Interview with peter millard


Peter Millard is an English animation filmmaker with a taste for the absurd and a stream of consciousness approach to filmmaking that is open to explosive outbursts of humor and chaos. Having graduated from the Royal Collage of Art in London, his work was featured in film festivals in Ottawa, Edinburgh, Dresden, etc. and in retrospectives in the US, Japan, and South Korea.

In May, during his month-long residency at Q21, he will develop an installation, exploring conflicting juxtapositions between image, sound and rhythm. The small exhibition will be conceived in collaboration with Hungarian animation artist Réka Bucsi at the ASIFAkeil in MuseumsQuartier and opened on May 30. Last, but not least Peter will also be part of an animation workshop, held by MUKATO (Muzak, Karo Riha, Thomas Renoldner).

VIS: How did you get into animation?

Peter Millard: I did a one year art class when I was 19 where I did lots of life drawings. Most were mature students there so I was the youngest by miles. My best friend there was an 87 year old lady, Rosemary, really lovely, we always went to the pub. Basically, at that course, the teacher looked at my life drawings and because they were very loose, he said “Have you thought about animation?” Without really thinking too much about it, I just applied at Newport University, got in and somehow that’s how it all started.

VIS: And how was it once you got there? 

PM: In the beginning, it was really difficult. I remember the first two weeks thinking, “what am I doing?”. But then I met a really good animator, Ben Cady, who showed me the basics. 

VIS: How did your personal style fit in?

PM: Most people’s characters were very good, mine were just all over the place. But instead of the teacher saying, stop doing that, one of my main lecturers, Matthew Gravelle, said “I want you to keep working this way”. He showed me a bunch of short films by Jonathan Hudgson, Bruce Bickford, all of these people who use a straight-ahead technique and that’s how it all started.

VIS: What did you like about those short films?

PM: The energy behind them. Whenever I tested any animation I had, and I know it’s a cliché, this magical feeling when I saw it moving. Basically it was nice to see other animators that used that straight-ahead way of working that was just full of personality and life.

VIS: So in a sense this gave you the confidence to not feel like what you’re doing is wrong?

PM: Yes, exactly, because when you draw like I draw, a lot of people are going, “you’re not really drawing, are you? It’s not very good” which is a bit of a silly statement, really. I also got told a lot about painters as well, like Jean Dubuffet and Jean Michel Basquiat. Some people might say they painted in a kind of naïve, childlike way, so it was nice to see these successful artists painting in that manner. 

VIS: Once you said that you find it aesthetically more pleasing to work in this very quick way. What makes you feel this way?

PM: I just generally seem to enjoy work that’s drawn that way. I think it’s just seeing the energy behind the work and the drawings and the line. 

VIS: Would you say that this sort of work is more fitting to your personality?

PM: I’d definetly say so. Again, it’s kind of a cliché but it’s a way of escaping things. So it’s nice to not think too much about what you’re doing and just go with it, just losing yourself in your work. I respect animators that do storyboards and narrative films that are really planned out but it’s not for me at all. I like to be in my own mind, get lost in my work, get away from things. 

VIS: Tell us a bit about what you’re doing here, at the residency.

PM: I’m making a short film together with another animator, Réka Bucsi, that will be exhibited at the MuseumsQuartier. I’m also doing a workshop with people from the Academy of Arts which should be fun.

VIS: In an interview you mentioned you used to do stream of consciousness writing and would listen to experimental jazz to get into the right mindframe to draw. 

PM: Yeah, I still listen to jazz. I find it really nice to work to any sort of experimental music that doesn’t have lyrics. I mostly did stream of consciousness writing in my really early films, when I’d pick things and then actually storyboard them. Now I kind of just go with the flow.

VIS: So then you don’t go back to what you’ve drawn and modify it?

PM: No, I don’t really even test things now because you always have the temptation to fiddle with things too much and now I kind of like to keep the mistakes in there; trying to work around the mistakes rather than edit them out.

VIS: What is one belief that has kept you back?

PM: Sometimes I don’t particularly push myself enough in talking to people. I’ve had quite a lot of opportunities to do things and I’ve not done it. It’s mostly paid work that I really didn’t want to do at the time. Some people might say that has held me back in that I’m still working at the National History Museum after three and a half years. I don’t really care about it too much at the moment but I don’t know what I’m going to think about it in ten years’ time.

VIS: And one belief that has kept you going?

PM: It’s not really a belief, but I just really love making the work. I don’t see any reason in doing something for your whole life if you’re not getting to enjoy it. A lot of animators actually hate the process of animating but I try my hardest to make that the bit i love the most. 

VIS: Finally, if you were to live in a painting, which painting would it be and why? 

PM: Anything by Karel Apple whom I absolutely love. There’s a really nice video of him painting where he has all the tubs of paint out and he’s just splashing it on the canvas and it’s getting kind of mad. I’d kind of like to be in one of those for a few days, just kind of lose my mind between all these different bright colors but I guess people might say that’s what I’m doing anyway.

Interview by
Diana Mereoiu, Laura Hörzelberger