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Meet Hannah Saidiner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hannah Saidiner.

Hannah, before we jump into specific questions about your art, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was really lucky to have been born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Growing up, my family went to things like art & music workshops at the Hollywood Bowl and the LA Times Book Festival. My two moms were both teachers who embraced the creative interest I’d expressed from a young age. They even allowed me to draw all over a kid sized wooden table and chair set from Ikea which ended up being covered in stickers and doodles.

I originally thought I was going to use that creative interest to be a fashion designer since I loved drawing people so much but after a few classes at Joanne’s, I realized I hated sewing. That was a great realization because animation was another craft where I could use those technical skills I had learned. When I decided to pursue animation, I found programs like CalArt’s Community Arts Partnership (CAP) and CSSSA where I learned about the genre of non-fiction animation. I had already developed a love for non-fiction writing in high school so it felt natural to combine that with my animation practice. By doing those programs associated with CalArts, it ultimately led me here, working towards my BFA in Experimental Animation!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’d say the hardest part is what any artist faces which is considering that it’s a professional path with some risk involved. Encouragement from really great mentors along the way have made it easier to make my way into the field. My high school art teacher, Gabi Ferrer, developed an animation class at my high school when she discovered an interest from her students. Some of my teachers from CAP and CSSSA are still my teachers or even fellow students now at CalArts. The mentors I’ve met pursuing my degree have helped and challenged me in the best ways possible, really making me push my work in ways I wouldn’t have expected. Those meaningful relationships have made my journey into animation feel wonderful.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m primarily an animator but I also really love comics and illustration. I use non-fiction filmmaking and autobiographical comics to process through personal challenges and anxieties or to figure out where my interests come from. Those moments in life that are hard or confusing, or even ones that I’m grateful for, inspire me to think deeper about why they impacted me so much. They ultimately become films that are my reflections and ways of comprehending what happened.

Growing up in a household of women with only a younger brother, I’ve always been generally confused by the taboo American society places upon women’s bodies. My parent was also about to receive an elected double mastectomy which got me thinking about the censorship of female breasts. With those two things in mind, I made a mockumentary in 2018, called Only Skin, from the perspective of human breasts, as if they were talking to the camera.

Especially in my most recent film, So I Don’t Forget, and now my thesis, I’ve been exploring the ideas of family relationships and memory. So I Don’t Forget touched on the impact of my emotional abusive biological mother by discussing my family’s stolen and thrown away photographs but also how we use photos to cope with grief. My thesis I’m currently working on discusses my changing relationship with my parent, who is in the process of transitioning. I’m still very early on in the process but we sat down over Thanksgiving and I recorded us talking. We discussed how my brother and I can no longer say “Mama” and new accomplishments like his legal name change from Nina to Neal. I’m excited to portray such an important part of mine and my parent’s life through an animated short film, and very grateful for how open they’ve been in sharing their story.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I feel successful when I am equally proud of my process and my end product. I try to learn something valuable from everything I make, regardless of whether I like what it looks like in the end. The challenges of even coming up with an idea, finding the time to make it, and ultimately publishing it for everyone to see can be daunting but reflecting and acknowledging that I even did them is very rewarding. When people respond to those works, that they enjoy or understand them, it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

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