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Russian animator Olesya Shchukina: "Everything around me inspires me"

InterviewDecember 02, 2013 20:25

Olesya Shchukina is a young Russian animation artist from Saint-Petersburg. We asked her to tell us about herself and her study at La Poudrière animation school.


— How did you come to your profession? Why did you decide to become an animator?

It all started with my younger brother who began making cartoons at a young age. When he was 13, he started to use Macromedia Flash software and created short animated stories about a crazy cat. Thanks to my brother’s funny cartoons, I had the impulse to create my first 10-second short and a strong desire to continue working with animation. After high-school, I studied animation directing at St.Petersburg State University of Film and Television. I was lucky enough be enrolled in a group with Konstantin Bronzit and Dmitry Vysotskiy. I am grateful to them for my knowledge of animation.


Thanks to the 2008 KROK festival and director Benjamin Renner, I was able to learn about the French school of animation La Poudrière. Renner stressed that in contrast to St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television’s program, the Poudrière focused on practical training rather than theoretical knowledge. After I graduated from St. Petersburg State University, I enrolled as a student at Poudrière.  Last year I completed my education at Poudrière and I currently work at Folimage studio in France.


— What’s the difference between Russian and French education with regard to  animation?

It is difficult to speak for the whole educational system in Russia and France with regard to animation, as I can only speak for two schools’ approaches and training. At St.Petersburg State University, directing animation was viewed as a small and insignificant part of a big mechanism.  Thus, the administration did not pay much attention to it.  We did not have adequate classrooms and lacked resources and equipment. We learned about general theory, but did not have the opportunity to apply our knowledge to real situations.  There were a number of interesting and useful courses such as the history of film taught by Valery Fedorenko, acting skills with Irina Tsvetkova and classes with Konstantin Bronzit and Dmitry Vysotsky. These classes were extremely interesting, due to the professors themselves and not the University.


La Poudrière is a small, cozy school with two courses of ten students each.  Everything is done with great love, and it is a very comfortable atmosphere to work and study in.  Poudrière requires students to take a number of practical classes, which allow us to develop long-term projects. There are no professors at the school, but film specialists are invited to give lessons and share their experiences with the students. As a result, we not only learned from leading directors, producers, editors, sound producers, and screenwriters, but also made business contacts for our future careers.


I can give one illustrative example. There was a half-year course on copyright law at St.Petersburg State University. All students took copious notes throughout the course. The same subject at Poudrière, however, was organized in a different way. A lawyer from SACD (a French organization, undertaking collective rights management for authors) was invited to school to give us real examples from his practice. In addition, he analyzed an agreement between an author and producer, and explained copyright law within this context. He focused our attention on the main points of the contract which required attention to detail.  He had us re-read the agreement several times before signing, and advised us to consult with a lawyer from SACD.


— What project are you developing now?

I am currently working on a short film, based on my own script.  It is an eight-minute story about an elephant, made with cutout technique.  I am working collaboratively with the team at Folimage studio. We have already completed a large  part of the work, and the film will be finished by the beginning of February, 2014.




If I do not draw cartoons, I draw illustrations for ko-ko-ko: http://ko-ko-ko.tumblr.com/.




— Which country will you work with in the future,  Russia or France?

Right now, I really like my work here, in France.



— What and who inspires you? Who influences your work?

Broadly speaking, everything around me inspires me. I try to watch people, and observe their lives.  As for animation, I am fond of Fyodor Khitruk films and Japanese cartoons, specifically made by Japanese director Koji Yamamura. The stop-motion film 'Oh Willy' and the cartoon 'The external world' really impressed me. I am also interested in both Russian and foreign illustration. Among my favorite artists are Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva, Yury Vasnetsov, Galya Panchenko, Artem Krepkiy, Jon Klassen, Blexbolex. Graffiti and street-art are also central to my interest. I like pop-up books, for example, works of Louis Rigaud. I hope to do something using that technique.


I like Northern Russian wood painting. This summer for the first time I visited The Russian Museum of Ethnography. It left a lasting impression on me. It had almost the same effect on me, that I get when walking through the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. There are a number of pieces there such as totems, masks, dolls, and different ritual objects. All of these things greatly inspire me.


— Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

 It`s difficult to say because 5 years is a long-time away. I will finish my film in the winter, but after that I am unsure.



Semolina porridge (2007)

Les talons rouges (2011)

Mon petit hamster (2012)

Mal de terre (2012)

Le vélo de l'éléphant (2014)



To see Olesya's works:








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