An Interview with Versia Harris

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MRIGANKA: 'They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once' is the name of your animation film. Why did you choose this name?

VERSIA: 'They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once" came to me from the Walt Disney animation Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora walks around in the woods telling her animal friends about a fantasy she had about a prince. Then she said - "...they say if you dream a thing more than once, it's sure to come true". This second animation is about the character's continual wish and desire for her fantasy to be real. So she rides through the landscape grabbing the things that she wants. This is her wishing over and over.
Also as a kind of part two to my first animation "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes When You're Awake" (a quote taken and adapted from Walt Disney's Cinderella), which ended, of course, with her not attaining her fantasy so therefore she dreamed again.

MRIGANKA: Please tell us little bit about the story, as audience have no chance to watch the film right now.

VERSIA: The story follows a character who is essentially dissatisfied with her life and self and she constantly tries to change these things. She is introduced to Walt Disney animations and consequently seeks after the fantasy of theses animations. "They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once" is about this character’s desire for the fantasy and at the same time her inability to achieve that fantasy.

MRIGANKA: You used a grey colour in your film. Why?

VERSIA: It started off as a way to contrast the Disney elements of the work with the things that I drew. But then it just evolved into an aesthetic choice. And further it’s becoming a way to create a type of atmosphere within the work. One of mystery.

MRIGANKA: How do you think you are different from other animators?

VERSIA: I'm not very different from other animators. I taught myself to do the animation but so do many other animators. I am as different from them as each of them is different from one another. Everybody has their own voice, style and story. That's it.

MRIGANKA: Did you expect that you would win the TTFF award? How did you feel after getting the news?

VERSIA: No I didn't expect to win. I didn't even remember that there was a competition happening. I just entered the festival with the hopes of showing my work. But I felt incredibly flattered and grateful to have won the award.

MRIGANKA: Is there anyone who influences you?

VERSIA: William Kentridge, an artist from South Africa; his animations and other works are beautiful. Tim Burton, a film maker, Ewan Atkinson, my mentor and a fellow Barbadian artist. Nicholas Winding Refn, a film maker. And of course Walt Disney animations. I must say that I do pull inspiration from many many different sources. The ones I listed are only a few.

MRIGANKA: Have you set any goal, such as I have to achieve this, I have to change the world with my creation or I will be the best animator or artist in the world or in Trinidad, like that.

VERSIA: For now my next goal is just to get my masters. That's what I'm reaching for now. When I have that I'll think about what is next.

MRIGANKA: Tell about your childhood and when how did you start your journey.

VERSIA: I've always wanted to do art. I can't remember a time ever where I didn’t want to make something. But I thought that it was just a hobby because of the attitudes around me. Nobody took art seriously so I didn't consider it to be a viable profession. Until I went to the Barbados Community College and I had to choose between studying art and studying something else. I just found that I couldn't let it go. Hobby or not I didn't really care. I chose art. I went on to do my BFA and I did my first animation during that program.

MRIGANKA: What marks will you give your film out of 10? 

VERSIA: I don't think that marking the film out of 10 is an accurate way to judge it. I feel good about the work I've done. It's by no means the best in any way and there is so much more I have to learn and much more that I wish to address in my work. I see it as a beginning. 

MRIGANKA: The main character of "They Say You Can dream a Thing More Than Once”, whose body is like human, but her head is of a bird with long neck. Why?

VERSIA: Her head is a swan's head. This is due to how I personally saw the portrayal of the Disney Princess; as something beautiful and ethereal. This character's head is a reflection of that but when paired with a body contracts with the body of a Disney princess it creates a tension. The character is beautiful and yet not. She desires to be completely beautiful like the princess.

MRIGANKA: At the end she sat in front of a mirror. Is there any significance of that mirror?

VERSIA: Yes, she briefly looks into the mirror at her reflection. She is always gauging herself against a fantasy throughout the work. So I wanted to her to have a moment with her true self.

MRIGANKA: What you said, no one took art seriously, the same thing is here, I love to make films but I had to study Computer Science. Here the problem is parents cannot think that art can be a hobby, and what you told, it cannot be a profession as well. Why do they think so, have you ever thought?

VERSIA: I just think it’s because the returns of art are not immediate. It’s not a 9-5 job and there is no salary at the end of the month in most cases so it is riskier to make it a career. And also it is such a basic and natural action to create something. As babies we make marks; we don't do accounting so some people never see its potential past that stage because to them you don't really have to work at it. As you grow older you are supposed to study and be intelligent and they question the work ethic and intelligence of artists.

MRIGANKA: I have not seen any animation of your style. It is true I have seen very less of animation work itself. Is it fully your style or you adopted from someone?

VERSIA: I can't say that anything is really fully mine. I'm influenced by a lot of things, some I can name and others I can't. When I first started art school I was more interested in painting than any other medium but I kinda always had an eye on pen drawings. Unfortunately I couldn't draw with a pen, at least not the way I wanted. I could never figure out how to control the pen. And then I got bored with painting and I decided to really give pen drawings a go but this time I let go of trying to control the pen and just allowed myself to be ok with whatever marks came out. I also have shaky hands so the kind of scratching marks that I make are perfect to just allow my hands to do whatever they feel like. I started translating my pen drawings into animation based on the way Walt Disney's animations were first started which was cell animation. I don't do cell animation now of course but I attempted it in the beginning and it kinda just evolved into the way I do things now. So the way that I produce the animation is not directly copied from someone else but it's not an isolated aesthetic. 

MRIGANKA: In India, if we see the history of animation, the idea of animation might come from 2D puppet show, then Sliding Glass animation. Simply two glasses are used. Suppose it is to be shown that one monster comes out from under the water. So, the picture of monster is in the first glass and the water is pictured in second glass. now overlapping two glasses, it is easily shown that the monster is under the water and then operator slides the second glass in which water is drawn, downward. In your country how did the concept of animation come?

VERSIA: We don't have a history of animation like that in my country.

.....To Be Continued

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