I was delighted to get in touch with Victoria Mathers, a very talented multimedia artist (illustrator, animator, graphics designer, filmmaker) who’s debut short film animation has gained over 82 thousand views on Vimeo alone and been a big hit at film festivals worldwide. Here, she tells us a bit more about this success and how she got started out in the creative industries.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you do as an art director and illustrator?
I have art directed Children’s TV series and Illustrated various things mainly in development so I can’t really talk about them – how boring I know!
What influenced you to take this career path, any noteworthy directors, designers?
When I was 17, I got my first job on a feature film working for Art Director Brian Savegar (Dinosaurs, A Room with a View) at Ealing Studios. He taught me a lot and the experience definitely sparked my interest in the industry early on. The crew encouraged me to go to university, so I took their advice.
You come from a background in art and design; did this lend itself to your interest in film?
Yes absolutely, I always did painting, photography and illustration. I also loved short stories and did a bit of animation. To be honest, I was interested in most forms of creative expression and craft. Naturally animation made a lot of sense to me since it combines all of these things.
Your short film, Stanley Pickle, has achieved 33 notable awards to date. Were you expecting the film to be this incredibly successful?
At the time it was a relief to complete everything and I was more concerned with actually getting it selected for festivals, since the technique I had decided to use falls between live action and animation. I therefore thought we might run in to issues trying to clarify it. When we won our first prize after premiering at Edinburgh International Film Festival the ball started rolling and it didn’t stop; now the film is available in up to 7000 schools in the UK and abroad via the British Council. After our epic festival run it really is the best result ever.
How did the project and this extraordinary idea come about?
The idea came up a year before film school and was a loosely developed story intended as a 3-minute stop motion puppet film. After a year at film school I realized that this project, with the right crew, could be something much bigger and more interesting. From here, I was luckily in the right place at the right time.
The technique was something I had experimented with prior to making Stanley Pickle. It made perfect sense to use pixilation since it lends itself to that clockwork feel perfectly.
Can you explain a bit about the process you had to go through in achieving this spectacular stop-motion animation?
My brief to the actors was – ‘think of this like a very long and slightly painful Yoga session.’ The actors, who were all very well trained, held each position a frame at a time with direction from me. Occasionally, with the parent characters, we had an assistant run in to the shot and move the clockwork keys a frame at a time.
How many animators were involved?
Me for the most part, but I hired my friend, Andy Biddle, who was working on Fantastic Mr. Fox to do the bird flying animation. A couple of other friends did some standby running in and out of shots to move objects. There was a lot going on, so we needed quite a few members of crew running around.
Do you have any more of your own projects in the firing line, a feature film perhaps?
We have written a feature version of Stanley Pickle, but that still needs a lot of work. I’ve made a few commercials and another very quick turnaround short live action film that was a new insightful experience. At the moment I intend to just keep on keeping on!
Any advice you’d want to give to upcoming filmmakers, designers (all artists alike) on the current state of this creative industry? Any tips?
Make sure you can afford it. It’s not the most economical profession and you really do have to love it to live it. The opportunity to tell a story (which I believe we all have in us) is an excellent one, and the more people who express themselves in this way, the more we can all learn from each other.
Visit Victoria’s website for her portfolio and more about what she does.
Watch Stanley Pickle below: