Animation: <I>Aura</I>
Issue: March/April 2021

Animation: Aura

Chun Chun Chang’s animated shortAura tells the story of a man who comes across a goddess during a deadly storm. The short has already screened at a number of film festivals, including the Oscar-qualifying Encounters Film Festival and LA Shorts Fest. It went on to win the 2020 Award of Excellence at the South Shorts Awards. Most recently, Aura screened at the 2021 Manchester Film Festival.

The story starts from the perspective of a mortal, who sees both the fierceness and gentleness of nature. When the affection of the goddess is intertwined with a storm, he questions whether his experience is a dream or reality?

According to Chang, the short’s initial inspiration came from William Forsythe's choreography in “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”.

“I was fascinated by the contrasts between the dancers' movements, such as push and pull, acceleration and deceleration,” he recalls. “I was so inspired by it that I wanted to create a short film with contrasting vibes.”

Chang spent half a year developing the story and trying to find a subject to deliver the concepts of both gentleness and fierceness. 

“I came across Greek mythology and happened to find the story of Aura, the goddess of the wind. Her original story is quite sad because she goes crazy and is transformed into a breeze by Zeus. I was quite fascinated by this concept of her representing the breeze and the fresh cool air, so I decided to use her as the blueprint of the story. And what better way to present both gentleness and fierceness than the wind itself?”

Around that time, Chang says a friend went to Iceland and sent him a postcard with the description of an icon. The icon was from an Icelandic magical stave called Wayfinder. Its purpose is to help the person carrying it to find the way home through rough weather. 

“This inspired me to devise the ending, where the goddess doesn't keep the mortal to stay with her inside the storm. Instead, she lets him go and then disappears with the storm.”

The shape of a spiral appears throughout the film. 

“It represents the progression of revealing the essence of the nature of the goddess,” Chang explains. “She is the force that drags the mortal into the storm but also the waterspout that saves him from the ocean. He can only see the goddess's true form by entering the eye of the storm, her eyes.”

Chang used Cinema 4D, X-Particles and Maya to make the film. 

“It was my first time creating VFX, so it was quite a challenge for me to reach the look I envisioned while learning to use these tools at the same time. Moreover, because the film concept was mythological, I aimed to make the film's environment have a painterly style. I overlapped clouds with different densities and lit them with different colors to create a hazy and surreal atmosphere.”

Sound design was provided by Daniel Blanck, and composer Sturdivant Adams created the original score.