Animators working from home
Interview with Naomi Nagata and Malgorzata Teodorovicz
Text by Josiane Keller
In my hometown of the moment, Los Angeles, the general idea of the work field of an animation artist would be employment at one of the larger studios within the Hollywood Animation industry, the job hopefully covering the rent, but otherwise prioritizing production over creative expression, at times causing frustration (as famously so with CalArts graduate director Tim Burton.) But what’s the situation like outside of the Mecca of commercial film in other parts of the world?
I interviewed two highly original animators without academic animation training working independently from home, Naomi Nagata based in Kyoto, Japan and Malgorzata Teodorovicz from Studio MAU MOTION (a couple-team together with her partner Ireneusz Maj) based in Wroclaw, Poland, both countries that gained world fame with their own individual animation culture.
Naomi Nagata: I started around 1999. I had studied Design and Illustration at Kyoto Seian College of Art and Design from 1997-2001. I had become interested in animation after watching Yuri Norstein at the theater. After that, I watched many animations at various international animation festivals, and all of them have influenced me. I started out with cut-out animation. At first I worked self taught, and then I enrolled in an animation summer school of Edinburgh College of Art in 2002, where I learned sand animation.
Malgorzata Teodorowicz: I started doing animation about five years ago (2012), I create puppet trick films. I have no training in film or photography; I studied Painting at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design in Wroclaw, graduating with a Magister Sztuki (Master of Art). My partner (Ireneusz Maj) explained to me how animation works. We are collaborating on our movies together. I am doing character and set design, choreography, cinematography and he is doing lights, camera settings, and all computer stuff. Without him I perhaps wouldn’t do animation at all, but he gave me wings.
This was a completely new possibility, like a new branch in art for me. I had been making some creatures from stones and textile and he started documenting it. When I saw them for the first time photographed we started discussing backgrounds, then building their own environments with increasingly larger parts of their worlds, so the next step became clear: that it would be great watching them moving – stop motion was the natural result. It was great fun seeing them alive for the first time, they were moving so fast!
I used to watch [Czech and Polish] animation on TV program as a child, i.e. Bolek I Lolek (Bolek and Lolek) 1963, Krecik (The Little Mole) 1956, Opowidania z Doliny Muminkov (The Moomins) 1977-82, Sąsiedzi (Pat & Mat) 1976, but now I take my inspiration from life in general and much prefer making to watching.
Naomi Nagata: I am using a Canon EOS Kiss X50. Software are Dragonframe, Adobe premiere and Adobe Photoshop. I am part of an animation collective called Animation Soup. Usually we work individually, but occasionally we collaborate on a project together; we also organize screenings or workshops. The film BORO was a co-directed by Eri Yoshimura [Animation Soup] during an artist in residence program in 2015 in a seaside town named Daisen-cho; the characters appearing are models for the inhabitants of the town where we stayed and are created from garbage that was washed ashore. Everyone was so nice to us; staying and living there, we connected with them and tried to convey our feelings through this animation. I have a special fondness for BORO.
[NN is also creating music videos and has been commissioned for several animation DVD’s by local gallery TRANCE POP in Kyoto]
For me it is more interesting working for clients than for my own pleasure; I don’t earn enough money to survive only by making animation, but my work has been shown internationally in cinemas and at festivals (i.e. Ottawa Film Festival 2015, On and On, a music video for Chicago-based Indie Rock band The Sea and Cake).
It’s a good thing that I can make animation whenever I want, but it’s a disadvantage that the shooting table requires so much space in my room. I don’t have concrete plans but I think it could be interesting one day to make an animation bigger than my own body, featuring ordinary everyday scenery etc. reflected as the background in the film.
Malgorzata Teodorowicz: Initially we experimented with different cameras and software; our first shots were done with a Nikon D80, then Canon EOS 7D, Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EOS 5D Mark III (thanks to my partner’s brother). In the beginning the best editing program seemed to us Adobe Premiere until we discovered Dragonframe, to which we are now strictly dedicated. We are working with various unprofessional lights, using everything that gives us light at home and trying out many programs and techniques. Perhaps it would be nice doing drawn animation in the future.
Whoever has seen Studio MAU MOTION’s animations that speak in a clearly developed authentic language, which expresses Zeitgeist and is yet unmistakably related to traditional Eastern European puppet trick film without any false nostalgia, might be surprised by their humbleness. But apparently even Hokusai had exclaimed on his deathbed, ‘Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.’
We are still in progress, so I have not widely shown my work or taught any workshops, but working from home is perfect for me and I don’t feel limited by it.
We have the great luck that once our family members realized we are serious, they started supporting us by helping with bills so we can fully concentrate on our work. Before that I did some waitressing and my partner was babysitting. This year I also started selling 2D work, drawings, paintings and prints in a gallery in Wroclaw, so we have a small income.
I didn’t plan to be an animator, but now doing it the goal is finishing the respective film we are working on. I like to work freely, so I don’t plan being employed or creating commercial work. You can call it ‘working for my own pleasure’.
Animation Soup – naominagata.net
Studio MAU MOTION
Malgorzata Teodorowicz and Ireneusz Maj – teodorowicz.net