Strange, Imaginative, and Surprising: In the Mind of Jelena Sinik

(Originally posted on 30 May, 2016)

With Sydney's fantasitcal Vivid event illuminating the city, and the imaginations of Sydney-siders alike, we felt a little context on the people behind the moving lights was in order. 

This week we sat down with Jelena Sinik, an inspiring and talented animator and storyteller, Freshflix festival alumna and award winner, and UTS Masters of Animation student. She's participated in the colloborative work titled 'Creative Currency', which is currently being showcased on the walls of Central Park Broadway at this year’s Vivid festival.

Jelena fit us into her busy schedule to talk a little more about her beginnings in animation, influences and creative process, the approach to her collaborative works in Vivid, and other projects on the horizon.

Check out what she had to say.

First question for the sake of calibration - what is your favourite film of all time?

What an almost impossible question to answer! I love cinema so much that picking a favourite film would be like living in only one shade of one colour all of the time! One of my favourite films of all time, though, would have to be 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. It's such a beautiful blend of reality and surrealism and a very gentle film that is full of light, despite some of the profound darkness it holds within. I love films that really push our sense of reality and self, and explore complex human struggles in fantastical ways.

Favourite film you've ever made? Why?

Favourite film I've worked on, besides Imagining Time, would have to be 'In the Flesh'. It was one of the most challenging animated adventures I've undertaken and my first attempt at stop motion puppetry. 'In the Flesh' is an ornate silicone stop motion animation that explores surrealism, the grotesque and themes surrounding the genre of contemporary westerns. It allowed me to get a little crazy and really extend myself as an animator and thinker.

What elements in your life do you think most impact your storytelling?

Small daily adventures, art, people watching and imagination flexing are the key to making any good story. Always reflecting on and questioning reality (whilst experimenting and challenging myself) has typically been the most important daily practice involved in developing my ideas.

'Imagining Time’ was based on the poem by TS Eliot. Do you typically draw influence from literature? And if so, who’s work do you find most inspiring?

I chose T.S. Eliot's poetry because there was something in his writing that really resonated with me. I had first become acquainted with his work many years ago and found it to be profoundly beautiful and memorable. The protagonist of 'Imagining Time', Alex Rabey, reminded me of the poem. He operates as a kind of poem himself. He's fluid, thoughtful and unique - a story that needed to be told. I don't always draw influence from literature, but the opportunity to create an intersection of my ideas and the ideas from a beloved literary work was well worth seizing.

The conceptual surrealism showcased in your work really intrigued us and our viewers.  Are you more drawn to narrative or abstract structure in your films?

As both a filmmaker and viewer, I've often found that the most abstract films tend to have intricate and quite developed narratives embedded within them. My work always strives to communicate something meaningful but that doesn't mean it has to flow in the way a conventional story would. I like to be playful with my stories and challenge structural expectations, whilst still maintaining a clear progression and strong sense of journey. I find myself very drawn to surrealism because it allows me to dig deep into my imagination and make something surprising and special.

We see that you’ve explored a range of different styles, such as stop motion animation. Which particular style do you prefer and why?

I've always loved the tactile aspect of animation so I've been increasingly drawn to artistic and crafted styles, as they tend to leave a powerful and visceral impression on the audience. Playing with materials also makes for an interesting and fun process when animating!

Tell us about your beginnings in animation.

I started with a film degree and moved into animation after falling in love with the idea of crafting an entire world and bending reality in imaginative ways. I've worked with so many styles because there's so much that I love artistically about the malleability of the medium. I've always kept film close to my heart, though, and in some ways being an animator has made me a better filmmaker overall.

Favourite person to collaborate with?

Sydney animatorRalph Stevenson is one of the most adaptable and versatile visual storytellers I've had the pleasure of working with. We've worked on a couple of films together and you can see some of his animation for X Factory in Vivid 2016 too!

We see that you were involved in the Vivid Festival in Sydney this year. Can you tell us a little more about your contribution and your experiences working on the event?

My work in Vivid came about as part of a collaborative initiative between UTS and Ample Projects. I created a one-minute animation exploring X Factory, the concept of disruptive technology and the ‘rise of the robot’ in the workplace. Titled 'Creative Currency', my animation responds to this brief by conceptualising a possible future where human creativity powers society. In this animation, people engage in creatively stimulating activities that replace existing notions of jobs and work as we know them. The film illustrates (in a quirky and fantastical way) that no matter what happens in the future, humans will never be redundant as long as they are thinking, creative beings.

What project can we look out for in the future from you?

Something strange, imaginative and surprising. The best part of being a filmmaker and artist is the unpredictability of never knowing what tomorrow holds and what new idea, project or job will come knocking on your door. Who would want to live life any other way?

 P.S. - If you, like Jelena, have a film and are looking for ways to share it with your community, we'd love to showcase your work at our next event! Click the button below for more details. 

For more information on Jelena and some of the works highlighted in the interview above, be sure to check out here website here. In addition, you can catch more information on this year’s Vivid event schedule, and stay up to date at Vivid Sydney


Written by Nick Dzienny