An animated hot potato and the gossip behind Farm Panic’s breakup: Laugh out loud with India Hogan
The Glasgow School of Art grad gives us a rundown of how she sparks humour through animation, and tells us how TMZ videos and Zoolander have informed her graduate film detailing the breakup of a fictional 90s rock band.
A sense of humour is a prized possession in the creative industry. Many (no matter how experienced) attempt to crack a joke or stir a chuckle through their work, but achieving a laugh from the viewer is another feat entirely. Not for India Hogan though, a recent graduate from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree.
Having specialised in illustration, the London-born creative took a fancy to animation just before her final year. She knew she wanted to make an animation for her final project as she was “constantly watching them on Vimeo and Instagram”. Little did she know that moving image would become such an integral aspect of her practice and a year later, here we are, shining a light on India’s wonderful animations which caught our attention for their witty storytelling and rib-tickling charm.
At first, India looked to animation to add another dimension to the narrative as she “found illustrative storytelling difficult,” she tells us, “I never felt I got my point across in standalone images.” And the results have paid off. The portfolio we see today is a magnificent blend of visual and sound artistry mixed in with an all-important dollop of comedy.
In India’s delightful collection of animated shorts, you’ll find a smile-inducing film about a hot potato set to Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire as well as a deluge into the breakup of fictional rock band Farm Panic. Both are produced using purely hand rendered techniques, a style India felt “was more manageable for my illustration style and technical ability.” In this detailed Q&A, the animator takes us through her unique creative processes, touching on behind-the-scenes snippets and unexpected inspirations, including Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston breakup interviews.
“Animation is a medium that helps fill in gaps and you have way more control over the tone of the story when sound is included too.”India Hogan
It’s Nice That: What first attracted you to animation?
India Hogan: When I started watching more traditional-style animation I was drawn to the idea that movement and marks did not have to be perfect and fluid to get a concept across. Sometimes this could even benefit the characterisation in a scene. Because it’s continuous, I feel like animation is a medium that helps fill in gaps and you have way more control over the tone of the story when sound is included too. I also like the surprise element of how a movement turns out in animation. When you put all the frames together, you never really know what it will look like. Sometimes it’s really not what you expected (in a good way!) or it just looks ridiculous.
INT: We love the personality and sense of humour that comes through your work! There is so much character, from your choice of music to the voiceover commentary and the charming naivety of your hand drawn frames. How did you come to develop this style?
IH: If I’m making a film without any dialogue I usually have a playlist that I make whilst animating, with very obvious song titles or themes that match the narrative (Ring of Fire was the closest song I could get to match the Hot Potato animation.) I think my upbeat song choices come from trying to replicate scenes in films where something very dramatic happens and upbeat music is used for comedic effect. Similarly, I like to take elements from existing formats, such as a documentary or a reality TV program as a basis for a script or an idea.
The Farm Panic interview was the first time I’d used a voiceover for an animation. The style and pace of the script was informed by the structure of interviews and documentaries I watched for research. I’m still definitely experimenting in terms of visual style, but I do like to consistently use awkward-looking facial expressions because I feel like they can add to the humour of a situation. Because animation is such a long process, I usually opt for doing a simpler line drawing but I hope to develop my drawings further and explore different mediums in later projects.
“I really enjoyed taking notes from ridiculous TMZ videos and watching Zoolander, This is Spinal Tap, Flight of The Concords, and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston breakup interviews, to inform the structure and content of my film.“India Hogan
INT: Can you tell us how Farm Panic interview came about? Talk us through the idea behind the short and how you visualised it?
IH: The interview was a continuation of a project from my third year of uni about a fictional improvisational rock band called Farm Panic (formed in 1989). Its members Dave and Cheryl were married until the band split, ending both their relationship and musical collaboration.
As their self-appointed band manager I made a retrospective, called Farm Panic: The Rise and Fall, so I could document the “memorabilia” I made: band posters, album covers, newspaper articlesetc. But I was still really enjoying the research in that field and my persona as band manager! I knew I wanted my next project to be in a documentary style, especially as a lot of my research for the first part of the project involved watching interviews with bands and music-related mockumentaries, so I wanted to explore the celebrity side of the narrative following their breakup.
India Hogan: Hot Potato (Copyright © India Hogan, 2021)
I tried to take the obvious visual language from the appearance of 90s bands and their laid back attitudes in order to illustrate the characters. To contradict this interview style, I wanted each scene to visually interrupt the one before as one character talked over the other.
INT: If you had to pick a favourite project, which one are you most proud of and why?
IH: I think I’m most proud of the Farm Panic animation as I feel it is the most developed concept and the project I spent the most time on. It was also definitely the most fun to make because of all the background research I got to do! The great thing about doing this type of degree or practice is that you can research any topic and make it as light-hearted or serious as you want. I really enjoyed taking notes from ridiculous TMZ videos and watching Zoolander, This is Spinal Tap, Flight of The Concords, and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston breakup interviews, to inform the structure and content of my film.
INT: You have a real natural knack for storytelling in your animations. How do you go about translating a story or conversation into moving image?
IH: Thank you! Once I have a script or storyline I go through each section and storyboard the first images that come to mind along with visual references from my research and make a few drafts of these. Then I put together a few final key points from the storyboard onto a timeline, leaving out big chunks for the transitions that tie each scene together. I usually decide on this whilst animating. Making the transitions is my favourite part of the process because you can be so imaginative on how to get from one point to the next and surprise the viewer with how one scene morphs into another. I find that the unplanned parts are definitely the most visually exciting to animate as they are not expected as part of the original storyline.
INT: Humour can be tricky to get across in illustration let alone animation! I chuckled a fair few times watching Hot Potato, and there isn’t even any dialogue in that short! The pacing and sense of movement is great. Do you have any tips for anyone hoping to make comical work but hasn’t quite got there yet?
IH: I always find it useful to look at other people’s films I’ve really enjoyed and try to pinpoint why I liked them so much. A lot of the animations I admire include dark humour, very awkward looking characters and unexpected transitions, so I try to think about this when writing my own film ideas. I feel like if you enjoy the process of making the animation and the topic you've chosen, it usually translates well to the viewer.
India Hogan: Farm Panic interview (Copyright © India Hogan, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.