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NFB Hothouse 10: ‘Focus’ (Alex Boya)

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Alex-Boya_croppedAlex Boya first began his life as an animator at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, developing from an enthusiasm for drawing from observation. His focus at present is “turned on the unconscious, fully documenting the process in strange drawings found on YouTube”. Having created the short animation Rite of Passage (which screened the Fantasia International Film Festival), Alex’s first endeavour with the NFB as part of Hothouse 10 is Focus, a densely-packed, synaptical journey through attention deficit disorder, taking its cue from the found sound of a shopper’s online vlog.

I started drawing just for fun when I was a kid, dissecting organisms in my sketches and creating impossible machines. Later, my synthetic fauna needed to move around in a habitat.

Developing Focus was like luring a Legged Squad Support System through a muddy and narrow drainage channel dug in the ground alongside a road or the edge of a field, in the sense that the vehicle moved in slightly strange or unusual ways over irregular ground, but a certain destination was thankfully being tracked by GPS (the GPS being the Hothouse mentoring team). In other words, I somehow saw where I wanted to go, but getting there was a convoluted affair.

We’re blasted with content 24/7, to the point where a threshold is reached; that’s really the guiding theme of the film. Your mind shuts down and, alienated, the once-separate events are viewed from a distance as a body meshed in constant transformation. In a sense, Focus is like a documentary about that inner feeling, but the only way to point a camera at it is to actually observe and draw that emotional state while visualizing the given audio. The reason for the chosen animation method is to capture a snapshot of the mental flow by instinct at every single frame.

Working at the National Film Board was a huge honour and an indispensable facet of this kind of risky project, which we enjoyed referring to as JAZZ animation because of its spontaneity. This apprenticeship was encouraging for me, and I worked with incredible people that made the project possible.

I’m currently working on a new animation called The Mill, which is taking up more and more space in my life at the moment. I’m likely going to kick-start it in fall 2015.

-Alex Boya

Keep your eyes on Skwigly over the coming days to hear more from the Hothouse 10 participants. To learn more about the work of Alex Boya visit

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