‘The Windshield Wiper’: Filmmaker Alberto Mielgo on Wanting to Challenge Traditional Animation

·5-min read

Filmmaker Alberto Mielgo wore multiple hats including director, screenwriter, editor, sound design and music for “The Windshield Wiper,” screening in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. The animated short follows a middle-aged man who asks himself and the audience, what is love?

Through vignettes, the man goes on a journey as he reaches a conclusion and answers the question. The Spanish-born director wanted to challenge traditional animation with an adult-themed approach and using an untraditional color palette inspired by David Lynch’s filmmaking style as he navigates love and relationship.

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Andrew Calder, Anka Tiribeja, Cara Whitfield, Charlie Bean, Eboni Adams Fany Rosen, Jake Bercovici, John Duffin provide voices for the short.

Mark Ceryak, co-founder of Pastel along with Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski, explains why they came on board the project: “After seeing Alberto’s film ‘The Witness’ in 2019 we obsessively stalked him. When he shared ‘The Windshield Wiper’ with us, a film he had been working on for many years and was still perfecting, we were once again blown away by the depth, detail, and emotion of his artistry. Every frame of an Alberto Mielgo film is a world and mood unto itself. He is relentless in his craft and always in pursuit of something beyond. We are honored to support this singular and visionary filmmaker who with each new film makes a unique contribution to the world of cinema.”

Mielgo talked about the film’s journey to Cannes.

The visuals for ‘The Windshield Wiper’ are glorious. They remind me of a graphic novel in a way. How did this begin for you?

Everything is from different vignettes of my life; personal, things that I see in friends and people, and people I don’t know on the streets.

I make a mental note and that’s really how this happened. Everything is related to relationships, but seeing things from the outside. When you’re deep in relationships, there’s nothing you can see. If a friend tells you there’s something wrong, you can’t see it.

So, this is about putting cameras in those moments. Also, it’s ambiguous and you don’t really know what’s happening.

This began five years ago — I was working on other films too, but I wanted to bring an adult theme to animation that isn’t a video game either, and that’s not something we see in animation very often.

How did you decide this would be animated rather than live-action?

Animation is my favorite format. It’s an art format that includes all the arts you can think of whether it’s drawing, painting, storytelling, music and of course writing.

With 3D, we can weave in sculpture too. I wanted to tell the world that it’s possible to do non-family-friendly animation to connect to another type of audience.

You mentioned this took five years to make, can you talk about that journey?

I started the storyboarding, but it was about finding the animators and finding the right talent on the technical side.

Back when I started, there was no financing for things like this. No one wanted to give you the money to finance a story about relationships and people. They wanted something about a little bird that falls from the tree and becomes a hero, they wanted to hear about a girl who is a fish and becomes a hero.

Let’s talk about the personal aspect of the storytelling and you putting yourself out there.

All the little vignettes that you can see are related to things that happened to me in the past, and it questions me. About void, love and relationships. They’re so different from one another and that’s why the friend always says, ‘Why are you calling this love?’

I wanted to put that all in this film and give the audience this idea of what love could be, but also this nightmare when it’s not this amazing thing.

What about the animation tool you used, what did you use to bring this to life?

We were using Maya, which is the standard tool for 3D. I did a lot of digital painting and for final compositing, I used After Effects.

There’s always a huge mix of programs that you use and then you mix them.

You also did the art direction, what did you want the colors to say?

I don’t like to use color to tell the story — I feel that sometimes it’s manipulative. I don’t like using blue to create sadness. I believe it’s more impactful to do just the opposite. I remember watching a David Lynch film and seeing this scene that was meant to be scary. It’s in broad daylight and it happens inside this diner. The guy comes out and it’s bright, so the light is just normal, and I loved that. I like using as many colors as possible, but not for mood or manipulating the audience.

Who are some of the collaborators?

Making this film- was an impossible feat. It took the extreme dedication of two very small studios- Pinkman.tv and Leo Sanchez studios that no big studio would dare to do. The support and expertise of Leo Sanchez and his team really brought my vision to reality.

What about the music?

The music was a very organic process. There was an incredible track from an LA artist named Lera Pentelute. And a track from Soko that was the absolute perfect mood to explain the sentiments of the whole story.

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