The Bloom Is On The Rose
Interview conducted by Christina Schultz
Annie Amaya is a young animator and filmmaker from Canada currently studying VFX in London. Her latest film, Why Do Flowers Die?, is being screened at the Future of Film Showcase (FOFS) today - May 14!
Christina Schultz: Hi, Annie! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I’d like to start out by having you tell us about how you became interested in film and animation.
Annie Amaya: Prior to my undergraduate studies at Concordia University in Montreal, I didn’t do much animation but I was always interested in visual arts. I was known as the artist in elementary school. In Grade 8 we had a school trip to a career center and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I remember asking for information about becoming an animator. It wasn’t really a plan but it’s funny to think I was already thinking down that path. I’m currently studying VFX and not 2D animation, but it’s still related and I’m just seeing where it goes from there.
CS: When did you realize animation was what you wanted to pursue?
AA: After high school, I was very indecisive about what I wanted to study because I’m also into music. I chose animation because it is an art form that combines the visual with music and sound components. Animation appeals to me because it’s very broad.
CS: Do you write the music for your films?
AA: For one of my short films, Grow, I did write the music. I have a music background and even if I don’t score the music for my films it certainly helps me pick music for them.
CS: When did you start making your own animated films?
AA: It was part of the program at school to make short films but animation is something that I’ve always loved. I used to watch the behind the scenes footage from all the DVDs of Pixar films and I wanted to be one of those people.
CS: I think you’re a talented artist and illustrator. How did you develop your skills?
AA: Well thank you! I always liked drawing and the arts but I didn’t know exactly how to animate before starting my university program. I had some visual arts skills but I really only went into animation after starting the program and learned my way around it at school.
CS: Do you plan on making any live action films? Or have you made any?
AA: Well, VFX is somewhere in between because it is CG integrated with live action. And that’s what I’m planning to do as a career but I’ve always loved 2D animation so I plan on doing that as my own personal side project. I think it’s better that way because I can make my own films and not cater to the commercial industry.
CS: You are from Montreal, Canada and now study in London. Do you notice any differences between the film cultures in the different places in which you live and work?
AA: It’s funny because a lot of the big studios in London also have studios in Montreal. So they work on the same films, just in different places. The film cultures in the two cities are definitely connected.
CS: The story for your film Why Do Flowers Die? was inspired by your family and your mother’s struggle with cancer. The main character Rose is based on your sister who was in and out of hospitals at such a young age. Was it hard for you to make the film because of this?
AA: I think for Why Do Flowers Die? it wasn’t hard. The short film Grow, which I made prior to Flowers, was really based on my mom’s struggles because I was making the film while going through that experience. By the time I made Why Do Flowers Die? she was fully recovered.
It was more of a reflective piece so I wouldn’t say it was difficult but it was definitely personal and whenever I have to talk about my film I have to explain the context. The point of me making the film was to express those ideas and themes. Rose is inspired by my younger sister who was going through this when she was 10 years old and it really affected me. We have more of a mother-daughter relationship than a sister relationship. Seeing her go through the experience was a big inspiration for the film. I wanted to show how a would child see these things.
CS: It couldn’t have been easy, but I’m glad to hear your mother recovered!
AA: She’s obviously not the same because she underwent a major surgery but the cancer is gone. It is a miracle really so we’re grateful for that. I always have to give a disclaimer before I show the film: mom is ok, so don’t worry! [laughs]
CS: Your film Why Do Flowers Die?, which has won an award from Toronto Youth Shorts, is now being shown at the Future of Film Showcase (FOFS) this coming Monday. Tell us about what it’s like to have your film shown at festivals and your interactions with the audience.
AA: I unfortunately can’t attend the FOFS in Toronto because I’m London for school. But it’s a nice to know people are seeing my film. Since most of my films are very personal, whenever I see them shown on the big screen I think Oh my God, people are peering into my soul. But it’s also a nice feeling because I have people coming up to me afterwards saying I get what you’re saying. Everything you said in your film I totally understand. It’s nice to connect with people on such a deep, personal level. It’s very rewarding. I have no negative experiences, it’s all been positive.
CS: That’s great to hear. And might I add, best of luck to you at the festival competition.
AA: Thanks! But I usually don’t worry so much about the competition part. If I get an award it’s nice but that’s not a big deal for me.
CS: That’s a good approach, I think. Now for a Femfilmfan question: If you were to pick a woman in film or a woman in the media who inspires you or who has influenced you and your work, who would it be and why?
AA: The first person I can think of would be Ava DuVernay. I love love love her films and I wish I could make films that are so important and so culturally relevant like she does. She makes films about people of color and raises awareness for issues going on today. I think that’s very inspiring and very important.
CS: Yes, definitely. Now for a hard question: what’s your favorite film?
AA: [laughs] I don’t think I can pick. But if we can narrow it down to animation, my current favorite is Song of the Sea by the Irish cartoon studio Cartoon Saloon. Aesthetically and narratively it’s the kind of style that I like. They also made a new film called Breadwinner. Angelina Jolie is the executive producer. It was a mind blowing and culturally relevant film. I appreciate that a lot because it shows how girls in Afghanistan live and the issues they face. So that’s also at the top of my list. I really like Cartoon Saloon’s films a lot.
CS: What’s up next for Annie Amaya? What can we expect from you in the coming months and years?
AA: I’m busy with my Master’s right now so I’m not able to make new short films. However, I did work on a short film called Tapping Tango before I started. I was the animator for that project and the writer took on the role of the director. It’s going around festivals right now. As for the future, I have to find a job first [laughs] and then I can start thinking about personal projects.
CS: Well I wish you lots of luck and it sounds like you have a promising future ahead of you.
Why Do Flowers Die? is now available on Vimeo. Click here to watch the short film.
Check out Annie's portfolio here. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
And if you're in the Toronto area today, get your tickets for the Future of Film Showcase so you can see Annie's film on the big screen!
(L, C: stills from Why Do Flowers Die? courtesy of Annie Amaya; R: Future of Film Showcase, click image to be redirected to their site)