With the focus of Hothouse 2014 being on animation, we are thrilled to announce David Pennay as our mentor. As well as an animator, David is also a local artist, producer and director. Filling all these roles provides David with an excellent knowledge of all aspects of animation production. Added to the mix is a strong background educating at Footscray Community Arts Centre and lecturing at RMIT University.
David also runs 3 Hand Studios. To help you get to know him better, we asked David a few questions about his work his influences and what he is looking forward to about being the Hothouse mentor.
What is your favourite animation film?
I don’t like having favourites so let’s break it up a little.
For 2D animation I’d have to say “The Triplets of Belleville” by Sylvain Chomet, as I love the style, story and soundtrack.
For stop motion, although I do love Aardman especially Creature Comforts (for its great concept and simplicity), I enjoy the slightly darker side of stop motion, Das Rad (Rocks), Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel and Heidi Wittlinger. I love the concept of perception of time and feel that animation is in its essence very similar, viewing objects at a different time frame. Also I have to mention the classic Peter and the Wolf by Suzie Templeton.
And even though these are not technically films, I have to mention two animators that I also love – Pes and Blu.
What has been your journey to become an animator and who were your early influences?
I have always been creative and loved building things with my hands; I believe it’s this innate drive to want to create that helped push me towards stop motion animation. I first started my animation career, like most, by playing around on the kitchen table at home and just experimenting with time lapse photography and pixilation. This led me to enrol in a short stop motion course at RMIT, which got me hooked.
I applied to do a BA in animation and interactive media at RMIT. Once I started studying, I was introduced to the diverse array of animated techniques; I made very little stop motion whilst I was at university, as I wanted to explore the other realms of 2D and 3D animation.
University opened me up to a whole new world of animators and techniques. I really enjoy the grittier and not-so-polished surreal animations of Bruce Bickford, Blu, and Jan Švankmajer. After graduating, I was drawn back into stop motion animation through a mixture of animation collaborations for competitions. Creating 3 Hand Studios further fuelled my desire to work in the medium.
I’ve always loved stop motion animation. Aardmans, Nick Park and Peter Lord (even from the early days of Morph), and Tim Burton were influential in capturing my attention and drawing me into the world of animation. I was fascinated about bringing inanimate objects to life.
What was the first film that you made? What did you learn from the experience?
Remembering Bonegilla is a stop motion animation about Block 19 at Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre. It provides a rare glimpse of a major change in Australian social history – the very different challenges, struggles and experiences that post-war migrants had coming through Bonegilla on their journey to a new life in Australia. I learnt a lot from this animation, including time management and how long it takes to produce a 7 minute stop motion.
Who has been your most influential mentor during your career so far and why?
Darcy Prendergast. I have collaborated and worked on several projects with Darcy and the Oh Yeah Wow crew, including Gotye’s Easy Way Out, and it has been great watching the studio move forwards in leaps and bounds.
What is the most challenging thing about making animation?
With stop motion animation, apart from the standard challenges that animators face, you have all the elements against you. I find that gravity is one of the biggest and hardest challenges I face whilst animating, closely followed by lighting. You have to plan your shots and character design around what you know you need your character to do.
I really enjoy coming up with creative solutions to be able to achieve the visual I need to help tell the story. Dealing with flicker and constant light source is always an issue with stop motion and it can be a time consuming area to fix if you haven’t got it right in your shoot.
What are the things you most like about making animation?
My favourite part is the set building and character construction, this is one of the main reasons I chose to do stop motion animation. I love being tactile and creating things in the real world with my hands, while making a big mess!
What are you looking forward to about mentoring young people in the Hothouse program?
I really enjoy working with a diverse range of groups as I’m constantly surprised by the imaginative and creative new ways people have when interpreting concepts and solving problems. I have had the privilege to work with children at both primary and secondary levels, along with university students and I also work with additional need adults. Time and time again, I discover people from all ages with a drive, vision and passion, whom create amazing works, so I’m looking forward to meeting this specially selected group to see what creative genius unfolds.
Applications for Hothouse 2014 have been extended until Wednesday 11 June 2014.