Life Cycles (Shorts In Support)

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Ross Hogg | 2016 | 4 min | Animation | N/C 15+

An observational exploration of routine, monotony, attention and distraction. Will we continue to let events pass us by uncontested, or will we decide to break the cycle?

Ross Hogg is an award-winning animation filmmaker based in Edinburgh. Having graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2013, Ross creates dexterous, handcrafted animation using a variety of materials, celebrating the vibrancy and physicality of the medium. His previous film Isabella (co-directed with Duncan Cowles) won a BAFTA Scotland award for best short film.

Through its personal narrative, this detailed hand-drawn animation provides a poignant and often humorous criticism on our individualistic daily lives, and in the process reflects on wider social concerns.

Can you talk us through how you developed the concept and time structure for this animation? I mainly wanted to explore ideas of routine and monotony, as I realised my life had developed quite a consistent pattern. I started animating little observational snippets or moments I’d experienced, almost as an animated sketchbook or diary. Over a number of weeks I created a pile of small loops which, when I looked at them as a set, started to form a larger picture. It made sense in my mind to start working with a rhythmical and repetitive structure, in which each second onscreen represented an hour of my life.

Were you always planning on bringing a layer of social criticism into your portrayal of monotony, or did those elements sneak in along the way?  I hadn’t planned to include the social or political aspects from the outset. I suppose there was always going to be an element of social criticism in the film, since it was created from an observational starting point, but I didn’t consciously set out with that aim. The week of my life that I used as the basis for the film coincided with the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, so much of that found its way into the background and dominated my thoughts as I was researching the idea. These events running concurrently throughout the film became a vehicle to communicate a form of apathy or privilege, and ways in which we can sometimes use routine to distract us from events that are uncomfortable to confront.

Your hand-drawn animation techniques imply a slow filmmaking process. Do you see the consequential short form as freeing or limiting? I find the short form really liberating and exciting to work with. For instance, using such a repetitive structure, along with a hand-painted animation technique that in itself is inherently repetitive and monotonous, can further the concept at the heart of the film. The method of production can complement the meaning of the film more significantly than it might be able to in longer form. In short films, taking those types of risks becomes much more possible.

You studied Communication Design rather than a filmmaking or animation course. Has your work evolved differently because of that background? The CD course always placed concept and idea above any technical elements. That focus has really informed my work since graduating. In my mind it’s more important to first work out what you want to say, then find the best and most potent way of doing that. If at that stage I don’t know how to realise it technically, then I’ll have to adapt and learn to fit the idea.

Have you got any projects in the pipeline? I’m currently developing a new short animated film, which has been written by Sean Mulvenna and will be produced by Iain Gardner (Animation Garden). It’s a change in direction for me, as it’s the first animated work I’ll direct which is entirely story-driven and relies on performance and dialogue. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to get going with it.

Life Cycles screens before Loving Vincent, 13-19 October.

Glasgow Short Film Festival’s Shorts In Support scheme aims to revive the tradition of the supporting short film by distributing four fantastic new Scottish short films to cinemas and film societies to screen before features during autumn 2017. Shorts in Support is supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network.