Gemma Yin describes her introduction to animation as “a baptism by fire.” Not long after graduating, the director (represented by Greatcoat Films) bagged herself the role of Head of Video at indie fashion mag Tank, which turned out to be pivotal for developing her mixed-media style. “That’s when I introduced the photography and live action element,” she explains. “We’d be taking fashion photography stills or sequences, and making them into videos, when it was a transitional point for online video.
I had to make so many videos a week, and the turnaround was super quick. That’s when I learned to improvise. Sometimes I’d just be given three stills and told I had to make a 30-second video, and I had to just figure it out.”
After four years at Tank, Yin had established her own aesthetic as an animator, but had also branched out into filming, directing and editing. “Because I did all the processes, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was becoming a director,” she explains.
Even after making the jump to freelance, Yin stayed true to the craft element of her process, continuing to make handmade details both on-screen and in the real world. Her Swimming At Night promo for Django Django is a perfect example of how effortlessly she blends the two. Other projects, such as her More Than Words video for Little Mix, or Rika’s Hold On To Me promo, show her ability for bringing a layered, collage-like feeling into her work, even when it’s purely digitally made. That’s not to say Yin doesn’t love the opportunity to be
out on a shoot, and a recent project for Charlotte Olympia (inspired by vintage boxing posters) has allowed her to work on the live action side of things, bringing it together with animated elements. There’s no question that Yin’s style is adaptable too, suited to everything from fashion films, documentaries and narrative-led films that need some creative imagery, to the kind of zeitgeisty snippets of content that brands increasingly need for social media.
“It’s versatile, but the style is still my own,” she says. “I think maybe the difference with my work is that I didn’t get taught to be a director, or what the formula of putting a film together is. I invented my own formula.”
And having had her animation apprenticeship in the fashion world, Yin is still being drawn back to it, admiring the work of playful brands such as Kenzo and Fiorucci – both names she’d like to add to her list of collaborations. She’s also got ambitions for where her work could go on a bigger scale, taking inspiration from the way someone like Michel Gondry has brought his own distinctive style to the screen. “Although my work is predominantly visual, I’d enjoy the opportunity to direct more performance-led work,” adds Yin. “Although I’m no Sofia Coppola or Spike Jonze, I’m interested to see where live action combined with illustration and animation might take me next.”