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NERD Signs New Craft Director Hayley Morris and Releases Feature Length Interview

London, UK
Dive into the mesmerising world of a handcrafted stop-motion director

NERD Productions welcomes award-winning Animation Director Hayley Morris to their roster.

Specialising in mixed media and stop-motion animation, Hayley’s unique and picturesque visualisations are truly mesmerising. Using layered textures, hand crafted techniques and inventive storytelling, Hayley brings ideas to life in a truly unique and fascinating way. She has directed music videos for the likes of Iron and Wine and Explosions In The Sky, as well as directed commercials for Samsung, Hewlett Packard, Burt’s Bees and Kate Spade.

But it’s not just Hayley’s work that had NERD itching to represent her here in the UK… Hayley also stands for everything that they envision there at NERD (on top of crafting visually stunning work, of course) – gender equality in the industry, encouraging young talent and working with socially, economically and environmentally forward-thinking brands. With this is mind,  NERD wanted to dive deeper into Hayley’s inspiring, handcrafted world as a director.

From roots to reels, they hope this nterview will inspire more young, creative women to follow in Hayley’s footsteps.

Q> How did you find your way into animation?

HM> I started playing around with stop-motion when I was around 15. I put clay on those little wooden artist mannequins and pressed stop and start on a camcorder. I grew up watching all the classic monste.r movies and was always fascinated by the practical effects and special effects makeup. I also watched ‘The Labyrinth’ ‘Dark Crystal’ and ‘Neverending Story’ constantly and these all are fantastical stories with incredibly beautiful visuals. They made a huge impact on me as a kid, and watching them now with an understanding of how they were made, the artistry blows me away. At university, I thought I would go into illustration but I was drawn to animation and how it allows you to combine so many artistic mediums into one. Textiles, painting, sculpture, lighting, sound, photography etc. I have total respect for computer animation, but it is important to retain the presence of the artist’s hand. For me, stop-motion animation provides this mode of expression.

Q> Over the years you have produced countless pieces of beautiful work. What has been your most challenging? 

HM> Thank you! Each project comes with certain challenges and I think that’s what is fun about the process. I love figuring out the style, the story and what materials I’m going to use. They are all big puzzles. I think the most challenging, but some of the most fun to make, were the three music videos “Bounce Bounce”, “Joy” and “Dream the Dare.” I made all of these in my apartment when I lived in Brooklyn in a pretty tiny space. The restraints of the small space made me think in resourceful and creative ways. The music videos also allowed me to experiment and in these 3 videos I created some techniques that I continue to develop in each project today. 

Q> As you know, NERD is very passionate about diversity and young talent amongst directors and the team. We know that you teach young animators in your free time and, being a female, you stand for both of our values. Was it these values that attracted you to joining NERD or something else?

HM> Yes, I love balancing my time between the two. I love working with my students and helping them develop their voice as artists. I teach at RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design) and there are students from all over the world. It’s a really exciting place to be a part of. I was attracted to NERD’s passion for diversity and support of young and female directors. I love that NERD is a company led by women and a place that supports many perspectives and points of view. I think the work created by the talent at NERD is all so unique and innovative. I’m excited to be a part of it! 

Q> How does it feel to be such a successful woman in animation? What are your opinions on gender diversity in the industry?

HM> It’s been exciting for me as a teacher to see that the majority of my students are young women. More and more women are seeing this as a future career path and I love helping them learn the art of animation, how to tell their stories and to be confident in the work they make. What they have to say is important, and I’m looking forward to seeing more women directors in years to come. I think with platforms like Free the Bid and Punanimation, people are discovering amazing women, trans and non-binary artists. It’s directories like this and companies like NERD that are putting our work out there for a wider audience to discover.

Q>What is the biggest misconception about animation?

HM> I think the majority of people associate animation as a thing for kids. I don’t think it’s given the same respect as other art forms. There are so many amazing independent artists worldwide creating beautiful work that most people don’t know about. It’s a truly powerful medium.

I realised it’s power with my first short film as a student, entitled “Undone.” Inspired by personal experience, this film examined and envisioned the internal and intimate space of a character with Alzheimer’s disease. Through experimentation with tactile materials, I discovered I could create a relatable language for this difficult subject matter. My goal was to create a universally understood character through the puppet’s performance and play with symbolism through the image. When the film screened in festivals I was moved by the viewers’ response and the film’s power to awaken a sense of compassion and empathy for family members who have experienced this painful transformation of a loved one. This film truly opened my eyes to the power of the animated medium.

Q> What are you working on at the moment? What’s next for you?

HM> I’m working on a few personal projects and working on a project for a band. A piece I worked on for Sesame Street has just gone live too (watch below).  I never know what’s around the corner!

Q> You mentioned in our launch article that you’d love to collaborate with other animation directors or directors in live action. Who would you most love to work with and why?

HM> I think it would be fun to collaborate with a live-action director and see how my stop-motion work could merge with live footage. I always loved Ray Harryhausen and how his films merged animation with live actors. With technology now, I think it would be an exciting thing to explore. I’d love to work with Guillermo Del Toro, but that’s pretty dreamy. Bjork of course. It’s my goal in life to work with her.

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