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An Interview With 3 SVA Computer Art MFA Grads Whose Films Were Selected for Annecy

For the second year in a row, alumni from New York City’s School of Visual Arts MFA Computer Art department have been officially selected for the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

Shift, a 3D animated short by Cecilia Puglesi and Yijun Liu (MFA 2015 Computer Art) will compete in the graduation films category, and Bloody Dairy by Min Liu (MFA 2013 Computer Art) was selected for the short films out of competition screening.

You can watch the trailer for Shift below:

The film Bloody Diary is available to watch in its entirety:

Cartoon Brew asked them a few questions about their artistic practice and the global trends they’ve seen over the last few years.

Cartoon Brew: Both Bloody Dairy and Shift portray personal stories whether through a 100-day art project or a character trying to find herself. What inspired these films, and does your work reflect you personally?

Min Liu: Everyday things I encounter in my life inspired Bloody Dairy. It was first started with a simple animation about a moment in my day, but by the 30th day, I started adding more interesting elements into it. I do think my work reflects my personality. I’m really into dark humor. Most of my works are done in a hand-drawn, and a little bit somewhat cute style, but at the same time it’s still pretty quirky.

Min Liu’s "Bloody Diary" (2015).
Min Liu’s “Bloody Diary” (2015).

Yijun Liu: Yes, my work reflects me personally. I believe finding oneself is a procedure that most people encounter in their own lives. It is a very common and important theme related not only to us, but also to our audience. That’s where our inspiration comes from.

Cecilia Puglesi: Shift was born as a storyboard before becoming a script. It became a portrayal of what concerns and interests me through transformation, the quiescence, a search of ambience and space, of distance and proximity, of contrast and rhythm within the composition and time of the storytelling and me.

Color test from Cecilia Puglesi and Yijun Liu’s "Shift," 2015.
Color test from Cecilia Puglesi and Yijun Liu’s “Shift” (2015).

How would you best describe your animation style?

Min Liu: Unique with a dark sense of humor. I play with an increased consideration for negative space and a strong color palette to create special visuals.

Yijun Liu: I’d always like to create art that is fun, gentle, and heartwarming.

 "Rat Car" by Yijun Liu.
“Rat Car” by Yijun Liu.

Cecilia Puglesi: For Shift the animation style was in a graphic manner; the camera movements are quite subtle, being mostly still ones or truck cameras with a slow displacement. In addition the light and shades play a main role enhanced by the use of very painterly textures. The interaction between our characters and with the characters and their world does not rely on strong actions, but rather on the environment surrounding them at a given time and the space between them.

You all are international artists. In your short time since graduating from the SVA MFA Computer Art department, what kinds of global animations trends have you seen?

Min Liu: I remembered when I graduated in 2013, the combination of 3D assets (especially C4D) and 2D animation was hot in the field of motion graphics design. I felt that starting from 2014, 2D cel animation started slowly back in the trend, and I am really happy to see that there are more warm and organic feelings in current trends.

Yijun Liu: In my opinion, animation is connected more closely to the inner activities of humans. Many artists are telling stories based on their observation of human behavior and the psychological reasons behind it.

Cecilia Puglesi: After graduation I worked at an advertising animation studio here in NY and I got to see how they mix everything at hand: 3D, 2D cel animation, and motion graphics with their very distinctive, graphic-oriented, signature on each piece. Despite the diversity of techniques and storytelling they manage to keep it perfectly coherent and cohesive and that has been very enriching. At the same time I had the opportunity to travel abroad to some of the festivals in which Shift was selected or awarded. I went to Japan, Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, and Los Angeles and I got to see student and professional films, done with many different techniques from all over the world and meet—and share some drinks—with many of their makers. I also attended master classes from animators Regina Pessoa and Bill Plympton whose work I admire and who shared some insights on their coming works, from conception to production and their experiences as animators over the years.

Min Liu’s "Bloody Diary" (2015).
Min Liu’s “Bloody Diary” (2015).

What are you looking forward to the most at Annecy?

Min Liu: I am really excited to see more great works and meet talented animators from around the world. I believe that I will learn a lot from this experience.

Yijun Liu: Meeting outstanding artists and broadening my view.

Cecilia Puglesi: Everything! I have been to Annecy Film Festival before and it is a great opportunity to meet people, see their work, get inspired, attend masterclasses and talks, learn and discover what is going on at the time, everywhere in the world, concentrated in one place. Hopefully, I will also meet with recruiters from interesting companies. Finally, this is a special occasion to be there because it the first time in which I will attend the festival with a film in the selection. I’m looking forward to sitting in the big theater, lights fading out, paper airplanes flying all the way to the stage, and, as audiences scream “Lapin!” see the opening titles of Shift appear on screen!

Our congratulations to Min Liu, Yijun Liu, and Cecilia Puglesi!

To learn more about the program in which they created their films, SVA’s MFA Computer Art, visit mfaca.sva.edu or click on the image below:

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