17th Berlinale Talents | 2019
Kate Jessop is an award-winning animation filmmaker whose work spans across animated shorts, promos and artist's film and video. She has exhibited extensively internationally being selected for numerous national and international festivals and touring programmes such as Raindance; The Best of Birds Eye View; Stuttgart and Tricky Women.
Hi Kate thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the Berlinale?
Yes looking forward to it!
Are there any nerves ahead of the festival?
Oh no, I’m a Northern girl with nerves of steel – I’m not looking forward to the minus temperatures Berlin has in February though brrr.
What does it mean for you to be part of the 17th edition of Berlinale Talents?
I’m so overwhelmed to not just be selected as a director out of 3400 people – but also as one of 11 international projects in the Short Film Station too with my comedy series Tales From Pussy Willow! The British Council have just confirmed they’ll be supporting us for it too which is wonderful.
What do you hope to get from this experience?
I’m looking forward to meeting the best global filmmaking talent the world has to offer right now and feel inspired! I’m also looking for a potential commissioner or co-production. Since I wrote the application my comedy series has been picked up for production by Hipster Films by a producer who has a history in British TV Comedy. We are looking to pitch to broadcasters and commissioners and are interested to see what Europe has to offer.
Can you tell me a little bit about your work, what was it about filmmaking that interested you so much?
I’d say all my work broadly is about the human experience realised by an experimental process. It can be cultural commentary in a humorous way like Tales From Pussy Willow or a more reflective way like Little Elephant. I love animation it’s simply the best medium of all the arts – where else do you see a subtle interplay of design, rhythm and narrative all come together? It also allows you to address some difficult topics which are why it’s used in documentary and adult animation comedy a lot.
What feeds your creativity?
The absurdity of everyday life. Highlighting the micro-aggressions women face every day. Orgasm Unicorns (see episode Coming into the Station).
I’m really inspired by a lot of comedy that’s come out recently. The way that BoJack Horseman uses traditional animation methods such as anthropomorphism to discuss relevant cultural issues such as gun crime in America, the #MeToo movement or asexuality is just genius. Broad City is a brilliant depiction on life through the female lens. I was also influenced by a lot of British comedy such as Smack the Pony, The Fast Show and the Mighty Boosh.
What was the first film you made?
I was doing club visuals in Manchester then got approached to work on some adaptations by Comma Filmby Ra Page of Comma Press about 10 years ago. The first film I ever made was called Desires which was a Gaia Holmes poetry adaption which ended up being shortlisted for the very first Virgin Media Shorts prize, represented the UK in the Best of Women in Film and TV and got signed for distribution by Shorts International.
"I love moving image I think it’s the ultimate art-form."
How did the Tales from Pussy Willow web series come about?
I’d been casually writing comedy for a few years, just scribbling ideas into notebooks. A couple of years ago I just got it all down into scripts and sent it to some people as I wasn’t sure if it was funny or not. I got some very positive feedback so decided to make it. Anna Maguire was one of the first people I sent the scripts to and she immediately said yes and has been in every series since!
I like writing comedy as a way of processing the world and things that have happened to me. Although the series is funny it also addresses serious issues such as misogyny and homophobia. People have said they find watching some of the episodes quite painful but I'd like to think I'm holding a mirror up to society and calling people out.
I decided to work with a mix media realisation I’d previously pioneered in a music video where I film the actor's heads against a green screen then composite into animated bodies and worlds. This way I get the banter between the actors but the slightly surrealist animated element can take the edge off some of the dialogue. The series recently won Best Comedy and Best LGBTQ series at the London Short Series Web Festival and it’s been nominated for a host of other international awards too.
"I love working with actors and seeing what they come up with..."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
No, I came to it a bit later on in life, I was actually trying to be in a band when I lived in Manchester (there are quite a few Pussy Willow episodes about boys in bands)! But I love moving image I think it’s the ultimate art-form. It combines design, rhythm and (potentially) narrative. My background is in art and music and this is the ultimate marrying of the two mediums.
How important is the collaborative process in filmmaking for you?
Collaboration is everything to me and is why I set up Animation Girl Band in order to orchestrate a collection of brilliant people. The first project was Queer Heroes which was a collaborative animation between 14 UK animators that celebrated exceptional LGBT figures. On the Tales from Pussy Willow series, I love working with actors and seeing what they come up with in regards to the characterisation of my scripts.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
My work has moved on considerably since I started out 10 years ago. My career has been mostly film commissions as an animator where I would be sent the script to adapt and bring to life, such as with Comma Film of the Loveworks Duology. A couple of years ago I set up Animation Girl Band as a platform to realise my own projects which have been so far Queer Heroes and the Tales From Pussy Willow series.
What are you currently working on?
The pilot episode of season 3 ‘Queer Than Thou’ is being made as we speak so I am mostly animating vogueing karate, glitter bombs and rainbow guns…..you can follow the development of the series on Instagram @AnimationGirlBand and on the Facebook Page.
And finally, do you have any advice or tips for any up and coming filmmaker?
Turn up, join in, be reliable, be good to people.