"Women working in film and animation are intelligent, technically precise, capable and hard working. Furthermore, I've had the privilege of knowing and working with female producers and directors whose films have been selected in Cannes, have been nominated for and won Oscars."
Jonathan is a Toronto-born animation filmmaker based in Montreal. Jonathan studied traditional animation at Sheridan College (2003) where he produced the film Sherry, like the Drink, a tribute to his mother. After a year at Seneca College (2004) studying 3D animation, Jonathan moved to Montreal where he wrote, directed, and animated his first professional film Asthma Tech at the National Film Board of Canada.
Below is an interview of him about Women's Annex, the animation and filmmaking industry in Afghanistan, Central and South Asia.
FA: What are some of the recurring themes you explore in your films?
JN: My films have explored a wide variety of themes, including action, sci-fi, martial arts, dance, rhythm, and otherness. The one thing that seems to be a recurring theme is that the stories are always based on some kind of personal experience. Animation filmmaking can involve a lot of self-reflection and putting a lot of yourself into the animation, from the way the characters are drawn, to the way the characters move to the underlying soul of the story. In this way, a lot of my films can be considered self-portraits.
FA: Generally, approximately how many women do you work with on your productions (cast and crew)? Can you tell us about the dynamics of working with women and whether it's different from working with male co-workers?
JN: It varies, but probably about 50%. I don't believe that it is any different working with women than it is from working with men. Everyone who works in this industry is talented, driven and passionate about what they do. Women working in film and animation are intelligent, technically precise, capable and hard working. Furthermore, I've had the privilege of knowing and working with female producers and directors whose films have been selected in Cannes, have been nominated for and won Oscars; the highest awards that can be achieved in our field.
FA: How can women be empowered through fine arts, especially a medium like filmmaking?
JN: In a medium like filmmaking, the empowerment comes through telling good stories. The power of filmmaking is being able to engage an audience with a good story while showing them a fresh or different point of view or an experience that they've never had before. Beyond story telling, there is the empowerment that comes from learning a functional trade skill or a filmmaking technique that leads to employment. And lastly, there is the aspect of expression that is inherent within filmmaking and all fine arts disciplines that is so important to achieving personal and artistic satisfaction.
FA: What do you think of Women's Annex and its operation in Afghanistan, Central and South Asia?
JN: I've taken a look at Women's Annex and I think it is really great work, it makes perfect sense in this age of digital media and I hope that it can continue. I think that its goals are really important steps forward and the project has a lot of positive potential. I will continue to follow along in the progress.
FA: Can your work be used as a source of inspiration for filmmakers in Afghanistan, Central and south Asia? If yes, how so? In other words, do you consider yourself a “Thought Leader”? If so, what do you think your influence is on your audience?
JN: Definitely, I would hope to be a source for inspiration to people in my community, to my friends, family and colleagues, and to people around the world. I would consider myself simply an independent artist and filmmaker, pursuing my goals and dreams, while living and sustaining as a result of my artwork and films. I consider myself very fortunate, and through my endeavors, I hope I can provide some small inspiration to others in the same way that many past and present artists have provided inspiration to me.
FA: Where do you see the future of developing countries like Afghanistan? Do you think filmmaking and social media can help improve their economy and education system?
JN: As I understand it, Afghanistan has had a long history of filmmaking prior to the recent wars. It would be a natural assumption and expectation that with the rebuilding and development of the country, all aspects of filmmaking will return. It's important for a culture to be able to tell its own stories to their own people and to the rest of the world. Conversely, as filmmaking returns it will help to boost the economy and contribute to higher education. I also believe that social media and the Internet will make distribution of such content much more accessible.