Hayley Morris is a director and animator working out of Brooklyn. Creating work in the realm of fable and magical realism she has created some very special music videos for both Hilary Hahn and Haushka’s track ‘Bounce Bounce’, and Joker’s Daughter’s track ‘Lucid’. We caught up with her to chat about stop-frame animation and the joys of working with paper.
Bowlegs: You create magical other worlds that seem to fit our sense of daydreaming. We’re big daydreamers. But you’ve got to be so focused on how to create that reality, it strikes us that there’s a weird duality here – working so precisely whilst maintaining a sense of dreamy unreality. Are you aware of that whilst you’re working?
Hayley: I’m a daydreamer. I think animation forces you to daydream and imagine other worlds. It would be boring and kind of pointless to make animation that is close to the life we know and see everyday. You can make absolutely anything and everything happen that’s in your mind. When I’m making my work I really get lost in the world I’m creating. It’s fun to escape.
Bowlegs: You work with paper cutouts quite a lot, can you tell us a bit about your process and maybe some of the issues related to working with those materials?
Hayley: I love paper because it is so versatile. It comes in a million colors and textures. You can cut it, sculpt it, fold it and completely transform it from a flat sheet into something completely different from where it started. It’s a fun material to experiment with and it’s also fairly inexpensive.
Bowlegs: Has the process of stop frame animation evolved much since the advent of software editing or is it still essentially the same art form do you think?
Hayley: It’s essentially the same art form, but has become much more accessible and easier to see results. It’s the oldest form of animation and its basic principle will never change. You move an object a tiny bit take a picture and move it again. That basic concept will never change, but I think now people are pushing it in so many directions and the possibilities are endless. With programs like Dragon, and DSLRs with live view, you can see your progress instantly. Only 5 or 6 years ago you couldn’t do that. People shot everything on film and had no idea what the movement was like or if the film would develop correctly. Even when digital cameras started being used there wasn’t a live view, so we had to attach a security camera onto the eyepiece into a computer program to see what we were doing.
Bowlegs: How do you relate what you create in the visual element to the soundtrack. For instance in the Haushka video, did you have that soundtrack to work to or did the music follow your work? And which way do you prefer to work?
Hayley: It’s different for every project and I like working both ways. For the Hilary Hahn and Hauschka video I worked from the song. They let me pick any song off of the album Silfra and I really liked the energy of Bounce Bounce. It immediately brought underwater imagery to mind. I just knew I could have a lot of fun with that particular song.
Hayley: For my short films I usually create the sounds myself. I’ve made a sound library over the years by recording bits and pieces… like an egg sizzling in a pan or a dock rocking back and forth in water. I like capturing little moments like that and then composing them into little sound scapes.
For projects where I want something more musical I turn to my brother Sean Morris who is an amazing composer and musician. He can write the catchiest songs instantly and he has written and performed music for a lot of my projects. He also has a really awesome punk band called The Reveling. Website here: http://thereveling.com/
Bowlegs: Do you work on your own, and do you work in your own space?
Hayley: I recently just set up a studio space in my apartment that I am super excited about. The Bounce Bounce video was the first project I made in there and I made that pretty much on my own. For some of my projects I hire friends that went to RISD with me to help fabricate sets and characters. I tend to do all the animation myself though.
Bowlegs: You’ve done quite a bit of work with corporate clients – do you essentially pitch to them or are they approaching you because they’ve seen your portfolio?
Hayley: It’s different every time. For the bigger projects I pitch ideas and hopefully they like my idea the best. I’m also contacted by people that have seen my work, so that’s really great that my work is getting out there and people are responding positively to it. I have also started reaching out to bands and musicians I find inspiring. That’s how I made the Hauschka video actually. I saw him play with the band Mum about 5 years ago and really loved his music. I’ve been following him ever since and one day I decided to e-mail him. He really liked my work and that’s how it happened.
Bowlegs: It’s not like you can easily make a slight edit to your narratives if the client doesn’t like it! Stop frame necessitates a huge amount of pre planning and prior agreements right?
Hayley: Ha. Very true. On most projects I usually plan every step of the way by making detailed storyboards and animatics. I also have to get the designs, sets characters etc. approved before I start animating. Once I start animating I usually say O.k! This is it! But, you have to be open to making changes if something doesn’t turn out right. If the client doesn’t like something that’s been animated I do have to go back and make changes and compromises. For some projects the clients are really excited and understand the process and just let me go and do my thing. So that’s nice. But yeah…the whole stop-motion process is really time consuming and hard to make changes to.
Bowlegs: What projects have you got on the horizon?
Hayley: I just got back from an amazing vacation to Europe and was really inspired by the differences in people and specifically the transportation from city to city. I’m starting to develop a short film based around that loose idea. I’m also working on a short film for a Children’s Book.
Bowlegs: What would be your ideal project to work on right now?
Hayley: I would love to start making films promoting fashion designers by mixing my animation with live-action. I think I could make some really interesting and experimental work in that area. I’d also love to make more music videos and start collaborating with some artists and directors I admire. There are so many artists I daydream and imagine working with. I just know if we combined our different skills, aesthetics and ideas together we could create something really unique and exciting.
You can check out all Hayley’s amazing work at her website: www.hayleymorris.net.
She is also the subject of a documentary by Danny Gregory and Tommy Kane that you can check out here: http://vimeo.com/dannygregory/hayley
-Interview by Julian Tardo-