The Films of Sheila Graber
Sheila Graber began experimenting with a Super 8 camera and trial and error methods of animation purely for fun in 1970. In 1974 she won the Movie Maker magazine Ten Best competition with THE BOY AND THE CAT. In the next four years one, two or even three of her animated films appeared in the top ten of this annual competition. Her films went all over the world and gained over 20 top international awards.
In 1978 the British Council began entering her films in International Film Festivals and the recognition she received enabled her to give up her post of Head of Creative Studies at King George Comprehensive School to pursue animation on a full-time professional basis in 1980.
Her teaching career had begun in 1961 after gaining N.D.D. in Fine Art at Sunderland and A.T.D. at Birmingham. She taught in Secondary, Grammar and Comprehensive Schools. Her subjects including Art, Pottery and a C.S.E. in animation.
Sheila Graber takes up the story:
If it had not been for ‘agent/distributor’ Nicole Jouve contacting me (in 1976 after a chance viewing of 12 DAYS OF XMAS) I would most certainly still be teaching and animating in my spare time. The distributor who will bother with very short films like my own are VERY few and far between. Through her backing I completed a series of ten 10 minute JUST SO STORIES in 1981. These are based on Rudyard Kipling’s book; they are now being distributed round the world: were shown on French TV at Christmas and will, eventually, be shown on the BBC.
Working full time on these films I was able to produce one complete 10 minute film per month… that was from writing the script, recording music, mixing and timing the track, to drawing, tracing, painting and filming. I would NEVER have thought I was capable of doing this. Normally it would have taken me anything from a month to six months to complete a 3 minute film. I suppose you just don’t know what you can do till you have a go, so I hope more of the readers of Animator’s newsletter keep on ‘having a go’ too.
I have found that a vast amount of time, expensive equipment and hired helpers are NOT necessary to make an animated film. The concept that animation – like painting, playing the guitar or knitting – can be a purely individual practice is rather new and virtually unexplored. I enjoy not only making the films but also exploring the possibilities of others making their own films in their own way.
Because animation is time-based and also combines colour, line, sound and rhythm, it can, with the controlled use of synch-soundtrack and images, create very powerful effects – synonymous with emotions felt during a ballet or a combined music and art exhibition. This can be used for purely personal expression or, as in my own work, as a really effective teaching aid. All children enjoy watching cartoons – harness this involvement and you can really communicate with your students.
I feel that animation is only in its infancy and that it will be a major element in our forthcoming society.