Sunday, 3 June 2007

Till Nowak

This is the tenth 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. James' will be posted there next week.

James Cooper interviews Till Nowak

Imagine you had to summarise the essential meaning of "Delivery" in a short sentence what would it say?
DELIVERY is the expression of my feeling of powerlessness in a polluted and corrupt world and about the importance of everyone’s individual decision on the way to the utopia of a major change. Well, but it's an utopia - which means it’s an abstract hope, like a dream...

We see a lot of animations from the USA but not from Germany? Are there any animators we are missing and is animation a major interest, either commercial or recreational, in your country?
Yes there are. Of course as a German I see many German animations and there are definitely some highlights: check out the two oscar nominated stop motion shorts "The Wheel" ("Das Rad") and "Balance", which is a little older. To mention just some highlights of the last 2 years check out "Our man in nirvana" from Jan Köster, "Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen and Mr. Horlocker" from Stefan Müller, "458nm" by T. Weber, J. Bitzer and I. Brunck and many many others I can not remember right now. But in fact there is a lot going on with animation in Germany. We even have several animated feature films produced in Germany every year.

Looking back, are there any changes you would like to make to Delivery? If so, what are they?
I think I would have made the music in the final climax, when the giant flower appears, less drippy and a little less dramatic. For me this moment is a bit too much "Hollywood emotions." And of course there are many small things, but I got used to them like to the individual aspects of any human.

"Delivery" is a remarkable movie for one person to make - many similar quality movies we see in class are made by teams of people. You changed career to work freelance. You say you are happier working alone but can you create the sort of work you wish single-handedly? For example a major feature animation?
It's difficult to find a way somewhere between being an artist or being a manager. Until now I absolutely enjoyed the freedom to work like an artist, not to share my canvas with anybody, have the full control over my vision and work very effectively without having to discuss anything with anybody. But on the other hand I know that I will change this attitude one day for the possibility of bigger projects. This doesn't mean that I am not able to work in teams, I did this often in my commercial productions or at university, it's just a deliberate decision regarding my personal independent productions. And I first want to experience every aspect of a production on my own, because after I made my own experience in every part like music, lighting, animation, design, etc. I can begin to give away more and more responsibility. For example DELIVERY was the first production where I didn't produce the music on my own, so this is a first step to including other people.

Do think that anyone can learn to be an animator, or do you think that you have to be born with a bit of creativity in you?
I think anyone can learn it, but it definitely makes it easier the earlier you start. I didn't have anything to do with animation for many years when I turned 16 and made my first steps with CGI. But then - after a couple of years - I realized that I had done many stop motion films when I was 5-8 years old, with a camera my father gave me. I had forgotten that I played with the camera so much as a child, but now I am sure that this already was the root of my today's work.

Did you see any other animations that inspired you to do this animation?
No, not specifically. I was always extremely impressed by live action films so I think the mood and camera work in my animation is based on live action films, not on animations. For example Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Charles Chaplin or Jacques Tati are some of my favorite Directors. They all have a great sense for design and the mood I love - I would call it the "twilight mood".

Does your style of work and ability to create an entirely futuristic world lend itself more to science fiction than everyday life?
Maybe what you see in such futuristic and crazy visual ideas are just the thoughts and feelings of people in everyday life. I mean, I love Star Wars and other science fiction films, but for my own stories and designs I think there is always a relationship to the world I live in.

We have just completed our own satire animations. Your movie is a satire about destroying the worst effects of industrialization. What other targets for your "attacks" might you choose?
I am not sure if my work must be satire or social criticism, but on the other hand I am thinking about topics like war and weapons, megalomania and colliding aspects of our world and fantasies in general.

What was the most difficult effect to create in the whole movie?
The old man was the first character I ever animated, so this was the most difficult part. The moment when the city is shifted off the ground was also a bit difficult, but overall nothing is as difficult as finding a good story to tell.

The background music was very important. Can you tell me something about it?
When I began the production I thought I could use some existing classical music, but I realised soon that there was no way around music specifically produced for the short film. Luckily I made contact with the brothers Andreas and Matthias Hornschuh and they were amazed with the first pictures I showed them. They started to work on an exactly timed animatic so they could match their work exactly to my editing.

I have seen other shorter animations by you as well as your reel. Some of them are almost real. What can animation do that film cannot?
Animation is much more flexible and easier to manage, especially when we are talking about scenes heavily loaded with effects, but on the other hand I still love the flair of real built models like in the old Star Wars or Alien movies. For me the most powerful aspect of animation is that there is almost nothing between my brain and the result - I can realize it directly without needing millions of dollars or people. It's again one of these difficult decisions, because both sides have strong and weak points.

How do you view the main character? Was the man doing a good deed or evil when he changed the world?
I hope it's obvious that the man is not evil. It was important for me to make clear that nobody gets harmed and no destruction happens to the city, but - as I mentioned - it's a utopia and a metaphor which includes that "good" or "evil" is not often that easy in our real world.

What do you think are the best aspects of your animation style?
To me it's important to feel the "air" in the digital space. I like things like noise, flicker, dirt, fog, blooming or scratches to achieve a rough and organic impression of the visuals. In my personal impression many animations are too clean and too sterile. From a technical point of view the best aspect may be the effectiveness of my workflows. I have developed some very strange and cheaty workflows which are far away from the professional 3D techniques, but for me this was the key to free my ideas. Hopefully I will be able to publish a step-by-step-tutorial about this on my website soon.

Projecting into the future ten years from now, what do you expect to be doing?
That's what I ask myself every day. After working for creative agencies for the last 7 years and the changes DELIVERY brought to my life I see myself now searching for new orientation. I am very passionate about thrilling and emotional feature films for cinema and on the other hand I want to do more free and stylish media art like experimental films or video installations.

Your style seems to us very suitable for television commercials. Is this a road you wish to travel?
After many years working for the advertising industry I am hoping to get a couple of years now without trying to sell any product in any supermarket. I would love it more to see my style in music videos for example.

Your English is excellent. How much does your work require you to speak the language?
All the research and communication in the internet made me use written English almost every day, but the best practice for my English came through all the travelling to film festivals during the last years. And on the other hand you may only THINK my English is good because my girlfriend always corrects my interviews - she was living in London for a while.

Thanks a lot for your interest and all the best for your animated dreams!

Till's website is
His work has been previewed on our Movie of the Week

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