Rising Star: Animator Helen Dallat

The Jordanstown film-maker on Roald Dahl, doodling and being nominated for a British Animation Award

Who/what/where/when/why is Helen Dallat?

I am an animator/illustrator originally from Jordanstown and now based in Bristol. I recently graduated with a BA in animation from the University of Wales, Newport and I like drawing things quite a lot.

When did you fall in love with animation?

I kind of fell into it by accident, just through a love of drawing. It was when I was already studying at university that I fell in love with animation properly. I was introduced to short animated films, and I loved how incredibly varied and creative those kinds of films tend to be. They're really a whole separate world to the sort of animation you see most often.

Your graduation film is now up for Best Student Film at the British Animation Awards. Were you expecting it?

It's really exciting and a bit surreal to be honest, but it was completely unexpected. Making animated films can be quite a solitary business, and it's easy to forget – when you are sat in your pyjamas animating at three o'clock in the morning – that they are made for others to watch.

The film is called Bare and is about a bear who moves to the woods, but soon finds out that he doesn't like how messy nature can be. He tries to take control of the situation... To have this chance for it to be seen by so many people is great, and I'm really interested to hear what people think of it.


What mediums do you work in, and how has your practice changed since those days spent doodling in class?

When I started out drawing most of my focus went on making the piece as technically good as I could, but now I am more interested in creating more stylised images that help tell the story through how they are constructed as well as what is in the picture.

Over the years I have been inspired and influenced by many amazing animators and illustrators and I think this has changed the way I approach everything I do. I like to work in a range of media. I normally choose the media to fit the project. For example, in the past I've made a film using inks, a stop-motion film from paper cutouts and several using photographs, but most often I will work in 2D hand-drawn animation.

What type of techniques did you use for Bare?

The film was animated on paper, then scanned and coloured digitally. The backgrounds of the film are a mixture of traditional and digital painting, with all the shots of the forest being purely painted and all the man-made elements being digital.

Do you write your own scripts and animate afterwards?

The story for this film was written by my friend and fellow animator, Daisy Gould. I think that part of being a good film-maker is knowing your strengths and your weaknesses and I know that story is not one of my strengths, so it made sense to collaborate with someone. She kept throwing ideas at me when I first started working on developing my film, and this one stood out because of its simplicity and humour. I think everyone can relate to the bear in some way.

The British Animation Awards are a prestigious springboard for emerging artists. Do you know of any others artists who have won in your category before?

The award has been won by graduates from my university a few times, and I have had the chance to meet and work with them on different projects. Also, the BAAs produce DVDS of the winning films each year and they have always been one place that I would look for inspiration. It seems crazy to me that my film actually has a chance of ending up on one of those DVDs! A lot of the other films in the competition this year are films that have inspired me, and I feel very honoured to be included in the same screenings.

If you could animate any story, what would it be?

My favourite story from childhood was The Minpins by Roald Dahl. I would love to someday have a go at making it into a short film.

What else are you working on at present?

At the moment I am doing some illustration commissions as well as working on some ideas for my next film.

Where and when can people see your nominated film?

The film is showing in the British Animation Awards: Public Choice - Programme 1 in Queens Film Theatre, Belfast on Sunday, February, as well as in many other cinemas across the UK.