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Exclusive Interview With "Johanne" Director Anna-Ester Volozh

I recently sat down with Anna-Ester Volozh, the owner of “Dragonbee Animation Studio” and director & producer of the animated short “Johanne”. As a composer and music producer, I usually get brought into a film project at the late post production stage. So I asked Anna a couple questions to find out more about the origins and creation of this beautiful short film.

Ros: Hi Anna! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. May I start off by asking how you ended up in the magical world of animation?

Anna: Hi Ros! Thanks for asking! On one hand it was pretty random, but then again you could say I was born to do it :) Long story short, I was finishing my degree in economics while working at an investment film, when I realised, ‘wait a second, who needs to be financially successful when you can join a creative industry instead!’. So here I am, trying to survive in the world of animation.

Ros: Are there any particular genres of animation or maybe certain films that have particularly influenced you as a director and animator?

Anna: I was growing up during Disney’s Renaissance (you know, ‘Little Mermaid’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Lion King’, and my personal favourite ‘Mulan’) which definitely set the standard pretty high. But I think I’m influenced the most by Kunihiko Ikuhara (director of ‘Sailor Moon’ and ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’), and you can see me kinda copying – subconsciously or otherwise – his directing style in almost everything I do. I just can’t help it :)

Ros: As a film composer, the first thing I usually see is the final cut (or sometimes a rough cut). At this stage most of the work on the film has of course already happened. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about how you came up with the character for “Johanne”?

Anna: Right. I had this idea of exploring the song ‘My Favourite Things’ – the contradiction between its light-hearted lyrics and more melancholic tune (I believe Lars von Trier did that with Bjork in his film ‘Dancer in the Dark’, but I haven’t seen it myself). And I also wanted to do something about Joan of Arc, specifically how she is fit to be a magical girl (something that the ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’ series mentions), being a teenage girl soldier just like Sailor Moon and countless others within this genre. So at some point these two ideas just combined, and voila! 

Ros: The process of animation goes through many different stages and can be rather complex and extensive. Can you share with us how long you and your team have been working on “Johanne” from script to completion of the short film?

Anna: Oh… this is not something I like to discuss as the producer of the film haha. Since there is no client behind it, we were working on the project only in our spare time, whenever we weren’t busy with other projects. It took about 2.5 years overall. Which is unacceptable. From now on I will try to only make films that I can finish in 12 months or less :)

Ros: “Johanne” is currently doing the festival run, has already been screened at several international film festivals and, I believe, is scheduled in for many more screening in the near future. Congratulations! What were some of the most exciting events / news / results so far?

Anna: Thanks! Yeah, the film is doing quite well, we’ve been screened at a few dozen festivals (I was especially excited about ‘Johanne’ being selected to Cartoons on the Bay in Turin) and even got some awards. I’m going to Future Film Festival in Bologna on May the 4th to watch our film being screened, very excited!

Ros: For those who might not be that familiar with the animation scene – is there a particular film festival or film award that you would be particularly excited for “Johanne” to be screened at or win?

Anna: Well, I’m not really that familiar with the animation scene either, but I would love ‘Johanne’ to be shown at some London-based festival so my local friends can go see it!

Ros: What project are you planning to bring to life next?

Anna: I’m kinda shy when it comes to unfinished projects, but please follow Dragonbee.Animation on Instagram to stay tuned :)

"Ros: I'm sure my readers would love to know where they can watch the actual film – is it up online?

Anna: Yes, it is! Just go to the Dragonbee Animation Studio channel or follow this link: https://youtu.be/pRkcuVbkQ2U

You can find out more about Anna and her wonderful work on https://www.instagram.com/dragonbee.animation/