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Interview with animation director Mariana Osores Benfenati

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that animation is your way of telling stories?

I guess I’ve always felt more comfortable expressing myself through shapes and color more than words, which is why I got to send a very personal message through my short animation “PIANO” which has no dialogue, only instrumental music and the visuals of the film.

  • What exactly is the job of an animation director?

The same as any artist, to have something you want to say and find a way to express it to everyone. Specifically for animation directors it involves finding characters we can relate to and develop their personalities and characteristics with the animators, and set an aesthetic for the story. In stop motion, the animators use models, puppets and clay to create the story and find the facial expressions of each character, amongst other jobs. The director makes sure that the animator and all crew adhere to their vision.

  • How many people are involved in creating an animation like yours? And could you tell us a bit about their roles, the flow of the team?

In one stop motion film there could be somewhere between maybe 100 or 120 people I think, but there’s not an exact number. In my case it was just 2, me and the person who did the music (but I wrote, photographed, created, edited and animated the whole thing! But usually it does need more people). Stop motion, as far as animation and film-making techniques go, is one of the most intricate techniques, but it is also one with a unique feel that makes a huge difference with other techniques. Having said that, it definitely needs several people as it needs the same roles as any animation film but the job of the animators, I believe, is even more labor intensive. Stop motion animators need to combine the art of photography, narrative skill, lighting skills and calculate angles to create the story without digitally manipulating it much. The animator creates objects, characters, or scenes that show them in various positions, and they have to change the pose of any on screen character 24 times for each second of the completed film.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your animation? How did that lesson happen?

The message of the film itself was a lesson I’ve learned by myself and by making this animated short film I realized the importance of it: to never stop doing what we love. It is of most importance to always do what makes us happy.

  • What is the process in creating an animated character?

First, I thought of their personality and what I wanted them to be seen as. I was, somehow, feeling the same things the main character of “PAINO” was feeling. The pianist was basically a characterization of my thoughts and feelings, therefore I thought of someone who was inspiring to me to base the looks of the character. In this case it was Chris Martin from Coldplay as he is very passionate and happens to play the piano.

  • 2D Animation vs. 3D animation what are your thoughts on this endless battle?

No need for a battle really, each is special and they can coexist. Personally, as a stop motion animation artist, I like both because in the end stop motion is similar to traditional animation in that it’s also a frame-by-frame process, but while traditional animation is 2D and mostly hand-drawn, stop motion is photography turned into 3D animation. So, I’d say, both!

  • What does your animation workflow look like while animating? Tell us a little about the tools that you are using. What are your preferences? Methods? Plugins? Techniques?

It’s the first time I create an animation, and I did the old school stop motion technique. I just used clay and wire to create the characters, found a way to make them stand in the poses I wanted, I shot frame by frame with an average Canon camera. I’ve been advised to use “Dragonframe” next time and will most definitely try it as it helps the transition between frames to be smoother and more precise.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the animator’s role to worry about that?

The audience wants to be entertained I guess, but it is not the job of the animator to do that. It is like asking a painter to entertain someone by showing them their artwork. I think the animator’s role is to make sure that whatever the director wants is being portrayed as they want and to send the message of the story clearly, to make the characters as close to the director’s vision and to set the aesthetic of it all. But mainly, to say something. Personally I think it’s more easy to create when I want to say something with what I’m creating.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Festivals have given me so much confidence to continue in the industry, besides helping me make connections and give myself something worthy of showing as my work. Festivals are necessary for all the reasons I just mentioned, to offer filmmakers the opportunity and platform to showcase their skills in storytelling and movie making to the world and to keep the industry going and growing.

  • What is the most difficult part for you about being in the animation business, and how do you handle it?

I can barely say I’m in the animation business since this is my very first animation but I’ve seen during the years as a filmaholic that for some reason it is a bit harder for animated films to be taken seriously in comparison to live-action. Thankfully this is slowly changing anf the animation world is growing day by day!