“Elizabeth-Antiqua” is a short, animated documentary about Elizabeth Friedländer, the first woman to design a commercial Latin typeface. Friedländer made history while facing physical and professional peril in Nazi Germany. Our film details her recorded life while harnessing animation's limitless potential to fill in the gaps recorded history has left us with. “Elizabeth-Antiqua” is a meticulously researched, whimsically animated piece - a refusal to forget the great women of history.
the Friedländer model
I knew how I wanted my Elizabeth to look, but when it came time to model her in Maya, I just couldn’t quite get it right. Fortunately, Emerson’s new media lab had recently acquired 3D scanners! With plenty of childhood clay molding experience under my belt, I set about molding the components I needed for the Elizabeth model. I kept each body part separate for scanning purposes, then retopologized and assembled them in Maya.
All mapped textures used in “Elizabeth-Antiqua” are original Elizabeth materials, converted to vectorized patterns by the lovely Elise Miller. The goal of this film wasn’t stylistic realism. The goal was to spotlight Elizabeth’s work—literally! Using her print patterns as textures means the viewer is spending the entirety of the film engaging with Elizabeth’s work. Too often, women are judged not by the quality of their achievements, but by their appearance. Animation has the power to sidestep that problem entirely, so of course I took it!
developing my Elizabeth’s personality
“Elizabeth-Antiqua” contemplates who Elizabeth was as a person, beyond the art she left behind. During a conversation with Pauline Paucker, the woman who literally wrote the book on Elizabeth, she commented on the oft repeated line about Elizabeth; she was a “demure spinster,” quiet and modest and a load of other words that could describe a mouse as well as a woman.
Pauline pointed out that the people who coined “demure spinster” as the going line were men (some of whom, she said, had reputations for being a bit scoundrel-y). As she saw it, while Elizabeth was by most account quiet, her strength was self-evident and deserved more attention.
I mean, the woman fled German Nazis, Italian fascists, escaped to England on a housemaid’s visa, and ended up making Allied propaganda for World War II—all while facing rampant anti-Semitism and misogyny!
With that in mind, I had to decide on Elizabeth’s acting style. I knew that body acting was going to the crux of the film. None of the characters had facial features, so intention and emotion had to be conveyed through the body alone. Strong silhouettes and posing was my number one focus while animating.
I wanted her to have a sense of humor, of liveliness. Not only because watching an un-lively animated figure is an uphill slough, but because Elizabeth deserves to be portrayed with personality. She was a highly talented, intelligent and likable person; her acting should reflect that.