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Interview With Matt Bissett-Johnson Winner of Cinefern Film Award and Competition

Head in the Clouds a Film Written, Directed and Produced by Matt Bissett-Johnson won Best Animation Film award at Cinefern Film Award and Competition's March 2021.

Head in the Clouds Poster

The Film is about On a gaseous planet, an orange blob ignores the signage.

Matt Bissett-Johnson is an Australian animator and cartoonist. He wrote and animated for ABC music television show, Recovery, from 1998-2000. He records all the music for his short films.He submits animations to festivals, and in 2020, 2018 and 2015 won the Stanley Award for Animator Cartoonist from the Australian Cartoonists Association. He continues to cartoon as a gag and political cartoonist.

Interview With Matt Bissett-Johnson

Q: What is the basic Idea Behind the film?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: I wanted to create a narrative adventure with a simple character that could distort for expression and was quick to draw. Also I wanted to use the cloud backgrounds to add atmosphere to my simply drawn animation.

Q: How do you handle the Pre-Production, and Post Production?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: I didn't have a script as such, just a series of quickly sketched panels, blocking out the sequence or story. As the production went on(which consisted of me working with various animation techniques and programs, figuring out how to achieve the shots) I simplified some of the sequences. As I animated the shots, I edited it like a silent movie with no sound, and later added the musical score, which I played along on the guitar with a MIDI Converter. I tried to set the tone of the events with the music I played, and edited it a lot, converting the sounds to orchestral noises. I also did a little colour grading to make the colours look nice. Adding the sound effects is fun I have a collection I've made over the years, some I've recorded myself, others are royalty free sounds.

Q: What do you do to stay calm during Production of the film?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: I find the animation work itself to be quite relaxing and satisfying, usually staying up late. In this case, because it wasn't a commission, I wasn't working to a deadline which helps. I find having the odd break and drinking coffee does the trick.

Q: What sort of stories excites you?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: As a Cartoonist I tend to verge towards ideas that make me laugh, or have some sort of heightened drams, exaggeration I guess. I'm also a fan of sci fi, I like the big ideas.

Q: Do you think all the good stories have already been made into a movie?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: I don't think so, there's always a new angle you can take. I suppose it comes down to how much you can generalize the ideas as the same. That said, a lot of movies are the same, there's always room for a bit of imagination. People have the inventiveness to create new things, it happens a lot.

Q: While casting for your film you prefer to cast a well known face or any new face which fit the character?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: As an animator, and in this case doing what's essentially a silent movie, there was no character acting for voices, so it doesn't really apply. It's important to be able to draw a character you like, and is technically useful in the animation process. If I did use voice actors, and had been given any sort of budget, I would seriously consider getting some well known actors, it wouldn't hurt. I used to do all my own voice acting, on TV in the late 90's, for a music show called Recovery(on Australian television, the ABC) It would be good to get an actor for the female roles. I still do the odd bit of voice acting, it's a lot of fun.

Q: What is the most enjoyable thing about Production of the film?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: The moment when I've completed the animation, and the soundtrack, and get the first real look at what I've created. Also showing my friends.

Q: What is the best possible way to promote your film when you are on a tight budget?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: Talking about it on social media seems to help. Having a nice poster.

Q: When your next film is coming and what is it about?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: I'm currently taking a slow approach to my next film, working on bits in between my usual cartooning and video clip work. Hoping to complete it over the next few months. It's about a blob(yes another one) who goes on a dangerous journey, there's lots of warning signs(literally) it encounters and the various dangerous predicaments it narrowly avoids, some which aren't dangerous at all. It's drawn in a limited colour range with lots of sketchy shading, and some weird and ridiculous creatures and situations. I'm even contemplating giving it a happy ending, which is a change of tone for me, although I have an emergency unhappy ending if it doesn't play out well. There's no title at this stage. So far I've made about 40 seconds.

Q: What advice do you want to give to the new and upcoming filmmakers?

Matt Bissett-Johnson: Don't be afraid to work with what you've got, play around with stuff. The amount of stuff you can do with a phone or a computer is pretty amazing. I started playing with my parents Super 8 camera as a young teenager, which started a life long love for this kind of thing.


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