MATERIAL WORLDS:
Amanda Bonaiuto

 
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Amanda Bonaiuto interviewed by Case Jernigan

MATERIAL WORLDS is an ongoing series at Evergreen where contemporary video artists and experimental animators discuss their relationship to tools, technology, and the history of art.

 
 

Utilizing the universal tools of graphite and paper as a base, Amanda Bonaiuto draws and redraws sequences of flora and fauna in powerful clusters that punctuate short films, music videos, and documentaries. She’s made videos for popular touring bands like Rubblebucket and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. She’s screened her morphing hand-drawn stories at festivals across the globe, such as Annecy and Ottawa. She was nominated for an Oscar after collaborating with the production team of the hilarious short film My Year of Dicks, and currently Amanda shares her curiosity and her rhythmic approach to animation with her students at Parsons School of Design in New York.

 

WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW:

 
 

READ AN EXCERPT FROM THE INTERVIEW:


Case Jernigan: Will you talk with us a little bit about working on My Year of Dicks?

Amanda Bonaiuto: Sure, I would love to. Oh my gosh!

CJ: It’s so funny, so good. Your work slots in there so perfectly. I recognized when it was your segment right away. But it’s a great fit. It’s a great match. I guess my first question is a little bit about logistics. There is an initial writer, Pamela. There’s a director, Sarah. There are—I’m sure—a bunch of sound designers and other contributing animators and musicians. Producers! It’s quite a long film as well. What was the process like getting involved? How much communication was there between you and the other moving parts? How much back and forth was there? Anything you can tell us about that experience would be illuminating.

AB: I think the first thing to say is that the crew was actually very tiny.

 
 

CJ: I guess for an Oscar-nominated short, it’s very tiny.

AB: You know, I’m someone who basically works alone. Right? I have a collaborator and then I’m working alone unless I choose to hire one assistant to help me with the animation. In that sense I was like “whoa, there’s a whole crew here.” But looking back on it now, there were basically six or seven animators, one sound designer, one person doing the music, Jeanette Bonds was the producer. She’s also the person who runs the Glass Animation Festival. Sara Gunnarsdóttir, I had worked with before on projects and she’s wonderful. And she was also basically my neighbor in Brooklyn for a while. We had a real good working relationship already, which is why she brought me onto the project. And then Pam, the writer, who is just hilarious—so fun and so funny to work with.

Basically the way that it worked is, Pam had written this book called Notes to Boys and wanted to turn it into a TV series. And Pam linked with Jeanette and they were sort of linked in with F/X and it was gonna air on a show called Cake. When I was initially hired for the job, it was like: “We’ll make it a TV show. It’s gonna be on Cake. Do you wanna work on it?” And that was cool. That was exciting. And basically what they did before they brought in the animators…I forgot to mention the voice actors. They got a lot of the voice acting done ahead of time so that Sara could go ahead and make an animatic. And the animatic was beautiful. It was actually the first time probably that I had worked with an animatic that was timed exactly how it needed to be. There really wasn’t room. It was like, “Yep, this is the shot. I know I’m animating three seconds. I’m doing a lip sync. It’s all clear.”

Once they were done with the animatic and that was feeling concrete, that’s when they brought in us animators. And this was during the pandemic, so everything was on Zoom. We had an initial meeting where they had created a production schedule where the shots had been divided amongst us, so we all animated every chapter. But we were all each given a special chapter.

 
 

CJ: I’m assuming that a lot of that footage was rotoscoped. You were working on a lot of that.

AB: The first chapter we did was the one where mine was the special animation. It was “The Horror Show.” And when we started, we didn’t have a workflow. We were given the shots and it was kinda like, “Well, maybe you make reference, but we just know that we want the real life to feel sort of naturalistic and we want Pam’s psychological state to be the special animation where it’s treated in a different way.”

CJ: A little more imaginative.

AB: In that episode, “The Horror Show” . . . I keep calling it an episode because that’s what it was initially! In that CHAPTER, that was kinda how we figured out how to make the film, because we didn’t have that. We all kinda started making our own reference and that was fine but it was becoming really time-consuming, so at a certain point, toward the end of that episode, Sara and Pam—and also some of the voice actors—started actually just creating reference video for us for every chapter. We’d work one chapter at a time. Eventually we were given our shots and we were also given reference video for the “real” sequences. And then we would just animate all the time! Just the line work, and that would get passed off to a colorist and then finished shots would get passed to the compositor. And the compositor is Ethan, Sara’s husband. It just felt very cozy.

CJ: Real tight-knit.

AB: Yeah.

 
 

CJ: Well, it’s nice that even in your sequence—in your special sequence, “The Horror Show”—there’s a specific shot or a couple of shots where the more naturalistic-feeling animation from the present day is happening, but your horror show alternate-style animation is happening on the TV screen right behind, so the two things are actually living in different worlds in the same shot, which is really nice.

AB: It was just so fun to work on it. When we started our individual chapters, we would have a meeting with Sara and Pam, and I just remember in that initial Zoom meeting, Pam had…she’s a horror-movie freak and it was so fun because she just was dropping all these film recommendations and I just watched horror for two weeks straight.

CJ: That’s gotta be great for the mind!

 
 

AB: I also like horror but I don’t think I’ve ever watched so many horror movies all in a row. That was really fun and also I didn’t know who Pam was so this was my introduction to her and how hilarious she is. And how she was so excited and so game for us to just do our thing. There was very little back and forth…I don’t think I got a single note on that project.

CJ: That’s great. I’m happy to hear that. The film comes across that way. It feels quite open. It feels like it was a relatively smooth, streamlined process. There’s nothing stodgy about it and it reflects the writing which is so light in some ways. Effervescent.

AB: Yeah.

CJ: Well, what was it like going to the actual Oscars? Was it weird? Was it amazing?

AB: Both. Have you spent much time in Hollywood?

CJ: I have been to Hollywood one time.

AB: The Oscars take place in the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The street with all the stars, right? I’ll just try and paint the scene. I got there and there was just a huge gate around everything with people pressed up against the gate just trying to see celebrities.

 
 

CJ: Cameras going off everywhere.

AB: It was a rat race. I was trying to get into the building and I kept being pointed by security in the wrong direction. I walked around for maybe thirty minutes trying to get in. Josh Schaffner, one of the other animators, was kind of doing the same thing, but we were on other sides of the building. And at a certain point, I was about to be late, basically, and I gotta get in! This is getting really stressful. And I’m going down this pathway, just packed with people trying to see celebrities, and the actual street is packed with black SUVs full of celebrities, and I end up telling a security guard on the inside of the gate that I just really need to get in there. I was flashing my ticket! And this crowd of fifteen other people who were trying to get to the Oscars were all just like, “Us too! What is going on?”

CJ: She’s a leader! She knows how to get in there!

AB: They ended up opening the gate, escorting us across all the black SUVs…it was just crazy. Almost exactly what I expected but also very weird. And then you go inside and there’s just red velvet drapes on everything. And you’re immediately like, there’s the celebrities, and there’s everyone else. You get funneled. I think the most interesting thing about that space was that it’s essentially a mall / office building just draped in…

CJ: Some red.

AB: Yeah, but you can really feel it. You’re like, “Yeah, this is a mall!”

 
 

Spring / Summer 2024



Amanda Bonaiuto

Amanda Bonaiuto is an animation director, artist, and educator living in New York. She is best known for her short films and commissioned pieces which have screened at film festivals and galleries worldwide. She’s inspired by humor and tilted realities. She received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2012 and an MFA in experimental animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 2018. She is an assistant professor of illustration at Parsons School of Design and makes films and commissions in her studio.



Case Jernigan

Case Jernigan is an experimental animator, narrative game-maker, and educator. He makes work about panic, illness, nostalgia, and repressed bro culture. He shapes vulnerable worlds and values play. He’s been an artist in residence at Sharpe-Walentas and the Center for Book Arts, screened at Hotdocs and Hollyshorts, and shown paper-works across the US. He recently completed an animated documentary shorts series with Closer Productions about soccer fans. He’s currently building a stop-motion autobiographical video game about art.



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