Review of the Year 2016: animator Anna Ginsburg
In the second of our interviews with a selection of creatives who’ve have had a fantastic 2016, animator Anna Ginsburg reflects on her work and ambitions for next year.
For director and animator Anna Ginsburg 2016 has been a year of brilliant output, tackling subject matter with a suggestive tone. As well as creating a number of accomplished music videos, Anna has created two thought provoking and conversation-sparking animations addressing the importance of discussing sexuality.
Within Private Parts, a short created in partnership with It’s Nice That and Channel 4 Random Acts, Anna directed her personal concern towards the lack of acknowledgement of female sexuality. The result is a humorous short that encourages audiences to discuss the subject in an open dialogue, while still slightly giggling and blushing at candidly illustrated genitals. Anna went further into the detailed process of making the film when speaking at Nicer Tuesdays back in June, where she also spoke candidly about her personal “crusade to achieve my first orgasm”.
A second standout project is Spin The Aub, created with designer and art director Freddy Taylor. The pair used animation to hint at the cheekiness of the aubergine emoji but was also a showcase for Anna’s diverse work. By using a hybrid of illustrational styles, they produced a unique animation composite, encompassing sound and illustration to encourage conversation.
Both projects display the joy of investing time into a personal project, but also the power animation has to convey subjects which we often find difficult to discuss. We speak to Anna about her successes of 2016, the struggles of being a freelancer, her introduction to teaching, the influence of Beyonce, and of course, the humble aubergine.
What was your creative highlight of 2016?
The release and reception of my short film Private Parts was my creative highlight. I had been developing the idea and gathering sound recorded interviews for 18 months before the film was commissioned by Its Nice That for Channel 4. This year I was at last able to show it and hear peoples thoughts on the piece. It’s travelled to film festivals worldwide this summer and I was lucky enough to attend some of them. Due to people’s interest in the film (and probably everyone’s fascination with sex in general) I am being given the opportunity to explain the ’making of’ process at events and universities. These talks spark discussions on the issues of sexual equality I care so much about.
What was your lowlight of 2016?
I was unemployed at the start of the year and spent more time drawing rotating aubergines and doing my tax return then was necessary or healthy. I find being a freelancer challenging at times. One month you are working such long days and juggling so much that setting up a ten man company seems like a good plan and the next month it is so quiet that you think actually perhaps it’s time to get a proper job.
What do you think are the markers of a good year creatively?
It is easy to drain yourself making work you don’t like for money. At times it may have to be done but it can be difficult to manage. Sadly we all exist in a capitalist system and within a creative industry where advertising is the most obvious way of making money.
If you come to the end of the year with your integrity intact and with a hunger to make more and better work (in terms of aesthetic quality and content) then I think you’ve had a very successful one.
Which piece of work from the last year has been your favourite to work on?
Again Private Parts. It’s Nice That and Channel 4 gave me total creative control. It was not for a client or musician or brand which was liberating. I was totally overwhelmed by the response from the creatives I sent to project out to. Eleven of my animation idols agreed to do animated sequences for next to no money. The film had a budget of 2K to split between all of us. Spending five weeks turning brave, honest and hilarious real people into charming talking genitals was a dream come true. I watched that dropbox wheel spin as it filled up with beautifully designed and animated sections from creative geniuses from all over the world.
I recommend doing a project which is personal and that you really care about. Whether you have funding or not, try to make the time and save the money as it’ll make you happy.
Which piece of work from the last year do you feel has been most significant to your portfolio/career?
Surprise, surprise… _Private Parts_ – as well as making me feel happy it was an investment in my career. I was signed as a director to a better production company because the executive producer took a shine to those talking vaginas.
I have been giving talks and lectures based on people’s interest in the film which I thoroughly enjoy. Lastly, I have been approached by commissioners who have been inspired to make an animated documentary with a similar format to Private Parts involving naturalistic voice recorded interviews.
Animated documentary is a powerful genre and it’s wonderful to be given the opportunity to make more.
How has your work evolved over the last 12 months?
I spent the January animating aubergines for SPIN THE AUB.com, an interactive aubergine-centric website. This was project I conceived and executed with the extremely talented Freddy Taylor. Our aim was to create a simple site that showcases my variety of animation styles as well as my fascination with hybrids. The first aubergine on spintheaub.com is rendered using a vast array of styles and techniques. It is 100 individual frames and these range for oil paintings to physically 3D models made of elastic bands and laser cut wood dripping in purple paint.
I went on to complete five, 2D, hand-drawn projects in 2016. For me design style, general aesthetic, camera moves and the animated transitions between shots have always been a main focus, while the nitty gritty of character design and human movement come less naturally. I now feel a lot more confident and technically able. My music videos for Loyle Carner’s “Stars and Shards” and Steve Mason’s “Planet Sizes” and Two Door Cinema Club’s “Bad Decisions” have particularly pushed me to develop these skills.
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learnt in the last year?
I have learnt that to stay sane I sometimes need to stop rattling out the seconds of hand drawn animation in solidarity confinement and go out into the world. The teaching and lecturing I have done this year has renewed my energy and made me feel excited about my practice again. I have taught two courses for the BFI for 16-19 year olds and run some cut-out animation workshops at secondary schools in London.
Helping a child make something inanimate move and come to life for the first time reminds me how mind-boggling and magical my practice is. When a kid makes a character blink or wave or dance for the first time the energy and excitement they feel is contagious. I love directing and animating but I’ve realised it’s good to pepper this often mind-numbing and repetitive work with some youthful enthusiasm.
Who has been the most influential creative for you in the last year?
Beyonce. No joke. Her power and drive motivates me to be clear and confident when directing a live-action shoot or presenting in a meeting but most importantly she inspires me to GRAFT. To draw the 12 drawings necessary to make a single second of animation. "What would Beyonce do?" is a useful question to ask yourself when you’ve eaten too many digestives and are feeling a bit sleepy.
I saw my new favourite animated short film at Ottawa animation festival this year which will be influential no doubt. It’s directed by Marta Pajek whose clarity of vision is a force to be reckoned with. The film’s called Impossible Figures and other Stories II and it the second part of an animated trilogy. She’s started with by making part II, will follow with part I and finish with part III which is an interesting format. This film [trailer here] has such a strong haunting atmosphere it feels as if you are watching back something you dreamt but instantly forgot.
Describe 2016 in 5 words…
Sorry! Couldn’t settle on one:
Talking willies and vaginas forever.
Seriously. What would Beyonce Do?
It is a fine balance.
Life’s a bitch and then you die (not five but so true).
What are your hopes for 2017?
I hope that there will be an uplifting backlash against the divisive and hateful changes that have swept through the western world in 2016. I want to make time to engage more politically. It is so easy to sit alone on a laptop scrolling the FB feed, occasionally writing an angry status but feeling increasingly paralysed and hopeless. Specifically I want to be more active in the face of negative changes taking place locally within my community in London.
I would love to a make another short film but would need to save some money for it or get some funding to make this possible. I want to make a really good music video for an artist that excites me. I want to continue directing both animation and live-action, improve technically and challenge myself. I most importantly want to have a laugh and not work so hard that I get dumped.
Supported by Google
At Google, we believe that design is critical to product excellence. That’s why we’re proud to support INT in its effort to champion a broad and inclusive community of creative makers and thinkers with the annual Review of the Year.
We also believe in fostering design through Material Design, a unified system combining theory, resources, and tools to help designers and engineers craft digital experiences, and through Google Design, a cooperative effort whose mission is to support design and engineering excellence by producing original articles, videos, events, as well as creative and educational partnerships. Sign up for the Google Design Newsletter.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.