Hayley Morris and her favourite animation project

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Today, join us for a conversation with Hayley Morris, the director behind the captivating stop-motion animation for MTV’s “How to Triumph Like a Girl.” Hayley shares behind-the-scenes insights and gives a glimpse into her creative process. We delve into her experience of navigating her first project as a new mother, adding a deeply personal layer to her artistic journey. Finally, we explore what Hayley has been passionately pursuing since then.

What is your favourite animation project and why?

MTV – Women’s History Month “How to Triumph Like a Girl”

I was contacted by MTV to create a film for Women’s History Month through their “SEE ME, HEAR ME, KNOW ME” campaign. Their goal is to support underrepresented creatives by commissioning and paying for their creative concepts, providing funding for production, and by turning over their social and linear platforms to artists so the world can hear and see their unique voice and vision.

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It’s rare to create a project with such creative freedom and the support to make it happen. When brainstorming, I knew I wanted to create visuals for poetry. I researched many poets and writing and came across a poem titled “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón. I loved how it felt empowering and that’s the feeling I wanted to convey to the viewer. The MTV team contacted Ada and was able to license her poem for this piece. Once we had the go-ahead I knew I wanted to speak with other women and get their perspectives and interpretations of the poem along the way. During my storyboarding process, I spoke with colleagues, family and friends and wrote down many notes. Then I took their insights and my feelings and tried to translate them visually to Ada’s words. Working with the MTV team was so much fun. They were so kind, supportive and gave me really valuable feedback when I asked. This project won GOLD in the Fully Animated Piece category for the Telly Awards and was the 2023 Promax North America Awards Silver winner in Motion Graphics.

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Do you remember any specific life or creative lesson/s from this project?

This was the first big project I did after having my daughter. It had a different weight to it, and I think I brought this new perspective to the animation. I also had to lean on my mother and mother-in-law to help with my daughter while I dedicated time to the whole production process. The whole film and the behind-the-scenes of how it was made were possible through the help of other women. I suppose this project opened my eyes to how my creative process has changed since becoming a mom.

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I can no longer stay up until 4 am animating. I had to create a different schedule and lean on a lot of women and my husband for help. I was always resisting asking for help in a stubborn lone wolf kind of way. Now, I know it’s essential to get things done and to create good work. I had a fellow teaching colleague create a 2d animated sequence for one section that I translated into paper and worked with a compositor to compile my elements together in the final scene. It opened my eyes to the possibility of future collaborations and how to pull in other people in many ways, whether it’s in small ways like the brainstorming process or full-on collaboration.

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View BTS video here

How different was your style then compared to your style now?

I have been working on paper for a while. I love it as a medium for its endless possibilities as well as its constraints. For this project, I wanted to limit myself to watercolour paper and replacements. I discovered I loved the texture of the paper when it slightly wrinkled and went with that look throughout the piece.

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I feel like my style is always evolving and I’m always trying new things for every project… but I like to keep the same sensibilities when it comes to attention to detail, colour, symbolic representation, texture etc. Right now I’m venturing away from paper and exploring working with clay. I’m loving it! Right now, I’m creating a 1-minute animation that will be displayed on the Daniels & Fischer Tower in downtown Denver, Co. I’m excited to see my animation on this scale and how this can open my work to be shown in different contexts.

See more from Hayley here.

NERD welcomes Photographer Manos Chatzikonstantis: Q&A

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We are absolutely delighted to introduce Manos to our continuously expanding talent roster. With his remarkable portfolio featuring delectable food photography, captivating portraits brimming with purpose, and the mesmerising landscapes of the Mediterranean, Manos brings a unique creative flair to our team. In an exclusive interview, we had the pleasure of discussing Manos’ portfolio, his award-winning image for the Portrait for Humanity, and the diverse array of influences that shape his distinctive style.

Your portfolio reflects a deep appreciation for light, composition, and the intricacies of imagery. Could you share a moment that sparked your fascination with these elements and ultimately led you to pursue photography as a career?

Creative expression comes from diverse parenthood. So many things in one’s life, many of them unconscious, contribute to one’s style. I suppose growing up in Greece, being familiar with strong light and shadows plays a role. Warm sun, reflections, the softness of the evening. These kinds of things. Working with great people as an assistant is also quite formative. Observing art plays its role, I suppose, as does literature. One resonates subconsciously with certain elements, with certain techniques. I believe in observing the world closely and photography is pretty much the profession to follow if you are like that and a horrid draughtsman at the same time.

Your food photography is described as natural yet inviting, every shot we look at just gives us that ‘yum’ feeling. How do you approach each food shoot to ensure the dishes not only look appealing but also tell a compelling story?

What’s important is to understand the food itself and what the shot is for. It’s like a portrait really, where you have to connect with the person at some level and convey something. I need to know what the food is about, where it comes from, and what traditions it’s connected with.

Then comes the technical part. Chat with the team if this is part of a production. Which bits need to be highlighted, how this particular food reacts with light and colour? And in the end, one has to have a story going. Where are we, where is this dish supposed to be, whose place is this? Even if it’s just a white background where the food is placed, it should bear the soul of the people involved in preparing it.

Your Mediterranean cultural roots shine through in the textures, shadows, and colours of your work. How do you incorporate your cultural influences into your photography, and how do you believe it sets your style apart in the industry?

I believe that one’s style has to be true to oneself to have some significance. I’m equally fascinated by the South as I am by the northern crisp sunlight or the shadows of an object lit through a window on a gloomy day. Maybe having lived in Germany and the UK, being originally from Greece.  I somehow came to understand and appreciate the southern narrative elements better and learn how to combine them with the northern ones. That might be one thing. And the other might be that I don’t particularly care for stereotypes and try to avoid them. Removing elements usually works better than adding.

Winning the Portrait of Humanity award and being shortlisted for prestigious awards like the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year demonstrate the recognition your work has received. Can you tell us a backstory of your Portrait of Humanity winning image?

Oh, I love this image. The great thing about living in London is that you rub shoulders with all those cultures, all those different people. The shot was made in Stamford Hill, where most of the Jewish Orthodox community lives. I was working on a book about Jewish kosher cuisine at the time and Purim was going on, a religious celebration similar to carnival. People get totally bonkers there during the festival. It’s a wonderful thing to observe and interestingly not many Londoners know about it. I was roaming the streets, camera in hand and these kids were just coming out of their place to join the festivities. I took a shot, then they noticed me and as they gave me a shy smile I managed another two shots. One of them made the Portrait of Humanity competition. A lovely moment.

And to finish off, tell us a NERDy fact about yourself 🙂

Here’s two:
I love Superbad.  
When I edit photos I listen to weird, modular, glitch music. Or Frank Zappa’s mad guitar riffs.

See more from Manos here.