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Categories: Interviews

The award-winning filmmaker dishes her powerful new short.


Kate Jessop is a London-based animation filmmaker – originally from Manchester – whose extensive body of work has achieved extensive international acclaim. Experienced in making promos, artist’s films and original shorts, she’s had her work exhibited far and wide, from Berlin to Reykjavik, and has picked up many accolades along the way.

Kate’s work is instantly recognizable, her style a distinct collage of 2D animation, stop motion, top-notch sound design and affecting narration. Her latest film, Little Elephant, is no different. Commissioned by Bobby Tiwana for a project based on the theme of Love Works, exploring South Asian LGBT relationships in contemporary Britain, it’s a moving, heartfelt film that studies the complex intersection of sexuality and family from the perspective of a young woman (voiced by Bharti Patel) whose father (voiced by Ernest Ignatius) is worried by her coming out as gay.

Told entirely through narration over creative visuals inspired by traditional Indian art, Little Elephant is a vivid aesthetic experience with a powerful, important narrative that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Cinema Jam recently spoke with Kate to learn more about the film, and the career that lead up to it.


How did you first get into filmmaking?

Actually, it was a bit of a surprise to me that I ended up a filmmaker. It was never anything I set out to do. I went to art college and was actually trying to do music in Manchester. I started experimenting with moving image in the context of the music scene – so music videos for bands I knew and club visuals for nights I was putting on and friends were putting on. It was only when publishers Comma Press in Manchester approached me to do a poetry adaptation that I worked with narrative for the first time.

The success of that film took me by surprise –  it represented the UK in Women in Film and TV international showcase, was shortlisted for the first Virgin Media Shorts prize and was picked up for distribution by Shorts International. It opened up a new world for me that I didn’t know existed and made me fall in love with filmmaking. I still work with music in the sound design but it’s now swapped places – rather than doing moving image for music I now do sound design for the films. I think animation is the perfect medium – involves design, rhythm and narrative. It’s the best of everything.

You have a very distinct style, which combines 2D drawings and stop motion with powerful sound design and narration. Where did these elements of your style come from?

I think because I have an Art School background as opposed to formal film school training I don’t follow these set structures. But I do love collage – I love Dada and Peter Blake.

You do both the sound and the visuals to your films – how do you approach that?

I think being from [the music] background helps with bringing the two together; it’s all about the rhythm. I usually do the sound first as that creates the structure, then animate to that. No the two work in harmony quite nicely!


How did you get involved with “Little Elephant” – and what spoke to you about the story it tells?

I was commissioned to make these works by Bobby Tiwana, who is the producer on the project. He saw some animated backdrops I did for a theatre production that toured the UK a couple of years ago. He then saw my film Dear Foreigner, researched more of my work, and apparently “fell in love” with it. Initially a theatre producer, he was wanting to make work exploring LGBT issues in south Asian culture to reach new audiences.

We got funding from the Arts Council and other seed funders to secure the project and Carl Miller came on board to write the two shorts based on previous work they had done together. We had various meetings and decided on one film being about parental love and one about first love, one a female perspective, one a male. We would meet up with my sketch book and I’d sketch out some thumbnails and we’d iron out themes. I think this story speaks to a lot of people about the complex nature of intersectionality in contemporary relationships.

What have been some of the more memorable reactions to the film so far?

The film has started to storm the festival circuit, I think the contemporary themes really resonate with people. It’s always quite nerve-wracking watching your film with a live audience, but usually people come up afterwards and say how moved they were.

You are very active in projects supporting women in film. What do you think is the most important to prioritize in supporting female filmmaking talent today?

I think it’s important that it’s not always the same voices that get heard so this is important in regard to people of color as well as gender. At film festivals there are a lot of white male directors. Isn’t diversity what makes the world interesting?


What is your best advice for young prospective filmmakers?

For animators it’s important to take time away from the screen, otherwise you’ll have burn out. Once I’ve finished a project I make a point of never going near my computer until the next one comes in so I’m fresh for it. Mid-production, again, take time out to be away from your computer – go for a swim, go outside. Your production levels will be better for it.

Once the film is made have a festival strategy – different festivals have different themes. Me and my producer Bobby have a spreadsheet of festivals submission – he submits to the BAME and queer ones and I submit to the animation ones. And then turn up and participate. The younger generation tends to rely on the internet for networking, but there’s nothing like being at a festival and meeting people and having a conversation. Say yes to everything as you never know where it will lead. Be friendly, be professional, don’t be a dick!

What other projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m managing a cross-collaborative project between 14 UK animators called Queer Heroes – watch this space!

For more on Kate’s work visit katejessop.co.uk, and follow her on Twitter @KateJessopFilm.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

Posted on Jul 4, 2016

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