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Drawing Real Life: Animating Jennifer, 42

Animation Director Yulia Ruditskaya

"While reading the script, I realized the story is obviously not a conventional kind of story we usually tell with animation. It's a very tough story, very dramatic, and almost from the beginning I thought it will be challenging, challenging in a good way, in an artistic way."

An accomplished multi-disciplinary artist trained in Minsk, Moscow (SHAR) and Paris (GOBELINS), Jennifer, 42 Animation Director Yulia Ruditskaya has held the combined roles of director, animator, illustrator and motion designer on a long resumé of narrative and documentary projects.

As fate would have it, Yulia was just finishing work on her award-winning animated short And The Moon Stands Still, when the Jennifer, 42 producing team came calling. Having spent months searching for an animation director who might share not just our sensibilities and creative vision, but also our passion for this story, we knew as soon as we laid eyes on Yulia's work, that we had found the right woman for the job. What we saw in Yulia's work was great emotional depth, and that she had great ability to express darker, sadder, or dramatic feelings in her animation - which was KEY for our story.

Lucky for us, Yulia immediately brought fresh and unexpected approaches, and proposed visual solutions we never would have thought of. She says "I knew I would need to invent a lot, find solutions how to show this in animation, because it's a documentary story, but it is not only about what happened, but also about the feelings of the people who lived through that." Reflecting on the dramatic and also traumatic events of the story, Yulia muses that "reconstructing what happened is not enough. We do need to show the experience, but also their memories about it. The story is told by the participants, we hear their voices, they were there. There are all these subjective points of view, and I really wanted to show their telling. To merge all the points of view, and of course their memories and emotions, combined with all the facts of the story."

Developing the animation approach for key scenes of the story over the last few months with Yulia, my producing partner Katie and I have become just as taken with Yulia's exactitude and restraint as we are with her phenomenal creativity. Yulia, speaking like the seasoned artist she is, says "animation is a borderless medium, and super powerful, and the possibilities are endless. You have to be very careful with selections and choices of visuals, movement, and rhythm, of the animation components. It can be very powerful in telling what cannot be told shooting live action, and to elevate the emotion is great, but also very difficult. Animation is much more symbolic and expressive in that way."

Driven by the desire to find a brand new way to tell what in many ways is an age-old story, we couldn't have asked for a better storytelling partner than Yulia. Reflecting on the challenges of tackling a domestic violence story she says that "when you try to do something original, and this subject is not very usual to be told in animation, it demands some original solutions. We might not see it, but it happens next door, hidden and unspoken of, quite a challenging, problematic subject. Animation will help the audience to engage, feel connected, get submerged into the story." Having seen what we've seen, we know they will.

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