With If Anything Happens I Love You, directors Michael Govier and Will McCormack, and producer Maryann Garger set out to examine the grief and suffering caused by school shootings.
The Netflix short tells the story of two parents grieving over the loss of their daughter in a school shooting. “We kept reading and hearing and seeing about the seemingly endless gun violence in America,” says McCormack, “and we thought, what would it be like to tackle this story from the point of view of parents who’ve lost a child?”
The parents try to cope with their loss by isolating themselves and disconnecting from their emotions. “It’s an elegy on grief,” says Govier.
Using a hand-drawn style and muted colors, the most dynamic characters in the film are the shadows of the parents, which are disengaged from the actual characters. “Michael pitched me a beautiful image of these shadow souls that were disconnected from their human hosts because they were in so much agony,” says McCormack. “I thought it was a really beautiful distillation of a sort of Jungian image of what grief felt like, and how in loss there’s that acute disconnect.” The shadows expressed the hidden emotions of the characters, which were too painful to be held onto. “Sometimes you feel outside of yourself,” adds Govier, “and you can’t really connect to your own self with this extreme pain or trauma.”
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With the Covid-19 pandemic causing people to stay at home and the film being readily available on Netflix, the team believe their story has helped people to share their emotions and grief.
“We’re all locked at home, we’re all isolated,” Garger says. “Then there was an If Anything Happens I Love You challenge on TikTok.” The challenge is to film yourself before and after watching the animated short to see if the film made you cry. “At first, we didn’t even know what TikTok was,” says Garger, “and I think [the hashtag] views are up to 70 million now. It really was something that resonated with a tremendous number of people all around the globe. I think the pandemic was really pushing people to a place where they want to connect and they want to share their emotions and share their grief.”
Since the subject matter is very delicate, it was important to everyone to get a consult before proceeding. “We connected with Everytown for Gun Safety, and we sent them the script and some early animatics,” say Govier, “because we wanted to be sensitive to the subject matter.” To their surprise, they got an even better response than they’d hoped for. “They actually didn’t give us any feedback, and the opposite happened,” he said. “They asked, ‘How can we help you? We love what you’re doing and we want to amplify this.’” Govier attributes this to the film’s focus on the grief from gun violence without becoming political. “It really just shows what survivors experience and what they have gone through,” explains Govier.
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