Interview with BAFTA Winning Animator Mikey Please

Having only completed an MA in animation from the Royal College of Art in London last year, Mikey Please is relatively new to the professional world of artistic filmmaking. However, this hasn’t stopped him from already gaining considerable respect amongst his peers – the pinnacle of his career so far being winning the award for Best Short Animation at this year’s BAFTAs.

His winning piece The Eagleman Stag which also served as his graduating film, is a dark cerebral comedy about a man who is obsessed with the quickening perception of time as one ages, and the extreme lengths he goes to in order to counter this effect.

An intriguing concept, it is one that has a certain resonance for Please himself; “It interests and bothers me in equal amounts. Making the film was a kind of cathartic process. Going back to childhood again, this is something that has always been in my thoughts; why a year now seems so much less than a year when I was four? Of course, a year when I was four was a whole quarter of my life, now it is but a mere twentysixth.”

An adaptation of a short story he wrote a few years ago, it was never intended to be made into a film, he notes, “I thought it would be impossible, but it was when I developed this graphical simple stopmotion method that I felt I might be able to do it justice.”

This use of stopmotion appears to be a fundamental element of Please’s style, featuring in much of his work to date. “I love the unflinching certainty that what you’re looking at is physically there.” However, it is evidently not always easy to get right, as he reminds us; “Of course for every happy accident there are several unhappy ones. But that’s one of my main attractions to working with real things, in that the opportunity for accident is so much bigger when there is all the chaos of the real world interfering with what I’m doing.”

A technique that is increasingly used less and less given the advances in technology that has cultivated a huge scope of digital alternatives, it seems to retain a certain degree of appeal for Please: “I think working with physical things, in a predominantly digital age, isn’t a form of Luddism or a nostalgic attachment to a bygone era, but a feeling that to work with tangible materials, as frustrating as they can be, can not only add something indefinable to the aesthetic, but assist in the actual structural development of the content itself.”

The choice of creating the film all in white comes across both as incredibly different and yet reminiscent of the Japanese art of origami. Having confirmed that no origami was in fact used, he does stress that the decision to film in this hue was important: “I was looking for a way to distance the look of the film from being a straight forward representation of reality, and something about the white on white fitted perfectly with that kind of dream or memory of real life I was going for.”

It is clear that Please is still coming to terms with his success at the BAFTAs as he recalls how he felt when his name was announced; “Mildly confused, then a deep, resounding fear worked its way from my belly to my head, kicking in when I was half way through my acceptance speech, leading to me doing a Napoleon Dynamite dash from the stage.”

With subsequent works already in the pipeline including directing a music video for TV on the Radio and a lengthy film entitled Zero-Greg that’s slowly taking form, it won’t be long before Please becomes a household name. Yet somewhat reassuringly, he stresses that his success is just as possible for any budding animator so long as enough ambition is retained and they remember to “get some sleep, get some sunshine and eat some fruit”.

The Eagleman Stag is available on DVD as part of the RCA 2010 Animation Showreel.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Mar 22nd 2011.

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