Simon Pummell is a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) winning animator, film writer-director and educator. His work has been screened in official competition and won awards in a wide range of International Film Festivals including Venice, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam, AFI Los Angeles and many others. Widely seen on television, including Channel 4 and BBC, as well as many international channels, his cinema works have been distributed by Pathé, Samuel Goldwyn and Sony Home Entertainment, the British Film Institute, and UK cult film distributor Arrow Film, among others.
His work builds an interface between academy-based research-driven art practice and commercially distributed cinema and television. With an emphasis on expanded and unconventional transmedia approaches to cinema (often using forms of animation and VFX), the work has been recognised internationally for its unconventional forms of storytelling and distinctive visual language.
The central focus of his work is how embodiment crucially forms both our sense of self and our ethical treatment of others. Many of his films explore the liminal area between our fragile individual identities and our collective patterns of behaviour as human animals: problematising divisions such as sane/insane, human/animal, and anatomical/technological. Topics central to his research include the Grotesque tradition in art and society, traditions and histories of anatomical display, outsider art, and exploring science fiction as ‘heightened social realism’.
Pummell initially combined old-school analogue animation techniques with sophisticated digital and optical effects to create such films as Secret Joy of Falling Angels which won the Grand Prix at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, and was nominated for the Cartoon d’Or European Animated Film of the Year, and Butcher’s Hook which won the British Animation Award for most creative use of new technologies.
His first feature project was the BAFTA and BIFA winning archive project Bodysong that used found footage to depict an archetypal life story built out of hundreds of cinematic moments taken from across 100 years of cinema. The film was the first film scored by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. TIME magazine described the film as ‘an utterly mesmerizing and humbling portrait of humanity’.
Pummell’s second feature film Shock Head Soul premiered in the Orizzonti Competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2011. It combined drama, documentary and elaborate animation to create a portrait of Daniel Paul Schreber, the 19th century outsider artist. VARIETY said of the film: ‘Weirdness, cerebral depth and envelope-pushing style… Blending documentary elements with fictional reconstruction and trippy CGI, the pic is a truly sui generis work, both moving and intellectually stimulating.’
His most recent science fiction film Identicals premiered in competition in the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015, and was selected for the ‘Best of the Festival’ after-screenings. This dramatisation of multiple identities and looping lives explored the boundaries of science fiction, and was subsequently launched in the USA by the Hollywood major Samuel Goldwyn films and Sony Home Entertainment. THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER said of the film: ‘A rich and allusive work, intellectually ambitious and visually arresting… possessed by a haunting strangeness that lingers long after the credits fade.’
In recent years, Pummell has shown animated films as moving image installations at contemporary art museums including TENT Rotterdam, Boijmans Museum Rotterdam, M HKA Antwerp, KASK Gent, Carpenter Centre Harvard and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Major museums that have screened work include: Tate Gallery, ICA London, EYE Filmmuseum (Amsterdam), Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Education has always been an important element in his practice with an emphasis on devising innovative curriculums and study approaches.
1993-1998 National Film School UK: Senior tutor responsible for the creation of a new curriculum for the animation department.
2008-2009 Harvard University Visual and Environmental Studies department: Visiting lecturer.
2008-2009 Harvard Film Study Center Fellow
2009 Nominated for the Levenson Prize for outstanding teaching across all programs at Harvard University
2009 Designed and launched the Lens-Based Media Master program at the Piet Zwart Institute, WdKA, Rotterdam.
Pummell is currently an Associate Professor and the Director of the Lens-Based Media MA Program at the Piet Zwart Institute for Graduate Research and Study, WdKA, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.
In 2017, Pummell’s film prints and working archive (the record of more than a dozen animated short films, three feature films and associated installation work) was acquired by the EYE Filmmuseum (Amsterdam) for permanent preservation.
Details of individual works can be found at www.pummell.com