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Julie Engaas has directed and animated several documentaries. dvoted asked her some questions about why she chose this direction and how she works.

Tell about the animated documentaries you have made?

I have made two animated documentaries, Leonid Shower and Sound-Shadows (Lydskygger).  The first one, Leonid-Shower, I made together with Kajsa Næss. We wanted to work on an animated film that could give us the opportunity to work totally freely and impulsively. Animation is often very controlled and well planned.

In Leonid Shower we interviewed different people about their wishes, and the sound is accompanied by our animated pictures. Because the film has many different voices it felt right to work with different styles and teqniques. The work process was very free and intuitive all throughout because both the sound and picture were built up like a collage, by cutting and pasting and moving things around.

In Sound-Shadows I wanted to continue working with animated documentary, because I found it very inspiring to work with other people's stories. This film is about being blind. Trying to imagine what it is like being blind, having no visual references, was challenging and interesting.

How do you decide whether a documentary is suited to be animated or not?
Since I am an animator I look for ideas that are suited for animation - for example, stories that happens inside someone's head, something that is unfilmable. It's important that the animation adds an extra layer to the story, and not just illustrates. I guess I look for ideas where I can imagine pictures that I would like to make.

How do you work?
First I have to come up with the idea, which sometimes is the hard part. I do the sound recording and editing first, then I start to make the pictures which I fill in on the soundtrack. I do not storyboard or decide the design of the film before I start, which is the usual way to do animated films. Nor do I work chronologically through the film. I do a lot of sketching and try not to make more animation than I need so there is little that goes to waste. I draw on paper and put the animation together in Adobe After-Effects.

How long time does it take?
It takes a long time. Sound-Shadows, which is about seven and half minutes, took about two years to make. Before that there was also the process of financing the film. But of course how long it takes also depends on what kind of technique you choose, how many people are working on the film etc.

Where do you get the films screened? Is there an audience for these films?

The films have been screened in festivals, art exhibitions, on TV, and Leonid -Shower was a "forfilm" in the movies. Sound-Shadows was used in an architect school in the connection acoustic in rooms. I have received a lot of positive responses. I wish there would be a wider use of "forfilm" in the movies, and also a program on TV for short films.

Advice for young filmmakers who want to make animated documentaries?

Ask yourself why this film needs to be animated. Animation is time-consuming and you need to know why you choose animation. Do not make it too long and consider what is really necessary to tell the story.

Your favourite animated documentary?

I believe my favourites are from Sweden. Both Slaves and Hidden by David Aronowitsch and Hanna Heilborn are fantastic films, but my absolute favourite is Never Like the First Time by Jonas Odell.

Related content:

Animated Reality

More about Leonid Shower and Sound-Shadows on
More about Slaves on
More about Hidden on
Jonas Odell on IMDB

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