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Jonathan Hodgson by Nag Vladermersky

'Dogs' – Jonathan Hodgson.

'Dogs' – Jonathan Hodgson.

London based animation director Jonathan Hodgson has been making award winning animated films since the early 1980s and is probably best known for his BAFTA winning adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s poem ‘The Man with the Beautiful Eyes’. As well as making short films he has made a name for himself as a commercials director and his skill at adapting illustration styles for animation has led him to collaborate with some of the top names in the illustration world. He has explored almost every technique of animation from pencil to stop frame to CGI and his films are diverse in style with serious and thought provoking subject matter.

Much of the content in his work is drawn directly from personal experience and from watching and commenting on the world around him. In recent years he has worked increasingly in the area of documentary animation. Cutting his teeth at Liverpool Art School under the tutorage of maverick Scouser Ray Fields he learnt to unlearn the bad art habits he’d picked up in his first two decades and discovered a pure, spontaneous and personal approach to drawing based on observation and free expression which he still refers back to today. His first film ‘Dogs’ (1981) was the prototype for this observational approach. Said by many to be their favourite Hodgson film, it won awards at Stuttgart Trickfilmtage and Cambridge Animation Festival.

From Liverpool he went on to the Royal College of Art in London where the new Department of Animation had just been set up. Here he completed ‘Night Club’ (1983), a record of his time spent in the drinking clubs of Liverpool 8 and his most successful film so far. In 1985 his RCA degree show drew the attention of the Film Department of the United Nations leading to a commission to co-direct ‘The Doomsday Clock’ (1987), an animated film promoting nuclear disarmament with fellow animation student Susan Young.

Hodgson went on to spend three years in partnership with Young mainly directing animated commercials and title sequences. In 1988 he moved on to become a director at Felix Films and from there became a founder member of Bermuda Shorts. A few years on he was working at Paul Vester’s Speedy Films where in 1995 he collaborated with renowned Paris based Illustrator Jean-Phillipe Delhomme on a ground breaking ad campaign for SAAB USA. In 1996 he set up Sherbet with Producer Jonathan Bairstow. Here he produced some of his best and most successful work including his two animate! Commissions ‘Feeling My Way’ (1997) and ‘Camouflage’ (2001) and ‘The Man with the Beautiful Eyes’ (2000), for Channel 4, a collaboration with the brilliant illustrator Jonny Hannah. He also directed a string of high profile TV commercials including campaigns for Bell Atlantic Telecommunications 1998 with US Illustration legend Maurice Sendak and a huge campaign for Persil 2003 working with US based illustrators Giselle Potter and Sophie Blackall.

In 2003 feeling in dire need of a break from the relentless pressure of directing commercials, Hodgson quit Sherbet and set up Hodgson Films to concentrate on making short films. Since then he has completed Forest Murmurs 2006 his most ambitious film to date and has just finished co-directing the animation for Franny Armstrong’s soon to be released feature length climate change documentary ‘The Age of Stupid’. During LIAF 2009 Jonathan showed highlights from his three decades of filmmaking, from his early sketchbook based animation to his recent documentary feature work. He talked about his approach and philosophy to animation and where he finds his inspiration. He also discussed the pros and cons of trying to maintain parallel careers as a commercials director and an independent filmmaker and how there can sometimes be cross-fertilization between the two areas of work.

Nag Vladermersky, 2009