Interview with Golden Gate Award winner Simon Cartwright

On 4th May the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival announced the winners of the Golden Gate Awards. We caught up with Simon Cartwright, winner of the Animated Short Award for his film ‘MANOMAN’, and offered our congratulations.

Screened at last year’s Encounters Festival 'MANOMAN' received an Honourable Mention in the NextGen Skills Academy Best of British Award – Animation category.

This year it could be you – UK students have until 6th June to submit your film and student group bookings are now open.

How does it feel to have won a Golden Gate Award and to have been nominated for a Bafta?

It still feels like a dream, I really can’t believe the year we’ve had! When we released the film a year ago I would have been happy if it got into a single festival but since then it’s screened at over 70! It’s fantastic to know the film has gone down well with audiences all over the world.

What inspired the theme of MANOMAN?

I’ve seen many films based around the theme of masculinity, but they all seem to deal with it in a very negative way. I sought to make something that on the surface at least feels like a celebration of masculinity so that the audience could enter into the destructive rampage the main characters go on instead of judging it from a distance. I also hoped to make a film that was itself masculine, in that it was loud, aggressive and ultimately meaningless.

Do you identify with the main character?

There is certainly something in me and I’m sure in most men; a kind of throw-back to cave man times which occasionally rises to the surface and leaves us wondering what on earth happened. I hoped to show just how poisonous this could be.

Tell us about the process behind the whole project and how long it took to make.

The film took just under a year to make, including the writing stage. I knew I wanted to try something different within animation so I started exploring how to combine it with puppetry. I found puppeteering gave a lot more scope for improvising with the characters, plus the action could be a lot more energetic. However, it was limited in a number of ways that animation is not. There was lacking a layer of performance in the puppets so it was then combined with facial animation done in the computer to add a little more expression.

What are you working on at the moment and will we see you at Encounters this year?

For the last year or so I’ve been working for the commercials company BlinkInk and more recently I’ve made a Wine Gums commercial through them for Maynards Bassets. I co-directed it with Nina Gantz (director of the short animation ‘Edmond’), we’ve worked together on a lot of small projects in the past but have just officially become a partnership with BlinkInk which is exciting!

Together we’re writing a few things so hopefully we’ll get to make one of them, I don’t think we’ll be ready for Encounters this year though unfortunately, maybe 2017!

What and who would you consider to be your main influences as a filmmaker?

In terms of cinema I’ve always been a huge fan of The Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Billy Wilder and many others. I was certainly influenced by some of the great Japanese animation directors like Katsuhiro Otomo, Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki.

That being said, many of my heroes are musicians. I’ve always played music and tried to find ways of bringing the freedom I’ve experienced playing an instrument into my film work.

What’s your top tip for other filmmakers?

There are enough safe films out there, don’t be afraid to push the ideas to breaking point. You can always bring them back to a comfortable place but too often films don’t go far as they can with a subject matter. The worst thing you can do is make something boring!

Are there any short films / animations you’ve recently seen that you really enjoyed?

I’ve seen so many good shorts at festivals this year! One that I always enjoy seeing is ‘Teeth’ by Tom Brown and Daniel Gray, it’s so beautifully drawn. ‘The Beast’ by Daina O. Pusic is a fantastically dark and hilarious film about a mother and daughter who are visited by a supernatural bat. Daina’s just made a short film called ‘Rhona and Donna’ as part of the Funny Girls funding scheme which I can’t wait to see.