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15th February 2012
Animal crackers
Title of film: MTV's Liquid Television
Director: Julia Pott
Production Company: Hornet Inc.
Julia Pott wins at Clermont Ferrand and hooks us with valentine charm for MTV

Ok we know Valentine’s Day was so yesterday but just take a look at this animation from Julia Pott which she zipped over to us during an interview about her win at Clermont Ferrand short film festival for her film Belly (see related content). It made us s-m-i-l-e and may continue to do so for some time yet.

Belly has just won Prix Canal+ in the Labo competition at Clermont Ferrand short film festival. Were you there in the -16 conditions to pick up your award? Is it currently orbiting around the festival circuit?

Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to make it over there as I was in the -10 degree weather at Sundance. I so wish I could have been there, I have yet to receive an award in real life – but that’s probably for the best because I would probably give a very rambling acceptance speech. It is still travelling around the festivals yes, next stop SXSW in March which I’m super excited for.

You packed up and moved to New York from London in October to join Hornet. Is it a case of homesick blues or does it feel like home already?

My mom is from New York so I have a lot of family here, and being in the city reminds me of being a kid in the summer so there is a sense of familiarity here. When I went home for the holidays it really hit home how much I miss my family and friends but it’s not SO so far away and luckily New York is the kind of place people like to visit you in! I just this month started really putting my feet down here, and finally committed to buying a sofa and a desk and more importantly lots of ridiculous trinkets and prints to adorn my house with.

What have you been working on since the move?

I have just finished a Valentine’s Day Viral for MTV’s Liquid Television which is premiering on Hello Giggles on February 14th. It’s based on musings about what people thought ‘doing it’ was before they knew for sure. I also painted a mural in Texas back in December which is a fun experience (see related content). In between I have been doing quite a bit of travelling for festivals, which is not too bad at all!

Your work features animal-like characters with wonderfully insightful human attributes. What comes first – the role or how the character looks?

The role of the characters comes first. What is most important to me in a piece of work is that a very specific sensation comes across. The little anthropomorphic characters are employed to help that happen.

When did you realise you wanted to be an animator? Were there tell-tale signs from your childhood?

My mom always tells me she knew I would be an artist because I never asked for the name of the book, I would always describe it based on its colour and pattern. I don’t think that says much about my artistic abilities so much as my bad memory. I was a pretty keen drawer though and my mom did encourage that. I would draw my bad dreams, we would write a children’s book together at night about a scuba diving secret agent and whenever anyone asked I would tell them I wanted to work for Disney. So I guess the urge has always been there. There was a brief period of time, after I saw the Addam’s Family, that I wanted to be an actress – but I was painfully shy and god awful at acting.

Your work is intricate and complicated – does it take you forever to complete a piece of work?

It varies from piece to piece in terms of my illustration work. I approach it like an elaborate doodle and can happily spend hours pouring over the same drawing. Animations however are always a long-term commitment. I’m always working to deadlines though which helps me make snap decisions rather than humming and ha-ing for days over whether the elephant’s t-shirt should be red or yellow (you know – the really big life questions).

Do you work in a routine fashion remembering to eat and sleep or do projects tend to take over your life?

When I am working on a short film or music video it’s pretty much total lock down. I become a real hermit but I get a kick out of it. I employ routines to make everything a bit easier – everything is scheduled in but pretty much the only thing on the schedule is animating and eating.
Like most animators I know, when a big project is on 8am until 4am becomes a constant relationship with a lightbox, very rarely leaving the house or standing up. You know you’re working towards something you’re passionate about though so it’s not a struggle – and you really earn the time off when it’s all over.

What did studying for your Masters at the RCA bring to your animation? And what were the key lessons you learnt there?

I learnt a heck of a lot at the RCA. Before going there I had only made one short film and then gone straight into working as a full time animation director, but on jobs which didn’t force me to look at story structure, character development or script writing. I thought if I kept going on that way my work would start to suffer so I took the two years out to focus on my own stuff. It was a big eye opener. Things I had never really addressed before turned out to be real weaknesses. Script writing was a big one and my new film Belly is my first entirely scripted narrative film and I’m so glad I tackled it.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about making films?

Every film teaches me a new lesson about how I work and what comes more easily to me, but every time the lesson seems to be to push myself, try something new, and if it’s a horrific disappointment it doesn’t matter because playing it safe is never as satisfying.

Do you write your own scripts? Where do your ideas come from and how do you develop them?

Belly was my first entirely scripted piece. My first short film, My First Crush was based on interviews with people about their experiences with love and Howard was part scripted and part based on an anonymous letter written to the Guardian. All of my ideas manifest themselves from something I am obsessed with at the time, based on my circumstances. With Howard I was intrigued by the idea of how most relationships end, not due to any fault on either side, but because the love just peters out. I usually tap into a sadness in myself and then use the film to pull it apart and add humor to it. It sounds a bit dramatic when I write it down but it’s a very enjoyable process.

With the upcoming move to New York, where I spent most of my summers as a child, I became wrapped up in coming of age stories. I started watching films like the Goonies, Harold and Maude, Stand by Me and then focused in on the concept of leaving something behind. You grow out of the lack of responsibility and curiosity you feel as a child, but you can still feel the sensation in the pit of your stomach.

How do relax after completing a project?

When I’m in the midst of a project I tend to spout on and on about how I’m going to take three months off, do nothing, ebay everything I own and really make an effort to get out there and hang out with my friends. But about one week in I’m back on the lightbox working on something new. So I guess I relax after a big project by starting a new one. When I’m not drawing though I’m a big movie goer and I like going dancing with friends who acknowledge that bad ridiculous dancing is much better than good. It’s great for blowing off steam.