Ben Cady reflects on Ottawa success

Screen Media Academy Wales caught up with Newport Film School graduate Ben Cady following his wins at Ottawa at the end of September…

How do you feel about winning the awards at Ottawa and the competition you were up against?

I’m really delighted that my film has been awarded these prizes. I was so pleased just to get my film into Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to go to the festival because of work, which was a great shame, as I would have loved to see the other films there. I didn’t scour the internet looking at what I was ‘up against’. I don’t think filmmakers see the festivals like that. When you go to festivals, it always feels like they are a celebration of all the films there, rather than a competition between them. I don’t think it enters many animator’s minds that we might actually win something, we are just happy to be in the festival.

I was certainly very surprised when an email from Ottawa arrived one night, telling me I had won two prizes, and asking for an acceptance email!

What impact do you hope this will have on your career?

I don’t know, my career doesn’t really exist yet, so I’ll have to see!

The main thing that makes the Ottawa awards so exciting is that it is such a big festival, with so many interesting animation folks attending. It means that the film gets ‘noticed’ a bit more, which is always a good thing.

The Goat and The Well has won five prizes now: these two at Ottawa (best undergraduate film and NFB public Prize), Best student film at Be There in Corfu, Best student film at Animated Exeter and Best of Festival at Ffresh. I’m sure that these are all brilliant to have to my name, and will help me in the future.

I’ve been able to go to some of the festivals that The Goat and The Well has been shown at, which are really good places to meet other animators, discuss ideas, and watch films. Its also great to sit in a cinema and hear the audience’s reaction to your film! Filmfest Dresden and Stuttgart are two festivals that really stand out for me. Although they are two totally different German cities, both festivals were so friendly and accommodating. I also really liked Flip Festival, which is in Wolverhampton. It’s in a brilliant little arts building, and because of the festival’s small size, everyone gets to know everyone, which is great. I’m sure getting to know lots of people in the animation world is a good thing for an animation career!

What are you doing at the moment?

I’m at the Royal College of Art in London at the moment, studying for an MA in animation. I just started my second year here. Its an exciting time because we are all developing our final films, its brilliant to see them all start to take shape. My film is going to be about people. It will be more observational, and less formally structured, than The Goat and The Well, though it will still be character-based. I want it to exploit the spatial ambiguity of drawn animation: the white paper ‘void’ that can be anything you want it to be. (I have just completed my MA thesis on this topic.) I want the new film to be funny, and it is especially important to me that it is actually entertaining. I absolutely don’t want to make a ‘really arty film’ that nobody understands, just to make myself feel smug!

Any inspirational notes for those currently studying animation?

I don’t think I’m qualified to give inspirational notes! Animation is such an inspiring medium anyway. Here are a few things that inspire me about animation:

  • You can sit in a dingy room for a year or two scribbling away, and then, a few weeks after your film is finished, cinemas full of people, on a totally different continent, can be enjoying it.
  • Its a great tool to boil things down. You only show what you need to show, it can be very simple, minimalist and economic. In the best films, that simplicity hides something that is actually very poignant or complex. Mark Baker’s films are an amazing example of that.
  • It is an excellent way to create performance. You have so much control over every movement, and you can make every gesture count. An animated character is entirely ‘fake’ but it can seem more real than reality!
  • It’s a perfect medium for comedy, but it’s equally perfect for tragedy.
  • It is a medium where anything is possible!

Thanks Ben! Please keep in touch.

Ben Cady’s graduation film The Goat and The Well is one among many awarding-winning animations available to watch in our Hall of Fame gallery.

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