Sofia Negri’s animated documentary The Skatebook incorporates live action and sketchbook scenes

The London-based animator’s short gets its online premiere. In this interview she recounts the stresses and triumphs of the process.

11 March 2024


When Sofia Negri was growing up in Italy, you could often find her immersed in her coastal hometown near Venice and the arts, chiefly dancing and drawing. “Animation for me, is the combination of these two arts, and when I realised that, I knew I found the thing I would do for the rest of my life,” she tells us. She soon moved to London after completing school to embark on a ‘serious’ animation course, “since in my hometown ‘animators’ are just people who entertain kids on the beach and poolside”, she adds. And after creating a run of films at university and continuing after graduation, the animator’s main hope is to “keep crafting visuals, characters and silly dances for a long time”.

In her latest film, The Skatebook Sofia takes on a documentary style, capturing the skateboarding scene in London. She was first welcomed into the community by a friend in 2021, who reminded her of her time rubbing elbows with skaters in her hometown. “I became their photographer slash videographer for a few years, so I already had a sweet attachment to that world,” she tells us. While she was learning to skateboard, she also became accustomed to the banter, the various bruises from falling and the breakthroughs associated with every achievement. For Sofia, the best way to translate these feelings was through the upkeep of a skate sketchbook, where she created “little animations, inspired by my failures” that she eventually decided to pair with conversations she was having with people at her local skate park.


Sofia Negri: The Skatebook (Copyright © Sofia Negri, 2022)

After sitting on the idea and initial animations for a while, Sofia decided to pitch it to the Roundhouse Film Fund as a part of its 2022 entry. She was soon awarded a grant, and a short period of just three months to bring it to life. With the desire to maintain the style of a “bedroom film” she used a plethora of old materials that she found around her: unused sketchbooks, pencils, an old gifted ink pen that would have otherwise continued to gather dust. This approach lends itself to a film that both explores the mind of a skater and the workings of a community, with equal candour; the narrative flies from her page, straight to one of London’s most popular skate parks. This approach is powerful throughout as the animator creates a 360 view of the camaraderie that elevates skateboarding beyond a sport, employing her playful drawings and sketches when needed, and in other places, live action.

For Sofia, the aim of the game was to ensure that mixed media was put to use in an efficient way. In the making of the film, she also used archive footage of Southbank’s legendary but infamously crowded skating area, “kindly handed to me by Winstan Whitter, an amazing filmmaker”. While creating, she found challenges with the tight deadline – again just 90 days – alongside a minute budget. “I couldn’t really pay a team to help me, so all I can do is really give a shoutout to those who helped me to colour in all the thousands of pages that make up the film,” she tells us.

On the first day of the project, Sofia spilt a pint of water on her laptop, putting it out of use for a few days. Deciding that she had no time to waste, she opted to animate the first scene of the film on paper. And after realising that she liked the look, she decided to stick to paper for all of its animated scenes. That’s the gift that’s given us her idiosyncratic visual style, such as the scene with a big paper puppet in the background of a skate park behind a burgeoning child skater in its foreground. The Skatebook is not only about the beauty of finding your community in skating, but the power of the creative silver lining.

GallerySofia Negri: The Skatebook (Copyright © Sofia Negri, 2022)

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Sofia Negri: The Skatebook (Copyright © Sofia Negri, 2022)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) was previously a staff writer at It’s Nice That. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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