Animator Inger Bierma on finding a sense of freedom through her graduate film, Blanket
A graduate from Minerva Art Academy, it took Inger a little while to find her home in animation, but she’s definitely getting settled now.
Growing up in a village in the north of the Netherlands, Inger Bierma was always a little wary of jumping into a creative career. In high school for instance, “I never really considered studying art a realistic career path, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of it,” she tells It’s Nice That. However Inger’s mum had a different opinion, encouraging her daughter to consider studying it further, considering her consistent love for drawing. Thankfully in this case, Inger listened to her mother!
Ending up studying at Minerva Art Academy following pre-studies in Groningen, while studying her bachelor of Art, Inger jumped around various illustrative techniques and approaches. Towards the end of her degree however it was animation that she settled upon; influenced by internships along the way and the welcoming (and very talented) animation community.
The result is a rare breed of animator who has simultaneously managed to build and hone her own style while focusing on personal narratives and using animation to touch on difficult subjects too. Personable, honest and inviting to viewers all at the same time, Inger’s work to date hints at a filmmaker we’ll be watching for years to come.
“The most valuable lesson I learned is that you should make what you feel like, and not be afraid of what others might say about it.”Inger Bierma
It’s Nice That: After you were so hesitant to attend art school, what would you say is the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at university?
Inger Bierma: The university I studied at was very free in what we were allowed to do, which was cool. At the same time, we did have a lot of assignments and so I felt that I never really found the time to make animations, though I had a lot of interest in it. However it did mean I learned a lot about analogue illustration. Working in workshops like linoleum-printing, etching and stone-printing meant I discovered a lot about styles I’m interested in and how to develop.
The most valuable lesson I learned is that you should make what you feel like, and not be afraid of what others might say about it. I used to be very insecure about the work I made, but by letting go of insecurities and doubts, I have become more and more confident about the work I make and where it’s heading. This has also greatly contributed to me finding happiness and joy when it comes to working and creating new things.
INT: How did the idea for Blanket come about? What inspired you to make the mesmerising film?
IB: The idea for Blanket came through personal experiences in my life around 2018 to 2019. It was a period where I wasn’t feeling very good mentally, and was in a relationship that wasn’t good for me at the time. I was super insecure, spent a lot of time crying and I felt out of myself. I didn’t like myself and was constantly scared and nervous. I moved to Hamburg, and closed this chapter of my life.
Since then I’ve had a 180 degrees turn in my mental wellbeing. When I started my final year I knew I wanted to make an animation about this difficult time in my life, as I feel that mental wellbeing is super important, but there is still a taboo when talking about it. Fortunately, there is more and more openness towards these topics, and I support this a lot!
As a result I wanted to make this film which discusses mental wellbeing, but in an abstracted way of storytelling which can still contribute to the conversation around mental health in an artistic way.
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All images by Inger Bierma: Blanket
INT: Can you talk us through the creative process for making Blanket – it’s no mean feat to create such a polished animation so early on in your career!
IB: Oof, the creative process was pretty chaotic to be honest! I would like to think of myself as an organised person, but sadly I’m not. All the topics were very clear in my head and I started to just straight up animate what I was thinking, without taking notes or making a storyboard.
“I think I’m very influenced by those around me. It’s very inspiring to see how and what my friends make, and to know their thoughts behind it”Inger Bierma
Following this I had a little two page storyboard and worked on this until I had no more “planned” animations left. After this I had a couple of days feeling a little lost and was unsure about how to continue the animations. It was recommended that I continue to make a storyboard and once I did this it picked up again. I animate everything in TvPaint, a program I was taught during an internship with the animator Raman Djafarin. He showed me the ropes and the tips and tricks I needed to know. I’m forever grateful for his help (thanks Raman!).
At this stage I also had a pretty clear image in my head of how I wanted the film to look early on; which was defined along the way. I think this helped keep the consistency and feeling in the animation style which I liked. It was also the first time that I worked on the sound design and made it all on Garageband. I had many thoughts on how I wanted the sound to be beforehand, but it also developed organically into another direction. The music also amplifies the feelings and atmosphere of the film – feelings of eeriness and sadness, but also surprise and joy.
INT: Aesthetically your film is beautifully detailed – each still could almost be a poster on its own! What informs this style?
IB: Thank you! I think I’m very influenced by those around me. It’s very inspiring to see how and what my friends make, and to know their thoughts behind it. I work in an atelier with 14 amazing artists, all from lots of different backgrounds and mediums. There is always someone to ask for advice and there is a lot of space and willingness to discuss work. The openness is something I really like and the overall atmosphere we have created is so important for me, I’ve been able to work with a happy mindset.
I’m also very inspired by animators I follow on Instagram, like Victoria Vincent, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Amanda Bonaiuto and Sophie Koko Gate, or by videos I’ve seen on Vimeo. There just sooo many amazing filmmakers out there who are super inspiring! Social media can sometimes be very intimidating, just by seeing how much some people are able to create and put out in an individual style. Next to these inspirations, my style is something I’ve developed over the years by learning new things and new interests. I organically gravitated towards this style.
INT: We love the atmospheric subtlety of the film in particular. Have you always been interested in expressing this kind of nuanced narrative?
IB: I wanted to somehow express my feelings but, at the same time, not be an open book to everybody that sees the film.
I think this is mostly where the nuanced narrative derives from. Over the years, I have become more interested in a way of storytelling that isn’t too direct – one where you have to read between the lines. I feel like this gives a very nice subtlety to the narrative that I wouldn’t be able to achieve if the storytelling was direct.
I also feel like my personal way of storytelling also lends itself to a more metaphorical approach, because, just like my creative process, I tend to be a pretty chaotic storyteller. For example, when I try to explain a movie I’ve seen I somehow speak about everything but the red thread in the film. I was also trying to express feelings of loneliness, depression, anger, deceit, heartbreak, and at last a sense of freedom that I now feel revisiting that time in my life. I was no longer the main character but a spectator. That helped me put things into place for my film, and also for me personally. Additionally, I feel that taking the action out of a realistic personal environment and bringing it into a more open-framed metaphorical scenario leads people to find their own experience in the images I make.
Inger Bierma: Blanket
Inger Bierma: Blanket
I also feel like my personal way of storytelling also lends itself to a more metaphorical approach, because, just like my creative process, I tend to be a pretty chaotic storyteller. For example, when I try to explain a movie I’ve seen I somehow speak about everything but the red thread in the film. I was also trying to express feelings of loneliness, depression, anger, deceit, heartbreak, and at last a sense of freedom that I now feel revisiting that time in my life. I was no longer the main character but a spectator. That helped me put things into place for my film, and also for me personally.
Additionally, I feel that taking the action out of a realistic personal environment and bringing it into a more open-framed metaphorical scenario leads people to find their own experience in the images I make.
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.