Animation director Vicky Mather

LONDON, UK – Animation director Vicky Mather has recently graduated from the prestigious National Film and Television school with her recently finished film Stanley Pickle premiering at the BFI. Vicky has a wide range of experiences including working for the Channel 4 art department.

Vicky’s work is colourful, humorous, and shows her passion in animation and visual technique using stop motion. Her creative ideas show a unique ability, and an exceptional eye for detail. Some of her influences include Terry Gilliam, the Marx Brothers and the James Bond franchise. Vicky is currently submitting Stanley Pickle to festivals around the world.

Interview with Vicky Mather

Iain: How did you first start out as an animation director?

Vicky: I first started out as an animation director just over two years ago when I received Leverhulme Scholarship and a CTBF award to attend the Animation Direction MA course at the National Film and Television School at Beaconsfield Film Studios in the UK. (http://www.nftsfilm-tv.ac.uk)

Prior to attending the NFTS, I studied fine art at Kingston University, making little animations here and there; I never really knew what to do with them and had little guidance to point me in the right direction.

I then worked as a photographer/ illustrator/ designer/ stylist and costume maker, across the Music, Fashion, Film and TV industries. I had a number of clients asking me to direct music videos, this was something I wanted to do but didn’t quite know where to start.

After a couple of years, I felt sidetracked from the film industry; I stood back to take a good look at my work. Upon evaluating my skills, animation, and directing in particular made perfect sense to me.

It was a case of things falling in to place when I came across the NFTS, at the time I happened to be writing an animation for fun with my friend Keaton Henson (http://www.keatonhenson.com), and I decided randomly to attend an open day at the school. I was instantly hooked and managed to make it through the selection process.

During my two years there, I can honestly say I have had the best experiences of my entire life, I am leaving with a strong body of work, I’ve worked with some of the best new talent and I’ve learned from all my film and animation heroes- I mean, I had lunch with Ray Harryhausen, he’s an animation legend!!

Iain: What attracted you to this side of filmmaking?

Vicky: Inventive thinking.

Growing up watching Betty Boop cartoons, Bagpuss, Terry Gilliam, the Marx Brothers and James Bond with my dad, the stop motion terror dogs in Ghostbusters had a profound effect on me as a child.

I’m interested in craft based design and observing the concentrated energy within a hand made object or in a painting, animation is much the same, it holds a certain magic. My parents are very inventive and craft orientated, my fathers workshop itself is a hive of activity, he s always inventing something, which inevitably ends up in one of my mothers oil paintings.

I was lucky to have had early experiences as a teenager, mainly in the art department on live action features, shorts and a comedy sitcom for Channel 4. I’ve always felt at home on set, and enjoy the thrill of working with a bunch of strong talent to creatively realize a vision.

I enjoy live action a lot, however, I have a different connection to animation, it takes inventiveness to a whole new level. Ultimately, as animators we can breath life and character in to inanimate objects, the surreal nature of this fascinates me and it means anything is possible.

Iain: How did you make your recent film Stanley Pickle ?

Vicky: I had a core crew of 11 from the NFTS: writer, producer, DOP, production designer, editor, composer, sound designer, SFX and VFX. I recruited some external crew who had just finished working on Fantastic Mr Fox and many other talented and experienced individuals. We were lucky enough to have a budget and access to industry standard equipment thus enabling us to technically achieve something of a professional quality.

After a couple of month’s pre production, we shot half of the film on two large sets, a kitchen and bedroom. We shot the other half in two locations in the surrounding area, a beautiful beech tree forest and a large long grass field with rolling hills in the background.

The entire film was shot using Dragon stop motion software, this worked very well for the DOP John Lee (http://www.johnleedop.com) and I, since there is a cinematography function. This meant John could control the camera from the computer, then switch over to the animation window when it was time for me to shoot. This meant we had a clear dialogue between us at all times. We used a Canon EOS 40D stills camera, and shot pixilation frame by frame, like you would shoot stop motion, only with people. We later composited a miniature house and a stop motion puppet bird, shot on green screen and animated by Andy Biddle.

The first actor I cast was our lead Drew Caiden, not only did he look like my character drawings, he had an uncanny ability for pixilation and amazing control over his movement. All four actors were put through physically exhausting shots, some of which took over an hour to shoot. Try and break down a facial expression in to 12 separate movements, it s not easy!

We had the luxury of a post-production team and spent some time colour grading, this was particularly important for John and I to achieve the look I was going for.

It was a complicated, challenging and extremely good experience and one I don’t think any of us will forget since I feel every member of cast and crew genuinely committed to the project and cared about it.

Since we premiered on the 26th of February we are getting some fantastic and rewarding feedback!

For any further information do visit our freshly built website (thanks to Patrick Hearn): http://www.stanleypicklemovie.com

Stanley Pickle Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HZuwc4Hrn8

Iain: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should know about?

Vicky: I graduated a few weeks ago after our premier at the BFI, and now I am working on promoting Stanley Pickle and sending him to festivals to see how he does!

I am eager to start developing new projects! I want to develop my own stories, make music videos, documentary animation, commercials and I am particularly interested in how film is being used in the fashion industry at the moment.

Iain: What would be your advice to people looking to work in animation?

Vicky: Based on my experience as a director: Be original; make films that you want to watch.

Check out the Animation Department at the NFTS: http://www.nftsanimation.org

Henry Selick’s advice to us was

“You don’t need to sleep, you need to make something great.”

Find out more about Vicky : vickymather.co.uk

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