International festival in France, competition with Netflix and modern reality in author's animation Interview with Nikita Liskov, Ukrainian animator, director of animated films

© Nikita Liskov
— Nikita, describe in one sentence what place animation occupies in your life?
— It is my profession and labor of love.
— Did you create the Linoleum school of author's animation because you wanted to share your experience or are there other goals that you set for yourself?
— This was an experimental project created with a grant from the Linoleum festival. I wanted to know if the animation school in Dnipro will be in demand. The school was only for adults from 18 to 50 years old. I got to know interesting people, with some of them we worked together on my film «Cohannia». At the moment the school does not exist, I realized that such event requires serious financial costs and will not be able to reach self-sufficiency. Today I am not teaching, I am working on a new film.
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
— What place does computer graphics take in animation creation?
— 20 years ago it was impossible to make animated films in Dnipro. But with the advent of digital technologies, everything has changed, high-quality films can be made without leaving home. You can even study on the Internet, and this offers great opportunities.
— Tell us about the process and time that usually passes from an idea to its full implementation?
— The process of making a film is always different. «I bought a bike» I did probably in a month. Love took me a whole year.
First, I write down ideas, just everything, into a text file on my phone. Over the course of several months, I have accumulated about fifty such ideas. Then I reread those that seem more interesting to me, I begin to develop and look for a connection between them.
This is how the structure of the film gradually builds up, but I don't like working on the script for a long time, I don't bring it to the ideal, it is always raw with many plot options. And only when I start to draw, animate, only then the script begins to condense and its structure appears. This is a way of improvisation, but otherwise I'm not interested. If everything is ready at the text level, at the script level, then why draw it?
I draw and write the script at the same time. And in parallel I think about the sounds, whether there will be music. In general, I try not to use music almost, it is very distracting from the image. And also, when I animate, I immediately edit these scenes together, watch how they work with each other. The process of making a cartoon is very stressful and stressful for me, but also very exciting.
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
— What animation techniques are there today? Which ones do you use?
— I use the classic hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation technique. Disney used the same one 80 years ago. I just do not draw on paper, but on a computer, using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop.
There are a huge number of technicians today: 3D, 2D, Stop Motion, transfer, oil on glass, sand animation, pixelation and many others.
— How is the development of technology today influencing the development of animation?
— It is very influential, because with the arrival of cheap computers, animators have the opportunity to work from home and not depend on studios. Thanks to this freedom, the plots of animated films have become much more varied. Today, there are a lot of interesting animation is being done just for YouTube. For example, one of my favorite animators, Lee Hardсastle makes plasticine cartoons, uploads them to YouTube and makes money on it.
— Making animated films - a profession or a hobby? Is this your main source of income?
— At the moment, this is both my job and my hobby. Apart from that, I am not distracted by anything.
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
— Can animation be classified as an art in commercial projects, such as advertising?
— Of course, there are some good examples of animation in advertisement. Richard Williams Studio at one time, it did the coolest projects.
— The process of creating any project entails collaboration, coordination of the work of a large number of people. Do you have collective work or are you yourself an artist, sound engineer, and producer?
— I really enjoy working in a team. This brings fresh ideas to the film. But it is very important to find people who will be on the same wavelength with you, will sincerely understand what you are doing.
— How do you find the budget for your films?
— For the last few years, I have been working with a producer, he is the one who deals with issues related to the budget. Recently, there have been many grants for films, both Ukrainian and European. I think if you really want to, then finding a budget for the film is more than realistic.
— «Love», «The End», «I bought a bike» — abstract surrealism or something else? What direction do you refer to these works?
— This is the author's animation. My subjective statement on events in the world.
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
— Who are your films for? How do you imagine the portrait of your audience?
— For Ukrainians, for people living in the context of events, and for those who are trying to rethink the modern Ukrainian reality and change something.
— In many of your interviews, you often mention Disney. What do you think is the key to the success of this company and its role in the formation of the world of animation?
— Walt Disney was not afraid to make risky and innovative decisions. For example, when everyone around him was criticizing and saying that the sound in the animation would only prevent in the way, he released Willie the Engine, the first animated film to use synchronous noise, the film was an incredible success! He was the first to introduce and patented Technicolor technology and began to make color cartoons while everyone around was doing black and white. And, of course, he made the first animated feature film. It was an incredibly risky move, but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs still makes a lot of money for the studio.
— Apricot short film festival, Dok Leipzig, Kisff, Molodist, Festival International du Film d'Animation d'Annecy and many others — your work has been highly appreciated at famous international festivals. How important is it for you to recognize the results of your creativity by others?
— It is very important that I make films for the audience to watch. When the audience laughs and applause is heard, it motivates me very much and I want to do more and more.
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
© Nikita Liskov
— Which Ukrainian animator, in your opinion, is worthy of attention and discussion?
— Igor Kovalev, he started as an animator at the Ukrainimafilm studio back in the USSR, then he founded the Pilot animation studio in Moscow, and in the 90s he left for America and worked there for 20 years. He is 67 and is currently working on a new film. An amazing person. My idol.
— You were on the jury of the Linoleum Animation Festival 2020. What did you personally learn from this experience?
— Unfortunately, the festival was held online and I almost did not feel like a member of the jury, I just watched cartoons on a computer and gave them marks.
— At what stage of development is animation in Ukraine now? Is this a promising industry?
— I am not very aware of what is happening in Ukrainian animation at the industry level. It seems to me that in times of globalization it is difficult for everyone, we have to compete with Netflix and other powerful studios. In Ukraine, in the absence of high-quality education and corruption, this is practically impossible.
— What are your plans for the near future? What else do you want to implement?
— Lately I've been thinking a lot about writing a book on animation directing.