British illustrator, animator and director Hannah Jacobs has been amazing audiences with her stunning work for the likes of Netflix, Apple and Google. And now, thanks to funding from the British Film Institute and the support of her production company Strange Beast, Hannah's signature style has been brought to life in a short film.
Directed by Hannah Jacobs and written by Harriet Gillian, Your Mountain is Waiting tells the story of a woman named Martha. Realised with hand-illustrated animations and painterly textures, the short film follows Martha as she stops listening to her intuitions and watches her life unravel as a result.
That's until a strange encounter occurs, which forces Martha to see her life a little differently. Can she embrace the seemingly irrational as she embarks on a surreal journey of self-discovery? And can she learn to trust her gut instinct once again? You'll have to watch You Mountain is Waiting below to find out.
Beautiful, isn't it? And Your Mountain is Waiting owes its creation to the BFI Short Form Animation Fund. This fund supported 15 recipients, with the application process taking several months of working and waiting. Fortunately, Hannah and her team made it through the shortlist and finally an interview.
She tells Creative Boom: "I put a treatment together with my fantastic pal Harriet Gillian who wrote the script and was the lead animator on the film. She had the task of writing a script for a five-minute film in about three weeks flat! We applied with the support of my production company Strange Beast who assisted us in putting together our treatment which included an initial script and lots of initial design exploration.
"We found out in March 2020 that we had been selected for the funding, which was so incredibly exciting. We were both so overjoyed to have this rare and fantastic opportunity ahead of us."
Having worked with Harriet across other projects in the past, Hannah felt more than capable of leaving the duty of running the animation team in her capable hands. "Harriet and I have always had this natural and instinctive way of working together, and she has this innate understanding of how my characters move and the best way to bring my designs to life," she reveals.
And unlike commercial projects, Hannah felt no pressure to tweak her style to fit a particular brief. This resulted in character designs and an overall aesthetic that felt true to her illustration style. Only now it was brought to life.
"That moment of an animator sending you something moving never loses its magic for me, no matter how many projects I work on," she says. "It's such an incredible process, and I am really in awe of the people I work alongside."
The achievement of everyone involved is all the more impressive when considering that the animation was made remotely during the height of the pandemic. Animation direction took place over Zoom and Slack, which slowed the process down and made it difficult to give constructive criticism.
"With animation, you often want to physically be able to show a gesture or movement to the animators, or have them quickly scrub through a movement to be able to offer feedback," adds Hannah. "So that was definitely a challenge and something to adjust to."
And due to the day-to-day stresses of living through the pandemic, the team's morale was tested to its limits. "Working on the same project for over a year is hard work and mentally quite exhausting. Not having peers to bounce ideas off of or troubleshoot an issue with was something I found hard too.
"I feel like we found ways around it by having daily check in's every morning with the crew and our producer Zoe Muslim. It helped create a sense of daily interaction and not feel like we were working in total isolation. I think it probably sharpened my directing skills, too, and being more organised. It made me have to be super clear and articulate when directing a shot or offering feedback."
All the hard work was worth it, though, as watching the seed of an idea grow and change across two years was Hannah's favourite part of the project. "For me, collaborating is truly the best feeling, and I get so much out of it," she reveals.
"I've learnt so much from Harriet, the animators, and the BFI team along the way. It feels like a very rare and special opportunity to get to work on such a highly personal project across such a long time, especially coming from a commercial animation background. I just feel so proud of our entire team and what we achieved together."
Inspired to create your own animation? Find out how the BFI Short Form Animation Fund can help you by reading further details on its site.