Today’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Catastrophe,” is a winsome cartoon for viewers of all ages. Directed by Jamille van Wijngaarden, this animated short turns the traditional cat-eats-bird narrative on its head in a fun and delightful way.

Originally premiering at Toronto International Film Festival, “Catastrophe” is the story of an orange cat whose owner has only one request: Don’t kill the bird. The unfortunate mess that results is a visual playground of color, sound, and humor that starts and ends before you can fully process what you’ve just witnessed. 

In honor of today’s online premiere exclusively on Vimeo, we got in touch with director Jamille van Wijngaarden to learn more about the film. Read on for excerpts from our conversation.

On finding inspiration from her cat:

“I’m often inspired by tragic characters who mean well but whose actions have disastrous consequences. My cat is one of those characters, knocking things over as he comes by for a cuddle. He was the starting point for “Catastrophe.” Usually cats are the stereotypical bad guy in cat-bird stories; I wanted to play with that concept and make little birdie the devious character.”

On being inspired by her surroundings:

“As much as I’m inspired by the characters, Amsterdam (my home city) was also a source of inspiration. Not a single house is the same here; everything is crooked. The style and overall look in ‘Catastrophe’ very much comes from the organic nature of this city.”

On pacing:

“I love action-consequence sequences that grab viewers’ attention and fast domino-effects that set things in motion and go from bad to worse. Animation really lends itself to that kind of storytelling, and I gladly used those techniques to make my vision come to life.”

On going from live-action to animation:

“Being a live-action director who’s relatively new to animation meant that there was a lot to learn. I wanted to bring my knowledge of live-action storytelling into the world of animation. Although there are many similarities in the workflow and methods, it’s a different beast altogether.”

On the challenges of making “Catastrophe”:

“One of the biggest challenges I faced was during the blocking phase. The lack of detail at that point in the process really demands a lot from your imagination. It also takes vision to make the right decisions — decisions that will eventually have a big impact on timing and overall time frame. Another challenge was telling a funny, dramatic story in under 2 minutes and 15 seconds.”

On advice for aspiring filmmakers:

“All great films start with a great story; you don’t need much, technically, to capture that on film. Bigger budgets can make a film better, but it will all fall flat if the story isn’t good. Don’t be intimidated by people telling you it’s not possible to make films. Believe in the power of storytelling.”

On the meaning of this Staff Pick Premiere:

“This truly feels like the cherry on top of a successful festival tour. I’m really honored that Vimeo has Staff Picked my short film, and I hope this means that it reaches an even wider audience.”

On what’s next:

“I recently finished a 10-minute comedy short called ‘School’s Out’ (‘Tienminutengesprek’ in Dutch) which is currently doing the festival rounds; I’m also working on a feature film with the same team.”

Check out more Staff Pick Premieres