Skip to main content

Interview with Katrina Hood, Prop and Set Maker on "Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)"

A scene from Edith Piaf in which Ron and Russell Mael venture through the ceiling of the café set (built and painted by Katrina Hood) to attempt to catch the evasive Bird

The little details are the ones that so often go unnoticed by the eyes of a viewer. Yet it is in those very details that the very spirit of art and where the essence beauty are found. Details guide the mood of the viewer, making them to feel and see everything that a piece of art has to offer – in film they often take the shape of costumes and sets and lighting, in paintings and portraits and sculptures they are often the smallest variations of brushstroke and color. The truth of this claim can often be found when the minute details are omitted from a piece of art – when a painting is devoid of color, a portrait of differentiation of subject and light, in a film of detailed costumes and sets – all of which amount to an overwhelming feeling of an unfinished work, or, at the very least, a sense that something quintessentially lacking, whether overtly missing or intangible in nailing down exactly what’s missing. For the production of the music video for American pop band Spark’s song Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me), is was in the crafting of these tiny details that Bristol-based stop motion artist Katrina Hood found herself steadfastly occupied.

Having recently graduated with a BA in animation from the University of the West of England, Bristol, where she made her graduate film, Night Light, a stop motion short about a little girl who wanders of into the woods where she then goes on an adventure (you can find her behind-the-scenes blog documenting the making of Night Light here), Katrina Hood has hit the ground running with working on Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me). On the project she worked to make some of the props for the film – specifically the accordion played by Ron Mael in the music video – as well as constructing and painting the café and the Moulin Rouge sets, and also in crafting the cobbled streets which were made, as the film’s director, Joseph Wallace, describes in the film’s behind-the-scenes video, “For the cobbles, actually, I found these pizza boards which are just, you know, what the pizza comes in when you buy it from the supermarket, and just took the back of a paintbrush and just marked it and then they were painted up.”

The Ron (left) and Russell (right) Mael puppets (created by Roos Mattaar and Joseph Wallace) standing upon the cobblestone set, built by Katrina Hood

As a part of Stop Motion Geek’s ongoing series on the making of Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me), I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Katrina about her work on the project. In our interview, Katrina discusses her process on how this project helped her to foster a passion for fixating on the small details, such as building up color and texture with paint, her advice for animators just starting out, and how she discovered a love for puppetry and animation through somewhat arcane Eastern European puppet animation. You can read our interview below in full.

A.H. Uriah: From the various Edith Piaf behind-the-scenes photos and video, it looks like you were working with some architectural references of the Parisian locations – buildings and streets and, more specifically, the Moulin Rouge – that are featured prominently in the music video. First of all, how did this research contribute to your work in building the elements and essences of Paris that Joseph was interested in exploring in the music video? From there, how did you go about crafting the sets? What were some of the specific materials did you use to craft the sets and props?

Katrina Hood: After chatting with Joseph about the storyboard, it became apparent that as well as a likeness of Paris we wanted to capture a very particular ‘mood’ of the place, Piaf’s Paris. Upon arrival at the studio I noticed that images of buildings and Parisian life were pinned on the walls as visual cues which were great to work from.

The Moulin Rouge set (created by Katrina Hood) can be seen on the right

We used these images as a basis to start with but given creative freedom to play with scale and perspective, we tied all the sets together with a palette of subdued colours which we layered to create texture and the use of recycled materials. The sets were primarily made out of cardboard which is a super versatile material (I’m a believer now – all future sets will be made from this now!) Working with recycled materials can be both challenging and rewarding, it encourages you to look past what it is and get experimental resulting in some fun outcomes. A great example of this from the music video are the recycled pizza foam bases which were intricately carved and painted up to look like street cobbles. I personally really enjoyed the re-using of materials, and I think in this case it lends itself to the sets too, the second hand nature provides a feel of wear/age and authenticity to the worn city streets.

A.H.: I imagine the specificity of Joseph’s vision provided a very particular framework within which you had to work to construct several sets for the stylized Paris cityscape and a few of the props (e.g. Ron Mael’s accordion). I’d love for you to tell us a little about your experience working with Joseph on this project and how his creative vision impacted your work on the video. Also, how did you find your own creative footing and voice while still working within his vision?

KH: Joseph had a very clear and concise vision of the video which is great to work with and made it easy to get on board. With each new set we would discuss its relevance to the story, source some visuals for inspiration and then he would let me take it creatively from there, whilst checking back in now and then to ensure we’re still on track.

The accordion prop, built by Katrina Hood for the Ron Mael puppet

Style wise our way of working is probably quite different to each other. I often fixate on fine details and quirks of set making, Joseph focused on the finished effect and what the camera will pick up, utilising the dressing and lighting to create the drama and detail. This is one of the great perks of working in a small team to one particular ‘vision’ you can experience alternative ways of working. On this project I spent a lot of time building up colour and texture with paint, something admittedly I have skipped over in the past, but I really enjoyed the process on this project and will certainly be something that I will focus on in future projects. In response I would say it is less – how my artistic voice is heard, but rather how well I can adapt it seamlessly to benefit the overall outcome.

The Ron Mael puppet holding the finished accordion prop

The Ron Mael puppet (created by Roos Mattaar and Joseph Wallace) in the final film, holding the accordion prop and standing on cobblestones, built by Katrina Hood

A.H.: What was your greatest takeaway from your animation education at University of the West of England and what experience and lessons did you learn there that you feel would be insightful for the aspiring animators and filmmakers in our readership? Were there any specific resources – books, films, etc. – that you came across while studying animation at university that you found particularly eye-opening and that improved your grasp of the animation medium or that you feel elevated your craft to a “new level”?

KH: Pretty obvious I guess, but it would be to use all the resources available to you, as there are loads, from tutors, technical staff, animation suites and the fabrication centre. One in particular is the A.V. section of the main library. It’s true that you can likely find most things online now, but the A.V library is great for discovering those hidden gems. It was here that my interest for Eastern European puppet animation first grew, I felt really inspired by the work of animators Svankmajer, Jiri Trnka and Bretislav Pojar, who grew up under a strict communist regime, and used their animated shorts as a vehicle for satire and protest. Their work really resonated with me and encouraged me to question the underlying tones in my own work.

Parquet flooring for the café set, built by Katrina Hood

The café set, as seen in the final film. Tables, chairs, and back wall made by Heather Colbert. Parquet flooring, ceiling, and lampshade made by Katrina Hood. 

A.H.: Could you tell us a little about your work in puppetry. In what ways has your experience in the two mediums – puppetry and animation – affected your work in both?

KH: From leaving Uni, I ended up making for live action puppetry. It was the interactive element of puppetry that drew me in, I wanted to explore new ways to engage an audience and this seemed like a natural step. I began by making some large hand-and-rod puppets for a Sheffield pride project then went on to assist on the making for several live-action puppetry shows for companies in Bristol. I’ve also dabbled in a bit of puppeteering…which was scary and reinforced my love to remain backstage!

The Moulin Rouge set, built by Katrina Hood

The Moulin Rouge set (built by Katrina Hood) set during animation

How has puppetry affected my animation work? I guess I took it pretty seriously, I still do now, but puppetry has made me far more playful with my work. There is an air of immediacy with live-action puppetry where you can experience the reaction of the crowd first-hand which is refreshing from the far longer more drawn out process of stop motion.

The Russell Mael puppet (built by Roos Mattaar and Joseph Wallace) sitting atop the Moulin Rouge set, built by Katrina Hood

If you would like to explore more of Katrina’s work, you can do so by visiting her Vimeo channel here.

As I’ve shared in the previous posts about the making of Edith Piaf, one of the best resources you can find in the way of making-of material about the project is the 11-minute behind-the-scenes video which you can find here. The video fuses footage of the real-time making-of process along with footage of Joseph Wallace giving a tour of the animation studio where Edith Piaf was filmed to the brothers who compose the Sparks duo, Ron and Russell Mael.

You can go watch Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me) by going here.

This post is the fourth (and quite possibly the last) of a series of Stop Motion Geek articles documenting the making of Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me). You can go read the previous posts by clicking on the following links for the corresponding articles: this article features our interview with the director of Edith Piaf, Joseph Wallace, this article features our interview with Roos Mattaar, one of the animators as well as a set and puppet maker on the project, and, lastly, this article features our interview with Aiden Whittam, who also animated and constructed sets on the project.

I had a really enjoyable time interacting with many members of the team’s production crew and I would like to thank each and every one of whom with I spoke. For readers of the blog, thank you for sticking with us throughout the journey of these articles. I hope you got as much out of them as I did.

I should mention that I had quite a lot of fun with this structure of interviews – that of several interlinked interviews with each of the members of a production crew – and I think it’s perhaps one of the most insightful ways to accrue knowledge that so few are able to find – what a production is like from every angle, explained by those who worked on every angle of the production. It is a format that I would consider returning to in the near future if I can just find the right project – a tantalizing prospect and a challenge I’m willing to accept, so stay tuned!

You can stay tuned for the upcoming interviews and articles by subscribing to Stop Motion Geek via the “subscribe” button at the top right corner of our homepage, or by following us on Facebook @StopMotionGeek, or by visiting You can also stay up-to-date with the blog by following us on Instagram or

Popular posts from this blog

Interview with Tim Allen, Key Animator on Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs"

“The Wes style of movement has a simplicity & a more experienced animator has to learn to not put in the little tricks or flair that they may have used animating elsewhere,” Tim Allen – an animator whose career spans decades and includes credits on prestigious projects such as Shaun the Sheep, Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, The Flying Machine, Creature Comforts, the Oscar®-nominated films My Life as a Zucchini, Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the Oscar®-winning short film Peter & the Wolf – tells Stop Motion Geek, describing the metamorphosis his animation style underwent on one of his most recent projects – Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, currently available on digital and set to be released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 17th. “The Wes style is direct & clear,” he goes on. “I take the old stop motion phrase & embraces it: ‘Less is more’.”

Although the “Wes style” is something of a “back to basics” approach to stop motion – in the sense that the animation sty…

Interview with Bradley Slabe, Co-Director of Stop Motion Love Story, "Lost & Found" (Part 1/2 of Interview with "Lost & Found" Directors)

The true essence of art – a reflection of life itself – is very much akin to the Japanese aesthetic of “wabi-sabi”: it’s imperfect, impermanent, and, at times, profoundly...incomplete.

It is both at once a fundamental truth, and, curiously, more often than not, a thing incredibly hard to acknowledge, to make peace with. Yet perhaps our resistance is justifiable, for once we admit that the world is full of unknowns – unknowns that aren’t ideal, that aren’t perfect – we are just as soon confronted with the actualization of a deep, intrinsic, and very human fear: the fear of a future full of...unknowns that aren’t ideal, that aren’t perfect. Yet it’s the confrontal of that fear that is the most terrifying reality of all, for the moment we make peace with it we have just as soon have acknowledged that our paths in life aren’t in our own hands, or something we can control – a terrifying reality, yet one that’s nonetheless fundamentally true.

Yet, in art as in life, it is in this very plac…

"Robot Jox"

With the upcoming RoboCop remake I though it only necessary to discuss the 1989 action flick Robot Jox. Robot Jox was the first massive project for David Allen Productions, and to watch the movie shows you that with $10,000,000 and a devoted and passionate crew, you can accomplish a magnificent final product.

Robot Jox, full film:

According to Ray Harryhausen, the gigantic Stop Motion puppets were, "The robot puppets for Robot Jox were so heavy that they often needed to be supported by tungsten wire sliding along overhead rails while walking."

Even though the critics were none to pleased by this film, many new and unseen things were accomplished in this film.  It is worth a look or two.

I hope after reading this post and watching the film you will agree with me, even though it's not Shakespeare, this is a innovative, and interesting masterpiece of film.

Interview with Marie Lechevallier, Animator and Collage Artist on Psychedelic, Cut-out Stop Motion Music Video for Parker Bossley’s "Chemicals"

“With Chemicals being a fast-paced and spontaneous project I had to keep the creativity flowing and to be constantly open to new ideas,” Bristol-based stop motion animator Marie Lechevallier tells Stop Motion Geek about her latest contribution to the medium – the psychedelic music video for Canadian artist Parker Bossley’s debut single “Chemicals” made in the cut-out style of stop motion, on which she was the sole contributor next to animation director Joseph Wallace. “That’s also an advantage of cut-out animation and the use of magazines – you have to be inventive with what is in front of you,” Lechevallier proceeds. “I like that kind of project – it’s really fun.”

There’s no question that Wallace’s and Lechevallier’s senses of fun and whimsy and passion for their craft come across in the final film. It, both literally and figuratively, imbues each and every detail of the film, adding a certain, palpable sense of youth and vibrancy to the surreal, make-believe reality of Chemicals –…

Interview with Mark Smith, Director and Writer of Stop Motion Short Film, "Two Balloons"

As I sit, listening to Peter Broderick’s moving composition for piano More Of A Composition, I close my eyes and envisage an enormous funnel cloud skimming across the crystalline face of an ocean – the skies are murky and unusually dark, lightning crackles, spider-webbing across the darkened skies before then vanishing, and still, after its gone, an electricity continues to hum in the air and I simply know that it’s going to soon strike again. And as the scene presents itself to me, I suddenly feel something similar to what director Mark C. Smith felt when he saw the same image as he sailed to a small island called Grenada along with his wife in a timeworn sailboat. For him, in that moment inspiration struck, and the idea suddenly came to him for his heartfelt stop motion film, Two Balloons. For me, I open my eyes and feel as I did the instant Two Balloons faded to black – as if I’ve just woken from a stunning and beautiful dream, one I immediately mourn not being able to see again f…

Interview with Lucy J. Hayes, Producer of Stop Motion Love Story, "Lost & Found"

Ever since her childhood, Lucy J. Hayes – the producer of Lost & Found, an extraordinarily beautiful short film that make for a profound mediation on the impermanence and imperfection of life and beauty – she’s wanted to play some part in the creative industry, in some way, shape, or form. For Hayes, that dream went unquestioned. However, the challenge turned out to be figuring out quite where she belonged in the creative industry.

“I dabbled in acting and directing, however, I was terrible!” Hayes tells Stop Motion Geek. It wasn’t until she began to put on plays with her friends in her adolescence and early adulthood that the answer to her search dawned upon her: All that Hayes found came innately to her – everything from her ardor for creative work to her love for working with creatives to bring an idea, the kernel of a story, to fruition – she found in the title of “producer.”

Although being a term often thrown around colloquially, the actual responsibilities helmed by produce…

Interview with Zélie Durand, Director and Animator of Stop Motion Short Film, "Sahara Palace," Incredible True Story of Loss, Dreams Unfulfilled, and Middle Eastern Cinema

“The only things my grandfather left behind were dozens of 35mm film reels in my grandmother’s basement, which ironically took up a lot of space compared to the fact that nobody seemed to talk about him, and that he was noticeably absent of every family album,” Zélie Durand, a French director and illustrator, tells Stop Motion Geek about the very personal tragedy that inspired her most recent film, Sahara Palace – a transcendent, nine-minute long stop motion short film that realizes and further explores the greater themes of an unproduced film script entitled “Sahara Palace,” as well as the life and legacy of the script’s screenwriter: filmmaker Hedy Ben Khalifat, Durand’s grandfather, a man she never met.

“I was not allowed to touch the reels,” Durand continues. “When I started to ask questions three years ago, my uncle gave me a suitcase he inherited from Hedy, telling me he had no idea what was inside. Right after that, I spent a week alone reading the three versions of Sahara Pal…

Interview with Andrew Goldsmith, Co-Director of Stop Motion Love Story, "Lost & Found" (Part 2/2 of Interview with "Lost & Found" Directors)

The true essence of art – a reflection of life itself – is very much akin to the Japanese aesthetic of “wabi-sabi”: it’s imperfect, impermanent, and, at times, profoundly...incomplete.

It is both at once a fundamental truth, and, curiously, more often than not, a thing incredibly hard to acknowledge, to make peace with. Yet perhaps our resistance is justifiable, for once we admit that the world is full of unknowns – unknowns that aren’t ideal, that aren’t perfect – we are just as soon confronted with the actualization of a deep, intrinsic, and very human fear: the fear of a future full of...unknowns that aren’t ideal, that aren’t perfect. Yet it’s the confrontal of that fear that is the most terrifying reality of all, for the moment we make peace with it we have just as soon have acknowledged that our paths in life aren’t in our own hands, or something we can control – a terrifying reality, yet one that’s nonetheless fundamentally true.

Yet, in art as in life, it is in this very plac…

Interview with Kangmin Kim, Director of Stop Motion Short Film, "Deer Flower"

The experience of childhood is something like existing within a waking dream. In childhood, as in particularly vibrant dreams, the distinct and unique experience presents itself to simply exist in each moment without explanation or reflection – to become fully and wholly enveloped in each and every moment, the option of operating outside of which is somehow nonexistent. In that special time in one’s life, moments simply are. And yet, childhood, like dreams, is a fragile and temporary reality. It’s not until one “wakes” from childhood, by entering adulthood, that one can reflect upon and appreciate the past and, in retrospect, realize just how odd and unusual certain experiences might have actually been. Korean filmmaker and animator Kangmin Kim captures this feeling beautifully in his outstanding short film Deer Flower.

Deer Flower tells the semi-autobiographical of auteur Kangmin Kim’s childhood experience of dealing with persistent illness and of taking one of the remedies his paren…

Interview with Roos Mattaar, Director of Stop Motion Short Film "Nieuwstad (New City)," A Film About the Birth of a City

In the twelfth century, a Dutch peasant family of three – mother, father, and son, each clad in rough-spun wool tunics, the mother in a broad-brimmed white bonnet and apron ­– living on wetlands of the small peasant village of Paveien in Netherlands, just outside of the town of Culenborch (modern-day “Culemborg”) and the village of Lanxmeer, are themselves a strange distillation of their surroundings. To our twenty-first century eyes, their lives – from birth to death – are shaped so starkly by the world in which they live – a world of toil and soil, with the stuff plagued by uncertain flooding patterns and gray, gray weather.

With the benefit of hindsight and an eye looking back from the twenty-first century, everything from their clothes to their very way of life – one of mere survival, of settling wild lands by building house and barn and then cultivating the land remaining – has a look and feel total alien to most inhabitants of the earth today, a look and feel that is entirely u…