Julia Pott’s animated short, Howard (which is being screened as part of our Hope and Heartbreak short film program) tells the story of love gone cold, of what happens when infatuation gives way to ennui and that initial spark can never be regained. We spoke to Julia about love, heartbreak and animal metaphors.
Rooftop Films: Explain what your film is about for someone who hasn’t seen it.
Julia Pott: The film is essentially about a woman who is at the turning point in her relationship with her boyfriend, when the romance and infatuation has made way for apathy and mixed emotions and she is forced to make a decision about how to move forward. It is awkwardly acted out by a lady bear and her human boyfriend.
RF: In your animation you use bears, humans and humans in bear costumes, was this purely an aesthetic choice or does it carry a wider, more allegorical significance?
JP: I wanted to employ a fairly simple metaphor to highlight the couples differences and how they struggle to overcome them. Howard makes conscious efforts to fit in with her by altering his appearance, while she submerges herself in his culture in an attempt to make it work. My work is very self reflective so a lot of this film draws on my own experiences in relationships. I believe growing and changing in relationships can be healthy but when the change is forced it puts a strain on you and your significant other. Friends and family can often see when a couple are not well suited for each other, but when you are so deeply involved with someone you become a bit foggy on what may or may not be right and end up confused and nostalgic about the beginning of the relationship when you were so infatuated with each other.
RF: The rich visual tapestry of the film means it’s able to convey so much in such a short amount of time, as the narrative shows the initial buoyancy of new love give way to stagnation. How were you able to achieve such a succinct visual narrative?
JP: I think narration can be a great unifier for bringing time periods together. Also the visual trick of the flashback montage can give you quick idea of where a couple have come from to arrive where they are now. Dealing with a universal subject matter can also make it easier to get your points across quickly as people can apply their own experiences to the narrative and connect with it emotionally.
RF: The film looks at how two people can grow apart and how love can fade, in a way, which is understated yet, carries universal resonance. What inspired you to concentrate on this aspect of relationships?
JP: I very much wanted to look at the perspective of the character that decides to end the relationship, instead of the victim, as this is a less common approach. I find that often the reason a couple break up is not because of some life changing event but just because love has makes way for indifference, or it just becomes a different kind of love. For me this sensation is very close to home, and I often find myself torn between staying with someone whom I enjoy being with, but no longer have strong feelings for, or to move on. I have found the reacts to be quite interesting; with female viewers empathizing with the woman’s perspective in the film, and male viewers having quite strong negative reactions, finding the female character to be cold and naive to the compromises involved in relationships.
RF: Howard is being shown at Rooftop Films as part of our Hope and Heartbreak series of shorts, what do you feel the film could say about hope and heartbreak?
JP: With every heartbreak I have experienced, I have grown up and learnt so much more about what I want. When you realize something isn’t working and have the courage to face change you are opening yourself up to the hope of a new, better fit from your next relationship.
RF: What is your next project?
JP: I have just completed my thesis film from the Royal College of Art entitled ‘Belly’. It is coming of age movie that looks at the necessary evil of growing up and leaving something behind. It is just about the start the festival circuit so will be up online next year.