"Belly" is such a beautiful story. How did you come to it? ["Belly" actually had me in tears, the first time since the intro montage of "Up" that I've cried during an animated film.]
That was my thesis film from the Royal College of Art, where I graduated last July. It's a two year course. The first film I made was "Howard," but with "Belly," the second film, I last ditched it on everything. I thought to myself, "From now on, I'll make commercials and not make my own things." I'd never written a script from scratch before, so I did that. I'd never worked with actors before, so I did that. It was a bit too much, but basically the basis of the film...I've never done a non-love story before....it's sort of a bromance.
It's a coming-of-age that explores how you're always being criticized by older siblings and peers. You embrace all the scary and spooky things in life, your brain's working in ways that it won't for much longer, your brain will grow out of it. But once you had this sweet deal! As you grow up, you still have this feeling in the pit of your stomach, which is why the film's called "Belly." It was based on my relationship with my sister, and she's super offended!
But she appreciated it or no?
(Meekly) Yeah. She came to see me present the film in Berlin, and I talked about how I wanted her to see me as one of her own. I don't think my family understands my work, they're just "You made a film!"
Where do you find your images are coming from? What do you look at for your aesthetics? You have such a unique style.
I was explaining something to a friend -- and in the middle of it she just stopped me and said, "Wait, the weird stuff in your films...that's just how you see the world!" I guess she was right.
Looking back at drawings that I've done as a kid, I realized that nothing much has changed, I just have gotten worse. I don't look at many other artists, so it's probably good that you don't want to hear that. I may just really love the hand-drawn elements. I like doing it yourself. It's very therapeutic, redrawing again and again. My inspiration generally is film, "Twin Peaks"-y stuff, old romantic comedies, musicals, and things like that, and American landscapes, Arizona and things like that. I'm shooting the footage myself now. Putting that with the handdrawn element, I like that. The characters are animals because it seems more real to me. They technically are just people in animal costumes.
And after the film for Channel 4 is finished, what are you up to?
When I'm working on something, I wake up at 8, and go to bed at 2, and go on for six months or whatever. I like doing that less and less, I don't want to stay up late, I've convinced myself I'm going to give myself repitative strain injury. But then when a film is done, you can legitimately take a break and not do anything for awhile, saying you're thinking of your next film.
I'm being approached by a lot of companies to pitch a TV series, so I'm going to start working on something long-form, not worried about any of those companies, and see what comes of it. I did very little of articles for the Huffington Post, and I found the process of writing really enjoyable, and see where that will go. I don't know that I want to be an animator forever. I could quite happily move into live action or something like that. The same feelings in my films with real people
It is kind of crazy. You just get the actors together in a room, and you're ready to shoot them!
Having arms and limbs already there....they know how to move, I don't have to think about it! I would much prefer that!