There’s something enchanting about the worlds that Julia Pott creates in both her illustrated and animated work. She weaves thoughtful narratives into the lives of charmingly surreal characters by drawing inspiration from the unlikeliest sources. There’s an instant connection with Julia’s work and it’s probably because she lives what she creates by immersing herself in the intricacies of each project she works on – and it pays off, because since gradating last year from the RCA with an MA in Animation she’s had a whirlwind year.
Having upped sticks to New York, she is now represented by New York based firm, Hornet as well as being part of Treat Collective. Producing a range of commissions including Toyota, Bat for Lashes and MTV’s Liquid Television, Julia has also been awarded twice (Best European Student Film at Holland Animation Film Festival and the Canal Plus Award at Clermont Film Festival) for her beautiful short film, Belly (trailer above), which tells the tale of Oscar coming to terms with growing up and leaving things behind.
Hi Julia. What do you think the secret to a really great animation is?
It really depends what mood you’re in – I always think story is the key to all good entertainment and aesthetics second, but it can be so satisfying to watch beautiful pencil animation with really well-done sound effects and no real narrative thread. For me if something can be funny and weird and strike a nerve deep down inside me it doesn’t matter what it looks like, but chances are it will look awesome because rarely someone is a genius at story with no aesthetic style.
How has your style developed since graduating last year?
Everything has happened so quickly since I graduated it could have been yesterday. I moved to New York shortly after finishing at the Royal College and have been travelling every month since then to different festivals or talks so my brain is a little bit fried. This might account for all the bones and teeth i’ve been drawing.
My work is definitely going in a more eerie direction and I’ve been watching a lot of Max Fleischer and Buffy. I am also incorporating a lot more live action into my work, and I just came back from a shoot in Montauk for my next project.
How do you dive into a new project?
Every time I start a new project I completely forget how the last one came about. It seems like I just got the idea in a flash of inspiration on the subway and then spent the next few months having animation flow out of my pencil while I laughed along to the radio. I always forget about the beginning bit where all my ideas are god awful and I seriously look into opening a bakery.
I keep a diary full of book quotes, images and my own writing so if I am starting from scratch I usually start by reading through that. Although it’s tempting to just stay indoors and brainstorm during the beginning stages I try and go out and keep my brain active as much as possible, going to see movies that relate to the subject, going to museums, talking to friends. In an ideal world I’d spend a year on the development of an idea and a few months on the animation because to me it’s the most important part.
“I always forget about the beginning bit where all my ideas are god awful and I seriously look into opening a bakery.”
You’re speaking at Pictoplasma this month, any nerves about speaking publicly about your work?
I used to be a big ball of nerves. I brought my parents to my first talk in Amsterdam and afterwards my mom said: “You look down too much and say ‘um’ way too often.” This was weirdly helpful and I realised no one wants to see someone on stage scared out of their mind. Whenever I go to see someone speak I am usually pretty familiar with their work and it’s just nice to hear them telling stories from behind-the-scenes that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. I spoke again in Mexico last year and my friend Matt said it was like listening to story time from your Grandma because I tried that approach instead. But yes, I’m very nervous!
Belly has received two awards now, what does it mean to you for your work to be recognised in this way?
It means so so much. When you’re sitting in your studio, which is also your bedroom and your dining room for eight months straight and your friends stop calling you three months in you wonder if it’s going to be worth it. You start to worry if the thing you’re making is even going to make sense to anyone other than you, because you lost your mind back in January. When it first screened at the Royal College and people were laughing at the right bits it was one of the best feelings in the world.
Anything exciting you’re working on right now?
I just started working on a short film for Channel 4 about the end of the world told in reverse and I’m really excited about it. It’s a combination of live action and animation and definitely hits the eerie romance genre I’m obsessed with at the moment.