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NFB Hothouse 10: ‘Mud’ (Neal Moignard)

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Neal_Moignard_cropped3Neal Moignard is an Australian-born, Calgary-based animator who, alongside his animation work, creates interactive installations and performances “that facilitate interaction with colour, texture, touch, movement, sound, and story”. His mixed-media approach is intended to “unearth strange thoughts, feelings, and ideas while remaining in dialogue with each form’s unique vocabulary”. Before becoming part of the tenth edition of the National Film Board of Canada‘s Hothouse apprenticeship scheme he has previously produced work as part of the Quickdraw Animation Society and the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. His Hothouse film Mud pays homage to the 1966 NFB documentary Helicopter Canada (Dir. Eugene Boyko), reusing audio of children’s commentary set to an abstract world of shifting digital polygons.

I am a 27-year-old animator, visual artist, and musician, born in Adelaide, Australia, and raised in Calgary, Alberta. The creative restriction on my film Mud was to work with a soundtrack of several children commenting on helicopter footage of the New Brunswick mudflats. The recording was taken from a classic NFB documentary, Helicopter Canada. The children have a very limited understanding of what they are seeing. This perspective of air-to-land cinematography was, at the time, very unconventional, and the children respond by making fantastic guesses about what it is that they are witnessing.

In my approach to the animation, I decided to take the experiment one level deeper, by using their guesses as a way to generate a surreal, transforming landscape, representative of the power of our imaginations and perceptions. I chose to work in a format that was almost totally new to me—computer graphics—in order to create images that are as aesthetically unconventional as the helicopter footage was back in the 60s. I tried to approach the production of these images and their movements as freely and naively as the children did, using my first guesses and interpretations of their exchanges. This was aided by the fact that I’d had no formal education with the 3D software I chose to use, zBrush. I was very happy with the result. Watching the film, I feel something of what those children might have experienced while watching Helicopter Canada. Fascination, confusion, awe, disgust, excitement… these are the things I wanted to extract and intensify.

I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without the NFB’s support and its confidence in a very unconventional project and approach to animating. That support helped to give me confidence in my own process and vision, and deeply validated my interests in unconventional approaches to animation. My plan for the indefinite future is to continue to produce films however I am able to, to experiment widely and fearlessly, and to share the outcomes.

-Neal Moignard

Keep your eyes on Skwigly over the coming days to hear more from the Hothouse 10 participants. To learn more about the work of Neal Moignard you can visit his Vimeo channel

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