Every now and then, you hear about people that make you think, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ And this rings especially true with Rosemary Vasquez-Brown and Sara Hirner. These two young women in the animation world have already seen their short film GNT featured at the Sundance Film Festival – and they still have so much more planned for the future.
Rosemary and Sara’s shared passion for animated film led to the creation of GNT – a film based on real conversations among women and the oddities of social validation.
GNT follows Glenn, Nikki and Tammy and the lengths they will go to in order to validate their curiosities and insecurities.
While Rosemary and Sara work separately, they often get together to work on bigger projects between their everyday workings. One of their many dreams at the moment is to create an animated TV show.
We spoke with Rosemary and Sara about what inspires them, why we need more women in the animation space and, of course, about GNT.
Let’s start with an easy one – tell us about yourselves. Who did you first discover art/animation and filmmaking was a passion?
Rosemary: “Growing up, my cousins and I would put together short skits or horror movies that made absolutely no sense but always made us laugh. Even today, I enjoy making ridiculously bad short films with friends out of boredom. In addition to my early love of filmmaking, I, too, always loved to draw. I was drawing all the time as a child and was absolutely terrible at it. I only started developing a really clear style in my first year at uni, and that only happened because in animation, they insist that you draw every. Damn. Day.
Naturally, I fell in love with animation. Animation allows so much freedom when it comes to storytelling, and whilst it demands so much discipline, it’s a rewarding method nonetheless and has made me appreciate and enjoy the filmmaking process so much more.
Sara: I loved watching movies growing up, and I doodled constantly, but I can’t say I was one of those kids who was making little movies for my friends. I think the passion came much later for me. When I started studying animation, I became more aware of how diverse animation can be as a medium and the kinds of stories I wanted to tell. I think I also needed that structure and feedback to help me develop my ideas and give me a foundation for self-discipline. Passion is awesome, but the animation process takes such a long time that I think you need some other fuel to get you over the finish line.”
Can you tell us a bit about GNT and the discussions that lead to its creation?
Both: “We were interested in the level of detail we would divulge in conversations between friends. It seemed like we were always having conversations about the grossest aspects of our own humanity. Homemade remedies, discharge and discomfort, were all fair game. We wanted to capture the unfazed nature of those conversations and the lengths we would go to in order to validate our curiosities and insecurities. There was something special about that,
...and social media worked as a good extension for those affirmation cravings.”
It’s such a great idea for a film. Did you expect it’d be such a hit?
Both: “Not at all. There is a lack of adult animations that we, as young twenty-somethings, could deeply relate to. So we made GNT, self indulgently, to fill that void. In fact, we thought it was funny because we hadn’t seen anything like it. Lo and behold, it spoke directly to people’s insecurities, so much so that we have people sharing utterly intimate tales over interviews and in first meetings.
What has the audience reaction been like?
Both: “We have been overwhelmed by how many people have connected to GNT in one way or another. It’s really interesting when people find messages that we didn’t consciously put into the film. What’s probably most exciting is that people want more of Glenn, Nikki and Tammy.”
You lean into a really feminist approach in your filmmaking. Why is this so important to you?
Both: “Stories can take so many ideas and forms, but pushing boundaries is definitely central to our own filmmaking practice. For us, a film is more interesting if it pushes its own limits, whether through style or story. We wanted GNT to sit on that edge between funny and off-putting. Turning something that is relatable and exaggerating it into the ridiculous is an especially fun way to push boundaries and keep an audience engaged.”
Do you think this is something that’s becoming more prevalent now, or do we need more female filmmakers like yourselves to lead the way?
Both: “We can never have enough female filmmakers! There’s a need and a want for new and fresh voices in our film industry. Throughout the festival circuit, we had the privilege of meeting phenomenal female filmmakers who bring exactly that as they layer different ideas, perspectives and truths into absolutely incredible films. Renee Maria Osubu, Alisha Tejpal, Noemie Nakai and Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir are all names to look out for in the future of film.”
What is it that you love about storytelling in this way?
Both: “Animation is a particularly freeing medium. There are no limits to what you can do – if you can imagine it, you can create it. Of course, it takes a very long time to actually animate traditionally, but it’s a discipline that always pays off in our experience. It was particularly useful for GNT because we could get away with a lot more – it would have been sad to shy away from the nudity. GNT, and the ideas we had for it, could not have been done in any other medium.
How did you bring your art and animation styles together for GNT and across your other projects?
Both: “Our styles have always been similar. We are both heavily influenced by comics and zines. We both lean line-heavy, graphic and gritty – something we hadn’t seen in animation as much. Typically we delegate character design and backgrounds separately and switch between the two for clean-up to maintain some cohesion. We’re quite lucky in that our strengths and weaknesses often compliment each other. We have really different ways of thinking and creating, but both deeply trust each other’s work and creative instincts. It made for a very fluid and genuinely enjoyable time. Even in the really challenging parts (of which there were many), we managed to find some symbiosis.”
You have said you’d love to create an animated TV show together. Would that be a different story to GNT or a continuation?
Both: “We would love to create an animated TV show. GNT, our short film, was a proof of concept for a TV series, so we hope it was a good introduction to the characters, sense of style and pace. But, overall we’d just love to create more and continue to create together.”
What kinds of situations do you see the trio getting into in the future?
Both: “It’s interesting how easily these girls slot into stories. Even during our festival circuit, people would suggest other story arcs that they could imagine the girls in. These characters and their dynamic is so entertaining to watch that there’s really no limit to where and what they can be doing.”
What’s next for you two?
Both: “We’re still creating together and coming up with new ideas. Obviously, we want to see where else Glenn, Nikki and Tammy could go, and where else we could go in the animation space.”
What advice can you give other people wanting to pursue their passions and dreams?
Both: “It all takes time, so try your best to make time for it. And get as much feedback as you can along the way – criticism is a huge gift.”
Rosemary and Sara are proof that you can turn your passion into an incredible career. So, dream big, and you could be surprised where you end up.
Image: Rosemary Vasquez-Brown and Sara Hirner
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