Short films matter. Vimeo wants you to know it. So do we. That’s why every week we’ll take a look at some of the short film world’s best and brightest. This week, we bring you Tom Teller’s animated charmer Hum.
The Plot: A lonely, dish washing robot makes a friend and tries to break free from servitude.
Most directors would tell you that making movies is all about finding a balance between style and substance. But not every movie finds that balance. That lack of balance can result in emotionally rewarding films that aren’t much fun to look at. More often that not – particularly with animated films – style wins out and you end up with a film that’s all flash and no soul. Tom Teller’s style-forward Hum is one of those rare animated films that succeeds in balancing both.
Unfolding over a breezy eight and a half minutes with nary a line of dialogue to be heard, Hum manages that task by utilizing its style as its substance. As with most animated films, much of the Hum‘s emotional impact comes from humanizing a being that should not possess human emotion. In this case it’s an adorably boxy robot programmed to do one thing, wash dishes in a restaurant’s dingy back room. Like any human being, this robot longs for life outside of the dish pit.
With no dialogue to speak of, Teller’s Hum makes dynamic use of cinematic language to convey that sense of longing. That includes the use of a couple of pitch-perfect jazz standards, the subtle musical stylings of Ryan Stratton and the wildly expressive contributions of DP Nico Aguilar. And make no mistake, with its seamless blend of practical props, real world environments, and computer generated images, Hum is one of the best looking animated films you’re likely to see this year. Or any year for that matter.
It’s also one of the most affecting. That has a lot do with Teller’s most compelling creation, the robot itself. Constructed of little more than a rusted, boxy head, twiggy arms and tank-like treads for feet, Teller’s design is a study in decayed futurism. He imbues that creation with motions that are fluid and pragmatic. He uses its wide, squared eyes to convey an emotional inner world that’s complex and undeniably humanizing. And he drops that creation into a world that’s both fantastical and hyper-realistic. That world would stand up to the best of Pixar’s creations. So would Telller’s robotic star. So too does Hum.
Meet The Crew:
Directed by: Tom Teller Written by: Tom Teller & Andrew Guastaferro Director of Photography: Nico Aguilar Visual Effects by: Tom Teller & Richard Duran Edited by: Trevor Stevens Sound Design: Jackie! Zhou Music by: Ryan Stratton
I hope you enjoy Hum! I continue to believe that animation is a dish best served in smaller doses … so long as those doses tell complete stories. Tom Teller’s film is proof-positive just how effective short form animation can be when it does just that. Believe it or not, Hum is a student film. It was produced over Teller’s junior year at Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. And it’s another stellar entry into Dodge College oeuvre that we’ve now featured a whopping fourth time (see: Run, Wire Cutters, Eater).
As for Teller, well, he’s developing a few projects at the moment. First up is his thesis short, Icarus. That film is currently making rounds on the festival circuit, but you can check out the trailer over at Teller’s Vimeo page. FYI – you should, ’cause the trailer’s impressive as hell. While you’re kicking about, be sure to check out a few of the thousands of the other short films – animated, live action and documentary – their team has curated for your viewing pleasure (via desktop or mobile device – SWEET!). You’re sure to find something interesting. And you may just stumble across the next great filmmaker.