When we last spoke to illustrator and animator Hannah Jacobs, she had been plugging away at personal work and commissions but, in the two years that have since passed, a lot has changed. “The biggest change for me is that I’m now represented as a director by Strange Beast,” she tells us. “This has been huge for me, it’s opened the door to a wider variety of projects and enabled me to work with clients and briefs that I just wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be involved with, when working on my own as a director.”
While the signing has provided access to clients and collaborators (last year, she worked with Anna Ginsburg on a film for Selfridges and “it was the happiest time of my life!”), joining Strange Beast has also affected Hannah’s approach to work. Her ambition has soared as she’s now able to utilise a team of animators and a producer. “Before that, I was wearing all of those hats myself and inevitably this did end up impacting the aspiration of a project,” she says. This means that while storyboarding, Hannah now pushes ideas in directions that previously wouldn’t have been possible.
Aesthetically, Hannah’s work has always been “fluid” and hand drawn with a “slightly naive aesthetic, which I hope gives them a human and emotional touch,” she explains. Despite the rapid growth in terms of the scale of her projects, this is something the director has worked hard to hold on to. “Through practice, I’m figuring out how to combine that aesthetic with a more refined and ambitious approach to the animation,” Hannah says.
When producing work, Hannah is drawn to “emotional and sentimental themes”, often taking “a tiny moment in my own life and trying to translate that into a drawing and hoping that it resonates with others too.” Although not her own experience, a project Hannah cites as a recent favourite is First Kiss, produced for TED-Ed. Based on a poem by Tim Siebles, the animated short was part of the There’s a poem for that series.
Hannah explains: “I decided to use Picasso and Matisse as a starting point, taking that abstract and cut-out aesthetic and applying it to animation. The poem itself has a lovely repetition and rhythm to it, and I wanted the film to reflect that, so it’s all animated in one continuous flowing shot, each scene effortlessly morphing and transiting into the next. I had total creative freedom, so I was really able to just let loose and go as abstract and surreal as I wanted.”
As it happens, surrealism is a theme at play in the work Hannah is currently most excited about. Having not worked on a personal film since she was at the RCA six years ago, she is carving out time between commercial jobs to create a new short film. The film will weave together two slightly different styles, “which is a totally new approach for me,” to create something “super stripped back, thinking about shape and form and what you can tell with really simple lines or suggestions of objects.” Through this, a surreal story will emerge, creating a dreamlike feel to the story but hopefully without compromising the heart of the narrative. As she puts it, “I’m really excited to explore and push more surreal ideas with this piece.”
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