Jonathan Nix

July 1st, 2004 Film, Inside Film, Personalities

After a swag of international awards for his short Hello, Jonathan Nix finds time to talk to Drew Turney before jetting off to the Annecy Animation Festival in France.

‘You’ll have to forgive me,’ Jonathan Nix says in a tired voice over the phone, ‘I’m very weary.’ After finishing his latest film literally the day before we talk, he’s due to jump on a plane in mere hours and can’t get his DVD software to work.

It’s hard to judge who’s worked harder, Nix himself or his multi-award winning movie, which has scooped prizes at the AFI’s Flickerfest, Palermo, Freezeframe and more. Its most recent win — Best Animation at the Nashville Film Festival — makes it eligible for the 2005 Oscars.

Not bad for a student film done at RMIT’s Animation and Interactive Media Centre, although given Nix’s expertise in so many areas, an award winning film seems like a natural progression for him.

‘I love writing, illustrating and making music,’ he agrees, ‘and I’ve done all three in different ways. So for the time being I’ll definitely keep making animations, whether they’re music videos or whatever. It’s a really good way to hone your skills.’

However natural a step it was for a musician and illustrator, it was the RMIT course that bought out the love for it. ‘I went to study animation thinking it was a way of getting employed in what I liked to do, which is draw, make music and design things,’ Nix says. ‘I really loved making those little worlds and then making the music for them. All the things I liked to do were combined them for the first time.’

So now those skills have combined, what kind of filmmaker do they create?

‘Animation is similar to any other film in the sense that I started with a definite concept,’ he explains. ‘I wrote a script and made storyboards. I actually put a lot of time into them, the film really is the original storyboards with a few extra scenes.

‘Then when I started production I just sat down and drew for three months. It was a lot of work; I worked weekends and all hours of the night. The animation part was different from a usual film in that there was an enormous task simply of drawing and then testing those drawings. Then I went to the computer and compiled the drawings into their backgrounds and coloured them, and at that point it was like most other moviemaking; assembling your scene is quite a normal editing procedure.’

‘But [a live action feature] is another universe. I’d have no confidence in doing a project like that. Of course there are some similarities because you’re still constructing a film, but it’s a different world.’

One of the main differences, of course, is that you can’t point the megaphone at real people. ‘It is isolated in the sense that it’s all happening inside your head and you can’t talk to your actors,’ Nix agrees, ‘but I was with a whole lot of other students, all of us in a room constantly drawing, always looking at each other’s work and asking what we think about this part or that part.

Hello worked better because I had a lot of input from other people and a lot of good ideas came from other people. I’d never had someone edit my music or my art before and it made me realise that I’ve always really needed one. The environment really assisted the production.’

If more work of Nix’s work performs as Hello has, isolation is going to be an increasingly elusive quality. Having hand crafted each aspect of his films — from the script and illustration to the music — how is he going to meet the challenge of relinquishing control?

‘I don’t think I’d be very happy to let go of the reins but I understand it’s part of the necessity,’ he says. ‘I’ve just finished my next film and had to get someone else involved in the music because I just didn’t have the time. I was doing all the animating and it was quite complicated to make, so I got someone I really trust and we did it together.

‘I think it’s a matter of having the right people to do it, and that’s what would really scare me in directing, having to assemble a team. I love having a small team of 6 or 7 people when I get to hand pick them.’

So after recently-completed commissions from both SBS and ABC and a whirlwind tour of what will undoubdtedly be a successful visit to Annecy, Nix plans to return home and work on his next film. If the festival wins so far are anything to go by, he’d better get used to the hours he’s been working.

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