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animation of the garbage man

Laura Gonçalves

Laura is an animation director, animator, concept designer, and co-founder of BAP Cooperative – Animation Studios, CRL. in Porto, Portugal,

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Tell us a little more about your background, and why you chose to study with AUB.

I finished my studies in Fine Arts at the University of Lisbon in 2009, and started working at Sardinha em Lata, an animation studio where I learned a lot about the process of making a film.

After working on a few productions, I felt the urge to make my own animated film. I’d never studied cinema, so I decided to do a Masters where I could study and develop my own language, concepts – and realise a final piece.

I chose to go to AUB because at the time I was really interested in exploring real stories through animation. More specifically, I was interested in exploring real sounds, interviews, testimonies and voices, and merging these with the potential of the animated world; a mixing of animation and documentary. Back then, there was very little investigation or research about this, unlike now. Paul Ward, the head of the animation course, was one of the few academics writing about animated documentaries, so it just made sense to choose this university.

Another thing which attracted me was the interaction between the courses. This transmitted to me the sense of being within a huge community, where you could share knowledge, and interact with each other’s projects.

What is it that inspires your work, and has this changed since your studies?

I get inspired by real stories. The MA helped me to better define my process and structure my foundations as a filmmaker. It kept me inspired, and just as importantly it kept me motivated.

I’ve been working on animated documentaries since I finished my studies, developing that language and understanding its potential, but also its limits.

Could you highlight some of your most defining work?

My final MA project was Three weeks in December (2013), a 6 minute animated short film, based on the drawings and recordings I made of my family in Portugal during the three weeks of Christmas break.

It's a personal story that emphasises the family bonds. Using my sketchbook drawings as a reference, and my family as the subject, this film follows a diaristic format, showing several situations and events that are part of my routine in Belmonte.

My research revolved around documenting personal stories, diaries, autobiography, memory, and trauma. It is dedicated to my grandfather.

Água Mole / Drop by Drop (2017) is a short animated film co-directed with Xá (Alexandra Ramires). It is a story about four people who refuse to leave their homes, persisting against isolation, emigration, and forgetfulness. We wanted to create a portrait of rural Portugal, inspired by a journey to the interior of the country, the voices of four people, and the carnivalesque tradition of the Careto.

The Garbage Man, currently in production (2021), is an animated short about the life of my uncle – a collage of memories narrated by the voices of my family.

The film explores some important Portuguese socio-political and historical events which my uncle lived through. As a result, those important contexts are portrayed from a very personal and intimate point of view.

Is there something that you feel perhaps best represents your work and yourself as an artist?

What remains constant and mostly defines my work as a Director, is the mixture between these two opposite worlds: "Reality" and " Fantasy". From one side real stories told through actual interviews and the other, the infinite possibilities of animation, where the only limit is our imagination.

What are the key skills that you feel you learned or developed during your time at AUB?

During the MA, my research was about expressing documentary through animation, so I could portray real life stories and experiences. This researched helped me a lot to build a strong foundation for myself as an artist and director.

As well as this, learning sound was very important for the work I do now. I learned how to work with sound recording equipment and software. Building up a strong narrative through sound, before the visual narrative, is also a big part of my process.

Are there any particularly inspiring alumni, figures, course staff, or fellow students that you’d like to acknowledge in helping you to succeed?

Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, for "My Mother's Coat"

Jonathan Hodgson, for "Night club".

Paul Ward, for helping me direct my research and the support to find my own path.

Maria Figueiredo, Nádia Cardoso and David Cubitt, for being amazing friends and helping me put together the final film "Three weeks in December".

We often ask our alumni what advice they’d give to students following in their footsteps – what would you offer as words of advice? What words inspired you?

Tell your stories, develop work around what inspires you in your life. Animation takes a long time to do, it requires patience. Working on a subject that is close to the heart is the best thing to keep an artist on track.

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