Interview with Director Alan Holly about Hand Drawn Animation and Short Film

Programmed in ASFF’s animation strand is Alan Holly’s Coda. With screenings across the weekend at Friargate Theatre and Bootham School, ASFF speaks with director Alan Holly about using animation to tell stories. A hand-drawn film voiced by Brian Gleeson and Orla Fitzgerald, this beautiful film follows a lost soul stumbling drunkenly through the city, where Death finds him and shows him many things.

ASFF: This brightly coloured short tells the story of a drunken fool who encounters the character Death. What inspired you to use animation to depict a potentially grim tale?
AH: Animation and specifically 2D animation is where my background is, so this story was developed with that form in mind right from the outset. With this idea in particular I wanted it to have quite a stylised and graphic look, especially in the second part of the film. I am also interested in making animated films that are not necessarily for children.

ASFF: Coda is a hand-drawn creation. Why did you decide to use this traditional medium, and were you influenced by any new technologies?
AH: The flat, graphic, hand-drawn look is what has always appealed to me most in animation. With this film, the animation was all done digitally using the animation software TVPaint as opposed to animating on paper. For the most part all of the images in the film were created entirely digitally so we definitely took advantage of at least some of the technologies available, but with the aim of creating something with a traditional look.

ASFF: The film has already been awarded Best Animated Short Film at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. In your opinion, why is it important to continue to screen at film festivals?
AH: Festivals used to be the main way to get people to see a short film; now the largest audience is online and while sending the film to festivals does delay it reaching that audience, it is still great for people to see your film in a cinema environment. I think the award at SXSW has really helped us to get the film into as many festivals as it has, which has been amazing. As a filmmaker, festivals are a great place to meet other industry people, especially with animation where you are often cooped up for a long time making the film. You also get to see other shorts on the big screen yourself and there are great talks and retrospectives and films you otherwise would never get to see. It’s also a nice opportunity to travel and have a bit of holiday, and the parties can be good. It gives you something to look forward to during the darker moments of the production.

ASFF: You collaborated with Brian Gleeson and Orla Fitzgerald for the characters’ voices. Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
AH: There are definitely lots of people I would love to work with, though it is really the ideas and the characters that grow out of them that dictate who makes sense, so I am just going to have to wait and see what happens there and who it potentially leads to.

ASFF: Do you have any screenings or upcoming projects planned?
AH: Coda has plenty of screenings coming up, hopefully it will continue to travel to a good many festivals over the next few months. Then I have another short which I am working on and hoping to have ready some time late next year. We’ll see.

To see more of Alan Holly’s work, visit or follow @qlqn.

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1. Alan Holly, Coda, 2013