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The Process of Making

Katia Lom ’06’s career path embraces an interdisciplinary approach to the arts

When Katia Lom ’06 moved to London after graduation, she made a startling discovery.

“Employers in the UK had no idea what Swarthmore was,” she says. Without clout, prestige, or experience, Lom had to prove herself all over again. Fast forward to 2015, and the studio art major has blossomed into an animation director-in-training at the National Film & Television School (NFTS) in Beaconsfield, about 30 minutes outside of London. Her first film, Double Note, premiered this January with showings at the Bay Area International Children’s Festival and the Sarasota Film Festival.

Lom’s entry into animation was a “slow grind” over 10 years in the performing arts world. Swarthmore’s dance department introduced Lom, who began training in ballet at 5, to contemporary dance and choreography. That led to more classes—in Bryn Mawr, Philadelphia, and New York City—and “turned out to be a great resource” in Lom’s burgeoning interdisciplinary approach to making art. So when Mark Thatcher ’06 invited her to choreograph his production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in 2004, she took the opportunity to hone her storytelling. Lom’s work on Euridice created movement and dance sequences that were part of a story, and she was struck by how much her choreography impacted the way audiences empathized with the narratives.

Navigating London’s Royal Drawing School in 2006 brought personal obstacles for the native of Geneva, Switzerland. “[Moving to London] was creatively rewarding but financially precarious,” she says. Studying life drawing while juggling odd jobs (paralegal assistant, waitress, film extra) did not satisfy Lom for long. “I felt like something was missing,” she says. “But I continued to research and explore what piqued my interest.” Chris Walker, protégé of late British filmmaker Run Wrake, caught Lom exploring in the right place at the right time.

Walker was organizing an animated music video for opera megastar David Webb when he recruited Lom to animate Webb’s cover of Schubert’s “Abendstern (Evening Star).” Lom created all the video’s drawings and “boiled” (or flickered) the stars in Adobe After Effects. Walker loved her vibrant aesthetic and ranks Abendstern among his “top five” projects of 10 years of work.

Lom’s first solo animation project Double Note also served as her application to NFTS. Inspired by a retired opera singer who lost her voice, Double Note reimagines music by recoloring everyday life. Creating original films while balancing a full-time care home activities coordinator gig “felt like drawing, dancing, and choreographing all at once,” says Lom.

Now, Lom animates every day at the NFTS as part of an M.A. in directing animation.

“I remember my dance and art professors at Swarthmore always telling us how the act of making, whatever medium, was a process,” says Lom. “I never forgot that, but it took me all this time for it to really hit home.”