13th British Shorts, Berlin | 2020
"Even if it’s 90 seconds long, just the process of taking an idea through all the stages of filmmaking, from writing and storyboarding to shooting to post-production to submitting to festivals will teach you more than any amount of studying or talking."
Dir. Astrid Goldsmith
Quarantine is a stop-motion short film, written, directed and animated by Astrid Goldsmith.
Hi Astrid, thanks for talking to TNC, how is your 2020 going?
Hello! So far I’ve spent most of 2020 locked away in my studio animating my next film, but I did spot a great white egret on New Year’s Day, which felt like a good omen for the year. I mean, my car failed its MOT the same week, but pretty sure egret-power is going to kick in soon.
Congratulations on having Quarantine selected to British Shorts, what does it mean to you to be part of such a great showcase for British Films?
It’s brilliant to be part of British Shorts again, they selected my film Polymer a couple of years ago, so it’s an honour to be back with Quarantine. They always programme such great animation, and this year is no exception - I really love all the films that I’ve seen from this selection, especially Coldsore by Caitlin McCarthy.
Can you tell me a little bit about Quarantine, how did this film come about?
I submitted the idea for Quarantine to the BFI/BBC Animation 2018 talent scheme, and it was one of 13 animated films that was selected and commissioned for BBC4. We were given 20 weeks to make our films, so once I got the go-ahead I had to scramble to turn the outline into a full storyboard - I drew 300 panels in 5 days!
What was the inspiration behind this film?
The brief for Animation 2018 was ‘what is Britain like today?’. I live in Folkestone, which will become a new kind of border town post-Brexit, as it’s where the Channel Tunnel comes into. On the one hand, Kent has a strong history of very English folk traditions, like Morris-dancing and Mummers, but on the other, Folkestone is the closest point in the country to mainland Europe. I was interested in how these tensions might play out…but with badgers.
"And watch as many different types of films as you can - from every decade, from every country, from every genre."
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
A misspent youth watching terrible movies like Congo at the Odeon after school convinced me that filmmaking is the most fun kind of dreaming. I saw Nick Park’s A Grand Day Out when I was 12, and I started making short animated films on my Super-8 camera in my bedroom. Stop-motion is a painful, grinding process, but once it’s all put together it is magical.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?
My first two films were shot on 16mm, on a 1969 Bolex film camera. The film stock and the processing has become too expensive now, so I switched to a DSLR for Quarantine. That had a radical impact on how I shot, as it was the first time I’d ever been able to view my progress as I was animating. It makes it both easier and harder. It is clean and efficient, but I’ve found that your focus is in a completely different place - you tend to experience the movement through the screen rather than through the puppet, and it really throws the door wide open for self-doubt to stroll in during every single frame!
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
When faced with long lists of chores and things he’d been putting off, my friend used to say ‘If you don’t want to do it, DO IT!’ In other words, just get all the stuff you don’t know how to do or can’t face doing out of the way, as putting it off vastly extends the misery. It sounds pretty obvious, but when I’ve got a complicated set to build, or a difficult shot to set up, it’s amazing how much better you feel once you’ve at least started something. In a similar vein, at the risk of quoting every entrepreneur’s favourite inspirational fridge magnet, I’ve always been a big fan of the Picasso quote ‘Action is the foundational key to all success.’
Do you have any advice you would offer someone thinking about getting into filmmaking?
Make a film! Even if it’s 90 seconds long, just the process of taking an idea through all the stages of filmmaking, from writing and storyboarding to shooting to post-production to submitting to festivals will teach you more than any amount of studying or talking. It will also help you discover which roles you enjoy and which part of the industry you might want to explore. And watch as many different types of films as you can - from every decade, from every country, from every genre.
What are you currently working on?
I’m halfway through shooting my new film, Red Rover. It’s a stop-motion colonial monster movie set on Mars, so my studio is covered with pieces of orange rock made out of recycled polystyrene. It’s supported by BFI Network, and will have its premiere at the BFI in April.
And finally, what message do you want your audiences to take away from Quarantine?
Mainly: let’s stop imprisoning accordion-playing mammals.