist and the high-bar of craftsmanship that The Mill is renowned for. I had a great team behind me, and we worked tirelessly to polish each vignette. All the backgrounds were created in Flame or CGI using generated and natural textures. I was extremely lucky to have the creative support and the access to technology that The Mill has given me. It’s been a real labor of love and I’m very happy that so many people have come on the ride with me.”
“Sound design also played a crucial role in creating the mood and tone of the film and was composed by the very talented guys at Black Iris. The soundscape they created lent a very edgy and contemporary quality to the piece. They went for sparseness and discordant themes rather than melodic ones, which works perfectly against richness of the visuals.”
Dan concludes, “Hopefully I’ve made something unique and affecting. I can see it living equally well as an installation, online and at festivals. I want to continue making these personal films alongside my more commercial work and can’t wait to start the next one.”