Em Cooper


Em Cooper

1) How did you get into directing?
I fell completely in love with the film as a medium and tried to soak up everything I could about shooting and editing on film before the whole industry converted to digital. I am a big believer in ‘the medium is the message’ and I became fascinated by film language – and thinking about what sort of feeling could be evoked by film and what sort of things could be said in animation.

I went to the Royal College of Art to study animation. I wanted to see if I could find a way of successfully combining live-action and painted animation. Since graduating I have continued to hone my technique of working with oil-paint on glass.

2) What is your most recent project?
My most recent project has been series of commercials for Biofinity contact lenses from CooperVision. Prior to that I created animated sequences woven throughout Eric Steel’s latest documentary film, Kiss The Water.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
My method involves working with paint as well as shooting live action film, and I love the fact that the two areas involve completely different environments. The solitary calm of animating with oil-paint is offset by the high intensity days shooting involving constant interaction with a team. It is difficult to pick my favorite aspect of the work, but it is probably the excitement of seeing the paint come to life. I have learned that it is a very rare and precious thing to create a shot that retains all the looseness of life that the idea of the shot has. It is a very special moment to create one of those.

4) What is the worst part of being a director?
One of the frustrating aspects of being a director is never being able to plan ahead, never knowing whether a project will come through or not, and then suddenly being incredibly hectic.

A particular downside of my technique is that it is very time consuming. I wish there were more hours in the day!

5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I am currently focused on developing both film, documentary and commercial work. Commercial projects are great because they tend to focus on using the oil-paint animation to its full potential. In my film and documentary, work I’m interested in developing the possibilities that being able to work in paint offers to the writing or structure of a film. I’m interested in using the technique to evoke memory, dreams or emotional experience.

7) Who is your favorite director and why?
I don’t have a particular favorite although I could mention Jane Campion. Her films resonate so deeply with me.

When I was 19 I saw two of Michaela Pavlatova’s animations in a screening of Czech Women Animators at the National Film Theater. They blew my mind. I walked away from the cinema feeling that a whole world of possibility had suddenly opened. Her films are so evocative and emotionally truthful. Interesting that I am now represented by the same company as Michaela …

9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Cambridge (UK). While I was studying I worked on lots of short films and one feature, mainly in art department or camera assisting.

I worked as an editor, before going to the Royal College of Art to continue with my studies in direction and art animation.