This is the fifth in our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website. Laura's interview will be posted when we return to school for the Summer Term.
Laura Ballinger interviews Joanna Davidovich
Joanna Davidovich is an animator from the USA. She made a film called “Juxtaposer” as a student and also created an informative website to go with the film. The film is about a girl who is lonely and sits on a park bench with a cat. Little dramas occur all around her although she herself is not involved. It makes her look and feel lonely. Suddenly a rather savage cat decides to sit beside her and life discovers meaning. In my interview I asked Joanna if she was a loner at college and if the animation reflects her. Well you will have to read on to find out! Joanna is a talented animator. All of her drawings are so very stylish. We also discover Joanna is to work for the BBC. Thanks again, Joanna, and I hope you like reading the interview.
Joanna: Hi Laura! Thanks for the interesting questions - I'll do my best to answer them all.
Laura: Because I come from the UK some of your terminology is a bit strange to me - I'm a bit confused about school and college types in the states - so this may be a dumb question but at what age did you start animating and why choose that particular subject?
Joanna: In America, our primary education consists of elementary school, then middle/junior high school, then high school. Our secondary education is usually a college or university, but can also be vocational school, junior college and the like. Arts education is generally weak in our public schools, and since animation is a very specialized artform, prospective animators will not have the opportunity to take classes until college level. I began my legitimate animation classes at 19 - in my third year of college. (The fact you're 15 and already taking animation classes is wonderful! You're getting quite a head start.) I had decided to study animation when I was 10, so choosing my educational paths wasn't too difficult.
Laura: What form does your training for animation take or did you just take the course at your school as part of your overall studies like I do?
Joanna: My college offered an entire major dedicated to animation- it was why I decided to go there.
Laura: In my animations class there are lots of boys and only seven girls including me. Why do you think that girls don't take as must interest in animation as boys?
Joanna: I don't think that’s true. I went to school with plenty of girls who were interested in animation. I think the historic disproportion of women animators is due more to a lack of opportunity (and sometimes outright refusal) for women to enter the certain careers. It was a horrible trend that is now thankfully considered archaic. But the appeal of animation isn't gender-specific at all.
Laura: What software do you use in your animation work?
Joanna: Erhm- I'm still experimenting with good ways to produce animation. It all starts off on paper- the software comes when I need to color it and make it look presentable as a final product. Juxtaposer was colored in Photoshop, but I'm looking into utilizing Flash as an ink/paint program.
Laura: Did you draw your work out first and scan the drawings or was it all done on screen?
Joanna: I draw everything first.
Laura: Why did you make Juxtaposer? Did it have anything to do with how you were feeling at the time of making it?
Joanna: It was my student thesis film. Honestly- I developed the story around the idea of a girl with a cat on her head.
Laura: In Juxtaposer the girl is very much alone. Are you a loner at college with nothing to do save for animating? (I'm sure you're not!)
Joanna: I was actually at my social peak in college. I had more friends in college than I ever had in high school, but I still didn't go out very much. Animation takes a great deal of labor, and it got priority over social concerns because it was, after all, the reason I was in school. Suffice it to say, yes- I know what it is to be lonely, but Juxtaposer was by no means a cry for help.
Laura: One of the most difficult things I do in animation is to get the character to walk. You seem to manage this quite easily. How did you do it?
Joanna: Well, walk cycles aren't easy. They're actually some of the most difficult things to animate because there is a veritable ballet of secondary motion and response actions in every frame of a good walk cycle. The secondary characters walk cycles in Juxtaposer were admittedly limited animation (I had some time constraints and had to cut corners) but I'm flattered that you liked them. I just tried to simplify the action as much as possible without losing the appeal. It was constant experimentation.
Laura: What was the most difficult thing you had to do in your animation other than hit the deadlines?
Joanna: The tedious things like clean-ups, inking, scanning, and coloring. If I could make a respectable film with just rough animation, I'd do it.
Laura: You had all sorts of voices on your animation plus other helpers. Was this very much a team effort?
Joanna: I did have help with the voices (some classmates), the sound design (a friend), and the scanning/coloring process (my boyfriend). I wouldn't call it a team effort though, because I didn't delegate any responsibility. The story, design, and animation were all done by me, and I was hands-on involved in the other aspects as well. So it was an individual effort, but I had help.
Laura: What tips would you give to anyone who wanted to become an animator?
Joanna: Draw. Draw. Draw.
Laura: Are there any reasons as to why you wanted to become an animator? Do you think your full time career will be, or is, in animation?
Joanna: I like to draw cartoons. I think I always will. I'm currently employed as an animator for TV commercials.
Laura: Have you received any awards or any recognition for animating? If so what?
Joanna: Yes- I have an obnoxious list which I will cut and paste:
September Shorts Film Fest [Millville, NJ] Sept 2006 : RISING STAR AWARD
Blue Plum Animation Fest [Johnson City, TN] June 2006 : BEST STUDENT, BEST IN SHOW
Hi Mom! Film Festival [Chapel Hill, NC] June 2006 : HONORABLE MENTION
ASIFA East Animation Fest [New York, NY] May 2006: 2nd PLACE STUDENT ANIMATION
Roma Int'l Film Festival [Rome, ITALY] April 2006 : BEST SHORT ANIMATION
George Lindsay UNA Film Festival [Florence, AL] March 06 : BEST STUDENT ANIMATION
Foursite Film Festival [Ogden City, UT] [Ogden City, UT] March 2006 : BEST ANIMATION
Fargo Film Festival [Fargo, ND] March 2006 : HONORABLE MENTION
Smogdance Film Festival [Pomona, CA] Jan 2006 : HONORABLE MENTION
Zion International Film Festival [Springdale, UT] Oct 2005 : BEST ANIMATION
Angelus Awards [Hollywood, CA] Oct 2005 : FINALIST
WestFest Short Film Festival [Abilene, TX] Oct 2005 : OUTSTANDING ANIMATION AWARD San Diego Girl Film Festival [San Diego, CA] Oct 2005 : AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD
International Family Film Festival [Santa Clarita, CA] Sept 2005 : FINALIST
Black Earth Film Festival [Galesburg, IL] Sept 2005 : BEST ANIMATION
Of course, these aren't exactly Annecy or Ottowa and I didn't even make it to the Regional Student Academy Awards, but it was more than I expected for my little film.
Laura: Are there any particular animators you particularly admire?
Joanna: Ooooh, a great many. There are the classic animation directors like Chuck Jones and his unit, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Ward Kimball, Freddie Moore, Norman McClaren- Today there's Glen Keane, Joanna Quinn, Don Herdzfelt, Pat Smith, Bill Plympton, and basically anyone industrious to complete a film has my admiration as well.
Laura: Have you any other animations being prepared?
Joanna: I do - I was commissioned to animate the main title to a sketch comedy show on the BBC. Actually - I should be working on it right now. It’s a beast of a deadline and I've had a block for the past....erhm, three months.
Laura: Have you got a photograph or image of yourself I can use to illustrate the interview?
Joanna: Here’s the headshot I used for the festival stuff. Thanks again for these great questions! I feel so important now.
Laura: You feel important! I feel honoured to have all my questions answered so quickly. Working for our own BBC! We are impressed.
Joanna’s website is http://juxtaposer.cupojo.net/