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Filmmaker Focus: Jan Gadermann

Jan Gadermann is a Berlin-based filmmaker who graduated from Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf with a master’s degree in Directing Animation. His graduation film Laika & Nemo, co-directed with Sebastian Gadow, who also served as the film’s production designer, won the 2022 Student Academy Award and has since qualified to be considered for the forthcoming Oscars. The short, which also played at ASFF in 2022, tells a touching story of Nemo, a deep-sea diver, and his friendship with Laika, a female astronaut.

ASFF: Laika & Nemo deals with big issues, like isolation, loneliness and friendship across barriers. Where did the story come from?
 I was in Berlin for the 2011 Berlinale and saw a T-shirt with a deep-sea diver and an astronaut sitting on a seesaw. Unfortunately, the flea market didn’t have the top in my size, but the image stuck in my head. I had already formed 90% of the story on the walk back to the subway, so when I came to writing it down, there were only a few things to add. For example, I changed the astronaut character to a woman. I felt like everybody could relate to this feeling of being different.

ASFF: What made you choose stop-motion as your animation method?
JG: It’s a great technique and, to be honest, I’m terrible at drawing! I’m very lucky to have Sebastian Gadow for the paintings and designs. My passion is stop-motion, I really like working with existing materials as the story is tangible and the characters have an extra layer of physicality. For example, Nemo has his copper helmet looks like it feels really heavy!

ASFF: Your film played in ASFF 2022. What was behind the decision to submit and how was your experience at the festival?

JG: Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there in person. But it was clear to me that this film should be screened in Britain as there are many hints of the British countryside. We visited Scotland for a couple of days when we started making the film to draw on the landscape and scenery. I really wanted to show the film at British film festivals because, in Germany, there’s barely any stop-motion. There’s a huge market for it but there is barely any production. It’s totally different than Britain, with studios like Aardman and Mackinnon & Saunders.

ASFF: What are you working on next?
This short took us six and a half years to make; 11 years from idea to finished film. Of course, it would be great to make a feature, but I’m not sure how long that would take! I have an idea for a children’s stop-motion series with felted characters, like Michael Please and Dan Ojari’s needle felted Robin Robin (2021). Laika & Nemo was a huge amount of work so it would be nice to make another short film that is wrapped up in a couple of months!

Follow Jan Gadermann on Instagram: @laika_nemo

Interviewer: James Mottram