(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!”