Gradwatch 2021: Animator Naomi Saungsomboon, UCA Farnham
Animator Naomi Saungsomboon specialises in stop-motion puppetry and themes that peel back the lid on the human condition – from physical intimacy to the afterlife – and the relationships we have with ourselves and each other.
Saungsomboon’s evocative model-making and deft use of motion combine to capture the minute facial expressions that contain so many of our feelings. Her claymation short Budget Double sees a couple awkwardly adapt to a night spent on two twin beds. Meanwhile her graduation film Is It Dead? deals with the things in life that are so universal yet difficult to put into words, told through beautifully composed frames and puppets that on the surface appear eerie, but feel ultimately as human as the rest of us.
“I wanted to explore the idea that some things just cannot be explained to another person, or even your past self, because they haven’t experienced it themselves,” she tells us. “The dual nature from this; of isolation, and then ironically the familiarity we have with one another (because we all have things we can’t share), just seems so uniquely human that I wanted to make a film about it!”
From Adventure Time to Bojack Horseman, 2D animation and cartoons have become highly effective vehicles for examining human nature, and Saungsomboon hopes to carry this through to her craft. “I wholeheartedly believe people are the most important things in all our lives – friend or stranger – and I’ve felt the deeper, darker sides of all of us haven’t yet been fully explored with stop-motion puppetry, as they have within 2D animation,” she says.
Saungsomboon finds enjoyment in the craft element of her stop motion films and working in miniature. Life drawing has become a helpful component in her animation work, which often involves creating models of the human form.
She studied animation at UCA Farnham, a course that she found challenging yet rewarding. “The course at Farnham is definitely full on but that’s actually something I’m really grateful for. You’re continuously pushed to keep going and keep making, and in my opinion it makes you a better, more resourceful creative.”
Saungsomboon doesn’t want to sugarcoat the difficulties of the past year: “Especially in the first lockdown it really felt like the world was crumbling, but in a twisted way it’s something that we’ve all had to just get on with and get used to, so in terms of studies I think we all did the best we could.
“It’s been such a volatile situation for all areas of education but I know my uni and my course kept the students and our safety at the forefront, and that’s something I’m really thankful for. At Farnham we kept working throughout the whole pandemic and I think it’s set me up to be a better employee in a post-pandemic world and just more resilient in general.”
Looking ahead, Saungsomboon would like to continue working on films that examine people’s complexities. “I’d also really like to keep honing my skills of model-making – I’m sure other stop-motion people will know, you collect A LOT of materials in making films (we turn into low-level hoarders I think),” she says, “but it does mean I now have loads to keep making and experimenting with in my spare time.
“I’d also love to try working in the production side of filmmaking, rather than being the main creative on a project – I’m definitely looking forward to working with people again and being able to share everyone’s skills!”