Interview with Bafta winner Nina Gantz
Following her winning the Best Short Animation award at this year's BAFTAs, we sat down with Encounters alumni Nina Gantz to chat all things short, animated and downright bizarre.
First of all, congratulations on the BAFTA win, very well deserved, how does it feel and what was it like to be mixing with some of cinema’s greats that evening?
It was very exciting and somewhat surreal. It was great to be in the same room as people who have inspired me all these years. I didn’t speak to many big celebrities as I was hypnotised by the chocolate fountain at the Weinstein Party.
Speaking of those that have inspired you, you were up against someone you’ve described as the “Grandfather of animation”, Richard Williams for his short, Prologue, what was it like to not least be considered in the same category as him but to also pip him at the last post?
His work and his teachings helped to form me as an animator. It was already such an honour to be in the same category as him and I never thought I would actually be chosen for the award. Walking onto the stage I felt humbled and in a way he contributed to my journey in there.
Before the big win, you cut your teeth here at Encounters picking up the NextGen Best of British Award and then went on to win at the BIFAs, so yourself and Edmond have been having a bit of a whirlwind year really has it all been a bit, like your film, crazy and surreal?
It has been a bit of a crazy and fantastic year. As you say, the film is very odd and surreal, so it’s been very rewarding but also surprising that it has connected with such a wide audience. I’ve traveled all around the world and I’ve met so many lovely and inspiring people. Each award that Edmond picks up is further recognition for all the hard work put in by my team.
We absolutely loved the film and really thought you struck a great balance between the darkly comic themes because essentially what it is, is this incredibly bleak but incredibly funny dark comedy that humanizes a lifelong cannibal. Was it perhaps a bit of a hard sell to pitch the film as being about a man who ends up eating everyone he loves?
One of the most difficult tasks was to convince people that an audience could empathise with such a character. By explaining that we would use drawn faces, to make the most of all the emotional performance and woolen characters to soften the violence of the film we were able to show how this could be achieved.
I won’t give away any big plot spoilers because there is a great gloomy twist to its ending but in Edmond’s opening we see him dragging a heavy boulder through the woods and in some ways it reminded me not only of Edmond’s struggle in doing this but, of course as well, the animator’s struggle in creating such intricate detail in every tiny movement of the characters on screen. What was it like working with the felt puppets and creating the aesthetic for Edmond?
You should probably ask this question to Adam M Watts, who dealt with most of the stop-motion animation! It was a big challenge to work with wool, because it doesn’t stretch and becomes dirty quickly, however, I enjoyed sourcing the materials and discovering more about the technique of needle felting. Edmond was my first stop-motion film and I made a few mistakes but it helped me to learn along the way.
And in terms of your role as a director, are there big differences between a director working with animation and a director working with live action and how hands on was your role in the creation of Edmond, were you always wanting to jump in and move his arm that little bit more or were you firmly leading from the back?
As an animation director on a short film with budget constraints you are more heavily involved in more aspects of the production, from set building to voice acting! Regarding animation, it was important for me to jump in and get involved, especially with the 2D facial animation, otherwise the film wouldn’t have been completed. In a way I wish I could have only focused on directing, but being so involved hands on allowed me to learn more about each discipline.
Throughout the film there are these amazingly surreal scene changes between different events in Edmond’s life with him, almost in Trainspotting fashion, melting his way through the floor or escaping his situation by way of his mother’s skirt. It’s ultimately a testament to the capabilities of animation as a medium and one that you clearly have a real talent in pushing the boundaries of, has animation always been a great love of yours and what first got you exploring the world of stop-motion?
At art school, I discovered animation. My teacher showed me the films of Jan Švankmajer and Michaela Pavlatova, that opened my eyes, as I hadn’t really seen animation as an adult genre until then. When I joined the NFTS I met fellow students Simon Cartwright and Steve Warne who both had stop-motion backgrounds. I always wanted to work with stop-motion animation and they showed me some of the amazing possibilities and helped to guide me as I began to develop Edmond.
Finally, not to put any pressure on you and really you should still just be reveling in the ongoing successes of Edmond but, what is next for you and your team? Will we be fortunate enough to see you at Encounters 22?
I currently have a short film in development, which I’m very excited about, however, it probably won’t be ready for the next Encounters! I’m looking forward returning again hopefully, it would be great to come back to Bristol!
Thanks very much for your time Nina and we wish you all the best with your next projects.
Interviewed by Jack Deslandes 07/03/2016.
Jack chose Edmond as his “animation staff pick” this year, see what the rest of our team went for as their favourite animated short screened at Encounters here.
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