We can be whatever we want to be, says animator born with Collins Syndrome - GulfToday

We can be whatever we want to be, says animator born with Collins Syndrome


JoAnne Salmon adderesses the audience at Sharjah International Film Festival.

Born with Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS), JoAnne Salmon’s Chin Up is the life-affirming story of the director who followed her passion and didn’t let a life of ‘looking different’ defeat her.

The 4-minute animated short movie was one of two movies screened at the opening ceremony of the seventh edition of Sharjah International Film Festival (SIFF) for Children and Youth, following which the British animator came up to the festival’s podium and told her predominantly young audience that her rare genetic condition seen by many as a weakness is, in fact, her biggest strength. 

JoAnne’s enthusiasm for life is big. The spark in her eyes catches you from the far corner of a room.

The British illustrator and animator from Bournemouth, says art was an escape from the world she was trying so hard to fit into.

Through her drawings, she could be anyone and anywhere.

Salmon confessed it took her a while to believe she was invited to Sharjah. “A week before I said to myself, is this really happening? Am I really going to Sharjah!” "I’ve never been to this side of the world before, and every day at this festival has been truly amazing.”


We asked this vivacious, cheerful artist a few questions and she gladly answered.

Since you are at a film festival exclusively celebrating cinema made for children and youth - what was your movie growing up and why?

It’s so hard to pick a favourite one. I have two actually. My mum says I watched “My Little Pony” and “Dinosaur!” the 1985 documentary hosted by Christopher Reeve, over and over again. My goodness, these two were my absolute favourite.

Why is cinema important, especially for children and youth? Especially when studies say that the average 8 - 18 year old spends over seven hours a day looking at screens. Do they need more screen time? 

They probably don’t need more screen time; kids must get out and get some play every day. But movies I’d say are important. We’ve always been drawn to the magic of movies; before cinema there was theatre and we would all go watch plays. Movies spark the imagination and is one of the greatest way of self-expression and telling a story. Anyone who is drawn to filmmaking does so as a response to their desire of telling a story. This is why cinema is so important for children and the youth – it’s an opportunity to tell a story. It’s given me the chance to tell mine. 

How did your interest in art and storytelling develop? Did your TCS diagnosis play a role in this? 

I’ve always been as they say, ‘a space cadet’; up in the clouds since I was a kid. It’s hard to know if I’d be the same if I wasn’t diagnosed with TCS. I’d like to think that if I didn’t go through the difficulties I did the world would have been different. But these challenges did spark my imagination and helped me get into my own little world. There was no limit to what I could do or what I could be through my drawings.


Children walk around at the site of Sharjah International Film Festival  for Children and Youth

What's your advice to new talent in the UAE and the Arab World wanting to get into animation? Do you think technical training is important or is it good enough to just be self-taught?

Sometimes I need advice. What I will say is relax, It’s going to be hard because the field is competitive, but look at it this way – there’s going to be many comrades too who will offer you the support and encouragement you need through your journey. Advice to get into animation is socialise with other people as much as you can. Come to events like SIFF and get to know what the rest of the community is up to. Also, a big yes to technical training. That is very important. It’s always a good start to be self-taught, but training is a must. There’s loads of brilliant courses and tutorials online too, including YouTube. I highly recommend those.

What's your next project after 'Chin Up'?

I do have some ideas, but they are still little whispers in my head. In a good way (laughs). I would like to continue making some films and I have one idea I’m thinking of. I can’t say much at this point except that it is also kids oriented.

What are you doing when you are not illustrating / animating?

I am trying to learn to skate board (chuckles). I’m turning 35 on Friday and I’m just now trying to get better at skateboarding. When I’m not illustrating its important to get outside. I love being surrounded by nature. Visiting museums is one of my top hobbies too.

When asked about her first impression of the UAE, of Sharjah and SIFF, Salmon  gushed…

Oh my goodness…. Well yes, this is the first time I’ve been here and I’ve been overwhelmed by how amazing it is. The country is so different from mine as well. It was raining when I left England. And to be greeted by this wonderful sunshine, which also reflects in the nature of everyone I’ve met at this spectacular festival! People in the UAE are so welcoming and friendly. I’d just say that my first impression has been more emotional than logical.

“I’ve been treated so well. Now I feel spoilt.”

JoAnne is an animator at LoveLove Films, an animation studio based in Bournemouth, UK.

She is a central part of the LoveLove Films' team, and is now helping to develop diverse and inspiring content for children and adults alike.


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