NAFN interviews German animator Patrick Buhr

Thomas Humphrey


Upon seeing Patrick Buhr’s What I Forgot To Say, it can be hard to believe he’s only a year out of art school. But his recent education has clearly kept him grounded in what is going on in the world of animation right now. So we thought it’d be a good idea to catch up with Patrick after his short’s recent inclusion in our NAFN Comedy Night.


Do you think the humour in What I Forgot to Say is particularly German in style, or not?

To be honest, I hope that it’s not, because to me the majority of German comedy feels shallow and silly. Regarding comedy, I’m most attracted to American stand-up. It seems to have stronger tendencies towards a raw truthfulness and poetry which I also hope to manifest in my films one day. But I grew up in Germany, so perhaps I’m doomed.

As well as being humorous, the Glasgow Short Film Festival recently applied the concept of “motion sickness” to your animation. How did you feel about that?

I agreed with “motion”, but I was not so happy about “sickness.” To me the rapid movement through different thoughts and associations is an act of joy. Linking it to feeling sick reminds me of people who stigmatize intense introspection as something that is only about solving personal problems and spinning in useless thought-cycles. But performing theory is in fact deeply connected to joy or even lust.

You have previously spoken about your animation having a sort of faux structure. But don’t you think that What I Forgot To Say also has considerable symmetry, repetitions and rhythms?

Yes, in terms of rhythms and segmentation my film is very structured. The only difference to a regular presentation is that my narrator doesn’t keep his promises and thus makes the viewer anticipate meaningful structure in places where it’s not.

You have worked a lot in the stream-of-consciousness mode. But What I Forgot to Say also draws on the “desktop documentary” model; do you think this type of art is one which goes hand in hand with free association?

I think desktop documentaries are really good at creating the illusion of free association. The reality is that creating these kind of films is a tedious process (if done well) and require a lot of planning. In my particular case I was paying tribute to this by hand-drawing and animating all the elements that usually are perceived as a given framework by the user.

Do you think your animation might be the first to incorporate this “desktop documentary” aesthetic?

I’ve seen animations before where people show chat rooms or the youtube-interface and so on, but as far as I know I’m the first one to show this in a more self-referential context. But even if not – it’s still a vast landscape that needs to be explored, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

Do you think “What I Forgot to Say” also reflects a change in the way audiences free associate now, something caused by the current prevalence of technology in our lives?

The pace and frequent interruptions certainly remind of the multi-screen habits and youtube- behaviour of today. But from my point of view this is only a superficial similarity, because I try to convey states of minds in a poignant way that cannot be expressed in straight-forward language. The style is definitely based on hyperlink-logic, but at the same it time tries to avoid being attention-deficit by not being random. Instead it attempts to follow a more honest associative logic that constitutes a consistent whole.

Do you think you’ve discovered the kind of animations you want to make with this short?

I feel this film planted the seed for where I’m going with my next projects, but there is still a lot of room for growth in terms of poignancy and maturity. So it’s not like a formula I will be reproducing over and over.

Would you ever consider making shorts that are not animated?

Yes, I do have ideas for live-action shorts on a regular basis. I even started to write a script a few months ago, but then lost interest, because I had to think about the hassle of funding and casting. I love the fact that Steve McQueen, the video-artist and director, made his very first feature film around the age of 40. This proves that it’s never too late, so I’m relaxed about it and just keep collecting my ideas. At the moment I’m more passionate about animation anyway.