- Course studied:
- Stop Motion Animation and Puppet Making BA (Hons)
- Year of graduation:
Filmmaker Cat Hayes has been touring the festival scene with her hit short animation, Coupling, picking up nominations at highly acclaimed festivals around the world. Now based in Vancouver, Canada, Cat is working as a prop maker for film and TV with an ambition of making her own films and setting up an animation studio in the future.
The Stop Motion Animation and Puppet Making graduate created Coupling as part of her final module at Staffordshire University. The thought-provoking film is about a girl running for a train who drops a glove, only realising too late and making the decision to throw the other glove from the window as she pulls away from the platform, so they remain a pair. It has been shown at 12 festivals and counting, including the “bigger, well-respected festivals, like Bristol Encounters,” Cat said.
“My goal from the beginning was always to get it onto the animation festival circuit. Ultimately, I see myself as a storyteller and wanted as many people as possible to see and enjoy it.”
Born in London, Cat had loved Stop Motion Animation from an early age and pursued model making as a degree before deciding it wasn’t the right course for her and entering into retail.
She said: “I always felt retail was the wrong path for me so I decided to go back to my original passion and signed up to Staffordshire University in 2012. My mum came to Staffordshire to do a Fine Art degree when I was a child, so I had lots of fond memories attached to the University already. When I saw that they did a Stop Motion specific degree it seemed an obvious choice.
“My tutors all came from industry backgrounds and had amazing connections. We had some brilliant BAFTA and Oscar winning guest lecturers visit as well as trips to studios such as Pixar and Disney. I always felt a big emphasis on what to do after we graduated, such as through modules with real live briefs, as well as creating business cards, showreels and a CV. This was invaluable upon graduating and helped to prepare me for the real world.”
After graduating, Cat got a job at award-winning Stop Motion Animation company Factory, in Manchester. The company is responsible for many popular children’s shows, such as Clangers and Scream Street. Cat was responsible for puppet maintenance, fixing the models and coordinating where they needed to be.
At the start of 2016, Cat moved to Canada in search of a new job. She said: “I always wanted to live abroad, and it was a case of now or never, so I gave up a great job working in stop motion to risk it all on a city I had only been to once, where I knew no one, and didn’t even have a job offer! I’ve now been in Vancouver for eight months; easily the best decision I’ve ever made.
“Since I arrived, I have been working as a prop maker. I worked in film and TV for a few months, making props for shows such as Arrow and Supergirl. Right now I have recently started a full time prop making position on a stop motion short film being produced in Vancouver.”
Cat is not finished with Coupling, however, as the film continues to make the rounds on the festival circuit. At a festival in Russia, she received a Best Story mention. She was nominated for a British Animation Award (BAA) – “even though I didn’t win, it was such an honour to have been selected from thousands of student films,” she said. It was part of the BAA’s Public Choice Screenings, and has been shown at cinemas around the country. She has also been interviewed on Stage in Montreal, Canada, before a screening of the film.
“I saw Coupling as a coming of age tale that wrapped up my three years at Staffs,” Cat said. “The idea struck me on one of my many train journeys to and from Stoke, plus I always seem to be losing things. I intentionally kept the film very simple; I always like films where everyone has a different interpretation.”
She added: “My goal is to keep creating my own films, and eventually set up my own animation studio. I am happy with my career progression so far; I’m learning a lot and enjoying working on such a wide variety of projects.”