26 April 2007

Interview: MONIKA FORSBERG

Monika Forsberg's "His Passionate Bride" is one of my all-time favourite animations with a unique visual style and suitably bittersweet storyline. The animation is like sweeping winds and its creator is likewise an unrestrained elemental force. You can see "His Passionate Bride" HERE.

In 2000, she made "Frankie's Chimera" while at the Royal College of Art and in the following year, she created "This is Harrow". In 2004, she was nominated for a Bafta for "His Passionate Bride" which later won First Prize for best animation at the Granada International Film Festival in 2005 (which took the form of a large ham). With the support of the Arts Council of England and in collaboration with Susie Sparrow, she went on to make "We All Believe in Happy Endings" and a new series featuring Lola from "His Passionate Bride" is currently in the works.


Brace yourself, Monika doesn't pull any punches in this interview and she comes out with all guns blazing. The exchange would probably make for a great animation and it's certainly the most stunning interview thus far and a work of art in itself.

It's hard to explain, but to look at a part of this interview doesn't do it justice and won't make a lot of sense, but to read it in its entirety is absolutely genius. Sublime.

Thank you for agreeing to take part, Monika. I’m so happy I’m going to throw up.

Your profile on Animus Films says that you “accidentally” made the film Frankie’s Chimera. Would you explain how Frankie’s Chimera came about?
Well it didn't start with Frankie's Chimera, it started when I did a 2-second animation at Camberwell in 1995 where I was doing my foundation course. I was hooked. Then when I did my degree at Westminster, me and my flatmate were ever so lazy. We watched a lot of Neighbours on a black-n-white telly and got up to all sorts of things but we realized it was easier to whip up 200 bad drawings really quickly rather than do one good piece; Quantity not quality.


Danny is a very talented comic book artist and I realized that my crappy drawings, if I put them together as an animation, look rather okay. Frankie's Chimera came later....so slight misquote on the website really.
"It was me and him living there and also his ex-girlfriend Anne and her new boyfriend Terry that incidently was now Pauls ex best friend. You work it out."
Likewise, how did your followup, the true story This is Harrow come into being?
I moved to London in 95 to study and lived with my then boyfriend Paul, a Scottish bicycle courier in Highbury. It was me and him living there and also his ex girlfriend Anne and her new boyfriend Terry that incidently was now Paul's ex best friend. You work it out. We then moved to Newington Green then a lot of things happened. I threw the birthday cake I made for him in the bin one day. Well... on his birthday. We broke up (not on his birthday). This is the short version (1 1/2 years condensed into a few sentences)

So i moved to Harrow where I was studying. I was living in halls of residence and then I moved in with Danny to Nibthwaite road. We had a King Crimson gold record above the mantelpiece cos our friend who lived across the road was the son of Bill Bruford (drummer of Genesis yes King Crimson etc etc) and This is Harrow is just an animated documentary of everything that happened to me whilst living in Harrow.


Your Bafta nominated and ham-winning short His Passionate Bride wasn’t the first sex-themed animation you’ve made. In 1996, you produced Filth while attending Westminster University in collaboration with Matthew Small. Is this particularly important theme in your work?
I am a little childish perhaps. Filth came about when me and Matty (who was my boyfriend for 7 years and we have a son called Dante) went to Amsterdam for a weekend and we ended up cycling around and then sitting in a bar or two or three playing pool and drawing Filth on beer mats. Why? Why not?
"We were asked to propose something we wanted to do and we said we wanna do a porn animation. They said ok..."
We were then asked to participate in a group exhibition some months (years?) later (Last Show on Earth...Clerkenwells Arts Club in Farringdon, December 1999) We were asked to propose something we wanted to do and we said we wanna do a porn animation. They said okay so we went to bed one night (at the time we were livin at Matty's nan's in Gospel Oak) brought a bottle of wine and some photocopy paper and a lightbox and then we drew a few hundred drawings (not talking about what we were drawing but drawing what came to mind, what was funny, what was disgusting. We sat there drawing sitting side by side drawing on the same paper at the same time...and we kept changing over, swapping sides of the lightbox so we continued eachother's drawings) It was just for fun because we wanted to.

His Passionate Bride was slightly different. I knew I wasn't allowed to do any sex or violence cos it was to be broadcast on C4 before the watershed. When people tell you what you can and what you can't do, you have to do what you can't anyway. I was ever so obedient-ish then my producer Sylvie Bringas went on holiday to France and me and the editor (Nicolas Chaudeurge) were sitting in my spare bedroom (which was where the film was made) and we said it ain't funny enough and put in lots of graphic sex scenes. Immediately it was quite funny.


We laughed then Sylvie got back from France, took a look went "oh la la. What are we gonna do?" So she had to show C4 and they said we like it but it is impossible to show this so we edited out the graphicness and put cliffs and stuff in front of things going on etc. so in the end you cant really see anything. Its just IN YOUR MIND. Ha!ha!ha!ha!ha!ha! And C4 and their laywers were really supportive and argued our case that it could be shown on the grounds that it is/was educational. Love em.
"What do you do with a baby on your boob? Daydream and read books..."
Then when got comissioned to make We Believe in Happy Endings. We were given free reign to do whatever we wanted. The late Dick Arnall (of Animate!) said, "...you know it's after the watershed so do what you want". When you can do what you want, I end up not wanting to do anything naughty at all so we believe in happy endings ended up very nice and polite, but I have to admit that at the end of the day it is fun to draw sex. It is fun to draw violence. I like making things that entertain me and keep me smiling.

His Passionate Bride is almost like a condensed romance novel in the space of a few minutes. What were your influences on the story for this short? And what influenced the look of the short?
I got pregnant. I graduated from RCA (had my son 3 days later) Everyone else in my class was worrying about getting jobs. I was thinking how nice...to just be at home with a baby and not worry about getting a job.

I was going crazy after a while. Theres so much that changes when you have a baby. Sleep deprivation and responsibility over someone else's life completely and nothing much to do. Too tired, too crazy, and I was breastfeeding something like 29 hours a day. What do you do with a baby on your boob? Daydream and read books, but I was knackered so was only reading easy peasy stuff.

"...so I immediately thought I wanna make a Mills & Boon film, it's pure comedy..."
So i went to a charity shop and bought lots of books; mostly unintelligent ones that I could read easily and I found some Mills & Boon books. Fantastic covers! So I bought two and read them.and never laughed so much. They are proper funny, great entertainment so I immediately thought I wanna make a Mills & Boon film, it's pure comedy, so i started drawing pictures with my marker pen then I nicked the storyline for His Passionate Bride from the two books I'd read (or how i remembered them) plus a little added artistic freedom and imagination.

Skate

How did you start working with Susie Sparrow and how did the collaboration process work between the two of you for We All Believe in Happy Endings?
Collaborations are always interesting. We All Believe in Happy Endings was a collaboration of some sort, dunno in which way and why. It was an experiment. It was an interesting experience. You learn from everything you experience, good and bad things. We All Believe in Happy Endings, well what can i say? It's something I would rather forget about right now.

Would you tell us about your choice of tools and how they apply to your creations?
It kinda depends on what you wanna achieve, what you feel like right then, what you wanna learn, but I think the basics technique is that I'm lazy so i use whatever technique that is easy.
If it's very elaborate I probably won't do it (although I'm rubbish at After Effects, I do everything manually and backwards and something that'd take 5 minutes takes me 2 days...too lazy to learn how to do it properly) and also it kinda depends on what you got available and what you feel like and what you wanna do. I'm not very adventurous perhaps when it comes to tools n materials. I do what is easy.

Is drawing and/or painting something that you do much of?
I was gonna say, "don't everyone?" Maybe not. Actually, I'm not drawing as much as i used to. I'm kinda back at taking more photographs. Life goes in cycles innit. Ha!ha!ha! I was always drawing as a kid, made comics and stories then I stopped drawing a bit and became a photographer. Then I started drawing, then I studied illustration and didn't do a single drawing for a year, was just building things, photographing, etc etc.

"I kind of never wanted to make another drawing ever or make any more films ever ever ever."

I made films (in Harrow...University of Westminster) that were collage photographs and got into the Royal College and did nothing but drawing for 2 years and then I got back into mixing things up and after We All Believe in Happy Endings I kind of never wanted to make another drawing ever or make any more films ever ever ever. Traumatic huh? ha!ha!ha!ha! It all kind of depends on what you try to achieve and what you want to explore at the moment.

I just moved house from a hostel to a flat and I'm cutting out gold things and sticking them on the walls, and making furniture out of other peoples rubble.

What do you think about the current state of animation?
I'm the last person to talk about animation to. I know hardly anything, but I was teaching animation last year and had to read up on it, gotta have an inkling RE what you're teaching right?

I hate animation. Its boring to watch. Either its a reasonably good story but visually boring as fuck or its visually breathtaking but makes you fall asleep cos its boring. I like stories and a lot of animation is badly edited and just... boring. Whats the point? People who are in the animation world always say do you know this film that film, this animator, etc. Most of the time I don't soooooo I have to say I probably prefer mainstream animation because the stories are good-ish.


I like South Park cos it makes me laugh. I like... (ok, I'm thinkin...) ...that Spirited Away chap is alright. I grew up watchin Doctor Snuggles and Professor Baltzar kids thing. Errrr I like... Run Wrake's Rabbit, kinda mainsteam and experimental. Fuck I cant think of any?

I hate Shrek. If I'm out in a pub and people might start talkin to me (strangers) and they say (eventually) "sooooooo what do you do then?" and I stopped saying I'm an animator cos for a bit ,if i said that people would light up and they would start talking about Shrek or the special fucking effects in Lord of the Rings and I would say, "No, I'm really not as interesting as that..AND I HATE SHREK AND I HATE LORD OF THE RINGS AND I HATE WHAT PETER JACKSON DID TO KING KONG!" End of conversation.

So nowadays I just say I'm on the dole which is kinda true right now. so what do I think? Honestly I don't know enough about animation to comment. I will educate myself. I will. I shall learn. I haven't had a telly for a long time though and when I did for a brief period I just watched Jeremy Kyle and other trash.


road home

Would you say there is anything particularly Swedish about your work? Or English for that matter? And what has influenced you by growing up in LuleƄ?
I dunno. When I go to Sweden I'm no longer Swedish. I have become an eccentric English and here in the UK I'm the slightly weird Swede. Let me put you all straight. I'M NORMAL NOT STRANGE. Of course growing up in Sweden has affected me. I don't have issues with nudity like British people. Things that are censored in Sweden ain't being censored here and the other way around. So I suppose there are cultural differences.

Also LuleƄ is a small town, 60 000 people there or so. We never locked the front door, I left my bike unlocked, the car was in an unlocked garage with the key in the ignition when I was growing up. I am punctual. That might be cos I'm Swedish? I also don't say things if I don't mean. I found that hard when I first moved here. Lotsa polite bullshit that meant nothing. I dunno. Has snow and darkness and midnightsun, mosquitos, trees, sea and wilderness influenced my work? Nooooooooooooo. It is good though mixing my organized Swedishness with chaotic English slapdashidness and wrongness. ha!ha!ha!ha!ha!

What artists inspire you and why?
  • Cindy Sherman - dunno why. Never thought why? Why not?
  • Marlene Dumas - makes me wanna draw and do watercolours
  • My Bloody Valentine -always wanted to do a film to their Loveless album, use it as a soundtrack or... ...it's just one of them albums that are BEAUTIFUL
  • Anders Petersen - he got a presence in his pictures because he uses a 35 mm lens where you have to stand close to take pictures. When you uses 80mm or zooms, you are peeping in on situations which you can't reach but when you use wide lenses(?) you gotta be part of what's happening. It's beautiful, it's sad, it's life. His pictures/photographs, he made me want to become a photographer so I did for a bit
  • Daniel Johnston - his songs makes me laugh and cry. Been listenin to him for 15 years and I still laugh or cry.
Friends inspire me, packaging, sounds... boredom. Okay, not thought of any filmmakers....
David Lynch...Twin Peaks and Spaced (the c4 sitcom) and Nick Cave, the Smiths, Tage Danielsson & Hasse Alfredson and Sam Morrisons' RCA graduation film and of course the music video for aha's take on me... That influenced me big time and lots of music videos when growing up. I probably left out whoever that really has/is influencing me but I can't think... Oh yes... bad soap operas. I love them.!!!!!!! Comedy and Jaws and My Life Without Me and I like Lukas Moodyson's films and Tove Jansson and James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Scooby Doo, dreams, desires...

Lola from His Passionate Bride will be returning in her own series, Lola in Love! which is described as “a series of increasingly perverted romantic adventures. Animated pornography for hopeless romantics.” What can you tell us about this new series? And when can we expect to see it?
It's something that's been brewing for ages, been trying to approach it from different angles and got stuck, and other projects got in the way. Finally, I think I know how its gonna be so watch this/that space.

Any chance of a cameo by a cat headed man with a bowler hat?
Yes. Genius.

Now we're talking. Thank you, Monika. I can't wait to see what Lola does next.

Links:
thatgirlmon.co.uk
Monika's MySpace
Monika's Blog
Animus Films Bio
Animate! Feature
His Passionate Bride



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1 comment:

Rosie said...

Love and relief