Often dialogue free and with an unconventional narrative structure, capturing emotion in a music video is no easy task. Proving that it can be done with her immersive, emotive promo for Tom Rosenthal track It’s OK, Hannah Jacobs’ animation about “finding hope during those darker moments in life” is a film that demands multiple viewings and is bound to stick with you long after that first exposure.
Having recently graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Animation, director Jacobs has been on the DN radar for some time. Catching our eye with a series of unusual short animations (Bird dies at 1 min 02 and Dead Dog being DN favourites), along with her unique grad film about a tiny man who loves a swan, we finally took the chance to catch up with Hannah and chat about her latest animation:
The video follows two characters through a somewhat abstract narrative, and I suppose in its simplest form it‘s about finding hope during those darker moments in life. When I first listened to the track I found myself simultaneously crying and smiling all at once. I love those contradictions in life, where beauty and melancholy can be present within the same moment. For me, Tom’s song and lyrics seem to encompass this feeling perfectly. He has this incredible ability to write the most heart wrenching songs, yet they never feel like they’re coming from a place of hopelessness, quite the opposite.
I’d say the concept is pretty much entirely inspired by the beauty and magic of Tom’s song which I totally fell in love with straight away. It’s really not hard to feel inspired by Tom’s music, so the ideas just flowed from there!
I felt super nervous making the video the whole way through – I really wanted to do the song justice. A lot of my illustration work revolves around emotion and observation, so in a way this was something that comes fairly instinctively to me. I like to work in a fairly organic way, and tend to just immerse myself in a feeling or a mood and then see what happens when I start drawing, rather than sit and plan a storyboard. Admittedly this is a technique that doesn’t always work out, but for a project like this I felt this was the only way to create something that truly captured the emotion of the track.
The absolute magic of animation for me is that it can literally be anything you want it to be – I’m really interested in pushing those boundaries. It’s kind of like solving a massive puzzle – you’re trying to think of interesting and playful ways to link scenes and ideas. That’s my absolute favourite part of animating. How can I get from this sausage dog to this bicycle wheel in an interesting way? This is the complex lifestyle I lead as an animator…it’s pretty tough. One thing I learnt during my time at the RCA, is that I love drawing movement. How can these lines and shapes come together to tell a story or evoke emotion in the viewer?
The production in total took about 6 months – mostly due to working around other commercial projects and finishing my grad film at the RCA earlier this year. Tom is an incredibly patient chap! I listened to the track A LOT, and Tom’s entire Soundcloud stream whilst brainstorming ideas. I did a lot of drawing whilst travelling about on trains and buses. I find ideas often come to me whilst on the move.
From there it’s a traditional approach all the way – hand drawn animation on a light box, which loosely translates to living, sleeping and eating in the same room for a really long time. The film is made entirely with pencil, crayons and oil pastels on paper. I also successfully made my way through an entire rewatch of the TV show Buffy – so obviously that’s a pretty exciting achievement on the side.
I don’t tend to use a huge amount of software, mostly Photoshop and After Effects for post work. I also worked closely with my good pal and editor Zach Ellams who is both wise and brilliant.
My next project is creating an animation for Alain De Botton’s School of Life, which I’m super excited about! I’m also working on a series of animated shorts with the wonderful musician Kerry Leatham.