‘Emma imagines a World based in Colour,
Where dreams are not nightmares and Children don’t suffer.’
Matthew Lawes is a London based director, animator, writer and all-round creative genius. When I first saw Matthew’s videos the vibrant colours, artistic narratives, beautiful music, creative sets and skilful animation took me back. In 2012 Matthew animated and directed the beautiful, yet haunting, short film Emma. The dark moods juxtaposed with the children’s fairy tale, makes for an unexpected narrative. Matthew constructs his Cinderella meets Rapunzel-esque narrative around a young girl called Emma, who “is different, her story unkind”. Emma’s authoritative father enjoys watching her suffer, and locks her away in a tower. However not all is to despair, as Emma’s hardship does not oppress her creativity; with her only way to escape her cruel reality is through her imagination and the cinema.
After being visually enchanted by Emma, the narrative filled me with a bittersweet pathos for the young innocent girl. I felt pathos and empathy for the cruel life young Emma endured. Emma’s salvation through her imagination and the cinema made me relate to her. In times of ‘doom’ and ‘gloom’, I can relate to Emma wanting to use her imagination to escape a harsh and mundane life. I think this is something we can all relate to.
Matthew’s career path has taken an interesting turn since graduation from the University of Newcastle, where he studied Architecture. Yes, I too was wondering how Matthew ended up in animation and not architecture. So I put my journalistic hat on, and got Matthew to answer a few of my questions. Matthew was kind enough to chat to me about the making of Emma and Emma’s fairy tale world, his creative background, awards, inspiration, and advice for all you young avid filmmakers.
So you studied architecture at Newcastle University, how did you end up wanting to make and direct short films?
I have always had a huge passion for film but didn’t want to study it at university. Architecture appealed to me as it was design led and the skills are easily transferrable to film – from the pitching process through to completion. The biggest lesson was how to use limitations to your advantage, which is hugely relevant to animation when you start out. I want to make films for the rest of my life, so three years of studying something else seemed more important at the time. I also wanted to see if I could achieve in something that I was not naturally drawn to. If I could achieve that then I felt I could do anything in the ‘real world’.
How long did the making of Emma take?
Around six weeks; with the sets and models taking three weeks, and the animation and editing taking another three weeks.
How did you come up with the narrative of Emma?
I have lots of poems and small bits of writings in various notebooks around my studio, so it was basically just a case of which one do I want to make first. I like to think it is a compendium of ideas, however most of it is total gobbledegook. I found a note the other day in capitals that said ‘I AM TOO SERIOUS SOMETIMES BECAUSE I AM TIRED!!!’ Sigh. The narrative came from a poem I wrote. Whenever I think of something weird and wonderful I jot it down and sometimes I connect those thoughts to form something more substantial. I suppose it is like a diary of my daily thoughts but less personal.
Are you Emma? Do you find happiness in a dark world through filming and capturing your dreams?
I think there are parts of me in Emma, but I’m not directly her. I was surprised how dark people thought the film was. It is really interesting to think of a story and form your own opinions and then have them changed once an audience has seen your film. I hate negative emotions so I would say the opposite; I find happiness in a positive world personally. Maybe I have a darker side I don’t know about yet, maybe Emma suggests that.
How did you feel when you were nominated for Shorts 2012 New Director of the Year?
Honestly that has been my biggest personal triumph so far. I am incredibly chuffed and inspired to work even harder. It was amazing to be put in a category with some brilliant new directors from around the world.
What inspires you?
Emotions and people that convey them well in any art form, inspires me. Also, my friends and family inspire me. Stories and late night chats around a large dinner table with lots of bottles of wine and laughter. I love finding out about people and what they stand for and experience.
For young people trying to break into the film industry, what would your advice and wisdom be?
Work harder than the hardest worker you know. Be tenacious and stay positive. Surround yourself with good people, enjoy the highs and learn to deal with the lows as quickly as possible.
What have you got planned for the future?
I am working on a number of adverts at the moment and I have just written a new short film about childhood imaginary friends. It’s a live action short with animation. I also produce a site called www.citysessions.co.uk, which is great fun. I want to collaborate with as many people as possible.
With the success of Emma, Matthew saw himself nominated for New Director of the Year at Shorts 2012, along with other nominations from Phoenix Comicon Film Festival 2013, Golden Kuker Sofia International Animation Film Festival, Rob Knox Film Festival, N4YP Film Festival, Basauri – Bizkaia International Animated Film Festival, and Cornwall Film Festival. As you can see, Matthew he has already created a huge international buzz around his animations.
Quick. Hurry. Go and check out all of Matthews other awesome videos: http://matthewlawes.co.uk/ and check out www.citysessions.co.uk.