Our correspondent Max Urai visited the 2012 edition of Holland Animation Film Festival and met up with Daniel Ojari
, René Hoekstra
and Erik Butter
- three animators each with a film in the competition - for an exclusive interview on art, reclusiveness, and the limits of control. BG: What does it feel like to be a real animator, now that you’ve finished your studies?
Well, I’ve only felt like an animator since I left my MA course last year. I’ve been really fortunate to have my work as a stop-motion animator. I think it helps that stop-motion is very fashionable at the moment, especially in London. It’s really a buzzword. Creative agencies just love it, because it feels so handmade. RH:
I animate in very mixed styles. With 3D you can also make 2D animation, which looks really interesting. I like finding out new things, new techniques. EB:
I’ve always been a big fan of classic animation. I like the authentic feel of the 2D graphics. BG: Is it the technical part of animation that draws you most to it, or the creative part?
It’s about getting a balance. You can have beautiful films that don’t have substance, and vice versa. Although there is an argument to be that if what you’re saying is really great, you can make it any way you want, and people will still enjoy it. But I think that the superficial elements matter when people watch shorts. If it looks beautiful, people are drawn in. EB:
Without technique, you can’t be creative in animation, and without creativity, it has no soul. But I think more in terms of stories and little ideas then techniques. That comes in later. BG: Animation has a reputation for being quite a reclusive thing. Do you think films get more personal when you do them on your own? DO:
Yeah, it’s more direct. The less people are involved, the more directly it’s coming from you. Which is not always a good thing, mind you. I guess that being in a college or a university is really helpful, because of all the feedback you get from your peers. That was probably the best part of my MA. Working with constant feedback like that felt like a more natural way of making something then completely shutting yourself off. EB:
You always need the outside world to make animation. If you are locked inside a room and completely living in your own world, nobody is going to understand what you are talking about. That can become very dangerous as well, especially if you make a film about something really personal. DO:
Someone from my class last year made a film which was really beautiful, but you could tell that it was about her. I didn’t think the films I made so far were about me at all, but looking back, I can see that some things in them might have been affected by my mood when I made them. I enjoy making films that have a sort of ambiguity in them, so when you talk to different people they interpret things in different ways. But mostly, people say about the film that they show how I am, even though I wouldn’t have thought that when I was making it. Which is interesting, I suppose. EB:
My films are a little personal. The humour in them is really my own, and people have very different tastes in what is funny. I have made some films that were really not funny. (laughs) Sometimes you need someone to tell you: “No, you can’t do that.” But you don’t have to adjust to what everybody likes, then your work stops being interesting. BG: Who would you say are filmmakers or animators that inspire you?
My greatest examples are John K., the creator of Ren and Stimpy, and all the old Warner Brothers cartoonists, like Chuck Jones an Bob Clampett. But Aardman is also quite impressive, they have this crazy, cartoony feel. I can enjoy Pixar films, even thought they can be a bit sentimental. DO:
I really don’t know. I love all different kinds of film, both animation and live-action. But in terms of inspiration, I would say silent film, and films from the 1950’s. They have a slower pace, and I really like their filmic language. BG: Films from the 1950’s and children cartoons sound a bit nostalgic, something more innocent then what is made today.
I haven’t thought about it in terms of nostalgia before. EB:
To me it’s not really nostalgia. Looney Tunes are really violent, and have a lot of sexual innuendo. I like cartoons to be a little naughty. But what I like best about those is that they are way better animated what is made now. I really like the feel of those old cartoons, with their wild movements and big facial expressions… they make a lot of impact on you. RH:
I work a lot with visual effects, so I like digital effects movies. I really liked King Kong. The monkey is animated, so his expressions are more than human, which gets me. I think that visual effects with character animation are very cool. It’s so real, it’s like magic. EB:
It’s hyperrealistic, more real then real. DO:
With visual effects you can refine a gesture or a movement or a facial expression to the point where it is perfect. In a performance with an actual actor you might have one element that’s perfect, but another that doesn’t work. That’s what I find appealing about CGI, and about drawing as well. With stop-motion, if something goes wrong, you have to choose between going with it or starting again. BG: Do you think of yourselves as artists, or more as craftsmen? DO:
I think it’s an interesting question in terms of animation, because most people who are thought of as successful work in a studio and make adverts. A lot of my classmates are doing that. Selling out doesn’t seem to be a bad thing in animation. I guess it’s because working on commission means you’re making money off your craft, and that’s great after studying for so long. Filmmakers like the Quay brothers are thought of as artists that are animators, but for us it’s a bit more blurred between the lines. BG: Looking at the future, what do you think is going to be more important for you: being able to express yourself, or being able to get your work out and make money?
I would like both (laughs). DO:
Yeah, I think it’s about getting that balance. There’s a very minute percentage of people that can make their living by just expressing themselves. If you want to pay the rent, you always have to apply your skills in one way or another. But there’s always the risk of getting sucked in by the big industry and never make anything that you want to make. If you went into the art with the goal of making films to communicate to people, and you end up making stuff for other people, that’s a shame. BG: What are your plans for the future? RH:
I would like to find a good job. It doesn’t matter if it’s for adverts, I would just like a job with 3D. Back home I will always make animations, for YouTube or for festivals. DO:
Yeah, I think that’s it. I’ve signed to a studio that is trying to find commercial work for me to direct or make. I think it’s good to work on someone else’s projects as well, because you can practice your technique without having the weight of the whole project on your back. I find that really enjoyable. EB:
I plan to make more short films and experiment with forms and styles. I hope to have my own studio someday. I sometimes get the urge to make feature, but when I actually think about doing something like that, it’s way too complicated for me. DO:
I think that’s another thing about animators, they want to be in control. When you get so many people involved… EB:
You have to be a real people’s person. DO
: Yeah, and being a very good communicator. Even making my short, I found it so difficult to tell a model maker what I wanted, that I would usually make the models myself. In everything I do, I’m still experimenting. Telling someone else what to do is a very different way of working, but I think it’s something healthy to know, because you can make bigger projects. I don’t really have a clear goal that I am fixed on, but for now, if I can work with people I enjoy working with and make stuff that I enjoy making, and make a living out of it, that would be great.