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27th January 2012
Flight of fantasies
Title of film: Skyhound (Red Bull Canimation)
Director: Chloe Rodham
New Director: Chloe Rodham

A lonely old Babushka frees her collection of decoupage birds; a greyhound takes flight; an ice cream seller looks for love in a seaside haar. There’s something a little bit murky and a little bit magical about the works of Newcastle-based director Chloe Rodham. She’s just won the Red Bull Canimation competition with her film Skyhound and her recent music video 100 Other Lovers for DeVotchKa is nothing short of spellbinding. Laura Swinton caught up with the animator to find out more.

What first attracted you to animation?

I love the fact that animation allows you to involve yourself with so many creative disciplines at once. Stop motion animation particularly encompasses so many different skills, from model making to costume design, storytelling to post-production. I chose to study Animation at university because it combined so many of the crafts I was interested in.

There’s something very tactile and textured, murky yet magical about much of your work – why do you think you lean towards this kind of aesthetic?

Animation is magical in itself because it allows you to breathe life into something inanimate. The beauty of animation is that extraordinary things can happen, but I think it’s important to not get too carried away with the infinite possibilities that the technique brings!

I suppose I use murkiness to rein in the magic, but I also think that there needs to be a sufficient contrast to allow the magic to appear believable and fascinating. To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of filmmaking is the ability to submerge the viewer in a world that completely fabricated. Detail and depth are important if you want to create a cinematic feel that is tangible to the viewer. Stop motion is my favourite animation technique to work in because it is naturally tactile. There is a certain charm to handcrafted objects, especially in miniature and this naturally creates an appealing aesthetic. I find 2D computer animation work can be more challenging in some respects, because you have to work much harder to design an engaging distinctive look that is full of depth and detail.

Puppets feature quite heavily in much of your work – I can’t quite decide if it reminds me more of Eastern European animation or a very British, haunted end-of-the-pier Punch and Judy Show… How would you characterise the work you do with puppets?

I think your assessment is pretty accurate. The craft of puppet making will always be reminiscent of its traditional Eastern European origins. With the music video ‘100 Other Lovers’ for DeVotchKa it was a conscious decision to draw on Eastern European influences because of music’s styling. However, my short film ‘Sprinkles’ is a simple romantic story set at the coast and is essentially very English in both its whimsical narrative and vintage retro styling.

Which pieces of work are you proudest of and why?

I’m really proud of the music video ‘100 Other Lovers’ for DeVotchKa because it was my first commission after graduating from university, it was a bit like being thrown in at the deep end, which was daunting but also very exciting and I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

I’m also proud of ‘Skyhound’ because it was the first of my own short films completed in a purely 2D style. Being one of the winners of the competition was fantastic but I was also really pleased with it on a personal level because of the technique and textured style of the piece.