• 21 March 2024


Yesterday the first big guest of this fourteenth edition of the Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival, British animator and film director Joanna Quinn, seduced the audience of the Auditorium Santa Margherita. After the Opening Ceremony and the institutional greetings, Davide Guirlando, expert in animation films and professor of the Masters in Fine Arts in Filmmaking at Ca’ Foscari, engaged in conversation with the artist: Quinn’s numerous recognitions, from Emmy to Bafta and her nomination to the Oscars, confirm the value of a dedicated production that encompasses films, advertisements, and illustrations, combined in a dynamic trait, key feature of the animator’s work.

Her first short film is Girl’s Night Out (1986), during which – the director confesses – she did not consider herself an animator yet. It is with the prizes she was awarded at the prestigious Annecy Festival that the recognition arrived, making her a part of the world of animation, a world much busier than it had seemed (“I thought it was only Walt Disney and me!”). The screening unveiled, in only six minutes, a barefaced irony which is recurrent in her poetry, embodied by her undisputed protagonist, Beryl (which is also the name given to her production house, founded with Les Milles): the character, with her imperfect physique and her strong nature, allows the audience to laugh and to reflect on the expectations established by the society about women.

Continuing our journey through her career, Quinn talked about the offer she received from a BBC producer, thanks to which her second short film was born: Britannia (1993), later screened during the conversation, is a desecrating representation of Britannic imperialism, which received the Leonardo da Vinci prize. Illustrating and animating others’ ideas was a real challenge – confesses Quinn – and Great Britain, who is supposed to embody the idea of a warrior mother, ultimately takes the features of a bulldog. The dialogue slowly turns to the process behind the finished work: as a making of was being projected, the illustrator explained the rendition of movements, that in her personal way to operate includes in primis the drawing of the foreground sequences, and in a second moment the insertion of the in-between; then, the animation takes shape. With a pencil in hand “you feel the movement, you don’t see it”, she says, talking about her frantic sketching.

The immersion into Joanna Quinn’s world continued retracing other key moments during production and their respective behind-the-scenes, also mentioning interesting technical aspects. The author spoke about the path that leads her from the original idea to the final result. Once the characters’ profiles are outlined, she puts the storyboard in order, and from there, her animation work starts. Davide Giurlando then recalled her commitment in the only short film for children produced in her whole filmography, Famous Fred (1996), based on Posy Simmonds’ book and created for Channel Four.

The interview then turned the attention back to Berly, the absolute protagonist of Joanna Quinn’s production, which, with Affairs of the Art (2021) – the last short film in program – comes back with a new obsession: drawing. Quinn makes no secret of the obvious autobiographical reference and adds «I use to do a lot of commercials and I had almost forgotten what art was; I think that Berly is me».

The short film is populated by many characters, each one representing their own obsessions: Berly’s sister, her son Colin and her husband Ivor, model and muse of the protagonist. The screening gave also the opportunity to show another behind-the-stage look at her technique, with a focus on lip synchronization.

To close the meeting, pencil in hand, Quinn drew live for the audience. The fast rhythm of her fingers was accompanied by the artist’s reflections: «The more I work in animation, the more I realize how it is similar to music». Making sound effects as she followed the pencil strokes, she demonstrated how immediate her sketching can be, and how the lines and movement are instrumental in making the figures dynamic.

Quinn then greeted the audience by showcasing her work: the preparatory sketches and the definitive illustrations, ready to be animated.