Spotlight: Julie Pott, Director, "Belly"
Julia Pott is a British animation director now living in Brooklyn. “Belly” is the animated short she created for her thesis at the Royal College of Art in London in 2011 that tells the tale of a rescue mission filtered through childhood memories and surreal representations of very real feelings.
What was the inspiration for “Belly”?
Julia Pott: Growing up with a sister five years older then me, I spent a large period of my childhood feeling generally hard done by, ostracized and left out. Once I knew I wanted to focus on childhood [in my film], I indulged myself in the memories of my own. The laws of physics are much more ambiguous when you’re a kid. It seems feasible to walk through walls or push your hands through your skin. In this way, animation became the perfect medium for the subject matter.
Did you do the whole thing on your laptop?
The process for animation is to draw every frame by hand with pencil and paper on a lightbox. Then every frame is scanned in, where I level it and clean it up in [Adobe] Photoshop CS5, then composite it in [Adobe] After Effects CS5. Yes, all that on my laptop.
How was “Belly” different from your other productions?
It took eight months to make “Belly”: I spent three to four months developing the script and characters, and the rest was spent on production. I wrote the script from scratch, worked with live action, worked with a cast of actors, animated and composited the film (almost) entirely by myself. With previous films, I had always managed to sideline a lot of these tasks. This time around I didn’t want to shy away from anything.
Did anything come up that was a particular challenge?
Every time I make a new film, I try to one-up myself in terms of production. This way I get something new out of the experience to make it worthwhile. However with “Belly,” once I got around to the production side of things, it was a welcome change. I had spent so much time deep within the story development, writing and rewriting and over-thinking, that it was nice to switch off that part of my brain and turn on the part that thinks about composition, color and designing ridiculous animals. Animation production involves a different kind of hard work, one where you can listen to the radio or an audio book, and it’s not just you and your thoughts and the niggling feeling you might be making something rubbish.
The live action and animation combination had been something I had been curious about for a while. I had often worked with collage in my illustrations, but never sourced the footage myself. I went up to Brighton on a pretty cold day in January and shot the beach at 7 a.m. before anyone was there. The biggest technical challenge was making the animated footage sit in the live action/collage world. “Belly” was the film where I really came to grips with After Effects, and there was a whole slew of adjustment layers, camera lens blurs and overlaid textures to make the world seem coherent.