SxSW 2020 Interview – BLACKHEADS director Emily Ann Hoffman

“BLACKHEADS is an animated film about a woman coping with bad therapy, heartbreak, and blackheads. This film, to me, means self-reconciliation. It’s a journey towards independence, facing demons, and finding self-worth. And of course, perfecting a skincare regimen.” — Filmmaker Emily Ann Hoffman on BLACKHEADS which is an animated short playing at SxSW 2020 Film.

Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW

Welcome to the amazing SxSW and congratulations! Are you planning to attend SxSW?

Thank you! I’m very excited to attend the festival.

Tell me about the idea behind BLACKHEADS and getting it made!

This project started with a journal entry about popping blackheads in the absence of a partner. At the time, I was in a long-distance relationship, and I was interested in the dynamic between doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing as a spiteful or petty act of longing. At the beginning of 2019 I was approached by The Eyeslicer to make a short film, so that’s when I rediscovered this story and adapted it to what it is now.

Who are some of your main creative inspirations?

Some independent animators who’s work I love include Alexa Lim Haas, Kirsten Lepore, Reka Busci, Wong Ping, Kangman Kim, Michaela Olsen, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Emma de Swaef & Marc James Roels. Although the styles and tones of all these artists’ work varies greatly, I look to their work because they all do an amazing job of utilizing animation and concept to its highest potential, by leaning into the idea that “the medium is the message,” and vice versa.

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? Did you have any creative challenges in making it?

The whole film took about seven months to make. In pre-production, we recorded our voice actors in a DIY mo-cap rig, to use later as reference when animating the character’s facial expressions. Fabrication, like building the puppets, sets, and props along with stop motion animation took about three months, and then another three months on the 2D animation and FX. I had great fabricators working with me, as well as 2D animators, who really moved the process along. 

After SxSW, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?

The film will be screening at GLAS animation festival following SxSW, and then a few more destinations I can’t reveal yet!

What would you suggest to theatres or even film festivals as a way to show more short films theatrically or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

Program more shorts before features! 

If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker/creator, what would you suggest to get their start?

Write, write, write! Get your ideas down on paper and keep developing them until an opportunity comes your way, or until you’re ready to create your own opportunity.

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

This is a very tough choice, but I continually return to AGUA VIVA by Alexa Lim Haas.

For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film!

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