February 18th, 2014

We Are The Giant is a film that touches on personal stories from three countries of the Arab Spring movement and links them to historic events and iconic figures throughout history. It explores the sacrifices and decisions individuals make for what they believe is their right. Directed by Greg Barker and a Passion Pictures & Motto Pictures production, Mill+ senior art director Manija Emran spoke to us about the titles and graphics she designed for the film.

How did the project come about?

Director Greg Barker approached us to create the graphics and the visual look. We had an existing working relationship - last year I designed the titles and graphics for his documentary Manhunt. So when he asked me if I was interested in designing the graphics for his next documentary, of course we jumped at the opportunity! I'm a great fan of his work and he is absolutely lovely to work with. Stephen Venning, executive director, Mill+, saw the potential in this project and Ben Hampshire, managing director, Los Angeles, took on this tough but rewarding project at The Mill. The briefs were similar: look at the film, react and then help tell the narrative and bring the core subject to life.

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How did you go about making a start?

I went away and watched the film, which was a rough version at the time. My initial reaction was to encompass ‘revolution’, so I set about researching it. I looked at different ways in which people made themselves heard and seen. I looked at how some of these messages were brought to life, and I found reoccurring themes that came up which were all were based on the human touch.

Revolutions are born of people - it is born from the human hand.

Revolutions are born of people - it is born from the human hand. It is a collection of individuals coming together who express themselves via different mediums: the written word, the handmade demonstrations signs, the painted graffiti, modern-day twitter feeds, printed pamphlets, burned flags, burned images, etc. So I wanted to combine all these looks into one cohesive language.

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I started with the base being the visual of the burn. To me, it’s the single most powerful image representing revolutions, so I built upon it. I wanted to get the burns shot, so we took a day to do a mini-shoot; filming burns in front of a green screen for the animators to eventually incorporate. I used textures, paint, type, ink, newspaper headlines, photocopy feel, and more as I felt it was important to stick to a monochromatic language. I created layers of varied mediums reflecting the individuals that, when combined, created one picture, one voice. So in this way, the design is an extension of the film.

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Give us an outline of the process.

Because of the tight turnaround and the scale of the project, I knew that the process needed to be extremely streamlined! I designed each key frame of the sequences, including transition examples, which totaled over 200 Photoshop frames. Once approved, it was over to our small team of dedicated animators (Justin Sucara, Victor Duncan and Greg Park) who did a brilliant job of bringing the designs, textures and concept of multi-media to life. We were all eager to make the best of this project as we love the film.

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How closely involved in the process was the client?

We worked very collaboratively and closely with the client. It was fantastic working with Greg (director), his editor Josh Altman and his team as they are so passionate and knowledgeable about the subject. We were so enabled by them: I could ask questions and get immediate answers. We were able to zip through some of the problematic eras of revolutions because we were working with such knowledgeable partners.

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And the Sundance Premiere…

I lived and breathed and loved this project, so it was important to me to see the final film on the big screen. I flew out to Salt Lake City for its premiere at Sundance. The film and its graphics were very well received and after the film lots of people came up to compliment us on the graphics and how they elevated the film. It was wonderful.

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You can find out more about the film on its official Facebook page and see Manija Emran's title sequence for Greg Barker's Emmy winning documentary Manhunt.