Filmmaker Anita Bruvere’s animated short HOME tells the true story of a real building on Princelet Street in London and the history of community, immigration and diversity that occurred within its walls. Bruvere adopts a stop motion format to weave her story, which gives the intimate moments of fabric sewing a sense of close tactility and the cleverly constructed scene transitions a free-flowing ease. It really is gorgeously put together and there’s a montage towards the end that brilliantly shifts the seeming specificity of the story into something universal. DN is proud to premiere HOME on our pages today and is joined by Bruvere below for an in-depth breakdown of the making of her film, touching on everything from the historical purpose of the materials she used to the lack of change that still resides in the public discourse on immigration.
What was it that brought you to make HOME?
I love exploring London, the city’s history is so rich there is always a possibility to discover something fascinating behind the unassuming looking doors of old buildings. Me and the Writer Angelina Karpovich came across the story of 19 Princelet Street by chance. The building that the story is based on is now a Museum of Immigration and Diversity, but it’s rarely open to the public. It was amazing to see it so unchanged, frozen in time, in the middle of gentrified Shoreditch.
And what led you from the initial kernel of an idea to making the film as a stop motion short?
I was interested in how people of different times and generations, coming from different cultures and backgrounds, are connected through the places they occupy and the experiences they share. I wanted the film to be quite poetic, telling the story from the perspective of the house using fabric: the common trade shared by the area’s many immigrant communities. Characters in the film are 2D cutouts on acetate and appear as mere shadows that come and go whilst the house stays.
You use a combination of materials too, what was your motivation for selecting each different type?
I love working with different materials, and my personal work tends to be very tactile. For HOME the use of fabric felt particularly fitting, partly because of the strong connection between the immigrants of Spitalfields and the fabric trade. It also worked as a metaphor for all the individual people coming together to form a community the same way as individual threads are woven together into a cloth.
I wanted the film to be quite poetic, telling the story from the perspective of the house using fabric: the common trade shared by the area’s many immigrant communities.
As someone who moved from Latvia to the UK to study animation, did you find that you had a personal relevance to the story you were weaving?
It felt really personal working on a film about the history of immigration, being an immigrant myself. It was startling to discover that the public discourse around the issue of immigration hasn’t really changed that much over the last 300 years. Actually, our entire crew ended up being composed of first, second, and third-generation immigrants from around the world. I didn’t deliberately set out looking for collaborators who had that shared experience, but people gravitated to the story because it resonated with them.
Stop motion is notoriously lengthy in production. How long were you working on HOME?
The film was funded by the Pears Short Film fund, so we had a strict deadline. The whole film took about four months to complete. I was working with a relatively small team, all of us trying to fit it in alongside other projects we were working on.
It was startling to discover that the public discourse around the issues of immigration hasn’t really changed that much over the last 300 years.
The way the music evolves and returns throughout the film feels integral to the story too. What conversations did you have with your composer?
Music was one of the most important aspects of the film. I started working with the Composer Anna Bauer at a very early stage in pre-production, talking about the feel of the story. Our first meeting to talk about the film was actually in Shoreditch, so we could both experience something of the atmosphere of the location. Anna composed a few melodies each corresponding to a different section of the film before I even started animating, and it really helped to bring the film together in a very organic way.
How many windows and doors feature in the montage towards the end? And how long did it take to construct that sequence?
I’m not sure of the exact number. My Cinematographer Bertrand Rocourt walked every street in Spitalfields methodically taking photos of the different house features, there were definitely several hundred photos to sort through and I don’t think I’ve used all of them. I always knew that I wanted to include this pixilated sequence in the film to really tie the animation with the real world, but the plan was just to get all this footage and then see what happened. It was the first thing I put together, but then we kept revisiting it in the edit so overall it took quite a while to get it right.
Whatever you can envision, you can animate.
What is it about animation that continues to fascinate you as an artist?
I love that the possibilities are endless with animation, it doesn’t have the same restraints as live action. Whatever you can envision, you can animate. You can take your audience to very dark places yet it still retains some playfulness about it because it’s a very obviously constructed reality. I also just love the process of stop motion animation.
And finally, what can we expect from you next?
I do a lot of work as an animator and model maker on commercial projects. I was lucky to have an opportunity of co-directing a few stop motion sequences for the Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared TV show that recently came out on Channel 4. I’d like to do a graphic novel. Me and Writer Angelina Karpovich, who wrote HOME, are working on the story together.