BFI Future Film Festival 2023
'Please Clap', is about a clown called Mikey who, after being suddenly fired from his job, must confront the complex feelings he has regarding his persona. Whilst being filmed for a documentary, he discovers that he might be a bit more attached to the stage than he previously thought.
Hi Khalidah, it’s great to talk with you, how has everything been going?
Good! I’ve been making a lot of plans and answering a lot of emails.
Congratulations on having Please Clap part of the Future Film Festival 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
It feels really affirming more than anything. Seeing the calibre of films showing at the festival has really made me internalise how much of an achievement it is to get in.
Please Clap is also nominated for Best Animation, what has it meant to you to get this type and level of recognition for your film?
It truly means the world to me. I had a lot of doubts about the film during production and put a tonne of pressure on myself to make it good. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the minutia of what you're making when you do animation - I found myself not being able to see the forest for the trees at points - so it's both a huge relief to see that people are enjoying the film and a big honour to receive such recognition for it.
How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films?
Film festivals are a lot more important than some people realise. A good handful of creatives have already reached out because of Please Clap's presence in FFF and previous festivals. Platforms like these open so many doors for people who might not have had the opportunity to show off their work otherwise. They also help expose the wealth of creative new ideas that young filmmakers are bringing to the table.
When working on an animation like Please Clap how flexible were you able to be once you got into production?
I had flexibility with all creative aspects and I got to make my own schedule but I was still working within time and duration constraints. When it comes to animation production, there isn’t much room for flexibility after a certain point. Most of the work (editing, sound recording etc.) is already pretty locked in before you start animating. What gives you flexibility when working on an animated project is time. When you have a strict deadline like I did, you can’t linger on decisions for too long otherwise you end up eating into your production time. But the nice thing about that is that most of the difficult parts are done by the time you’re ready to start animating.
"If I could think of a better way to express the themes or expand upon them in a meaningful way, then sure!"
What were the challenges you faced making Please Clap?
Getting the script right was a big one. I did so many iterations and re-recordings of it because I knew that if the dialogue sounded unnatural, the entire thing would fall flat. At this stage in my creative career, I’m pretty confident in my skills as an artist and animator but not necessarily as a writer since it's the skill I’ve spent the least time on. I definitely felt myself going through the motions in a way I hadn’t for a while. Like when you're in the early stages of learning how to draw and it takes you ages to make something look correct. But now I know it’s something I can do successfully - I’m writing a lot more in my free time and feeling less afraid of filling up an empty page.
Will you continue to find inspiration from character driven narratives?
Of course! Characters drive stories, they’re what get me excited to watch and make things.
Looking back, what would you say has been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making this short?
Be kind to yourself. I was so stressed (for a variety of reasons) and so mean to myself whilst making the film that it started to affect my health negatively. Animating brings me a lot of joy - I can do it for long periods of time but I pushed myself too hard in some instances and It just wasn’t sustainable. It’s a lesson everyone has to learn at some point but the sooner you learn it, the better off you’ll be.
Have you always had a passion for animation?
Animation has been my everything for so long that imagining a version of myself that didn’t care about it feels pretty impossible. I started animating at around 11/12; what I was making back then wasn’t good but it felt amazing to make something move. It takes so much time and effort but it always feels worth it. To me, animation is a labour of love.
What is it about 2D animation that connects with you so much?
There’s so much personality in line-work. The way it’s used to show impact and emotion is really captivating. 2D animation was the first form of animation I was introduced to and it’s just had my heart ever since. Making illustrations move still feels like magic to me and it honestly just seems like the next logical step in character creation. Once they’ve been drawn, I wanna see them move.
Would you consider exploring the themes of Please Clap as a feature in the future?
Maybe? If I could think of a better way to express the themes or expand upon them in a meaningful way, then sure! But for now, I want to give my attention to other ideas and tread new ground.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
I’m a lot more structured now. I name my files properly, take time to plan and think, and I do things that future me would appreciate. When I get excited about a project my first instinct is to rush into making it because I love making things. But over time, I’ve built up a resistance to doing that because the excitement of making something new doesn’t last long when you start to run into all the avoidable problems you created.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
Absolutely. We should always encourage people to evaluate how they view the world when we tell stories. Pushing boundaries is how we expand the conversation.
What top 3 tips would you offer a fellow film filmmaker?
1: Be delusional but have a plan.
- Sometimes we restrict ourselves unnecessarily by trying to be too realistic. You never know what's going to happen - opening yourself up to those more far-fetched ideas whilst planning how you could make them work increases your chances of actualising them. It may not work all the time, but, more often than not, you’ll find yourself achieving greater things because you allowed yourself to reach further than realistic expectations.
2: Auto-save is your best friend.
- If you have the option, put it on before you even start your project. Better yet, save backups on a separate drive. You’ll thank me later.
3: Write everything down.
- Funny things that your friends say, interesting stray thoughts, general ideas. It’s easy to think you’ll remember something - but then 30 minutes pass, and you’ve either forgotten it or the initial thought has eroded so much that it’s almost unrecognisable. Building a bank of ideas you can refer back to for inspiration or use to keep you on track is unbelievably useful. This doesn’t have to be just writing either - save reference photos, record audio, and do whatever you need to do to retain the idea.
And finally, what massage do you hope your audiences will take away from Please Clap?
People are complicated. Identity is complicated. You are allowed to change.