SXSW 2020: Emily Ann Hoffman talks Blackheads

Confronting demons and pimples. Photo credit: Emily Ann Hoffman.

Emily Ann Hoffman took some time recently to speak with Solzy at the Movies about the upcoming animated short film, Blackheads, originally set to premiere at SXSW.

In lieu of SXSW being cancelled, Hoffman decided to make her film public online for a period of 48 hours on March 15-16 starting at 10 AM ET.  The film would have originally screened on these dates–you can view via the above link.  After the 16th, the only way to watch will be by attending film festivals.  Barring cancellations, future festival screenings include the GLAS Animation Film Festival.

Emily Ann Hoffman
Emily Ann Hoffman. Photo credit: Cal Glorioso.

How excited are you about Blackheads being selected to premiere at SXSW?

Emily Ann Hoffman: I’m thrilled! It’ll be my first time at the festival. I can’t wait to finally screen the film and I’m especially excited that I get to premiere it with the eclectic SXSW crowd.

How quickly did you write the script after you first got the idea for the film?

Emily Ann Hoffman: The idea evolved fairly gradually. At some point mid-2018 I had written a very short story about popping blackheads in the absence of a partner, while in a long-distance relationship. I was interested in the dynamic between doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing as a spiteful act of longing. At the beginning of 2019 I was approached by The Eyeslicer to make a short film, so that’s when I rediscovered this story and adapted it to what it is now. The official script came to be over the course of a month or so.

You have a history of exploring female sexuality, body, and vulnerability through a comedic lens. Have you considered other genres or does comedy come natural?

Emily Ann Hoffman: All good comedy has elements of drama, and all good drama has elements of comedy. I think I will always include comedy in my work because that’s how I tend to approach and process my life. And I believe in the power of comedy in delivering serious themes. But I am interested in toying with this balance. Blackheads feels like a dramedy to me, it feels more melancholic than my previous work.

This film is a combo of stop-motion and 2-D animation.  How long did the production process take?

Emily Ann Hoffman: The whole film took about 7 months to make. Fabrication, (building the puppets, sets, and props) and stop motion animation took about 3 months, and then another 3 months on the 2D animation and FX. I had great fabricators working with me, as well as 2D animators, who really moved the process along.

What was the most challenging part of the production?

Emily Ann Hoffman: Probably making the puppets. I decided to splurge a little and buy machine-made, ball-and-socket armatures from the UK, but unfortunately they were a disaster. They kept breaking before I even started animating. I had to remake the main character from scratch, with a DIY wire armature, a week before I was supposed to start shooting. She survived most of the production but some of her fingers broke towards the end (as wire tends to do with repeated bending).

How important was the Kickstarter campaign in getting this film produced?

Emily Ann Hoffman: Very important! I think it was crucial to elevating the quality of the film. I’m particularly excited about the score, and that we were able to pay our composer enough to hire additional musicians and rent a proper recording studio. It also allowed us to keep our 2D animators on for longer, hire an amazing colorist, and for me and Lucy (the producer) to take the time we needed to work on the film. And beyond making the film, it allowed us to connect with a lot of amazing people! It was really cool to see friends, family and strangers getting excited about our story.

How did you first get interested in making animated films?

Emily Ann Hoffman: I studied illustration in college but felt frustrated by the limitations of storytelling and conceptual communication through flat, single imagery. When I took an animation class I realized a time and motion-based medium was what I was craving. But animation still allows me to draw, paint, sculpt etc. It’s the best of both worlds.

Any particular influences?

Emily Ann Hoffman: I don’t often find inspiration in mainstream animation, but some independent animators who’s work I love includes Alexa Lim Haas, Kirsten Lepore, Reka Busci, Wong Ping, Kangman Kim, Michaela Olsen, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Emma de Swaef & Marc James Roels.

Although the styles and tones of all these artists’ work varies greatly, I look to their work because they all do an amazing job of utilizing animation and concept to it’s highest potential, by leaning into the idea that “the medium is the message,” and vice versa.

Outside of your own film, what are you excited to do during SXSW?

Emily Ann Hoffman: Eat tacos! Escape NY winter! Watch a million movies! And meet all those movies’ creators.

Blackheads screens during the 2020 SXSW Film Festival in the Animated Shorts Program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.