Shaky Lines and The Joy of Making Animation With Your Own Hands – Interview with Joni Männistö animation director

Joni Männistö is an award-winning animation filmmaker and animator born in 1981 in Finland. After graduating from the animation department of Turku Arts Academy in 2011 he became a member of two Finnish animation collectives, Paperihattu and Turun Anikistit. He has directed such films as ‘The Trap’ (Katiska, 2008), ‘Swarming’ (Kuhina, 2011) and ‘Electric Soul’ (2013). His filmography includes recent collective productions ‘Recycling’ (2014) and ‘Wormhole’ (2016) in which he worked as one of the animation artists. Apart from filmmaking, he works as the artistic director of Turku Animated Film Festival and as a visiting lecturer at Turku Arts Academy. He currently lives and works in Tallinn.

You have tried your hands in many different techniques such as drawing animation, puppet animation or object animation. How do you decide on your choice of technique?

Making things with my own hands is something I really enjoy. So I usually choose a traditional technique for my animations. Already sitting behind a light table is more physical than just sitting behind a computer. And even if I choose a traditional technique, it still requires lots of time staring at the computer screen. And I am certain that I don't want to stick to one technique. Just one technique isn't enough for me.

Joni Männistö: 'The Trap'

Do you think that Turku Arts Academy, where you have graduated from has a specific style, which makes their films recognizable?

Think about perfect lines and movement, lots of action and talking and big gestures, something very commercial. And now think about something completely different. That's the animation from Turku Arts Academy. Lots of shaky lines and unsure looking animation. But this is all intended. We base our films on a story, not on a perfect animation. I could barely draw compared to my classmates, but that's not the most important thing when making a film. You can create something wonderful without the ultimate skills on everything.

Joni Männistö: 'Swarming'

This year saw the first edition of Turku Animated Film Festival, which you are the artistic director of. Why did you decide to start it?

Turku has lots of students every year, to whom, along with professionals and people interested in animation, we wanted to give a chance to get to know more about what's happening in the independent animation world. It feels that funders for independent films don't follow enough how independent short animation has evolved and what it really is. There seems to be more understanding for commercial or live action style stories than for non-narrative or visual storytelling. We hope to bring the animation short form closer to everyone.

Masterclass on the 5th edition of Primanima

Having been graduated for 5 years now and being out there working as an independent artist, what is your message or advice to present students of animation?

When students graduate, it often feels like they're falling into a void. In Turku we have different collectives of animators. Together we sometimes make films or other artistic projects or talk about our scripts and give feedback. 

Apart from that, working as an artist it's often necessary to make some commercial work. Maybe it's not a good idea to get used to a regular job and salary. Along with a full-time job it's difficult to have energy to proceed with artistic projects and the safe feeling of having a monthly salary might take away the ambition to make art. How can you be creative, when you have so much more on your mind? It's good to find the compromise between earning and your life as an artist.

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