Ana Caro is a creative and artistic animation director influenced by expressionism and drawn towards more experimental forms of animation. She loves to work with strong narratives evoking powerful emotions through form and movement. One thing is for sure – she is always trying to push herself to the limits, never satisfied with convention or the status quo.
When did you know you wanted to be a director?
I’m a Colombian living in London, an animation director passionate about giving life to my drawings. I studied the arts in the crazy city of Bogota and that inspired me towards more evocative, experimental and expressionist ways of movement. I started working by myself and tried different techniques of animation. But then I realised that by working with a group of people, I could make more ambitious projects, and I felt the need to combine different talents into one project. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a director and gain the capacity to work with a team. Really the opposite of an animator working alone in a dark room. I wanted to share my vision, my stories and my characters, and I ended up studying at the National Film and Television School, which broadened my own horizon in terms of the film industry outside of Colombia.
I am interested in animation filmmaking because it is a way to touch some deep fibres with lines and colours, and having the power to produce emotions in the audience gives me gratification for all the hours spent frame by frame drawing from scratch in order to create worlds.
Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a director, what were your first steps in achieving this goal?
When I knew what I wanted, I pursued getting into an international school like the NFTS. I knew it was not easy but I needed to go somewhere else in the world, to get more knowledge from my animation heroes. But I needed a good amount of experience after I finished studying at the university in Colombia. So I was very lucky to participate in different films. That gave me a strong vision of what I wanted and what kind of films I wanted to make. That’s also how I built a good showreel to start my journey into international waters.
It all started in my little studio at my parents’ home and then I was able to go and work on different TV shows, commercials and short films. I managed to get to know a lot of people in the industry who passed on incredible knowledge to me. But animation is not easy, it takes many hours of drawing and learning software. It is quite lonely sometimes but it is satisfying when you see things moving.
What obstacles or setbacks did you face in becoming a director?
First of all, being an immigrant in the UK has put me in tricky situations many times. When I had big opportunities I had to slow down and wait for visas. Even though the NFTS was a great start in the UK for my animation career, I had the opportunity to continue working on productions back home.
I think obstacles like a lack of funding or support from the big companies, makes animation really hard. Many still believe that animation is for kids and with that thought many doors are closed. But I’ve got a really good network of animation friends who pass information and help to each other, to help get work. But the most important part of this network is that we can tell each other ideas for films and help each other to improve, showing references, being critical and suggesting narratives and different ways of storytelling.
Unfortunately, animation in many cases is not well paid, and the amount of work we put into it is massive. In many cases, you not only have to direct but fill many different roles for budget reasons, which is not ideal.
How did you develop your voice and hone your craft?
My voice in animation is inspired by art history, imaginary characters and personal experiences. I always try to look for things that I or somebody I know has experienced and put it in metaphorical drawings that then start taking shape into some kind of storytelling. Then I look for the narrative and make them into short films or gifs.
Sketching and watching animation films is always a good way to start up creativity.
Drawing for my personal projects or working as a freelancer on different shows has given me manual experience but also defined what kind of stories I want to tell.
How did you get your first break?
My first break came with my short film at the NFTS The Magnificent Lion Boy. It was not my first short film in festivals but this one opened doors for me – not only as an animation director but in the industry in Colombia. The film was nominated in Cinefondation in Cannes Film Festival in 2013. And it was voiced by Hugh Bonneville and Andy Serkis, which gave me a lot of experience and confidence that I could be a real animation director.
Since then, I have worked on several TV series in Colombia as an animation director, mostly in animated documentaries, which have allowed me to use my voice, art and style. Sometimes they are quite experimental.
Unfortunately, I have found that having an agent as an animation director is not common. You can join exclusive platforms that promote your work but they don’t really help you find jobs. I’m currently a freelancer in animation in London and Colombia, or anywhere in the world thanks to digital technology and exchanging files online. But I continue to develop ideas for TV shows, short films and projects and I’m always applying for funding. It is a bit challenging to always be on the lookout for opportunities to share my vision, my drawings and my art. But in the meantime it is good to keep exploring styles and software programs.
I have also found that teaching and tutoring is a way to keep me creative and of course earn an income, because animators must eat too! Teaching is a great way to keep your brain active and the conversations with the students help you to keep building your skills and knowledge.
TV Credits: Cuentos de Viejos (2016).