Our Ideas Report 2020 showed us that we're adapting better than we think. In fact, 41.6% of people report having more confidence in their creative ideas (due to changes in their working environment) and 81.6% have the same confidence or more in their creative ideas. Back in March, while a lot of us were trying to figure out how we could still make great creative work in spite of the situation, Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki created 2 Lizards: an animated series that became one of the online sensations of 2020. Here’s its co-creator Orian on how and why they decided to make it.
Data visualisation by Gabrielle Merite.
Before [the pandemic] started, I was on a roll doing paid jobs. I'd just finished shooting a film for a brand and there were two huge jobs I was working on as a director, but they weren’t things I had pitched myself. I was really ready for a break, in every sense. I’d just finished doing these projects, so I wasn't too worried about taking some time off.
Then, Meriem and I started doing 2 Lizards. It was actually so eye-opening, because it brought me back into this very spontaneous and creative space. Making stuff that's outside of the economy of making stuff: no deadlines, no money, no decks, no client, no notes, none of that. We didn't even think about that stuff because the whole project came about so spontaneously. We never even planned on making a series. We made the first video, and then said "Oh, we should make another one." After the second one we were like, "Oh, dang, this is a show."
Meriem had this library of characters to be animated. We just started doing it. The situation was so new and it was like living in a vacuum. I guess it hit me in the right way where I was like, "Whoa, I have a lot of things that I could say about this." But at the same time it could have also not happened. I think that I have this type of beginners’ luck, because when I try something very fresh and new to me I feel inspired, but when I try to re-do something, I'm less inspired. I don't want it to sound like I'm undermining my creative process as if it just hits me like a strike of lightning, because there is so much work that goes into it, and a lot of hours of brainstorming and developing ideas.
The conversations in the show are all very natural. First, we’d come up with how the story would be inspired by the mood of that week, and then we would just record our own conversations. There was no script. We would then start animating. Animation is so time consuming that you would normally write a storyboard of exactly what's going to happen before you even touch the computer, but we would figure it out as we went. If we were working with a studio on it, they would never have let us do that.
I think a lot of the texture that the show has that feels so relatable and spontaneous, or human, even though it's these two lizards, because of that spontaneous process. The story doesn't come from a script, it comes from life. For example, for one of the final shots, we wanted to include that moment when people would clap for the health workers in the streets. So I went out to film the buildings where it would normally happen. While I was filming it, this man was just crossing the frame and shouted to me, "They do this every day around here." I thought that it was so cute, so we kept that sound bite and we added a squirrel character who says it in the episode. So there were so many things that you would just never write if you were writing and sticking to a script.
Creatively it was really exciting because now I'm back to regular work. The lockdown is over. It was hard for me to get back to working with clients. I used to think, "Oh, that's the dream." And now I'm like, "Is it?” I don't know. I did something different.
I was very inspired creatively by 2 Lizards, but I think in general when it comes to inspiration, or my creativity, it's not something that I have my preferred amount of control over. So far in my life, creativity has always been something that found me more than I found it. I don't have a practice where I know that if I'll do these types of things, it will come to me. Every time it's a different thing. So I guess I was just lucky, the way 2 Lizards happened. People were connecting to the project because it was reflecting on something that everybody was going through. I think it just got through to them.
Sometimes, I think that finding inspiration is a little bit like trying to remember something. It's like you know that it's somewhere there in your brain. Then once you remember, you're like, "Oh, okay, I've got this," and that's it. Once it comes to you, it seems so obvious, and you can’t unsee it.