Paloma Baeza

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(Na­tional Film and TV School) When Paloma Baeza ac­cepted the BAFTA for Best An­i­mated Short Film, it fo­cused ma­jor at­ten­tion on her fledg­ling an­i­ma­tion ca­reer. Her award-win­ning stop-mo­tion short, Poles Apart, was her grad­u­a­tion film from Bri­tain’s Na­tional Film and Tele­vi­sion SchooI. Yet, she was hardly a new­comer, hav­ing acted in many projects and also di­rected live-ac­tion shorts. “I do come from live ac­tion,” she says. “But I al­ways had a love of an­i­ma­tion, and I made pup­pets to ex­per­i­ment with. Even­tu­ally I de­cided to ap­ply to the NFTS, which runs an in­cred­i­ble an­i­ma­tion Mas­ter’s course.”

The mother of two was ac­cepted, and paired with stu­dents from other film­mak­ing dis­ci­plines to make the 12-minute Poles Apart, which took 15 months of work. The short is an en­e­mies-be­come-friends tale of a griz­zly bear meet­ing a po­lar bear in the melt­ing arc­tic wilder­ness, with comic — and poignant — re­sults. Baeza was in­spired to write the script af­ter learn­ing that habi­tat loss from cli­mate change is ac­tu­ally mak­ing such en­coun­ters pos­si­ble.

“My de­sire was to make a film that had hu­mor and strong char­ac­ters, with a uni­ver­sal mes­sage as its back­drop,” she notes. “It was com­pleted in 2017 and has screened at fes­ti­vals all over the world. It won The Ma­cLaren Award at Ed­in­burgh Film Fes­ti­val, the Best Short An­i­ma­tion prize at the Rhode Is­land Film Fes­ti­val, and the An­nie Award for Best Stu­dent Film. That says some­thing about the range of au­di­ences that have re­sponded to it — from film fes­ti­val au­di­ence awards to jury prizes.”

Baeza’s idea was re­al­ized with char­ac­ters built by ac­claimed pup­pet-mak­ers MacK­in­non & Saun­ders ( ParaNor­man, Fan­tas­tic Mr. Fox) and her script at­tracted vet­eran Bri­tish ac­tors Joseph May and He­lena Bon­ham Carter to voice them. “Luck­ily, the pup­pets were very good ac­tors,” Baeza jokes. “At­tract­ing great ac­tors to an­i­ma­tion is prob­a­bly an eas­ier task than in live ac­tion, since the time com­mit­ment is pretty small. As long as the script is interesting, you can aim very high in terms of tal­ent.”

Her po­lar bear has since en­joyed a sec­ond life as the danc­ing star of a mu­sic video for “Sex Mu­sic,” by Ge­off Bar­row’s band, Beak. (Bar­row pre­vi­ously scored Ex Machina for Baeza’s writer-di­rec­tor hus­band, Alex Gar­land.) Un­like Poles Apart, she did ev­ery­thing for the video in her base­ment her­self. Baeza ex­plains, “It was hugely lib­er­at­ing an­i­mat­ing lights, cre­at­ing strobe ef­fects, and gen­er­ally try­ing out dif­fer­ent trippy things.” Wher­ever her stop-mo­tion am­bi­tions take her next, she is cer­tain of one thing: “An­i­ma­tion is a marathon, not a sprint.” new lim­ited-run se­ries Ap­ple & Onion. “If I can do any­thing bet­ter than any­one else, it is to be me, be­cause no one else is me. I can test it on other peo­ple later!”

The 35-year-old Egyp­tian-born artist first re­al­ized he wanted to work in an­i­ma­tion when he took an il­lus­tra­tion/an­i­ma­tion course at Kingston Univer­sity. Upon grad­u­a­tion, he got his first big break do­ing sto­ry­boards for The Amaz­ing World of Gum­ball.

“At the end of the first sea­son of Gum­ball, I saw a lit­tle il­lus­trated story that my older brother roughed out about an ap­ple who de­cided to leave his tree and fol­low his dreams to the big city,” re­calls Gendi. “I de­vel­oped the idea and wrote and sto­ry­boarded an an­i­mated film. Af­ter I fin­ished the board, I re­al­ized that the film would take a very long time to com­plete with the lim­ited re­sources I had, so I gave the short red ap­ple a tall green spring onion friend, changed it into a show pitch for Car­toon Net­work and took the plunge.”

Gendi, who cites Aard­man’s Crea­ture Com­forts as one of his fa­vorite an­i­mated projects, says he hopes to con­tinue for­ward in the di­rec­tion he’s go­ing. He adds, “I don’t even know what’s around the next cor­ner!”

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