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This month’s Jammer of the Month is Sam Southward, an award-winning animator and director who has recently found success with his film “After the End”.


London-born animator, screenwriter and director Sam Southward is well-known for his distinct animation style and creative characters, often designed in a way that they look sort of like handmade claymation, despite being done entirely on the computer. His latest short, After the End, exemplifies this kind of character development, featuring two men – one a posh, old-fashioned poet and the other a loud, beefy strongman – who end up being the last two people alive at the end of the world.

Produced at the NFTS, After the End is a humor-heavy sci-fi short, one whose appeal has reached well beyond London, to places as far as Canada and Taiwan. It has so far won the Hitchcock Award at the Festival du Britannique de Dinard, the Kuan Dog Award for Best International Student Short at the Kuandu International Animation Festival, and the 2nd Place Award for Student Animation at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival. I spoke with Sam about After the End, its characters, and the international reaction to its comedy.

Tell me about your animation style. Was “After the End” entirely computer-generated?

Not completely. The characters are, but the backgrounds – all the environments, all the rooms they’re in – are actual, real miniature sets we built, and then we put the characters in after them.

The characters look like they’re done in claymation. Was this intentional?

Yeah. The thing with that: I got into 3D animation about ten years ago, in 2005, and it was just as broadband was more readily available. You could get quite complicated 3D software fairly easily, and teach yourself that. At the time, the look of the 3D stuff was a lot less polished as it is now, coming from a place where there was some really bad-looking CG. Lots of people to this day still have a problem with CG, because lots of it does look a bit weird if it’s not done right. 

But if you go for something more cartoony, that can be pulled off. So my thing was to always make it look a bit more handmade, and a bit more crude, and that adds more layers of character and charm to it. So yeah, that was kind of a conscious thing, a development out of my other work. 


“After the End” has a post-apocalyptic premise that’s thrown around quite a lot: the idea of being the last man on Earth. Is this something you’ve fantasized about?

Yeah, to be honest I’m not a massive people person, so I think the end of the world would be quite good for me, I’d be able to be content in my own company without driving myself mad. I guess that’s kind of where the idea came from – being surrounded by people that are irritating, and thinking about how it would be to have a bit of space, and then thinking about it the other way: if you were actually the last person alive, what could be worse than that?  So it’s thinking about the kind of people that irritate you and the last kind of person you’d want to see, and spend all eternity with.

These weird and wonderful characters – Rene and Gordon – they seem to come out of nowhere; they’re not the sort of people you’d meet on the street. Where do you get the ideas for your characters?

They probably start off as people I half-know, or have met, then they get more and more exaggerated. It’s kind of like, when you’re a bit drunk, everything you see is a bit exaggerated and a bit more in-your-face and hilarious, which is a good thing to push in animation, because if you were to do it in live action, it’s a fine line between it being big, exaggerated and hilarious – and being a pantomime. 

[Creating characters] is a hard thing to do, when you start from nothing. Perhaps there are a lot of animated characters out there that are flat, and don’t have anything to them, but the biggest compliments people have told me about these films are “I really like the characters, I totally could see what René would do in this situation, what Gordon would do.” 


How have festival audiences reacted to the film?

Going to the NFTS, where the film was made, there is kind of a lot of “ooh, festivals would like this, ooh, festivals will like that” whereas I personally never bought into that, I was always like, “you know what, I’m not gonna try and make a film where I’m gonna somehow second-guess what film festivals are going to want, or what would work well there.” It’s important for me to have grown as a director, as an animator, and so I picked my target audience as my friends, really. A lot of the boys I grew up with don’t really understand what I do. I never had something where I could do “this is what I do”, so it was as simple as wanting to make my friends laugh in the pub. We did have a screening in my local pub, which my friends came to, and we showed it like seven times back-to-back, and everyone thought it was brilliant, which was amazing for me – to make my friends laugh was fantastic. 

But then it did start to pick up pace on the festival circuit, and get into that. And for those jokes to have worked as well, for the whole cinema to roar with laughter at jokes where I was thinking “oh, this’ll make Tom laugh, this’ll make Paul laugh”, it was good. 

When I was in Canada [at the Ottawa International Animation Festival], they asked me what role my nationality played in my films, and I said, “possibly, out of all the exports that we do from England, I think humor is one of the best”. So it was good that that flew out there, because if I had thought about it too much, and was like “alright, you’ve gotta write a comedy that’s going to be for an international audience”, I don’t think I would’ve done what I was doing.

Just for fun, for our sci-fi issue: what are your favorite sci-fi films?

I love sci-fi. Blade Runner’s obviously a massive one. What was a real eye-opener for me, though, watching as a kid, was Akira. That I probably do attribute to why I’m an animator now. I really like Alien, and Aliens; possibly I like the second one more, because it’s a bit more action and less horror, but still terrifying. My actual favorite film of all time, though, is The Time Machine – the original one from the 60s. It’s fantastic.

Follow After the End on Facebook

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.

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