The short animation Featherweight by Kayleigh Gibbons follows a daughter and father-figure as they struggle to cope with the death of a family member. Pretty powerful stuff. We caught up with Kayleigh to ask how she hit on the story and why she decided to make it
D&CFilm: There are big themes in Featherweight, did you pause before dealing with them, or is animation an ideal medium to approach what is sometimes seen as ‘difficult’ subject matter?
Kayleigh Gibbons: Losing someone close to you is of course utterly heart-breaking, and has the power to change your whole world dynamic. I know that it has affected my family in many ways, and it’s a theme that interests me because I know it’s an experience that every person shares at some point in their lives. If there’s a movie out about death or dying, I have to watch it. I’m not sure why exactly, possibly a desire to seek knowledge in a force that is so completely out of our control, and try to understand how we can cope and prepare for when this inevitable event effects us or someone we love.
Animation is a great tool to express these ideas, but I’m interested in live action film as a future medium.
D&CFilm: What attracts you to a particular story and are there themes or ideas or styles you keep going back to?
Kayleigh Gibbons: The first thing that springs to mind I guess is just ‘honesty’? I love things that seem honest, whether it’s disgusting or up-lifting; in film, TV, music or reporting, I like it. And it’s a very scary thing to do, especially when you know someone might see or hear it, and I still have yet to make something like that in my opinion. But as soon as something feels fake or forced I tend to lose interest very quickly. My sister always got annoyed with me, saying that I always turn away from mainstream “just because it’s popular” haha. I love realism in cinema, and I often think of Shane Meadows‘ work and how it unexpectedly made me change my whole perspective on culture and class in our country.
I also think of Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s work, how his films portray such real-feeling characters, with minimal dialogue and very compelling imagery, beautifully explaining the character’s inner demons.
To mention an animator, it would be Michaela Pavlátová, there’s a lot of honesty in her animations. And my favourite short film director is Mark Simon Hewis, he tackles big themes and somehow combines surrealism beautifully with realism, and again that somehow feels very honest? But I’m not sure why, haha.
D&CFilm: What’s your background and what drew you into animation?
Kayleigh Gibbons: When I was trying to study a foundation year in art & design, I was struggling to find anything I wanted to pursue. After sneaking onto a trip meant only for Plymouth University students, I attended my first film festival, a small one in Exeter. It was the first time that I saw films that seemed like they were created in whatever way the creators wanted. Nothing felt directed to fit a popular trend to boost sales, or to push some sort of brand. The animation was spirited and unpredictable, and showed an exciting space where pretty much anything was possible.
D&CFilm: Why did you decide on the animation style you did for Featherweight?
Kayleigh Gibbons: I don’t feel very confident with design, so the style is very basic, and I’m always looking for input with design. But I like drawings that make the viewer feel as if they could draw it too, no matter what their drawing-skill level is. I feel it makes people more connected to the piece, and works such as David Shrigley‘s and Kristian Andrews‘ pull this off very well, even though they are very good at drawing in reality.
D&CFilm: This is a favourite question of ours: what’s the role of the filmmaker / artist in society?
Kayleigh Gibbons: I have no idea, sorry haha. I suppose some people just feel compelled to create stuff from time to time, and it’s wonderful if they find a way to do this. Variety is lovely to have in culture, and I would encourage anyone to express themselves with honesty. Even though it’s very very scary, and may look totally bizarre at the time and from the outside. But when it’s done it reads much better, and is bound to have an influence too.
D&CFilm: There’s plenty of opportunity to see your work, what with all the TV that you do, but where can we keep up with your more personal projects?
Kayleigh Gibbons: I only have a website that shows a few things I’ve done or am doing at the moment. https://www.kayleighgibbons.com/
I plan to focus on a smaller project, before hopefully moving on to a bigger one.
I want it to tackle daily anxieties that we experience in our current social climate, possibly with an interactive element and certainly under a theme of mental health, with the view of seeking professional counsel to review it first, and try to find ways of connecting with the viewer/user on their own terms.
D&CFilm: Sounds interesting! Thanks for your time Kayleigh!