Animation director Katy Wang may have only just graduated from Kingston University, but she’s already making a splash, having signed to Partizan only two weeks after her graduation.
A natural storyteller, Katy’s films have a human feel, with subtle yet poignant narratives, combined with her distinct elemental and textural visual style. Her graduation film, ‘Contact’, is an absolute treat, and she was recently awarded the It’s Nice That ‘Graduate of the Year 2017’.
LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Katy to find out what her plans are for the future following her graduation.
LBB> Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, and what kind of kid were you?
Katy Wang> I’m from a small town in Oxfordshire, and I grew up there until I moved to London to study at Kingston School of Art. Growing up, my parents were extremely hard-working people, and they instilled a strong work ethic from a young age. I was always drawn towards wanting to do something creative at school, but I never knew what exactly until an animator who was a Kingston alum came to do a workshop with my class. I discovered that you could get paid to do silly drawings, which was mind-blowing for me at the time. So after school I did an Art Foundation course, then I applied to Kingston to study Illustration Animation.
LBB> Two weeks after graduating, you signed to Partizan. Congratulations! What attracted you to the company?
KW> I had only just graduated from uni so it was quite a shock to receive an email from a company saying they were interested in representing me as a director. I had a lovely meeting with the EP Duncan Gaman and MD Jenny Beckett, who explained what Partizan was all about and the nature of being signed as a director. I knew it was a pretty rare opportunity for a recent graduate to be approached for representation – it’s something I only thought would happen after a couple of years’ experience in the industry – so it feels incredibly heartening knowing that someone looked at my work and believed in it enough to take the leap to represent me.
LBB> Tell us a bit about your graduation film 'Contact’. What was the inspiration behind it, and can you tell us about the production?
KW> ‘Contact’ is a seven-and-a-half-minute animated short film that tells the story of a lonely astronaut stranded on a planet far away from Earth, who sends out a signal in search of human contact.
It took six months to make, and it was inspired by own personal experience of being in a long-distance relationship. I tried to communicate feelings of loneliness and longing, with one character and no spoken dialogue, so the audience could empathise with the character as much as possible through just body language and face expressions alone. I believe this makes the character more relatable because the main theme in the film is about our universal human need for contact and to be with each other.
The hardest part of the project was figuring out the story. It was the most challenging film I’ve done in terms of its narrative; I wanted to make sure I told an emotional story but in a way that was convincing enough within a short film format. My boyfriend, Gabriel Greenough, was a really important creative collaborator throughout the process; he encouraged me to write scripts because I was struggling with storyboarding at the start – I was worrying too much about the ‘look’ of the film earlier on. Doing creative writing in a script format really helped me figure out exactly what sort of atmosphere and mood I wanted to convey through the visuals.
LBB> Your hand drawn animations are really unique! Where / how did you hone your skills in this style?
KW> Thank you! To be honest, it’s only recently I feel like I am starting to adapt into having a ‘style’. The way I draw and animate has probably evolved from predominantly using Adobe Photoshop to do all my animation in. It’s not software built for animation but it’s how I taught myself to animate, and I’ve used it to animate all my short films so far. Drawing in Photoshop feels really natural because you can use digital brushes that mimic real life media really well, so the end result always feels very organic and hand-crafted.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and inspirations?
KW> I’ve recently been watching a lot of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s films. The music, characters and colours all work so well together in creating such an incredibly unique, captivating atmosphere. I particularly love ‘Chungking Express’ and ‘Happy Together’. I would love to make a piece of work inspired by his films, or paying homage to them.
Hayao Miyazaki’s films will always have a special place in my heart.
I’m always in awe when I remember the insane amount of work that Charles and Ray Eames created in their lifetimes.
LBB> Which projects that you’ve been involved in are you most proud of and why?
KW> I’m most proud of my graduation film so far. It’s the longest film I’ve made, and the most difficult project I’ve ever finished. Because it was such a personal film, I found the process emotionally and mentally very exhausting. I learned what it’s like to really commit to making a personal film by yourself. It’s hard, because you need the time and energy to really allow yourself to make it properly. I’m proud that I took advantage of my last year at university to challenge myself with such a big project. I learned so much and I still can’t believe I managed to finish it on time.
LBB> Outside of work, what do you like to get up to?
KW> I love food. My boyfriend and I love cooking and eating out. We spend a large majority of our time together exploring new restaurants and foreign supermarkets. I recently made a massaman curry for the first time and it’s the best curry I’ve ever made.
I love films, TV, and books. I’m currently reading ‘To the Edge of the Sky’ by Anhua Gao, which is a memoir of the author growing up under Mao Zedong’s rule in China during the 1950s-70s. It’s harrowing but a really important read.
LBB> What are your aims for 2017?
KW> I hope to continue making work that I find fulfilling, whether it’s animation or new creative pursuits. I definitely want to keep directing my own films, whether it’s personal projects or branded jobs, and develop my creative ‘voice’ through them. I’d love to work on some commercial projects for bigger clients through Partizan, because I’ve never done it before. It would be really exciting to work with some new techniques and processes, like stop motion animation, involving modelling, puppetry, and set building. I find it very satisfying working with my hands on physical stuff because it makes a change from just using a computer to animate. My ultimate goal one day is to direct my own feature length film, whether it’s live action, animation, or a combination of both.