Who will win the duel? A young man, plagued by self-doubt, feels provoked by the the bullying gaze of a cat. Felix Zehender's graduation film Kater takes us on a rough ride through the protagonist's mind.
Read on to find out what real-life experience inspired Felix and what the fat neighbor's cat had to do with it.
"In the beginning there was envy. The idea for Kater came to me because in my old apartment I had my workplace by the window. Outside, the neighbor's cat often crept by.
I was a bit jealous of him. While I sat at the computer, unable to motivate myself to work, he kept doing his thing down there. He hunted or let the sun shine on his fur and was just living in the moment. At some point, he stared up at me and we had a small staring contest. That was when the very first basic idea for the film was born.
At first, the idea disappeared in my notebook for a few years. However, at the time of my diploma, the fat cat suddenly reappeared.
The first step was a fast, dirty animatic. Since I also do a lot of storyboarding, this is the logical first step for me. In the very first sketches, the protagonist and the cat are more based on the actual neighbor’s cat and me. Then Merlin Deppeler came into play. He just talked away and improvised the protagonist's text in some fun sessions. That is how the story continued to develop organically.
At one point, the whole thing turned into some sort of body swap story. We would have seen the protagonist downstairs in the garden being unable to survive as a cat, while the cat upstairs in human form creates an animalistic chaos. Unfortunately, that story was too long.
Ela Duca joined the production and with her a brilliant team, from voice acting, music and sound design to editing and compositing.
I would have loved to shoot the film as a stop motion with puppets and miniature sets. That is where the simple resolution comes from: view into the garden - counter shot to the window. I knew we would never be able to build more sets. In fact, we did not find any set designers who could help us, because a live-action film project with a lot of miniature sets was already in production. But I kept the simple resolution even when it was already clear that it was going to be a cartoon.
The drawing style in the fashion of 50s animation (such as from UPA) seemed appropriate to me. At that time, adult themes were often transported in this loose cartoon style to give it a more light-hearted touch.
The whole film ultimately boils down to a pretty flat joke, but along the way I touch on more serious topics.
My bottom line is the question of whether assholes actually get further than nice people. And whether the nice ones aren't really as nice as they think they are.”
Felix works independently as a storyboarder, concept artist and director, draws small comics and sometimes makes "one-week films" like this one on education.
Felix also has an Instagram account where he posts regularly sketches, comics about his life as a father and especially very good memes.