AniTalk: Joseph Wallace – Stop Motion Craft at its Finest

I had the pleasure of visiting HSLU last month to do a talk and spend time with students looking at their current puppets and projects.

Having heard great things about the school over the years from various colleagues it was wonderful to step inside the campus and get to meet students who are benefitting from the university’s amazing teaching and facilities. From woodwork to metalwork, to fabrics, ceramics and 3D printers, art schools are a space where ancient processes collide with cutting edge technologies.

Joseph Wallace at work

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about animation and stop motion and how this medium, my preferred métier, sits at a junction between so many art forms. It’s somewhat peripheral and often under-valued, but simultaneously fiercely unique and singular in its capacity for empathetic, poetic storytelling.

In my talk I spoke about my background in theatre, having started in the plastic arts of painting and sculpture, my love of photography, opera, dance, my collections of objects and antiques. Every time I travel  I seek out museums of puppets and curiosities and stalk through antique markets and junk shops and all of these techniques and obsessions feed into my work as a director.

Stop motion is an art form which operates in the real world; what you see in front of the camera is painstakingly built by hand, photographed under real lights, and brought to life by unseen artisans; the puppet animators. It’s a multi-disciplinary process that draws on performance, artistry, technicality, and cinema to create something tactile and tangible which in turn gives the medium a weight and gravitas which perhaps sets it apart from drawn animation or computer animation.

Still-frame from the music video EDITH PIAF (SAID IT BETTER THAN ME) by Sparks

Having recently co-directed a live-action puppet film, I’m struck by the expressive, artistic joys of making with our hands, of mixing media and techniques to tell bold new stories.
In the world around us, we can observe the constant march of technological progress, from devices which control our homes to artificial intelligence creeping into numerous aspects of everyday life, as well as barging its way into the creative sphere, whether we like it or not. But perhaps the question is not ‘Can a computer achieve this faster or better?’ (I would argue ‘no’ when it comes to inimitable stop motion and puppetry in particular) but rather – ‘can a computer have as much fun as I can, making art with my hands?’ Really we need to turn inwards and reflect on why we make work and how the inherent qualities of these practical mediums lend themselves to moving audiences, engaging viewers, and communicating narratives and themes which challenge, provoke, and entertain.
I say, long live the practical, plastic arts, and here’s to many more years of making work with our hands!

Joseph Wallace and puppets from Salvation Has No Name

If you missed the presentation or want to hear Joseph talk more about these themes, you can hear him speaking about the appeal and inner-workings of stop motion animation on the BBC Radio show Screen Shot alongside Guillermo Del Toro here:

Lastly, talking about the making of his short ‘Salvation Has No Name’ and the ups and downs of being an independent director on the ‘Under the Onion Skin’ podcast here:

Text and images provided by Joseph Wallace

Tere, Kuidas Läheb?

Tere, Kuidas Läheb?

that means: Hello, how are you?

And that’s it for my current language skills in Estonian, an absolutely strange one, which has no connection to any of the languages I already know. Nevertheless, I must admit that it is like music listening to the aberration of the Finnish language. And it also helps to remind me: I am in a new country, I am in the unknown.

Even though this exaggerates the situation, since I am still in Europe and everything culturewise still feels similar. Yes, I must admit, that I was at first a little bit confused and lost in this hyper digital city; had to get used to the digital infrastructure. Coming from the smaller city of Lucerne, Tallinn is a lot busier and there is a lot going on. Not counting mountains, because it’s flat and just straight everywhere you look, but you have the ability to see a clearer panorama of the mixture between Wall Street-like architecture and the leftovers of the Soviet times. Tallinn feels a little bit like a mixture of Scandinavia: a typical modern banking-smart utopian city and traditional Soviet-European antiques. That’s why it feels like a delightful conglomerate of different backgrounds, every corner certainly has a different feeling. The atmosphere of a down to earth Kaurismaki fairy tale in one street, a melancholic Tarkovsky in the other and sometimes the cynical satirical Andersson, when you stand in front of a Ukrainian flag with the tourist tool in hand photographing the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. And in the middle of it all, close to the centre of Tallinn, you can find a quite small stop-motion studio called Nukufilm. So, let’s talk about filmmaking.

The story of my internship starts with an Estonian meeting, a general Monday gathering. Nothing unusual for the studio except having the Swiss person in it, trying to look like paying attention to the incomprehensible language and then having a short introduction in English.

There was not a lot of time for chit-chat, since they are at the end phase of a French coproduction and are a little bit stressed. Pretty straight forward, I got an atelier surrounded by a lot of tools. My first job is in props and so I started working. And oh, how do I like this studio, the working atmosphere is so friendly and from the first day on, I felt treated like being on the same level with all the employees. I think around 15-20 people work at Nukufilm. Therefore, it is pretty small and you get quickly familiar with the people and the working spaces.

After a week I already feel settled there. It feels normal to walk into the studio. Adapting to the work field was easier than I thought. Also holding back my will in creating my own things is pretty easy, I am capable of shutting it down and just do the things I am told to do. I am in this mindset from 9:00-17:30; the usual working hours of the studio; and can easily leave it behind when I step out the doors.

Now everything sounds so smooth, but let’s go back to the start and remind ourselves of the language. The language barrier is and will still be a topic for me. English is not the main language here, also not in the studio. I was surprised when I arrived and realised, that not everyone is good in English as I thought. Most of the studio members have sufficient knowledge of English, but sometimes there are still some problems in articulating certain information. Nevertheless, it worked out well this week, but it also underlines my status as an outsider. And even though I feel comfortable around here, I still have to get used to this fact.

I don’t know the Estonian word for goodbye yet, so when everyone leaves, I just simply mumble a BYE.

Helper’s Market

Markets. Who doesn’t love them?
Stocks, fleas, Christmas, so many things to buy! But none scratch quite the same itch as the Helper’s Market here at the HSLU.
What’s for sale here, you may ask? Experience. The third years and master students, who by now are hard at work with their graduation projects, show us what they’ve been cooking all this time. They get up on stage, show their animatics and tell us how students and alumni alike can sign up to help their projects come true.
I can’t talk about these projects in detail just yet, so I decided to interview the third years and get the scoop on the behind-the-scenes process. The nitty gritty stuff. What do they do when the teachers aren’t looking? How do they organize themselves? What’s their favourite colour?
So join me as I get down to brass tacks with members from the upcoming «Gahts no Lang?» and the team behind «Weird Receptionist».

How has it been like organizing, scheduling, and working on a project of this scale?

«It‘s equally exciting as scary sometimes. On the one hand you get to spend a year trying to make your ideas come to life, on the other you have to commit to them for an entire year.
It‘s also been a big joy working with a new constellation of the sweetest people who also happen to be amazing artists!»

Sven Kristlbauer, director of «Gahts no Lang»

«I would say I don‘t really think about it that way, it is just the next step. We did short projects, then a 6 month one and this one is a year. That is a step but there will be more of these! But it is truly amazing.»

Marion Zeder, Gahts no Lang

«Probably a bit different for every team but for us it was the most stressful at the start (might be because of the nature of our movie, which had no defined story at the beginning).
Once we had the story set, it became way easier but was still a lot to handle with all the meetings and deadlines. Most teams we talked to were agreeing with us on it being stressful due to having a lot of things going on at the same time.
Now that we are in/transitioning into the production phase, where we know what we want the project to be like, it has become quite chill, and we are having a lot of fun.»

Sina Lerf, Dario Marti & Dario Boger, a.k.a. Team Reception
from left to right: Dario Marti, Sina Lerf & Dario Boger (Team Reception)

Any unexpected challenges so far?

«This is the first time I‘ve been directing a group of people on my own, which sometimes means I spend a lot of time putting ideas into words to get them across to all the people involved. Being the director also means making a lot of decisions, which is very fun and creatively fulfilling, but also daunting at times.»


«Having to organize a lot, plan for other people than me or the 3 of us and include having to make interviews and decisions about people that are way more talented than us in their own field.»


«Idea finding…
As stated before, we might be a little edge case, but we had a hard time of figuring out our story. We had the world, and we knew what we wanted as a rough outline for the story – a reception and crazy guests. But having to write a story while having already a pretty clear image on the setting/the frame was way harder than expected.
We ran in circles for almost 2 months straight, building a story, reworking it, salvaging the parts we liked and restarting again (might not have been of much help that we got a lot of conflicting feedback, too).»

Team Reception

The bachelor film is a big project. What drove you to tell this story?

«Real life experience and the fact that people are very weird (not in a bad way) and that the resulting interactions are fun :)»

Team Reception

«Sven pitched this idea. He‘s the director and writer and I personally just felt like I could relate a lot to the topic and story. Also, visually it is a very cool style, I really wanted to be part of this!»


«I just hate driving and love toy designs from the 2000s to be honest.»

concept art for «Gahts no Lang»

Was there anything you learnt from working on previous projects (1BA, Idents, etc.) that you brought over to this one? (Work ethics, communication, skills, anything you can think of!)

«Phew a lot to be honest, you always learn stuff for future projects! I did some 3D blocking for the ident to help with the more complicated perspective stuff. And I did an internship in the 4th semester that taught me a lot about TV Paint and animating in general. Those two things helped in a major way I guess :)»


«Communication is key. You don‘t have to speak 100% of your mind, but if you are part of a group and something is bothering a team member or making it hard for all, people need to talk and figure out how to go on with it if not fixing it.»


– How to work in a team
– It matters how you and your teammates vibe with each other 🙂
– Animation doesn’t have to always be done in the perfect way. It can be rougher if the style/story fits it.

«It has to be fun and if the quality suffers a bit under it it’s okay 🙂 It’s a school project in the end (our approach). »

Team Reception
concept art for «Weird Receptionist»

How was your first Helper’s Market like?

«The first helper‘s market was intense, I was interested in a lot of projects, and it was hard to decide, but on the other hand, I didn‘t feel confident enough about what I could do to help, or to ask more tasks, because I was afraid to fail or to do something wrong for someone else‘s project. Intimidated as well as inspired.»


«It was crazy that we already got to see it from the other side. I felt nervous at first, but seeing the people react to our animatic was very fun. It was kind of the first bigger test screening we had.»


«Our first Helper’s Market we attended:
Very cool to see what the 3rd years are cooking and what is going on in the 3rd year. Seeing all the projects was inspiring (very nice projects) but at times it would have been fun to give feedback to the movies (but it was too scary o.0)
Our first Helper’s Market we held:
At times it can be weird working on the project, and you lose a bit the perspective of who you are even making this film for. And seeing so many people laughing/enjoying watching the animatic was inspiring and reassuring for us (but also again scary since we have only shown the animatics to people who knew the project from the beginning… but also scawwy)
So all in all the Helper’s Market for us was fun to attend (seeing our classmates current state of the project was also a nice bonus)»

Team Reception
Robin, the so-called «Weird Receptonist»

Is there any piece of advice you wish you could tell your younger self?

«I don‘t really know. I worked a lot to make progress. Maybe too much. Have more rest and keep some free time to enjoy with friends, family or anyone that matters to you!» – Marion
«Be ready for the pitch of your idea. Have at least a general plan of how the story could unfold, doesn’t have to be the final version but any guideline for entering preproduction helps. (this comes from us suffering for 2 months because we were struggling finding a coherent story that implemented all the things we wanted)»

Team Reception

«Worry less.»

talking about younger selves’, here’s Timo from «Gahts no Lang»!

And lastly, what’s your favourite colour?

«Oof, I don’t know. Blue maybe?»


«I like Coral. Or Turquoise. Or purple. Is it a real question after all? (I can‘t pick I want to use them all)


«#8777E6 #E37D5B #5BA8E3
ik we are just too funny»

Team Reception
Team Reception’s oddly specific colours

There you have it! The Helper’s Market is just one out of many milestones the third years have to reach on their way to a finished film. To get out there and tell a story takes guts, but it takes a village to finish it. Storyboards, animatics, scripts, voice acting, soundtracks, sound design, rough animation, clean-up, colours, backgrounds, compositing…

The amount of people involved in these productions is huge, and to be given the chance to participate in these crazy projects is a huge honour. I wish the third years well and I can’t wait to see the finished films.

3rd Semester End Presentation

It’s been a long semester. Us first years have wrapped up our final projects for the semester after having had a taste of 2D, CGI and Stop Motion. Meanwhile, the second years have wrapped up something even bigger… an ident for Adult Swim!

Usually, these presentations happen at the end of the semester (hence the name «Semester End Presentation») but this time, they were hosted a week before the final deadline so everyone could get a little extra feedback they could try implementing with the time they had left (or for their future projects even).

This year, we’ve got a huge variety of amazing films, ranging from the cute and sweet to the macabre and weird. If you wish to see them yourself, they’ll be screened at the International Trickfilm Festival of Animated Film (ITFS for short) in Stuttgart, alongside other animated films from the Bachelor’s and Master’s programs.

Apocalypse Playset

First one was «Apocalypse Playset» (dir. Markley Cahn von Seelen, Mykolai Filevych, Alain Fleury, Ole Niemann, Jeongeun Park), a charming CGI/live-action ident in the style of a toy commercial. Everything from the cute gardens with perfectly vertical vegetables to the evil mutant rats was stylized with a plastic sheen to really sell that toy look. One of my favourite details were the monitors in the background of some shots. They were modelled after glued-on stickers! Growing up with Legos, I’m used to the occasional decal one would have to carefully place during builds every now and then and small touches like these really help convince you this is a real toy commercial.

and I wish it was a real toy, look at how cute it looks!
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Apocalypse Playset» by Markley Cahn von Seelen, Mykolai Filevych, Alain Fleury, Ole Niemann, Jeongeun Park

But you might be wondering «wait, this all sounds very CGI, didn’t you say this had live action elements?» Here’s the kicker, there was a live-action hand that was green screened into the animation to interact with the toys!

look at it, so cool!
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Apocalypse Playset» by Markley Cahn von Seelen, Mykolai Filevych, Alain Fleury, Ole Niemann, Jeongeun Park

Personally, I’m a bit biased because my girlfriend played the hand model for this one – one day they just approached her while she was washing dishes in the animation kitchen and said, «Pretty hands there, wanna help?» (I’m paraphrasing here, but it was more or less like this according to her).

Jokes aside, this just goes to show how collaborative and spontaneous the process can be at this school.

Claw Me

Up next came «Claw Me» (dir. Ana Sofía Aillaud Trasviña, Irina Georgiadou, Cheyenne Gia Klossner, Inna Soroka, Ysabel Steiner). I think we’ve all been there, folks. We desperately want a plushie from a claw machine, but it’s slipped away from us. No matter how hard we try, it escapes our grasp!

but what if… the machine strikes back?
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim],
«Claw Me» by Ana Sofía Aillaud Trasviña, Irina Georgiadou, Cheyenne Gia Klossner, Inna Soroka, Ysabel Steiner

The idea for the short was born when Cheyenne, the director of this ident, visited Japan. She was inspired by all the arcade cabinets she encountered in her time there and returned to school with new ideas. They clearly resonated with people, because this was easily the largest group of the bunch with five people on board! Due to the size of the group, the teachers encouraged them to go crazy. Go big or go home as they say… and they went BIG, but as one of the members of the project so succinctly put it:

«Dream big, but if you dream big that means you have to work more.» – Irina

This was exemplified with a shot they dubbed “Shot 666”. It’s a crazy perspective shot, and Irina, the storyboard/layout artist, fought hard to keep it in. It required lots of planning and reference footage – but the end result speaks for itself.

the infamous shot, as presented by the team

One thing I should mention is that after every presentation, the groups would receive individual feedback by each of the teachers and an associate from Adult Swim who was connected via Zoom. This was another of the highlights for me. Being connected to industry professionals from across the globe is very exciting, but what is even more exciting is when they are drinking some kind of mystery sludge on a big cinema screen. Kino.

Zombie Golf

Zombie Golf (dir. Jessica Eugster, Fabian Betschart, Dana-Elena Binică, Gian Widli)  – bam, what a title! Need I say more? It’s zombies golfing in the apocalypse, c’mon! This one was one of my personal favourites. Unlike most idents, this one is a blend between stop-motion and CGI and the behind-the-scenes process for this one was wild.

you know these are real monsters if they are golfing at night
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Zombie Golf» by Jessica Eugster, Fabian Betschart, Dana-Elena Binică, Gian Widli

First, of course, is the stop-motion animation. But, as usual with stop-motion, before you get to the animation part you got to build things first. For this, they decided to build them out of foam latex which involves a very fragile and delicate process involving molds and what not. It was easy to get many imperfections during this, but for zombie puppets this was perfect.

A detail I found very cute is that Jessica and her mother sewed the clothes for the puppets together in one weekend. Bit of a frightening bonding activity if you ask me.

Now that the puppets are ready the team was ready to finally animate but how do you go about making a somewhat seamless blend between two mediums? Very careful planning. Lots of it.

On the CGI side of things there were some challenges too. 3D is finnicky because, for something like this, it’s too perfect. How do you replicate the imperfections of stop-motion in a software that can produce the best, most optimal results? How do you get textures that match the textured realism of stop-motion?

The team tried many things, but it seems like the best solution was the simplest. After getting nowhere trying to replicate the textures of the stop-motion set, they tried taking a picture of the set and using that as a texture… and it worked! To quote one of the team members:

«Keep it simple, stupid.»

Simple solutions such as colour grading or adding film grain in post-production worked wonders to blend both styles, giving more credence to this simple wisdom.

The end result is something to marvel at with its freaky and spooky post-apocalyptic golf game.
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Zombie Golf» by Jessica Eugster, Fabian Betschart, Dana-Elena Binică, Gian Widli)

Dinner Date

If you had your fill with the man-eating zombies then wait till you get the bill with the next ident, «Dinner Date» (dir. Iara De Jong Goncalves, Anna Müller) . We’ve all been in bad dates before. Don’t you sometimes wish you could bite their heads off? This is what the duo behind this ident sought to answer with their quirky yet gory homage to the UPA style of animation.

Lily Mantis’ patience is being put to the test
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Dinner Date» by Iara De Jong Goncalves, Anna Müller

They were faithful in trying to replicate the look of cel animation, going to great lengths to ensure its authenticity. The ident was formatted in 4:3 instead of the standard 16:9, the quality of the video had been slightly blurred, as if recorded from an old VHS tape but Jürgen Haas, a veteran from the era and the lead of the animation department, pointed out some slight inaccuracies. Guess you can’t fool a trained eye.

For these idents, the school collaborates with the music department of the «Zurich University of the Arts» to provide music as well as «Speech Academy» who bring the characters to life with their voice acting. The music in this short was definitely a standout with how jazzy it was but also due to the slight horror undertones they managed to sneak in as the ident ramped up to its bloody finale.

A funny anecdote the team shared with us was the fact that everybody at Speech Academy wanted to voice the femme fatale protagonist «Lily Mantis», yet no one wanted to voice her smarmy and pathetic date, «Chris Fly».

I mean, just look at him… blegh
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Dinner Date» by Iara De Jong Goncalves, Anna Müller

As a little gift, the team ordered some stickers based on the short, including one for Chris Fly! Perhaps we can give him the love he (doesn’t really) deserve.

are YOU a Chris Fly apologist?

The Legendary Treasure

«The Legendary Treasure» (dir.  Benjamin Gilli, Emanuel Strehler, Jiani Fei, Jonas Opderbecke, Sina Mazziotta) is a fun take on Indiana Jones and Greek Mythology. An intrepid adventurer runs for his life, chased by a giant creature, dodging past spikes and fire and what not.

The style for this ident was inspired by contemporary 3D projects such as Spider-Verse and, primarily, Arcane. As the other big group of five, they decided to go big too, trying to give their own spin to the show’s iconic style.

one of my favourite quotes from a BTS video for Arcane

But before they get to that they have to model their stars first. The monster wasn’t much trouble however the human was quite the adventure to get right. Making a stylized human was more difficult than expected. He often slipped into the uncanny valley and getting the texturing done for him was quite difficult.

but our intrepid adventurer turned out quite nicely in the end
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «The Legendary Treasure» by Benjamin Gilli, Emanuel Strehler, Jiani Fei, Jonas Opderbecke, Sina Mazziotta

At first, the team tried experimenting with some procedural shaders to get the painterly look but just like the artist behind Arcane, they had to resort to painting everything by hand.

a look at some of their hand-painted assets

Something that was nice to see were the various team building activities they did outside of animating. They visited adventure rooms (though there was no legendary treasure at the end of these), shared snacks and just overall seemed like they had a great time.

Los Limpiadores

Next group was «Los Limpiadores» (dir. Mártin Alfredo Allmendinger, Tifany Perera, Marija Simovic), an ident about two cleaners suddenly forced to face an extraterrestrial creature. The film was a kind of ode to the wonderful janitors at our school who face an even scarier monster than the one in the ident… the wacky shenanigans of a school full of art students. Makes me shudder to even think about it.

Again, a little bit biased here due to myself being involved in this one as the voice of one of the janitors. Just like the other collaboration with the second years, this one was very spontaneous. I was just asked randomly by one of the team members while on the bus and well, the rest is history. Now my screams of terror as I try to fight off a horror beyond my comprehension will be immortalized forever.

Development on this film wasn’t as smooth as some of the others, given that it had over a dozen different animatics. It was a tough road to reach a vision the entire team agreed upon. They had to wrangle new software and faced technical difficulties with the old ones they knew, but by the end their hard work paid off.

Open Wide

«Open Wide» (dir. Jérémie Jayraj Itty, Mona Joana Gassner, Suwoo Kim, Viktoriia Vasylets) was, well, what other way to put it other than widely beloved among my classmates. A rugged, (and dare I say sexy?) pilot flying through the skies is suddenly caught in a storm! His engine catches on fire, his airplane nosedives on a sure path directly to the cold, harsh seas but then… a baby!?

look at it, so cute, not a single thought behind those eyes
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Open Wide» by Jérémie Jayraj Itty, Mona Joana Gassner, Suwoo Kim, Viktoriia Vasylets

It’s fairly simple story that works well, subverting expectations on a dad feeding his baby some food, pretending it’s a little plane so the baby actually eats it.

The team made a point to put communication and a healthy work ethic as a key part of their group’s core. They took care of each other, set ground rules, made sure they were getting enough sleep, all to ensure a good working environment.

The ident used a blend of CGI and 2D in a subtle way. The airplane itself was animated in Blender and essentially rotoscoped in 2D later down the pipeline. Work smarter, not harder, folks.

the end result is beautiful!
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim],
«Open Wide» by Jérémie Jayraj Itty, Mona Joana Gassner, Suwoo Kim, Viktoriia Vasylets

Don’t tell anyone, but my sources (the director himself, SHH!) told me that his laptop broke down mid-production. One day we were at his place playing games on it, the next the screen wouldn’t turn on anymore. With no cloud backups of any sort, it seemed like a chunk of their ident had gone missing! Luckily, he managed to get it fixed. Phew! A good reminder to back up project files on the school’s servers or a personal cloud storage. Or both, probably both is good.

Even though the team had a healthy work ethic it was still hard for them to stay healthy in the physical sense. During the presentation they showed this humorous slide ranking how often a member of the team got sick. Except for one member who outstood them all… The Mighty Suwoo.

Everyone tried learning new things during the production of the ident and they all seemed pleased with themselves by the end of the project. Personally, I learnt something new too, as Jürgen gave some surprisingly detailed feedback on the design of the plane. What kind of life has he led as to know so much about planes…?

Space Girls

«Space Girls» (dir. Mélina Bron, Yuliia Bykova , Daniel Neto Dias) is about space divas competing with each other in a dancing game, only to lose to someone who’s not even trying. If you’ve ever played Just Dance you might find this one relatable.

the two players in the front and the third, unwilling participant in the back
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Space Girls» by Mélina Bron, Yuliia Bykova , Daniel Neto Dias

Heavily inspired by a captivating Y2K aesthetic mixed with a retro futuristic style from the 70s, this ident is seriously stylish. You can gleam a lot from its inspirations from Sailor Moon, Bratz to that Angelina Jolie fish from Shark Tale, they really made sure to go all the way to nail down the vibe.

just look at this sparkly, dreamy background, I want to live there
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Space Girls» by Mélina Bron, Yuliia Bykova , Daniel Neto Dias

As mentioned earlier, there is a collaboration with the ZhDK for these idents and the filmmakers here used it to their full advantage. They went from a song that «sounded like a The Weeknd song» to an instrumental that feels like it could’ve been lifted straight out of a Britney Spears album.

The animated dance choreography is nothing short of impressive, though sadly, this short wasn’t finished yet at the time of the presentation, and two of the three people in the team were now in an exchange in Singapore. I hope they manage to finish the ident despite the differing time zones because just like the space girls, it has the potential to be a star.

Fastest Way to Bingo

And at last but not least we have «Fastest Way to Bingo» (dir. Julia Flor Estrada Torres, Touka Fatemi, Della Miranda, Jiwoo Yoon), a fully stop-motion animated ident about a grandma who’s dead set on arriving to bingo as fast as possible, even if it means trespassing the law…

badass grandma, pictured above
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim], «Fastest Way to Bingo» by Julia Flor Estrada Torres, Touka Fatemi, Della Miranda, Jiwoo Yoon

Anything that is stop-motion is like catnip to me. As someone who experienced it during my studies here, I have nothing but respect to those that are dedicated enough to commit to it. There is a ridiculous amount of work involved in making a stop motion film and just hearing them talk about their production had me and others reminiscing about our own time down in the «mines» (our «affectionate» name for the Blackbox where the stop-motion films are shot).

HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim],
«Fastest Way to Bingo» by Julia Flor Estrada Torres, Touka Fatemi, Della Miranda, Jiwoo Yoon

The team had complications building the puppets as Touka showed us pictures of the handful (heh) of hands she made for the main character, only to realize they didn’t really need them. Though some parts of the process were hard, others were sped up significantly by using new techniques such as laser cutting, used in the final film to create an authentic looking metal bridge.

HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim]
«Fastest Way to Bingo» by dir. Julia Flor Estrada Torres, Touka Fatemi, Della Miranda, Jiwoo Yoon

The look of the ident was very grounded, therefore the main subway set had to match as well. As the set designer talked about the challenges of building miniature, tiled, ceramic walls some of my classmates groaned empathetically as the memories of doing the exact same thing for their own film returned to them.

the hat on the bench is a reference to one of the team members who always wears a cap just like that one!
HSLU BA Animation in Cooperation with [adult swim]
«Fastest Way to Bingo» by dir. Julia Flor Estrada Torres, Touka Fatemi, Della Miranda, Jiwoo Yoon

All teams made some excellent projects! Their presentations, detailing the process behind each ident, were an excellent way for us first years to learn from.

So… what did we learn?

Dream big!


Foster a healthy work ethic!

Plan ahead. Do LOTS of planning ahead.

Maybe for next time they’ll get another first year to write about me and my classmates’ very own SEP.

P.S. And if she’s reading… Love you, Kathy! (Hope this ages like wine and not like milk haha…ha)

Infotage: Discovering the Animation Department

During the last weekend of November the HSLU opened its doors to curious outsiders and potential new students to come and find out all that the school has to offer.

Friday the 24th was the first day where everyone had the opportunity to see the students in action: in their cubicles working on their bachelor movies, were the third years, while the second years focused on their first applied projects with our partner Adult Swim.

Visitors were free to walk around our department, not only to get familiar with the premises, but also to ask questions. I assume it probably wasn’t the students’ most productive day.

Two floors under our animation quarters, in the basement, was one of the first years’ class. As one of the classes learned what CGI has to offer, the latter explored the world of stop-motion in our black boxes.

In these dark rooms, several set were exhibited and in the room next door, you could find students occupied with making puppets and sets for their upcoming movies. A situation that happens every year due to our curriculum having an introductory module focused on every main animation technique, as it’s necessary for our new students to see everything the world of animation has to offer before deciding what pleases them most.

These students had their hands in the dough but most probably their heads in the clouds, as I assume they were also bombarded with questions that they happily answered.

The visitors that didn’t want to disturb the students met on the couches next to our inhouse cinema Rex, where a Q&A took place, while some of our animation bachelor films were shown with video bachelor ones in the movie theater.

Around the small table garnished with sweets and information sheets our staff, assigned to answering everyone’s questions, mainly took naps thanks to the students in the classrooms doing their jobs.

On Saturday the 25th, despite the lack of people in the ateliers the school was even fuller and the actions of the day before were repeated. At 1pm, rendez-vous in the conference room, where Jürgen Haas, the animation department director, presented the animation bachelor’s curriculum to our interested participants and went over the entrance exam, just as he did the day before. Laughs were heard and animation.lucerne’s merch was won.

It was a long and busy weekend: everyone left with their heads full but their minds a bit clearer. Let’s do it again next year.

Out of home animation 2023

Electricity is scarce, you shower with cold fountain water and the stars appear as clear as ever – Out of home animation feels like escaping society for a few days, leaving all your day – to – day stress over 1000m below.

The OOHA experience started with a little hiking adventure. We enjoyed the view and got to meet all the wonderful people who joined the workshop from all over Europe. After three hours of walking uphill, and finally crossing the “DEATH VALLEY” (which is really just a slightly steeper pathway with some rubble), we had finally reached the Fromatthütte!

There, we received a warm welcome by Elena and Felix. They had already prepared food and cold drinks for everyone, which was highly appreciated. After dinner, we all needed some well-deserved rest.

The morning of the second day, Ewald, who grew up in the area, came to visit us. He told us fairytales about an infinite chunk of cheese, showed us where the dwarves have champaign parties and where the military tested grenades in the 80s. On an excursion through the underwood, he taught us a lot of interesting facts about the local fauna and flora.

Filled with inspiration, we then finally started gathering material for our projects. Some built puppets or knitted tiny outfits out of moss and grass, while others tried to lure butterflies with margarine.

We all embraced and collaborated with our surroundings to create films. Throughout the week, there were several inputs and screenings to spark new ideas. During the process I felt low pressure but very high creative energy. It was like a long needed mental reset for filmmaking.

The following days we got to know each other. We cooked and ate, played games, doodled and talked, and made movies together. The People at the Fromatt were very sweet and fun. It felt great spending time with such inspiring fellow artists!

In the middle of our stay, we went on another hike, to the Seebergsee. As it was a rather hot week, we were all happy to go cool down in a mountain lake. We were greeted by some lovely ducks who seemed very happy to see us. However, this took a turn when they started attacking us for food! Their mission succeeded, when they stole Elenas sandwiches (twice!!) After burying the hatchet with the ducks, we went for another swim to the small island in the middle of the lake, before heading back to the Fromatt.

The trip was a well-timed break and gave us just the right amount of distance from our projects. In the evening, we presented what we’d been working on with a fresh perspective.

We had some vague ideas about what people were doing, since we always surrounded each other. But actually seeing everyone’s progress gave us a new boost of excitement for the remaining time.

The last two days were spent mostly on our computers, where we processed the material we had gathered. All 20 people cozied up in one room and worked to the humming sound of the generator. We closed the last evening with a final screening of our progress.

With that, out of home came to an end. We played our last few rounds of Brändi Dog and got ready for bed.

In the morning, after everything was packed and the hut was cleaned, Godi came to pick up our luggage as we began the hike downhill. Shortly before arriving at the train station, some of us took the chance to buy some yummy local cheese. Then it was already time to say goodbye.

Some of the students from abroad stayed in Lucerne for a few more days. We made some fondue for the full Swiss experience, showed them around the city and doodled together for one last time.

Now summer is over. The semester has already started again, and I’m sitting in my atelier writing this text. The screening of the final OOHA films is only a month away and (although my own film still needs some work) I’m very much looking forward to seeing how everyone’s project came out in the edit!

I hope to carry as much of the OOHA spirit as possible into our graduation year. It was such a great experience, and I would 100% go again if I could! Thank you to everyone who participated, but especially Maja, Elena and Felix for making this so special!

(PS: In case you’re reading this before the screening: Be at the Rex the 26th of October at 17.00 to see our films!)

What the participants had to say about OOHA 2023:

«Out of home animation was the best summer experience! I really got the chance to find myself in this beautiful mountain nature and to learn to understand better my emotions and use them in my art. This workshop really helped me in exploring my boundaries in animation and made me become much more confident in experimenting. But the best part was definitely the people I got the chance to meet. They were all really cool and kind and accepting which made me feel like I could really open up to them.»

«Meine Woche im OOHA in der Berner Bergwelt war das reinste Träumli. Jeden Morgen eine heisse Tasse Kaffee mit der wunderschönsten Aussicht, jeden Tag eine eiskalte Dusche aus dem Brunnen und jederzeit umgeben von ganz tollen und kreativen Menschen. Wie üblich im OOHA haben auch wir Filmprojekte umgesetzt. Dies jedoch ganz ohne Druck und mit sehr vielen Freiheiten. Es hat mir sehr grossen Spass gemacht und ich werde noch lange von dieser Zeit zehren. Vielen Dank!»

«t was one of the most beautiful experiences of the whole year. In the middle of the Swiss mountains, I completely lost track of time and just enjoyed the joy of creating with amazing, smart and funny people. Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this workshop!»

«For the project during out of Home I was in a team of two. That was very nice because we were not pressuring ourselves and just had a lot of fun working together, using the phone to make some pixilation of each other with the wide angle lens (I dunno if that’s the actual English word for it?).

Also It was lovely to meet so many new and awesome animation people from other countries. I really enjoyed the time in the mountains with them:)»

Von kurzsichtigen Krabben zu Ballerinen in Rüstung

Auf einer spärlich bewohnten, idyllischen Insel in der Nähe der norwegischen Kleinstadt Bodø befindet sich eine Gruppe seltsamer hölzerner Kabinen, in denen jeweils eine Künstlerin arbeitet. Gegen Ende des Sommers hatte ich das Glück und die Gelegenheit, zusammen mit zwei weiteren Kolleg*innen aus der Animationsbranche für drei Wochen in eine dieser Kabinen einzuziehen, um an meinem persönlichen Filmprojekt zu arbeiten.

Die Menschen, die ich während meiner Zeit im Arctic Hideaway kennengelernt habe, waren genauso inspirierend wie die einzigartige Umgebung. Da war zum Beispiel Trond, ein norwegischer Künstler, der mir viel über die norwegische Kultur und Geschichte erzählt hat, oder Misha, eine rumänische Metallbildhauerin, deren elegante und tiefgründige Werke mich genauso beeindruckt haben wie ihre Persönlichkeit.

In meiner Arbeit suche ich nach dem Absurden und dem Überschreiten von Grenzen. The Arctic Hideaway bot mir einen abgelegenen und inspirierend schönen Arbeitsplatz, der jedoch nicht an Vielfalt und skurrilen Interaktionen und Situationen mangelte. Es treffen sich verschiedenste Personen an einem von der Welt abgeschiedenen Ort, wo sie sich gemeinsam auf ihre Arbeit und das Zusammenleben konzentrieren.

Das Arctic Hideaway ist eine Residenz, die von der grenzenlosen Leidenschaft der Besitzer und Helfer sowie von uns, den Kunstschaffenden, belebt wird. In Zusammenarbeit mit der HSLU Design und Kunst ermöglichte uns das Arctic Hideaway, unsere Kreativität an diesen Ort zu bringen und in den naturnahen, wilden und dennoch stilvollen und harmonischen Alltag auf der Insel in Fleinvær einzutauchen und uns von ihm inspirieren zu lassen. Jetzt bin ich zurück in der Schweiz und teile meine Eindrücke begeistert mit allen, die zuhören möchten. Ich hoffe, dass ich auch andere ermutigen kann, eine dieser hölzernen Kabinen für eine Weile ihr Zuhause zu nennen.

LuMAA 2023

Another year, another LuMAA!

This time around with air-conditioning. The course and its structure stayed the same, but on hot days, the air-conditioning was a blessing – since PC-stuffed rooms aren’t known for their inherent coolness, temperature-wise. As per usual, we opened the doors of the course to fellow students from partner schools, namely Jirio and Harry from Filmakademie Baden Württemberg, Violette and Robin from MOPA, and Astrid, Sofie, and Liva from TAW. Oh, and us, of course, a rambunctious bunch from HSLU, with first years in the majority.

The location, the PC room of our dear animation department. The students, a wild bunch from all over, eager to learn. The software, Maya, a difficult beast to master. The teachers, a great many with years of experience under their belt, ready to guide us to new heights of animation. So here’s how that went down.

Week 1 – Walk cycles with Yves Ruprecht

Beginnings are difficult. Especially if you have never touched Maya before. Luckily, Yves was there to help us newcomers start off on the right foot, so to speak. He recommended a return to the basics–so we all hopped on a treadmill and shot references of each other. Later, we analyzed our walks as preparation for animating our walk cycles. This task was a familiar one—but this time around, we were able to push them further with Yves’ feedback, be it a vanilla walk or one with more personality.

Yves is not only a kind and motivating person, but also a great informant on everything regarding the animation industry and what to expect as we enter the field. One especially important piece of advice: you need patience to find the right job in this industry. But in the end, that patience pays off.

Week 2 – Lip-sync with Ramon Arango and Noah Demirci

In week two, Ramon and Noah returned to LuMAA–not as students, but as the teachers up front. They told us they were nervous–but seeing how passionately they spoke about the subtleties of facial animation, we would never have known if they hadn’t said so. Two pieces of advice stood out in particular. Firstly, blinks can be wonderfully diverse, and very effective in showing the inner world of a character. Secondly, not every sound has to have its own mouth movement in order to feel believable—a hint is often enough.

“No matter how many years of experience you have in this industry, each new shot is a new challenge … and to realize that was eye-opening. “  – Noah Demirci

Week 3 – Creature Anim: Walk cycles with Lukas Niklaus

Due to a scheduling mistake, Ramon was kind enough to teach for the first two days of the week before Lukas took over. Armed with experience working on creature animation at Weta, the studio behind the VFX of Avatar and LOTR, he was the perfect teacher to help us tackle the quadruped’s walk cycle. Most of us animated a tiger, so he was able to concentrate on teaching us in-depth detail and knowledge about how this marvelous creature moves. Thanks to him, we all managed to incorporate even the smallest details, down to the subtle rotation of the core and the squish of the paws. Alongside teaching, he showed us examples of the impressive professional projects he has taken part in–including work from the studio “floating rocks”, which he is co-leading.

Week 4 – Creature Anim: Body mechanics with Michael Aerni

We all know it to be true–everything in animation is a bouncing ball. Armed with this golden nugget of knowledge and guidance from Michael, we made simple shapes move around. Since Michael animates mainly in a layered fashion, we took it upon ourselves to try it out, with great success. Many liked this layered approach so much, they continued to use it in the following weeks. For the uninitiated, layered animation is a method where you focus first on the movement of the character’s core, and then “layer in” the limbs and other secondary elements. Instead of making one full pose after the other, you slowly build the animation from the core. This has the advantage of making the weight of the character look and feel more believable in less time than a pose-to-pose approach. It is a process that takes a bit to get used to, but is certainly worth learning.

Week 5 – Acting shot with Nicole Ridgewell

The week with Nicole started even before the week began, as we were tasked with finding good dialogue–a quest much more difficult than initially presumed. All recognizable samples (those which are already overused in acting shots) were immediately struck out, and we were sent on a search for our own characters and their stories.  That involved daily observational drawing, looking both into ourselves and at the people around us. Adding all of that together, we pitched our shot and got started. Our goal? To reach IP by the end of the week. IP (short for “in progress”) is the stage of production where, although many things are still rough and need to be polished, the central idea of the shot is already clearly communicated and can be built upon with more work. By Friday, we were fully invested in the characters we had built up over the course of the week, and were looking forward to Week 6—when we would finally flesh out the animation in more detail.

Week 6 – Acting shot with Dan Nguyen

Not only did Dan bring his vast understanding of character acting, but also a calmness that perfectly complemented Nicole’s energy from the week before. With his wise words and insightful feedback, we started to polish our acting shot. It takes a lot of time and a good eye to spot which small subtleties require correction, but with Dan’s help, we made great strides in this vital skill. With that we were learning the last lesson of LuMAA, true patience. It takes a lot of time to go from the initial idea to polish. Every curve is cleaned out, all arcs are accounted for, the small deformations of hands are added, cheeks are squished into appealing shapes … all the small details are refined truly bring the performance to life.

“If you don’t have that connection to people who are actually doing the job, it can seem kind of abstract and distant.” – Dan Nguyen

Ping pong and other worthwhile activities

Unbelievably, we did not just animate for six weeks straight, but also lived our lives to the fullest. With such an amazing cast of characters, how could we not have fun? (Besides when we were screaming at our computers.) We cooked together, had weekly barbeque parties, and screened each other’s graduation movies as well as inspiring films and series in the REX (the school’s mini movie theater). Some of us got so good at ping pong that they graduated to playing with dustpans instead of paddles. We learned drinking games and had chocolate and beer tastings.

The weather was wild, from very cold rainy weather, where the aircon was our doom (we could not set the temperature, so it got rather chilly at times), to scorching heat, where the only escape was the river. We went swimming often, floating along with the current, and even enjoying a boat ride.

With all these experiences behind us, Maya almost trauma-bonding us together, and just being around each other for six weeks, it was hard to say goodbye. But time marched onward, and the experience ended. For some, school would commence again soon, while others had to start searching for a job, and yet others were beginning internships. Before we all went our separate ways, we promised we would see each other again soon, be it at festivals, in the industry, or—perhaps—even at next year’s LuMAA.

Thanks to Nicole, Dan, Michael, Lukas, Roman, Noah, and Yves, we now understand that a fulfilling life working in film is not only possible, but likely. Great opportunities await us in the entertainment sector, and we are lucky to be a part of it in these exciting times! One thing all our teachers agreed on: they are happy with their decision to enter the film industry. Even after 20 intense years of working on big movies to independent productions, they couldn’t imagine doing something different. We cannot imagine anything else either.

The AniGrill and an overview over 3 years of studying Animation

Interviews with Isabel Pahud, Caroline Laville and Isabel Clerici
It’s after a long year of sitting behind desks working on various projects that the whole animation department here at HSLU, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts comes together to eat amazing grilled veggie-burgers, to discuss the recently premiered bachelor movies and most of all, to enjoy each other‘s company before a long awaited summer break.

On Thursday the 29th of June, three classes of students and staff meet on the school’s terrace to have a last meal together before leaving for the summer or definitively for those finishing their studies. It’s a long held tradition from the animation’s department: a true farewell to our third year bachelor’s and a last chance to get together with all their peers after a very exciting but also busy premiere the day before.
It’s under a cloudy sky that it all takes place and even though everyone’s very emotional, we can see the sun shining through the student’s smiles as people laugh together over their shared memories. Watching it all come to surface, I see the perfect opportunity to ask a few of the recent graduates about their time spent here studying animation, who knows when a little secret might be spilled.

Three years have come to an end, this is the last time you’ll be with the whole bachelor together as a student, how do you feel about it?

Isabel Pahud
It kinda sucks because the three years were really nice and although we were covid kids, we still managed to build a nice class atmosphere. Now it’s the reality of having to step foot into the big world out there where nothing is sure and nothing is secure. You’re leaving this comfortable bubble, and also being a student where shit is free, I’m not going to have that adobe pack anymore…


I know! Usually if the studio is good they provide you the licenses but yes, it’s exciting and also very depressing at the same time.

Isabel Pahud, director of this year’s bachelor film Forza, Rea!, started her studies here in September 2020 right before new public health measures were imposed due to Covid-19 cases rising in Switzerland. Having to study from home affected the class dynamics but not necessarily in a bad way, as Caroline Laville explains:

Caroline Laville
The lockdown started again around November so we had three months to get to know the class. Then we all moved to Discord* until the end of our first year. I think it was hard on some people but it worked out for my side of the class really well. We * instant messaging social platform, usually used for video calls and private chats met everyday, we had such a tight bonding experience through staying up until 2 am chatting or playing games together, that formed a really strong bond between us. It‘s in the AniGrill that the third year class gets to say goodbye to this school. It’s a special event that can get quite emotional as it takes place directly after the bachelor film’s premiere, the day before. For Isabel Clerici, the second Isabel from team Forza, Rea!, this year’s grill is different because it’s her last:

You’ve been to quite a few AniGrills, what makes this event special in your

Isabel Clerici
It’s the feeling of everyone being excited because some really cool movies are done! It‘s also the last time you get to see some people and talk to everybody, not just your class. It’s exciting to have everybody together, it’s hard finding time for everyone to hang out. The AniGrill is like: “we the animation students are having a party”, it’s really cool.

We always have a lot of things organized only for animation students, it’s so great.

So exclusive!

Yes definitely!

It’s just really nice because it’s like a send-off. You get to send somebody off and know that next year it’s your turn, you can prepare yourself for that. As a third year, something ends and it’s sad but in a good way. It’s important, if we all just left and there was nothing it would be hard, this helps. So that’s the main purpose of the AniGrill: not just eating for free but also closing an important chapter in the student’s lives. It’s a time of discussion and reflection, where everyone can go over their evolution during their studies.

With your studies finished, what do you take out of the last three years?

Caroline Laville
I started studying here not knowing if I wanted to do 2d or 3d and now at the end, I know very specifically what I will focus on. It formed me by giving me directions. The studies here also gave me realistic expectations for what happens after school. But most of all, we have a community now with this class where we’re proud of each other, everyone is very skilled. I know that a lot of us are gonna be in the industry and it will be amazing seeing people that I studied with work on really cool projects.
Maybe in the future we get to work together again, it would be a dream.
Caroline Laville worked on her personal portfolio during her last year instead of teaming up to make a movie. However, that did not stop her from stepping into many different projects in different roles like for Summer Rain as Compositor and Oh No as Producer. Connections are one of the most crucial possessions that students take from their bachelor in Lucerne. All the time spent together creating strong bonds contributes to better teamwork and an overall greater time working as a group.

What are the best memories you keep?

Isabel Clerici
AH you’re making me choose! I don’t know, maybe lunches in the atelier, just eating together, having a laugh, watching movies in the Rex* or hanging on the terrace, it’s the small things. Obviously seeing my name in a big cinema made me cry, it’s a pretty big moment. Aside from that, I’d say the third year because it’s such a collective work. I don’t think it was a specific moment, it was getting to work on a project and seeing everybody work on their project, updating and helping each other. I don’t think I’ll ever have something like that again. It was pretty incredible.

Such emotional answers! Okay so-

Also pancake day was fun.

Pancake day! Was that a new thing this year?

That was because Bee (Isabel Pahud) is British and it’s a British holiday!

That’s so funny, I saw it on your schedule!

Yes, so carry it forth next year, do pancake day.

Sure, great memories are formed during the studies. And even though the students wouldn’t change a thing about those, there are still specific moments where they feel like they could have done things otherwise, especially with the knowledge they have now.

What would you have done differently?

Isabel Pahud
Now with a whole year behind me of being director, I know what I can do differently in that role. I have a clear idea of what is expected of me and what I should bring to the table. When I pitched my story, I didn’t realize exactly how much I should have done beforehand, style-wise and story-wise. It’s good to have a clear idea of what you want instead of just a concept. Concepts are great but if you don’t flesh them out, you won’t find anything tangible. Also, If you have a concept, make sure that you have people that are very eager to bring ideas to the table! Around the tables outside, between the alumni, staff and current students, a few new faces can be seen. The next first years have already been accepted, some are here tonight. There’s no better time to drop a piece of advice, I’m sure they’d be as eager to hear it as me. * Hslu’s own movie theater just next to the cafeteria

What piece of advice would you give to the newcomers?

Caroline Laville
I remember my first kükenfest* I was sweating because my new classmates were so much better than me. I got in from the waitlist so I wasn’t sure I deserved my place here. I talked with a third year back then at the grill, their piece of advice stuck with me: even though you compare yourself in the first year, as soon as you start working in a team, you stop the comparisons because everybody is equal. The better your teammate is, the better it is for you!

Isabel Pahud
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take these three years as practice, don’t expect to have portfolio worthy work walking out of it. Always move on to the next project instead of sticking to one trying to make it better. Sometimes starting from scratch or doing something different is way more helpful to advance in your skill. Also, make good friendships and have a good time, don’t take the teachers too seriously! Grades don’t matter, you just need to pass. It’s all about your skill, not grades.

Isabel Clerici
Follow your gut and do what you like. If doing what you like means not doing an all-nighter but instead hanging out with your friends, then do that. It’s probably the only time in your life where you’re gonna get to do that. If it means that you really want to finish this specific thing then do it! As long as you follow your gut, you’re going in the right direction.

Thank you Isabel 1, Isabel 2 and Caroline, we’ll be sure to put all of that into action.

So there it is folks: as the night ends, the beloved third years pass not only the salad, but also the torch to the next batch of students. And as we all eat and drink together, this evening serves less as a goodbye but more as a welcoming party to all the amazing projects to come by our new graduates.

photos by Jessica Meier

*grill organized in the first week of school to introduce the new animation students to the Bachelor

The Animation Premiere

graduates 2023
All photos by Copyright: HSLU/Priska Ketterer

Meeting the students behind the stories
Interviews with team Crevette, team Summer Rain, Kirill Gromadko and Justine Klaiber

I’m sitting among hundreds of people, the room is overflowing with excitement. Today is the HSLU’s Animation premiere, where films made by the students both in Bachelor and Master Animation during this last year will be screened.

It’s all taking place in the Blue Cinema here in Emmenbrücke. As I walk in, maybe fifteen minutes early, I can already see multiple small clumps of people talking. There’s the graduates’ families and friends, alumni, students, school’s staff and many Swiss professionals. I now understand why it couldn’t take place in our own cinema room in school, the Rex. I mingle a bit before going to the ticket stand where I receive a bracelet for my reservation and I walk into the screening room.

The room is enormous but I still struggle to find a sitting place in the middle, who even wantsto sit on the sides? The space gets filled pretty quickly. In the crowd, the people graduating this year stand out: dresses to suits, professionalism seems to be the theme, bulls-eye, every single one of them looks amazing! After all the greetings, they also take place and when every single person is finally sat, the atmosphere changes. Jürgen Haas, Hslu’s Bachelor animation’s director, walks on stage accompanied by Tina Ohnmacht, Master animation’s coordinator. A not so little speech is made, which I unfortunately can’t forward to you as it was held in german, but I assume it’s about the year of work behind and the pride felt for the students. That’s what I would have written. Then, it’s the students turn to speak, Sven Bachmann from team Crevette talks for the whole bachelor: he thanks every person involved in the films and gives away bags prepared for the school’s staff. Pretty similar words are said by Pedro Nel Cabrera Vanegas, on behalf of the master students. When all the important thanks are finally in the air, the lights dim and the true event starts.

Movies for all tastes are shown. DIfferent techniques, from stop-motion to hand-drawn animation to 3D are used and various stories, from the fear of pregnancy to a lemon thief, are told. People laugh during the funny moments and are quiet during the sad ones. What I’m sure of is that no one slept.

Soon enough, it all comes to an end. Jürgen Haas speaks a few more words about the amazing movies just presented: Henry’s hand, Oh no!, Forza, Rea!, Summer Rain, Crevette, Fork, Kill Your Darlings, NonSense, Searching for the Fifth Direction, Sonnenhuegel, Tapir Memories and Catch The Mouse!. And finally, the students graduating are welcomed on the stage for a strongly deserved round of applause.

The official screening is over and everyone starts getting ready for an apéro before calling it a night. However, all I can think about is finding a few of the graduates to ask them somquestions. The teams behind Crevette and Summer Rain, Kirill Gromadko from Catch the Mouse! and Justine Klaiber from the master’s, all agree to take a little interview.

What does it feel like finally seeing on the big screen the movie you’ve been working on for the last year?

Elina Huber
We’ve seen it before in the Rex but the animation moves differently in this even bigger screen. It doesn’t look worse, I just notice other details. It’s really cool because it gives me a fresh perspective on the film.

Sven Bachmann
It was interesting to hear and feel the audience. Before, we had only shown it to people who already knew the film and the story. I liked seeing the reactions of the ones that had never seen it before.

Elina and Sven worked on Crevette with Jill Vágner and Noémi Knobil. Even if seeing their project in a movie theater was a big step from working on small screens or watching it projected on school grounds, what mostly stuck with them was finally seeing the audience react genuinely. Which also seemed to be the case for the Summer Rain crew:

Marlene Low
It’s crazy to be in such a huge cinema but also, I’ve seen the movie so many times that I’m a bit numb to it. However, at such a big event like the premiere, you can hear so many new reactions which is really nice.

Johanna Kern
Or not hear reactions, a lot of people were very quiet.

Marlene Low
But that’s also a reaction!
Summer Rain, telling a story about grief through a child‘s point of view, was met with a strong silence when the credits rolled. The film, created by Marlene Low, Johanna Kern and Julia Krummenacher, touched the audience so profoundly that everyone hesitated to applaud. Fortunately, after one first clap the whole room joined as the team surely deserved.

Tell us a bit more about your teamwork, what would you have done differently?

We had a super dynamic team, we all worked on everything. We had a very democratic way of deciding what we wanted to continue with. It had its benefits and its downsides, it takes a lot longer to work that way. Noémi and Elina started with the story but we could all bring our things into it. We had to have a lot of discussions and meetings, it took way more time. It’s not very industry standard.

I’m not sure what I would change, I have more things that I definitely will keep on doing: like setting clear deadlines. Certain development stuff you can continue forever and keep finding more details, it’s dangerous. While for some, teamwork relied a lot on trust and friendships, for others this wasn’t the case.

Kirill Gromadko worked alone on Catch The Mouse! so he had to approach his project differently:

Working alone allowed me to go at my own pace, I put more hours on it then I would’ve if I were in a team. It’s a movie that I’ve been wanting to do for four years so I was also kinda addicted. If I were to do it again, I would’ve had less characters. Right now, the movie has five and they’re all four-legged creatures, which I had never animated before. Working alone has its own perks such as independence and complete choice. But in a group setting, a story can change drastically, especially when you constantly get input from your teammates.

How did the movie evolve from your original view?

When I pitched the story I had a few images in my head. Looking back, if it were a solo project, it would’ve turned out so different. It doesn’t mean it would’ve been better. I had a few visuals that I think would’ve been heavier story-wise and mood-wise, being in a team really helped me find that bittersweetness that we were going for. I wouldn’t change anything about the story that we have now, it’s perfect in my eyes.

Every graduate is very proud of their movie and they’ll carry on that feeling towards the new projects they’ll contribute to. While some are continuing their studies here at Hslu or elsewhere, others are stepping directly into the industry either through an internship or a full-time job. Justine Klaiber, master graduate, will be looking for funding for her story, as she entered her master degree in the concept track and spent her studies preparing the pre-production for a short-film.

What is the movie about?

It’s the story of Amelia who is stranded in space on a space-ship. She’s completely alone and struggling with the isolation and grief of losing a colleague partner. It’s about human and physical connection, being able to touch and feel another person. We as humans need that physical connection with people that are important to us, even if it’s not a love-relationship or a sexual-relationship. That’s why I tried to keep it ambiguous.

If everything goes according to plan, we should expect Lost Touch to premiere in festivals towards the end of 2024.

Another year goes by and we can once more be satisfied and fulfilled with the amazing work done by the animation students here in HSLU – Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The premiere is a success, it’s fair to expect more reservations for the next one, especially if they keep up the apéro treatment. It’s great seeing so many animation-passionate people connecting and having fun in the same place.

Looking at all the filmmakers being created here in Lucerne, we can’t help but to look forward to the numerous original stories to come from the Swiss Animation industry.

Blogpost by Daniel Neto Dias
photos: HSLU Premiere Animationsfilme Emmenbrücke, den 28.06.2023
Copyright: HSLU/Priska Ketterer