It’s been a great year for Swedish artist Niki Lindroth von Bahr. Her brilliant musical short The Burden, which featured singing and dancing animals fighting existential despair in a marketplace, won the prestigious Cristal for Best Short Film at Annecy in June. She made time for us during her summer holiday to answer some questions.
Can you tell us a bit about the origins of your award-winning short The Burden?
I’d say there were some different ideas coming together. I have always loved old Hollywood musicals, like Singin’ in the Rain and Anchors Aweigh, and I wanted to do some kind of animated homage to this genre. But then I also wanted work with a darker, contemporary theme. If you were a low-paid employee working endless hours in a generic shopping area, what would you sing about?
Where do you usually find your inspirations?
Hollywood musicals, Tales of Beatrix Potter and the films of Michael Haneke—always.
What do you love about working in this particular medium (stop-motion/puppets)?
I love to make sets and puppets by hand. And stop-motion animation is the perfect way for me to combine that interest with my fascination by the film medium.
How much did your short cost to make and how long did it take you to create it?
We had quite a small budget, sadly, about 75,000 euros (about $85,000), and worked on the short for almost two-and-a-half years. It’s been difficult, to say the least!
What would you say your biggest challenge was in making your short?
There have been many, many challenges, but definitely the low budget. Also, some of the sets were really hard to make. Like the supermarket, with hundreds of tiny food boxes made by hand. And the marketplace exterior set that measured 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in diameter. That model alone took me over three months to finish.
Have you been surprised by the acclaim and attention your short has received?
Yes. I was very unsure if the Swedish voices would work abroad at all, since there are so much speaking and singing compared to my previous films [Bath House, Tord and Tord]. Also, despite our tight production budget, I’m so happy that my film has been screened amongst animated films with much bigger budgets and high production value.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I make sculptures for a couple of art exhibitions, which I do alongside my film projects. I’m also planning to make some kind of animated horror movie, which may take place in the financial world.
What are your favorite shows on TV or movies you have seen this year?
I love the documentary show O.J.: Made in America. The institutional racism and political movements that went on simultaneously with that case is just so interesting and important to learn about.
Who is your animation hero/role model?
I love the work of Réka Bucsi, Don Hertzfeldt and Daisy Jacobs.
What is the best advice you can give to those who want to make it in animation?
Be really stubborn, I mean really stubborn! It’s also a good thing if you’re an incurable “time optimist.” That means not being fully aware of how time-consuming everything in animation actually is, and manage to repress that experience when starting your next project!!!
To find out more, visit www.nikilindroth.com.