“A thirty-something-year-old wakes up one morning, looks through the window of his apartment and discovers that the world has gone. The building where he lives is now surrounded by an endless extension of a flat yellow floor and a monotone and sunless sky."
We caught up with Tal and Chino to find out more about their debut comic. Enjoy!
Hi Tal, Chino. Thanks for agreeing to speak with us! Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about who came up with the idea for Flat Filters and how it began?
CM: The very beginning of the story originated from my then-girlfriend asking me to tell her a bedtime story as she was falling asleep. I came up with the story of a man waking up in his flat to an empty world and then a couple of days later I thought that the premise was interesting enough to turn it into a short story, which become the basis of Flat Filters.
TB: A few years ago I was doing some experimental work and showed it to Chino. It included taking elements from existing drawings and digitally creating some sort of a collage as a base for a new piece. We were both excited by the idea of utilising this new style for a comic book and decided to go for it.
As well as the literal flat colours in the comic, the emotions of the lead character remain fairly steady throughout, despite waking up in an odd dystopian world and reliving various moments of his past. What made you decide to pick a character like this and what inspired the dystopian setting?
CM: The character has some autobiographical elements so I guess that I tried to remove some strong emotions from him to prevent embarrassing myself. I also tend to be drawn towards slightly passive characters with restrained emotions as I find that when they’re well fleshed out they can actually generate strong emotional responses from the reader/viewer as they can mirror themselves in them.
I’m not sure what actually inspired the artificial-looking desert from Flat Filters, but as far as I can remember I’ve always been obsessed by parallel realities, faraway planets, mythical worlds and surreal landscapes. The centre of Spain where I’m from has some pretty vast empty areas where only the occasional appearance of an old pointed church tower in the distance breaks the monotony of the flat landscape.
You had a launch recently at Burley Fisher Books in London - congratulations! How did it go?
TB: It went extremely well – although the book had been out for a few months already, it felt like a real achievement at the launch. We displayed some of the original artwork in a separate room and a lot of our friends and colleagues came.
On the Flat Filters website, it mentions that you both live across the road from each other. Small world! Have you known each other for long?
TB: We actually met through being neighbours, we can look at each other’s living rooms from our houses. Chino moved into the mews about six years ago and we soon became good friends. While we were on holiday together we started talking about making a comic book.
Tal, you currently work as a graphic designer and illustrator, having had some big-name clients like Vice and the Design Museum. You also painted some awesome billboards a few years ago! Have you always wanted to create comics?
TB: I recently found a diary from when I was seven where I wrote that when I grow up I will be a painter, which kind of surprised me, I didn’t realise it was that early on that I started being interested in visual arts. Then, when I was in eighth grade I used to draw funny/rude comic strips for the kids in class, I think that was my first comic book experience.
When I went freelance in 2012 I made a short comic story and it was very very exciting. It was based on true events and I felt that I wanted to work on fiction. I tried to write myself and also work with other writers but didn’t find a story that excited me enough before I read Flat Filters.
Have you found that working on commercial design and illustration projects has influenced your comics work? (the mentions of Pantone shades did make me smile to myself - Rozi) or vice versa?
TB: The Pantone reference is actually something that Chino had in the original story, and maybe that is one of the reasons I got excited by it :) But to answer your question, I think it works both ways. I feel that my love for comics had influenced my style as an illustrator massively. My work as a graphic designer helped me with page layout but also a lot with composition and typography. My illustration work became much more minimal and considered.
Chino, you are a director for Black Dog Films and have worked on videos for Years & Years and St Vincent. What has it been like writing for comics? Has it always been something you wanted to do?
CM: I was an extremely voracious comic book reader through my childhood and teens and I was lucky enough to grow up in Spain during a time when artists like Moebius, Richard Corben, Liberatore and Enki Bilal were read by young kids while Marvel and DC’s world were turned upside down by Frank Miller and Alan Moore.
Years later I became a filmmaker but the comic book format was ingrained in my brain so the transition from film to comic books was surprisingly seamless. Of all the arts the closest to film, especially in terms of language, is comic books.
And, yes, I’ve definitely fulfilled a dream making this comic book!
Film direction and panel shots in comics are intrinsically linked. How did you find writing for Flat Filters in comparison to a filmed project? Did you approach both in the same way?
CM: There is something very similar about framing / editing and panelling - they are both essential for creating rhythm and emotions - approaching or detaching yourself from the characters. The main difference is the invariable size of the film screen vs the changeable size of the panels, plus obviously the lack of control the artist has over how the audience / readers experience the work. You can spend minutes or days on a comic book, but a movie has a set duration for the experience.
What you write for a film doesn’t necessarily end up on the screen as you can improv scenes and lines of dialogue with the actors on set while every coma that you write ends up in a comic page, so I think there is something more literary about writing for comics than for film.
Do you both have plans to create any more comics?
TB: Yes absolutely! Chino just finished working on his first feature film Undergods and I recently had a baby so we were a bit preoccupied, but we are hoping to start working on something new very soon.
Thanks Tal, thanks Chino!
Flat Filters is available to buy online here.