NFB has been producing and co-producing outstanding films one after another throughout its long history. In this special issue, we reveal the precious stories behind a few animated short films directed by foreign directors (outside Canada) among the great films produced/co-produced by NFB. We aim on sharing how foreign directors can collaborate with NFB and how to make the most of the opportunity.

Here, you can read the insightful words from multi-award-winning British director Joanna Quinn on her journey to develop Affairs of the Art together with NFB. Affairs of the Art is one of her internationally-acclaimed films, among with the other films she created with Les Mills. Her awards include Best animation film at Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival 2021 and a nomination for Best Animated Short Film at the 94th Academy Awards.

Affairs of the Art
Director: Joanna Quinn
Author: Les Mills
Producers: Les Mills (Beryl Productions International, UK) and Michael Fukushima (The National Film Board of Canada)
Animation: Joanna Quinn and James Nutting
Additional Animation: Marcia Rojas, Mia Rose Goddard, Eliot Czeh, and Gemma Roberts
Clean up:
Marcia Rojas, Eliot Czeh, Hannah Jones, Mia Rose Goddard, and Bryony Evans
Editor: Mia Rose Goddard
Music: Benjamin Talbott
Sound Design: Olivier Calvert
Technique: 2D hand-drawn
Running time: 16’23”

Interview with Joanna Quinn

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): First of all, I would like to ask you about the film Affairs of the Art. Where did the initial idea of the film come from?

Joanna Quinn: Well, the character of Beryl already existed, and this is the fourth film starring her. Because of the success of the first 2 Beryl films Girls Night out and Body Beautiful, we were asked by Channel 4 to write 5 scripts for a Beryl series called Dreams and Desires which would screen every night over one week before the evening news but then sadly the commissioning editor left along with her commission ideas, and we only made the first one which was Dreams and Desires – Family Ties. Affairs of the Art comes from those initial scripts that Les wrote back in the early 2000’s.

HN: What message or experience do you want to deliver to audience through the film Affairs of the Art?

Joanna Quinn: I guess the message of Affairs of the Art is that you are never too old to follow your dreams. I think our films are always optimistic and the character of Beryl is a positive role model for the ordinary older woman who desires to do the extraordinary. We like to create characters and situations that audiences can identify with which hopefully makes the audience experience much more personal.

HN: How did you come across NFB and why did you decide to work with NFB for Affairs of the Art?

Joanna Quinn: We had already started on Affairs of the Art when NFB producer Michael Fukushima got in touch as he was interested to know what we were working on. We already knew and admired Michael so were excited to share our work in progress with him. Michael was pleased with what he saw, and we drew up a co-production agreement with the NFB. A very exciting moment.

Joanna Quinn
Les Mills

HN: Did you do anything in your creative journey of the film with NFB that differed from your usual film development procedure? If so, could you please let us know about that, and what good creative outcome or positive impact to the final film did you have from that?

Joanna Quinn: The creative process of making Affairs of the Art really didn’t differ much from all our other films. It was too difficult to share the animation work between Wales and Canada so we decided that we would do all the sound and post-production work in Canada. We were very excited about this and were looking forward to working with the amazing team at the NFB and using their new state-of-the-art post facilities… And then COVID struck! We managed to work remotely with sound designer Olivier Calvert but any plans to travel to Canada to do the post was scuppered, so we eventually did all post-production work in Wales, with masks on!

Eliot Cseh in front of storyboard
Hannah Jones, Mia Rose Goddard, James Nutting, and Marcia Rojas at the studio in Wales

HN: Could you please let us know your most memorable creative achievement in the film, as a result of the collaboration with NFB?

Joanna Quinn: We were very impressed with the NFB team who promoted the film once it was finished. This is where the NFB comes into its own. We worked closely with Nadine Viau and Judith Lessard-Bérubé, and their enthusiasm and professionalism were outstanding. We learned a lot from them.

HN: What is your most memorable or happiest moment in your whole journey with NFB in creating Affairs of the Art?

Joanna Quinn: It would have to be our Oscar journey, from the short list through to the nomination. The NFB made it all happen and helped us navigate the whole circus! I think the happiest moment was sitting in the Dolby Theatre at the Oscar ceremony watching the Affairs of the Art clip and hearing Beryl’s working-class Welsh accent ring out around the auditorium into the ears of the Hollywood glitterati!

Joanna with NFB crew at the 94th Academy Awards
Joanna and Les Mills at the 94th Academy Awards

HN: Do you have any advice for directors to make the most of the opportunity to work with NFB?

Joanna Quinn: Working with the NFB was a wonderful experience and if anyone has the opportunity to do the same, grab it with both hands!

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