Konrad Hjemli has had a great start to his career with the graduation film, The Harbourmaster, winning the jury prize at Annecy and being selected to create the FAF 2023 festival trailer. After winning the Audience Award at FAF 2022, The Harbourmaster was shortlisted for an Amanda Award and has been nominated for best short film.
We would like to take some time to highlight this fantastic start and learn more about how FAF has helped him with the start of his bright future.
This interview was conducted as Hjemli was wrapping up his trailer design for the upcoming Fredrikstad Animation Festival and before heading to Annecy to see his graduation film in France, and before the release of Amanda Award nominees. The interview has been translated from Norwegian and has been edited for length and clarity. You can read the original Norwegian interview here. His FAF 2023 trailer is out now.
Hjemli has a long history of participating in festivals, especially the Fredrikstad Animation Festival, but has wanted to attend Annecy for a long time, and now has a good reason to go. The animated short film, The Harbourmaster, which was Hjemli and Mia Ludvigsen Henriksen’s graduation project from animation studies at Volda University College was selected for the Graduation Films in Competition program at this year’s animation festival in Annecy.
The Harbourmaster being selected at Annecy was a surprise.
How has the reception of the film been internationally?
The reception has been surprisingly good. It was very clear that Norwegians were the main target audience. Norwegians have heard the story before or have a vague memory of it, and the film serves as a reminder. It is a very Norwegian film, with typical Nordic humor, I will say. We were unsure if it would translate to an international audience.
The film has already been screened at a range of festivals; Anima in Brussels and Anifilm in Liberec – the film premiered at Factual Animation Film Festival in London, where it received the prize for best student film – and it has been screened at both at Kaboom Animation Festival in Amsterdam and FiSH Film Festival in Rostock, which Hjemli attended.
The film was well-received there. It manages to resonate, even though we didn’t prioritize an international audience.
The Harbourmaster also won the Audience Award at FAF 2022. How was it to win an award in your hometown?
It was significant and unexpected. It feels extra cool that the public voted for it. It was a very very cool experience.
This year Hjemli made the festival trailer for FAF 2023. Traditionally, the filmmaker has a lot of creative freedom when making the FAF trailer. It might sound like a dream task, but it hasn’t been easy.
It is common for a new animator to think that it’s a dream job to do absolutely anything that you want but it’s known among creatives that is the most difficult type of job. You have the freedom to do what you think is the coolest but suddenly you can’t come up with anything. It took me some time to find a theme and visual inspiration.
Festival director Anders Narverud Moen and the festival’s graphic design team liked the design of The Harbourmaster which was largely created by Henriksen.
It would have felt wrong to imitate the design that was more Mia’s expression. My contribution to The Harbourmaster was the combination of live-action and animation. It was a very cool stylistic expression and a way to save some time. It is an expression that is more of my thing.
For the trailer, he draws on the inspiration of the characters and animation from watching his roommates play Rhythm Heaven Fever.
It is a rhythm game with random characters, and very fun, quirky, strange scenes. I thought I could do something with that in my style and expression.
The software he used had some limitations around hand drawing which is how Hjemli typically works. Hjmeli had to design the characters around these limitations.
In the past your films have had different styles. How has your style evolved?
It has a lot to do with the fact that I have worked with others on my projects so far. In Pandiculation that I made with Jakob Eiring, he was mainly responsible for the design style. It both productions (Pandiculation and The Harbourmaster) I think we found compromises in our styles. I have moved between different styles and think of myself as a pure animator and filmmaker type. Design is not what I’m most interested in. One thing that I hold onto a lot is mixing different techniques and styles together. Mixed media you could say.
When you say that, I think of your film Eh
That was a completely solo project where I did everything. So maybe that is purely my style. It wasn’t meant to be a film, I was just bored. I really like simple characters, but animated in an exaggerated way that might clash with the simplicity of the style. I like to put a lot into the animation itself – that’s where I feel comfortable and have been since I was little.
Hjemli has always been interested in animation and started his animation career at a young age. He was 8 years old when he got into Flash and started making animation as a hobby. When he was 10 years old, he joined the Flash club with E6 – Østfold mediaworkshop, and later participated in the FAF workshop for young talents.
I have always watched a lot of animated films and TV-series. We had Cartoon Network and it quickly became a problem that I wanted to do nothing else but sit in front of a TV or study it. I was very fascinated by the animated expression. When I was 12, Megafon came on NRK Super and made an episode where I was a little animator. It was my whole identity as a kid.
In spite of his strong interest in animation as a kid, Hjemli fell out with animation as a teenager but continued to work on films and drawing. In his youth, Hjemli took part in the Fredrikstad Animation Festival through school several times as a student but also as a volunteer. He values having the festival as a local offer. It was through FAF that he discovered the animation program at Volda University College, which he recently completed.
The festival has been part of my connection to animation for a long time. And careerwise, it has been very beneficial to have a place to show films locally. It is a way to get to know the people who make films. People might pay extra attention when they realize it’s a local guy. It’s pretty cool to show a film in Fredrikstad.
Since you have participated in the festival so many times, you must know the festival well. If you had to choose the best part of the festival, what would it be?
I really like how professional the whole experience is. It’s something I have noticed at other festivals. There is a difference in the thoughtfulness and effort in the film program and the festival creates a smooth experience. Also of course the cinema in Fredrikstad is excellent, a fantastic screening location, where you can see films in the best way possible.
What are you excited for in this year’s festival?
I am always interested in the panels and masterclasses so I will try to attend as many as possible. There are many exciting films being produced right now and I’m sure many new productions I have never heard of will be shown.
You will see Hjemli’s trailer at the start of every screening during the festival and you can watch it now online to get familiar and see his unique style.