Joanna Quinn Interview

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of interviewing Cardiff-based filmmakers Joanna Quinn and Les Mills! The interview was part of les Sommets du Cinema d’animation, an annual international film festival based in Montreal. Cartoon Brew, who I freelance for on occasion, is a sponsor of the festival, which lead to them asking if I’d be interested in the opportunity.

Ummmm. Obviously!

So a big thank you particularly to Marco de Blois and Michael Fukushima for allowing me to be involved, and for the festival’s technical team for running such a smooth event.

Joanna Quinn has been a filmmaker and animator whose work I’ve adored for years. I first discovered her work about a decade ago when my first animation history class had an accompanying textbook with some of her art on the cover. It lead me to her site, where she had (and still has *nudge*) all of her films listed in entirety. So if you are unfamiliar with their work I recommend a viewing.

While Quinn is the director, lead animator, story artist and more, Mills is often the script writer, producer, colorist, and sound person on most of their projects. So it was nice to have a chat with both of them.

For this event in particular, we did a sort of Beryl retrospective, focusing on 4 of the 8 shorts the pair has released–the four that center around Quinn’s character Beryl, starting with her first short produced in uni in 1986, leading up to their latest due out next month.

Click the image to open the interview playback!

The event was live-streamed on Facebook, and the replay is linked above and runs a about an hour and 6 minutes. (The stream starts right at the 5 minute mark of the video, FYI.) It was my first live event so I was a bit nervous, and perhaps with the exception of one or two questions I think I was pretty articulate. In any case, Joanna and Les are seasoned pros, and of course did wonderfully sharing clips and artwork and stories of their 30+ year career.

Quinn stood out early in my animation explorations as a filmmaker who managed to remain largely independent. They’ve done some frankly iconic ad work (THE CHARMIN BEARS!?) to help fund their work, and have been fortunate to partner with different groups over the years (their latest film is a co-production with The National Film Board of Canada) that have allowed them to largely maintain their independence. She also stood out to me because–especially then, and even more so when Quinn herself was getting started–animation has largely been a male-dominated industry. So to find a filmmaker who embraced and explored feminist topics in playful, nuanced ways was and continues to be just so, so refreshing.

Before you watch the interview, it would really help to at the very least watch the three existing Beryl shorts. While we do show some clips from the films, as well as some sneak-peaks from the new, fourth film (again due out in January), it’d certainly be more enjoyable with a full picture.

There are also plenty of small clips and process videos on YouTube you can watch to see more about her process, as well as a fun process video in our interview showing some production of the new film.

Beryl Productions Int., latest film, Affairs of the Art is due out in January 2021 and I cannot wait for everyone to see it!

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