Interview with Sophie Koko Gate

From MM04, released November 2019
Sophie Koko Gate is a South London based animation director. Her films burst with electric colors and squishy suggestive imagery. Usually following a cast of eccentric characters, Koko Gate weaves comical stories of interpersonal relationships set in her fantastic surreal worlds. Never shying away from themes of sexuality, Koko Gate’s work is interested in femininity, the body, pleasure, and love. Her style combines flat digital graphics with airbrush textures to arrive at a unique playful aesthetic that is instantly recognizable. Outside of her personal work, she is repped by Blink Ink in London and Roof Studio in NYC for freelance work. She was a 2018 ADC Young Gun, and her most recent film Slug Life won awards at Ottawa Animation Festival, Vienna Shorts, SXSW, GLAS, and will screen at Sundance 2020. 
Mostly Moving: Hi Sophie! Could you tell me a little about yourself and how you started making animation?
Sophie Koko Gate: Hi ;)
I’m an animation director living and working in South London. I make short films and work commercially as a director too! I’m from a town called Bath which is essentially a huge, intense valley where the Romans used to go to fuck. I started thinking about animation at the end of my XXXTra dry graphic design course, I was making live-action films at the time, gravy wrestling, animal organs, interpretative dance, the most embarrassing shit you can think of.. but also had a Wacom tablet, the two sort of merged at the end of my course.
MM: Characters play a big role in your films. Can you talk about how you develop/create them?
SKG: The characters' personalities are ofc inspired by real people. My ears are constantly pricked — what the characters say, how they behave… all stolen from friends and strangers. I see Marcy in many people! He’s all the things that don’t make evolutionary sense, jealousy, obsession, unconditional love.. He’s that feeling you get when you’re left alone in your lovers’ bedroom for the first time, controlling the temptation to rifle through their things. Marcy has no control over his emotions. He will love you he will spy on you he will cry. Dear god will he cry.

Adult Swim: Darcy A/S/L by Sophie Koko Gate

MM: The character with the long nose appears in a few of your films, using a few different names (Marcy, Darcy, Gus). Is this a reoccurring character or just a design you feel attached to?
SKG: Marcy is the green one, Darcy is the handsome pink one, they are twins. Marcy was separated from his family at birth due to a multitude of small administrative errors, combining to create an administrative error so large, Marcy had no chance of living a normal life. His parents were unable to complete the giant wad of paperwork that was required to get him back. Marcy was subsequently raised by wolves while Darcy lived in Notting Hill with their birth parents. They have a super long nose because I had never seen that in a character before and thought it would be fun to animate, looks almost like a long penis, and also I really don’t like my nose, I think it might have something to do with that too. Gus is the character in Half Wet that is longing for a girl named Emily. He doesn’t have a long nose, but he has a funny nose.

Still from Slug Life by Sophie Koko Gate

MM: There’s a lot of dancing in your films. Does this organically make its way in, or is it a conscious choice with each project?
SKG: Yes, right you are. I like watching people dance because it’s an extremely human thing to do. Despite what they say — you can’t teach dance. Dance is embedded inside you when you are born, just like your walk and the way you eat and the way you relax your face when no one is looking. I believe it gives away some of your personality. My favourite thing to do is watch my best friend dance. She is a very conscientious person, very gentle, very kind. She’s also tone deaf and has no sense of timing or rhythm. But when she dances, she becomes a clown, some sort of cartoon character, her long neck swinging — miming all sorts of sports, always head first. It’s a joy to watch.

Half Wet by Sophie Koko Gate

MM: Your films feature sensual and erotic imagery, often to humorous effect. Can you talk about where this interest comes from?
SKG: I think that everything to do with sex should be treated at first as a funny thing and then eventually pleasurable. I don’t feel like my work is sexy, or erotic.. The intention is to examine the awkwardness of human contact in contrast with our wet and wild fantasies played out in our head.

Slug Life (trailer) by Sophie Koko Gate

MM: You’ve done a lot of client work alongside your personal projects. What does your commercial/personal work balance look like?
SKG: I graduated from the RCA in survival mode. I had taken out a v scary bank loan during the RCA, the interest of which was phenomenal. I focused all of my attention into developing a commercial style and then getting commercial work. This state of mind continued until I actually earnt enough to pay tax, about 3 years later. I then started to think about making Slug Life — something I had been toying with for a while. I’m not good with my money, the way I ‘balance’ things is by working on my own stuff until I run out of money, I then take as many commercial jobs as I can in a short space of time until I’m rich enough to go back into my personal stuff.

Kodak Black - Testimony (music visualizer) by Sophie Koko Gate

MM: Outside of animation, what inspires you the most artistically?
SKG: Mainly the conversations of other people, but here are some more specific things that have recently inspired me:

Artists: Shana Moulton, Mika Rottenberg, Rachel MacClean, Sofia Mitsola, Ceramics: Betty Woodman, Paloma Proudfoot, Hans Coper, Rebecca Warren, Ron Nagle, Ken Price

Films; Tampopo, Mullholland Drive, Young Frankenstein, SightSeeing, Shoplifting. Music: Ann Steel, Coucou Chloe, OkLou, Laurie Anderson

Rick and Morty Promo by Sophie Koko Gate

MM: Are you working on anything new at the moment?
SKG: Yes! I’m in currently developing a series with someone cool. Also, I’m working on a short film for FX and have a longer film that I’m seeking funding for at the moment. ☺

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