Interview with animation director Jan Čapar

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that animation is your way of telling stories?

The first time I recognized that was in early elementary school when I participated in multiple stop motion workshops for kids. Over the course of my years in school I tried out multiple different animation techniques but it was always more of a side activity. When I started my film studies I tried to do live action film but I quickly rediscovered my love for animation, especially stop motion animation. Already in the first semester I recognized that my ways of writing and telling stories just fits very well with animation.

  • What exactly is the job of an animation director?

I’m still a student so I can only speak from my own experience so far. So regarding this project it’s very simple – having a vision for the movie. I have to know the animation workflow very well so I can lead a team of people who are specialized in different areas but it’s mostly about the vision. I have to know very well what I want to tell and why I want to tell it and I have to be able to answer all the questions the team members might come up with. Directing is also about taking responsibility. In the end the film is always my responsibility – no matter if it turns out to be good or if it doesn’t.

  • How many people are involved in creating an animation like yours? And could you tell us a bit about their roles, the flow of the team?

My teams are tiny. It’s mostly just me and my dad. I do all the camera and animation work and together with my dad I design and build the sets and puppets. He does a lot of the modelling though. For this film two fellow students helped out with some of the character art and the costume design as well. But it’s a very small team, essentially made up of two people.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your animation? How did that lesson happen?

There is much to talk about here but it’s probably the puppet building. Especially the armature (the skeleton so to speak). If the armature is built properly the animation workflow just comes naturally. We build everything 100 % by hand – so we had to learn how to build good armatures that can support the puppets properly.

  • What is the process in creating an animated character?

Let’s talk about stop motion animation: first the story is needed. With that I mean I have to know what kind of character I am building. Who is he or she? After that the armature (the skeleton) must be built. It’s usually made of aluminum wire. The body is made of cloth and built around the armature. The shape of the head is molded out of clay but later shaped again out of paper-mâché so it’s lighter. Inside of the head there are wires and mechanisms that control the eyeballs. The feet are magnetic and the process of animation is fairly simple – manipulating the aluminum wire. That’s of course only a very basic rundown of how to do all of this.

  • 2D Animation vs. 3D animation what are your thoughts on this endless battle?

Both are cool. The story is the essence of every film. So I would say the animation style should naturally be a side product out of the kind of story you want to tell.

  • What does your animation workflow look like while animating? Tell us a little about the tools that you are using. What are your preferences? Methods? Plugins? Techniques?

I don’t need much. Only puppets, a camera and my hands. And sometimes I listen to lo fi hip hop mixes while animating.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the animator’s role to worry about that?

At first no. As filmmakers we have to find our own inspiration – only then is what we do and tell true. And what makes a film or a piece of art great is its truth. But practically – when making a movie – yes. I mean a film wants to be seen, it’s made for audiences. So while shooting the film it’s the filmmakers job to not only look through his own eyes but to also have the audience in mind while telling the story.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

As filmmakers we want to tell stories. And stories want to be heard and seen. That’s why film festivals are important and great. How to get the most out of them? Probably by making a good film, by being present during the screening and engaging with the audience and by being interested in the interaction between film and audience and the thoughts and emotions this interaction might spark.

  • What is the most difficult part for you about being in the animation business, and how do you handle it?

Getting an audience. And especially making money with it. It is totally possible. But I am still in the process of figuring out how to actually make a living out of writing and producing animated films.