Interview: Farah Ahmad

Kerry McGinty makes her Raccoon debut talking to animator and illustrator Farah Ahmad about the process of animation and sibling rivalry turned violent. 

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Dancing away like Gene Kelly with a glass (a plastic cup) of Tesco’s finest vodka and coke on the rocks at one of Edinburgh’s glamorous flat parties, I overheard Farah Ahmad; a northern lass with a lot of sass who looks a ridiculous amount like M.I.A. talking about the making of her animated film. A film all based on sibling rivalry and a wee bit of sibling violence. This sparked mine and many peoples interest, a large troop of the party were thrown back retelling their war tales of great sibling battles, scars of the physical and mental variety were bravely shown, the flashbacks haunting the story tellers, their eyes filling with tears of fear (not the band). It was vividly clear that more beverages needed to be consumed but most of all we all realised what a hilarious and fantastic idea it really was for a film.

Six months on and the film is complete and it doesn’t disappoint. Witty, innocent and a refreshingly original idea that creates a delightful amount of childhood nostalgia, especially for those of us who are about to take the plunge into real adulthood, after saying farewell to our student days-eek!

Not long after this party and many orange lucozades later, I was approached by Farah the animator-extraordinaire to take part in the film. Well how could I refuse the chance of retelling my glorious days of being a freakishly strong and muscular child defending the honour of my house against my unruly siblings…(disclaimer they are lovely…now…always…please don’t hurt me)

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“When you were stood in the room and just talking I was like I have to interview Kerry it was just a great story and you told it well. The thing is with this everyone has a story, everyone has a story to tell about who broke a toy or an elbow whatever it is, there is always a story and it’s a universal topic. Siblings in general are interesting and the relationship between brothers and sisters is really fascinating they are the closest people to you in your life, they’re with you all the way”

This is what makes the film so instantly relatable, the majority of us do have stories of our evil doings to our siblings yet if another person decided to throw their two pence in that would be a completely different story. The phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ comes to mind and the relationship between siblings is fascinating in that they can be your mortal enemy but at the very same time they can be the person you love the most in the world. In this film Farah has managed to capture the essence of this bond in a funny enigmatic and most surreal way.

“I’m an illustrator then I went into animation. The film is all very illustrative in the section about my twin brother I wanted to have this really surreal scene where he couldn’t remember the story, I wanted to show how fickle the memory is and even though we both couldn’t remember the exact details we were both adamant that we were right about the famous “mug in the bath” incident that happened between us all that time ago.”

The ‘mug in the bath incident’ to which Farah refers to is that of her twin brother bludgeoning her over the head with a mug in the bath, causing her to need stitches and to have a permanent scar on her head for life. Bless um’ kids ey’!

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The sheer detail of the film is astounding and although it is relatively short, the time and effort required to create the finished polished product needed a Ms Havisham worthy amount of isolation.

“Animation is a really long process. To make it is insanely tedious, in just one second there is 24 drawings or 24 frames and you have to make each of them individually I am a hand drawer but it got to the point where I had to cut some corners and do some of it digitally. It starts of a storyboard so in September I pitched the idea it got a really good response they thought I had hit something there, an animated documentary is an unusual route to take but it got a good response.

I started making it in January and up until last night (woops!) I was still making some final adjustments, it was over 5 months of animation stuck in the studio, you become this social hermit”

Asking Farah about the process ended up a little like talking to a Vietnam war veteran, as she revealed the time and effort needed to make the film I couldn’t help but picture that she was having flashbacks of losing her best pencil out there in the sea of paper and ideas. Although an arduous task I had to ask was this all worth it, and was the completed project what she wanted?

“Because you are so close to the project it was never what you thought it was going to be in your head and there is always things that you want to change and there is things you don’t like about it  everyone has that feeling . When I did the degree show at ECA (Edinburgh College of Art) I had people laughing taking business cards and people coming up to me and telling me it was their favourite film of the show which was just the best feeling ever, you’ve poured your heart and soul into this project thinking its gunna’ be horrible but then when you see people watching it and responding to it in a positive way its just the best feeling.

Being a creative person is really intense because you are putting your heart and soul into a project and once it’s done you’ve got the end product where it’s just your personality and you and you’ve got people who will hate it, love it and judge it. It’s kinda’ like your little baby you become very protective about it. Once you start you just have to keep going even though the finish line looks really far away because it’s so worth it in the end”

One of the best features of the film is the music. Inspired by the sound of Scottish indie/rock band Meursault, Farah enlisted the help of Richy Carey a Glaswegian musician, who captured the films personality perfectly with his ukulele creating a playfully childlike tune that compliments the childhood innocence and brilliantly contrasts with tales of bloodshed.

So what’s next for this talented Yorkshire lass I hear you cry? Well her film “Relatively Harmless” is playing at the world famous Edinburgh Filmhouse on Monday 17th of June with tickets available online now. From the small dingy studio to the big screen is quite the leap but Farah takes it in her stride.

“I am quite nervous but the response I got at the degree show was incredible so it has calmed me down a bit. I actually said to people I don’t think I can sit and watch it just in case nobody laughs, I might need to just pop to the loo whilst my film is showing! To see a year’s work on the big screen with friends and family and the public responding to It, I’m really looking forward to it.”

After seeing ‘Relatively Harmless’ I cannot wait for the next weird and wonderful instalment from this talented animator, although next time I think I shall charge for the use of my dulcet Coventrian tones, I think a Twix will do. If you are free in Edinburgh check out the film starting at 8.30 pm on Monday 17th June, you won’t regret it.

To see more of Farah’s work and check out the following websites:

http://farahsmad.tumblr.com/

http://vimeo.com/farahahmad

http://www.filmhousecinema.com/

http://www.richycarey.com/

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