Anna Ginsburg’s latest short is an unlikely ode to the random joy of public transport
Digging out a phone recording of a chance encounter on the bus a few months ago, Anna’s new short is joyfully nostalgic for a public transport journey.
- 27 May 2020
- Lucy Bourton
- Reading Time
- 3 minutes
The Old Kent Road (when on a bus) is often literal hell. We’re not alone in this feeling, as animator Anna Ginsburg describes it as “a wretched journey... always heaving and hot," following a rhythm that’s a “crawl and creep up the huge concrete overpass, onto the four-lane traffic on a never-ending long hell hole of a road”. Now, however, the chances of taking that trip are very unlikely. And, even though a part of the day most often dreaded, we’re funnily enough feeling a certain fond nostalgia for a sticky, sweaty journey across London.
It’s this feeling that Anna had recently, finding a recording from a few months ago on her phone where a chance encounter happened on this very road: “A woman got on the stop after me. She was singing Just the Two of Us as she climbed aboard,” the animator tells us. “She sang very slowly and serenely as if she was floating above us all, sweating and swaying and squashed. She sat down next to me and closed her eyes to continue her rendition. My whole body began to relax and my head started to feel all tingly. She sang it non-stop for 30 minutes, and I entered a dreamy trance.”
As Anna got closer to her stop, she “snapped out of this blissful state” and thought to record a snippet of the woman singing. She felt no desire to animate it, it was just a little nugget of treasure, a reminder of how odd daily things can often make you smile – even when you’re stuck on a bus. “I love the recording,” adds Anna. “Her voice is so mellow and joyful. I find her total oblivion to her stressful surroundings mesmerising.”
Anna listened to the recording a few times, noticing other layers such as “the accompaniments of recognisable bus sounds,” like the familiar TFL ding or tannoy voice, deciding to begin some initial character sketches. “During lockdown, I began to appreciate the recording in a different way,” she continues, describing its meaning as taking on an understandable shape of its own, gaining “a poignancy I didn’t anticipate.”
Missing these kinds of “entertaining and uplifting encounters with strangers… and even slightly missing public transport (especially people watching on the bus),” Anna became more motivated to animate the sound bite during lockdown. The result is a 50-second film, which somehow feels much longer due to Anna’s detail. Each character on the bus is totally different, with varying illustrative styles drawing out differences like features and even haircuts. Expression, as with all Anna’s work, jumps across each character’s face in a way that allows you to notice something new upon each watch – particularly in those classic Londoner eye rolls.
It also demonstrates Anna pushing herself out of her comfort zone slightly too. For instance, normally her films feature no cuts, instead choosing for shots to morph and pan, “zooming in and out as one long transition,” she explains. “This film is more traditional in structure and is a series of cuts.” Anna’s work on the backgrounds is also a relatively new task for her, explaining how other work usually utilises action as “the focal point which often unfolds in blank space,” she says. Simple in some parts, and far more complicated in others, the golden quality of the recording drove the creative process, not wanting anything to “detract from the simplicity of the recording, the character studies and the atmosphere of the environment.”
The finished short, aptly named Just the Two of Us, honestly had us welling up slightly at its ability to induce nostalgia for something that was so familiar just a few weeks ago. At a time where there’s really quite a lot to dislike about being in London, being in the UK in general, and the absolute mess of our government, it shows a snippet of what daily joy we will have to look forward to again – even though undoubtedly wherever we are in the world, public transport won’t be an experience sought after. “I’m from London and there’s a lot I hate about it,” adds Anna on this subject. “I hate being stuck in someone’s sweaty armpit, unable to even take my rucksack off without elbowing an old woman in the groin. But, listening to this recording every day for weeks made me feel nostalgic for the bustling hum of the city. A hum which is currently not possible.”
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.