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Slamdance Film Festival gets a splash of ideas with ‘Tap Runner’

Paolo Chianta created animated short with pens, paper and an iPhone

Paolo Chianta's pen-and-ink animated short follows a man whose job is to check for water wastage in a not-too-distant dystopian future. Chianta created the film during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 with pens, drawing paper and his iPhone.
Courtesy of Paolo Chianta

Paolo Chianta’s hand-drawn animated short, “Tap Runner,” presents a gallon full of ideas and images in just under 3 minutes.

The film, which is now streaming in the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival, touches on one man’s obsession, wasted water, dystopian futures, burning robots and occupational red tape.

“I was thinking about water wastage a lot in general, and I had written a feature-length script a few years ago,” Chianta said during a video interview from his home in London. “It was set in the modern day and it was about a guy who was deliberately wasting water and another guy who was trying to investigate why the other was wasting water. It was a pretty bizarre script, and I shelved it for good reason I think.”



Still, the themes of wasting and obsession stuck with Chiata after he started making short films a few years ago.

“I had originally started thinking about turning this idea into a live-action short film, but when I started doing animations, I felt this film would work really well,” he said. “It sort of became an abstract idea of the original feature, but retained sort of the general themes. It seemed to make sense for me to set it in the future, because the ideas seemed to belong in this post-apocalyptic landscape. It amused me because it was about a guy whose mundane job is to check taps while the world is being overrunned by artificial intelligence.”



Much of the film’s scenes were inspired by Chianta’s walks around London’s South Bank and Barbican areas and resulting trips to assorted public bathrooms.

“I love the architecture of those areas, because you feel like you’re in a David Cronenberg or Stanley Kubrick 1970s film,” he said. “And it made sense for me to set the film in that kind of world. I wanted the film to (feel) like a forgotten 1970s or 1980s sci-fi film.”

While the main character’s job is to check for leaking taps, he isn’t able to fix them, because that’s a job for the city’s plumbers, Chianta said.

“So, it’s about this intense guy who is having an existential crisis who is held back by the limitations of his role,” he said.

In addition, the filmmaker, through music and a voiceover, adds an element of dread.

“There’s that bleak sense running through the film that came from something he has done or something he is going to do,” Chianta said.

Chianta created “Tap Runner” with black, ball-point pens, drawing paper and his iPhone. He took photographs of each lo-fi drawing and edited them with the Premiere Pro program, he said.

To give the film more of an old-school look, Chianta left in some mistakes.

“I would spend ages doing what I think is a very intricate picture and then notice an ink smudge on the page,” he said with a laugh. “I decided to keep them, because when I do the animation, they look like old celluloid flickers or scratches. So, it all kind of works out.”

Chianta used to work with animation before he began writing scripts and attended film school. He returned to the medium, and created another short called “Punderton” and two music videos, “Snowman Joe” and “(Let the) Muckers In,” for the London-based pop band Pardon.

He had been thinking about doing a stop-motion film, and all the materials were on hand during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.

“I’ve got kids, so there was a lot of drawing paper lying around, and I had lots of ball-point pens,” he said laughing. “Through experimentation, I ended up doing these little tests, and I wanted to see what would happen.”

In 2021, “Punderton” screened last year at the London Short Film Festival and Flatpack Film Festival.

“That was even more crude than this film, but over the making of these films, I got a little more ambitious and tried to make the drawings a little more intricate and incorporate more movement,” he said.

Chianta recorded all the voiceovers for the film on his phone.

“Originally I was going to get a friend of mine who has worked in melodics to do it, but people who I had watch the film said it needed to be my voice,” he said.

Chianta also created the film’s original music through the Garage Band program on his mobile phone.

“I embraced the limitations and doubled down on them, I suppose, to let the film be its own thing,” he said. “I think what I like about the fact that I can make this film on my phone is that I could do it anywhere.”

Chianta is humbled that “Tap Runner” is showing at Slamdance.

“It’s a huge privilege,” he said. “This is an amazing festival, and the film is playing alongside really great looking films by great filmmakers. That is a great honor.”


“Tap Runner” is now streaming during the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.

For information and tickets, visit slamdance.com.


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