Q&A with Art Director Rachael Olga Lloyd

Rachael Olga Lloyd is a stop motion animation director, model maker and a Royal College of Art graduate. She is also the art director of Cunning Folk. She has made several short films, including How to Count Sheep which won Best Animation and Best Production Design at Screentest, Iktsuarpok which was an official selection at Aesthetica Short Film Festival in 2016 and won the title of Best Student Animation at Roselle Park Loves Shorts International Film Festival, 2016. Her work is inspired by folklore and magic.

Watch her films here: https://vimeo.com/user8622498

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Photograph by Megan Kellythorn www.megankellythorn.com

CF Why stop motion animation?

ROL I was quite late to the game. I was never really inspired by stop motion I saw on TV as a kid, things like Wallace and Gromit and The Wombles. I was however always in love with art in general. I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else. Two years out of school, I was quite depressed and unsure about where to focus. I dabbled in fine art and later fashion for a bit. I loved drawing and making things from fabric. But fashion didn't quite click for me.  

On a whim, I applied to a couple of animation courses and got into a course in London through clearing. That's where I first encountered experimental stop motion animation. I remember seeing the Grizzly Bear music video “Ready Able” by Allison Schulnik. Even though it was plasticine, not a material I like to work with, I had never seen any non-commercial stop motion before. It had never really occurred to me the medium could be used this way. After that, I knew I'd found what I was looking for.

CF What excited you about the medium? 

ROL I was a bit greedy with what I wanted from my practice. I wanted to draw, I wanted to sculpt, use fabrics, design shapes, clothes and characters, write stories, experiment with photography, and I also wanted something else - I wasn't sure what. Stop motion has all this, it fulfilled every artist craving I had aswell revealing my love for problem-solving and a technical side I didn't quite realise I craved. Stop motion is so exciting for me it has no limits, it's so broad and requires so many skills I can never get bored of it. 

CF Animation is a male-dominated industry. Why do you think that is and is it changing?

ROL It's odd as I spent five years studying animation and on my MA there were definitely more girls than guys. But as soon as I hit the working world female animation directors were harder to find. There are many women, but they're often only in the art department, while men still end up falling into more technical or heavy-handed roles like rigging, lighting and carpentry for sets. I have met men and women who are amazing at both types of jobs yet these gendered roles still seem to happen. 

There are more women directors in my generation, but it's still quite male-dominated. I think one of these reasons is women can be much harder on themselves, are willing to take fewer risks and aim too much for perfection. Initially, I turned down loads of jobs because I was worried about doing it "perfectly". I had the experience and capacity but I didn't want to do it unless I was 100 per cent sure I could do the best job. I know other female directors who have the same thought process. I ended up banishing these thoughts from my mind and just saying yes to everything and these first few jobs were some of the most stressful and scary things I have ever done, but also the most gratifying and the best learning experiences.

CF What does a typical day look like for you? 

ROL When I’m directing I work from my home studio. I’m not a morning person so I usually get up quite late - at 9 or 10. I then need an hour to wake up so I make myself a cup of green tea and a bowl of cereal and watch something.

I then put on some music in my studio and get to work emailing, making, filming. if I'm busy with a deadline I usually work until about 6 pm, have a little break then maybe keep working till 11 pm. I break up every other day with a gym class or a trip to Lewisham farmer's market, just so I get out of the flat and get some exercise.

CF Tell us more about your workspace.

ROL London is so expensive and when filming I need my own room. I currently live in a two-bedroom flat with my boyfriend. We use the bigger bedroom as a shared studio space - I kick him out for a few weeks when I’m filming!

The wall on my side of the office is covered in things that inspire me - mainly illustrations. I keep all my puppets from my films and have them in a line on my window sill.  I have a "clean" desk for using my laptop and drawing. I then have a bigger "dirty" desk for making things. Beside me are draws filled with things like drills, plyers, brushes, tape and wood. I have a lovely shelf for all my wools and yarns a bigger storage box for bigger things like foam, polystyrene and stuff for sets.

CF How easy is it to have a sideline and when should you do it?

ROL It depends on the sideline, a lot of it comes down to organising your time. I'm naturally very disorganised but with a lot of practice and lists, I just about manage. I like having a sideline. I sometimes find doing your hobby for a living can be odd as it can kill a lot of the enjoyment and motivation. I find having a sideline gives me a chance to engage back into my other arty hobbies. I used to love doing illustration, crochet, cross-stitch, flower pressing and ceramics and with a sideline I feel motivated to get back into these. But it is important not to take too much on and learn how fast you work so you can calculate if you have the time.

CF Why were you drawn to the Cunning Folk project?

ROL I have always been obsessed with folklore, fantasy and the idea of magic while still being sceptical. Cunning Folk looks at our modern day connection to folklore and magic and this is something I try to do with my own work. I’m hugely inspired by the Slavic folklore aesthetic. Technology in many ways disconnects us from other people and the physicality of the real world; I’m more drawn to handmade things and techniques and using them in my work.