Monday, 25 April 2022

Roundup: March/April 2022

Who likes podcasts? Well, whether you do or don't, that's literally all I have for you today so get with the programme. 

As I grapple with the grim realisation that I've been podcasting for over a decade I may as well pop up the latest batch for your delectation and/or derision. Firstly we report back from this year's British Animation Awards, which took place at London's BFI South Bank in March. This episode features Steve's exclusive post-ceremony chats with event director Helen Brunsdon and producer Kieran Argo as well as some of the awarded attendees: Joanna Quinn and Les Mills (director and writer of Affairs of the Art, winner of Best Short Film, Writers Award and Best Voice Performance), Jeroen Jaspaert and Matt Tea (Showrunner and director of Pip & Posy, winner of Best Children’s Pre-School), Grant Berry and Dane Winn (directors of The Beast, winner of Best Immersive Animation), Adrian Rhodes (Sound designer of Zog and the Flying Doctors, winner of Best Use of Sound) and Julie Lockhart (producer of Ron’s Gone Wrong, winner of Best Long Form). 

Laura-Beth and I also continue the fourth season of our Intimate Animation podcast series, featuring special guest and recent Oscar-winner Alberto Mielgo (The Windshield Wiper) in our latest episode. Also discussed: More on the British Animation Awards including award wins for previous Intimate Animation guests Renee Zhan, Anna Ginsburg and Caitlin McCarthy, love and sex-themed highlights from Miyu Distribution‘s new YouTube channel Bang Bang, the Manchester Animation Festival's new events strand MAF Presents and the return of Cardiff Animation Festival.

Speaking of CAF, Laura-Beth and I were delighted to be able to muck in with their fantastic third edition and first return to the physical format since they kicked off in 2018. Recordings of the Filmmaker Brunch sessions we hosted have been put out as a two-part podcast special that you can check out now. In Session 1 I speak with Laura-Beth (discussing Crafty Witch), Joanne Fisher (Stache and the Inner Walk), Emlyn Davies (Foo Fighters: Chasing Birds), Joanna Quinn and Les Mills (Affairs of the Art), Daniel Gray (HIDE), Paul O’Flanagan (Memento Mori) and Callum Angel (The Catalyst).

In Session 2 Laura-Beth speaks with Jana Kattan (Checkpoint), Cliona Noonan (Soft Tissue), Alisa Stern and Scott Ampleford (Posted No Hunting), Sacha Beeley (Babeheaven: Craziest Things), Lina Kalcheva (Other Half), Flora Martyr (04111311), Cleo Parker (The Big Top) and Hoching Kwok (Prince Edward). As always many congrats to Lauren, Elys and the incredible Cardiff Animation team for pulling off an incredible event boasting some amazing guest presentations and incomparable musical entertainment. You could tell it gave everyone there a real boost and felt the most 'normal' that anything's felt in a good long while.

Right, I'll be back later. Not sure with what, exactly, but knowing me there's a good chance it'll be some more podcasts.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Roundup: February 2022

My pals at the Manchester Animation Festival have kicked off a new series of year-round social/screening events MAF Presents, which began earlier this month with their first programme They Love Me, They Love Me Not that kindly featured my latest film Speed. If you're up North be sure to keep your eyes on their site and socials for updates on upcoming events as I'm sure you're itching to get back into the swing of that whole human contact thang.

On a similar note, the wonderful Cardiff Animation Nights gang have resumed their in-person events as well as carrying on the online screenings they started during the pandemic, so be sure to follow what they're up to as well. Even more exciting is the return of the Cardiff Animation Festival, whose third edition will take place at their usual Chapter Arts venue April 7th-10th, knock wood, with an online version going through to the 24th. There'll be more specific programme info to come but in the meantime I can confirm I'll be there to host the filmmaker Q&As and Laura-Beth Cowley's recent project Crafty Witch is among the festival's official selection as part of the Shorts 7: After Dark category. Pop it in your schedules!

Also on the events front, the biennial British Animation Awards - on which I mucked in as preselector/jury - will be happening on March 10th at the BFI Southbank with signal events in Bristol, Cardiff, Salford and Stirling if a Thursday night trek to London isn't doable but you still want to check out the festivities. All being well I'll be at the main event so hopefully will see some of y'all in the big smoke; I won't hug you but we can affectionately exchange finger-guns. Otherwise be sure to check out their site for the various viewing and ticket options they have.

Before any of that will be Speed's inclusion as part of Anima Brussels next weekend. Since the announcement of the official selection I now know it will be part of the second Animated Nights block on Saturday, March 5th, kicking off at 10pm in Flagey Studio 4 and 10:30pm at Palace. I'm properly gutted that I won't be able to make it in person as seeing Sunscapades as part of the same programme a couple years ago was an absolute blast, but right now the faff of getting in and out of Belgium would just be too disruptive to make it feasible. Fingers crossed I'll make it back over there before too long.

Following on from last month's UK streaming release of Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, it will be traveling further afield as of March 1st with its arrival on streaming platforms in the US, Canada and Australia. It's a job I have a lot of fond associations with and it's really nice that all the hard work the crew put into it will get some wider visibility. Check out what viewing options are available to you here.

Over on Skwigly I've delved a bit further into the production of the incredible Netflix film The House (the directors of which I interviewed last month) via an interview with Nexus Studios producer/co-founder Charlotte Bavasso. As well as discussing the film itself we also go into the early days of the studio and what the future may hold - it was a real treat to chat with her and I hope you find her insights as inspirational as I did.

Having been out of print for a little while I'm pleased to see that We Still Care A Lot, the tribute album I contributed to in honour of the late Chuck Mosley, has finally gotten itself a digital release. You can check out the full album over on Bandcamp.

Not a whole bunch else I can explicitly talk about but if you happen to be one of those trendy youngsters who lurk about on TikTok you might want to go ahead and follow this little IP that's on the grow. The keen of ear may even detect a familiar vocal performance in the video below:

Finally, these pipes have gone viral.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Roundup: January 2022

Been a quiet-ish start to 2022 as far as things I can publicly mention, so as we reach the end of the month here's a few bits and pieces to throw into the ol' void in one go.

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires
, the insane stop-mo feature I did some bits on a few years ago, is finally being released to buy or rent this coming Monday after last year's brief theatrical run. This is just online and in the UK for now but knock wood there'll be some physical/international release updates soon.

The House, one of the projects I was looking forward to the most in 2022, had the good manners to be released right at the beginning of the year, so I've rather gleefully devoted some time to giving it coverage. Head over to Skwigly and have a read of my review and interview with the incomparably gifted directors Emma De Swaef, Marc James RoelsNiki Lindroth von Bahr and Paloma Baeza. As with Chuck, this boasts some true stop-motion greats among its crew, although tonally it's miles away. Definitely give it a watch if you get a sec.

Going back to something I worked on (in a small sense) - Laura-Beth Cowley's Crafty Witch has a couple more screenings coming up. Firstly the excellent Berlin festival British Shorts (who have been gracious enough to screen my films Klementhro, Sunscapades and Speed in the past) will be showing it tomorrow at two venues - 8pm at City Kino Wedding and 8:15pm at Sputnik Kino. Laura-Beth also spoke with culture blog The New Current about making the film - have a read here.

Another Berlin outing for the film will be on Saturday, February 5th at the Final Girls Berlin festival. Crafty Witch will be screening as part of the 11pm Shorts 6: Midnight programme, again at City Kino Wedding. Grab your tickets here.

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Last Orders

In our final Skwigly Animation Podcast episode of 2021 we're delighted to welcome the teams behind some of this holiday season’s most anticipated animation projects. Our prolific contributor Martyn Warren speaks with Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith, the directors of Disney's Encanto, as well as the film's producer Clark Spencer. We also welcome Jac Hamman and Sarah Scrimgeour, the directors of Magic Light's latest Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler adaptation Superworm which airs 2:30pm Xmas day on BBC1.

Another animated adaptation hitting screens on December 25th is Eagle Eye Drama's take on Terry Pratchett's The Abominable Snow Baby, which airs 7:30pm on Channel 4 following the success of their 2020 animated version of Quentin Blake's Clown; director Massimo Fenati joins us to talk about his career and how the projects came together.

Also discussed in this episode: The recent passing and legacy of respected animation historian Giannalberto Bendazzi, Manchester Animation Festival 2021 event highlights, podcast fanmail, this year’s new South Park specials and the catastrophic reception to the new seasonal stop-motion series Santa Inc. Stream above or clickety-here to download.

If you're after more holiday viewing then it's worth mentioning that the BBC4 documentary Secrets of British Animation was recently repeated, which means it'll be on the ol' iPlayer for the next few weeks. It's a great (if brief) look at what the UK has brought to the table on the animation front, occasionally interrupted by myself and Steve offering up the odd bon mot here and there, so if you missed it the first time around give it a look-see.

A'ight fam, I'm out. See y'all in '22.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Tidings, possibly of the glad variety

Mother of Christ, this year sure pissed by quickly, didn't it?
It's been a busy time leading to a pretty major December deadline, coupled with a bit of a lull between films of my own, so things have been pretty infrequent on the blog posts front. Somehow you've all managed to get by regardless and I applaud your emotional strength. While 2022 will be a bit busier as far as stuff I can shout about, I'll throw up one more batch of 2021 updates (unless we're able to squeeze in a final Skwigly podcast before the year is through) just to remind y'all I exist.

First up is the Ax Wound Film Festival which has just kicked off and whose full schedule is now available online. If you're based in the US or Canada you can catch Laura-Beth's film The Gift as part of their Short Film + Livestream Block F, which may well feature a director Q&A. This'll kick off 8pm Stateside this Wednesday (15th) and be available through to the 20th.

Another film of Laura-Beth's I was able to elbow my way into was Crafty Witch, a film component of her PhD thesis study at UWE's Centre for Fine Print Research. Having recently screened at major film festivals Encounters, Stop Trik and MAF (with more to come), she presented a behind-the-scenes seminar on the processes involved for the CFPR last week which you can watch above.

On the less-interesting subject of my own films, I've received the wonderful news that Speed will be part of the next Anima Brussels programme, specifically their Animated Night screening. This was the event that gave my preceding film Sunscapades its last major festival sendoff moments before the world went and got itself all pandemic-ey, so it's wonderful to see Speed wrap up its festival journey the same way. While I'm not quite sure of the exact screening date yet, the festival will run from February 25th to March 6th so be sure to follow their socials for updates.

It wouldn't be the holiday season without me pointing out that my book Independent Animation, which some might say is literally the most perfect gift imaginable for the animator, animation enthusiast or sentient human in your life (hell, buy it for the dog to chew on, I don't discriminate), is on sale with a merry ol' 20% off. In fact if you combine that with the special promo code X001 at checkout you'll lop off another holly'n'jolly chunk off the price. All that plus FREE shipping - I mean, I'm pretty sure I just saved Xmas, right? You're welcome. I do it out of love.
Seriously, it's full of amazing people talking about amazing work, you'll dig it. And who knows, it might not be around forever...

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Little November round-up for y'all

I've recently finished jury duties (Animated Series and Animated Films for Children) at Russia's Big Cartoon Festival. This is an event that gave Klementhro a lot of love over the years and it's been great to be involved in a new capacity alongside Irene Sparr and Alexey Alekseev. Main awards for Animated Series went to the exceptional Bluey (Under-12s) and Elliott From Earth (Over-12s) with special mentions to Kiri & Lou and The Story of a Word respectively. Best Animated Film went to Guillaume Lorin's wonderful Vanille with a special mention for Louis' Shoes by Théo Jamin, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe and Jean-Géraud Blanc.

Elsewhere in the Big Cartoon Festival programme is Laura-Beth's BBC Arts short film The Gift, which is in the special midnight ТОЛЬКО ДЛЯ ЖЕНЩИН (Women Only) programme which will play online November 6th, 7th and 8th.

The Gift
will also be getting itself a screening at the Ax Wound Film Festival, an event focused on horror written/directed by women and non-binary filmmakers (also winner of best festival name since the invention of festivals). This will be an online event going from December 10th-19th, will pop up updates and specifics if I get 'em but in the meantime keep an eye on their socials. I'm pretty confident it'll be a fun one.

Lastly, Speed will be shown as part of Cardiff Animation Festival's series of in-person screenings of their online 2020 program they've been rolling out since things opened up a bit. If you can make it to the Chapter Arts Centre at 4:30pm on November 21st be sure to check out Shorts 3: Heart to see the film alongside some other great work.

Speaking o' work, I have a metric s**t-ton of it to get through so I'd best wrap this up. Stay warm, folks.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Heavy on the puppets today

In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we welcome Mikey Please and Dan Ojari to discuss their seasonal Aardman short Robin Robin, coming to Netflix next month. Written by Ojari, Please and Sam Morrison, the short is produced by Helen Argo with Sarah Cox exec producing; it's lovely looking and something wholesome to bung on as the nights grow darker and foreboding-er, so be sure to add it to your watchlists.

Also discussed in this episode: Event highlights from this year’s upcoming Manchester Animation Festival, including feature film presentations My Sunny Maad (dir. Michaela Pavlátová) and Flee (dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen), The House WIP, Animated Answers featuring Ainslie Henderson, MAF Fellowship Award recipients Jorge R. Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua’s new series Maya and the Three and the return of the much anticipated/feared Skwigly Animation Quiz.

Stream above or hoarde it for keepsies.

After a long period floating around in distribution limbo Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires (on which I whipped up some old-school, Richard Edlund-esque VFX and made some grunty background noises) will finally be getting itself a UK cinema release. Head over to the film's official site for local showtimes; it'll be around for a week or so from the 29th. If you're not sure what to expect, well, the trailers don't really leave much room for ambiguity:

It's sure to be contentious (I doubt the director would have it any other way) and I have immeasurably fond memories of working on it as well as the wonderful folks I got to know through it. It also boasts some of the strongest stop-motion animation I've ever seen by some of the absolute best in the business; a shame for them, then, that my job was essentially to scribble all over it.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Ben up in everyone's business

It's been a busy few weeks of festive activity with the Encounters Film Festival, whose final week starts today. As has often been the case in recent years I was privileged to host some of the animation Q&A sessions that have been rolled out over the course of the festival. You can give those a watch below should you be so inclined.

Accompanying the presentation of the official selection this year is Reflective Encounters, a series of critical mini-write-ups of the shorts in competition by a variety of journalists and writers including Laura-Beth and myself. If you want to learn more about the films you can have a read of Laura's writings on Joanna Quinn's Affairs of the Art, Michelle and Uri Kranot's The Hangman at Home, Bastien Dubois's Souvenir Souvenir, Mathilde Parquet's Trona PinnaclesDina Velikovskaya's Ties, Daniel Gray's HIDE, Ann Thiel's Shtum, Petra Steptic and Maren Wiese's Jeijay, Yuan Elizabeth Xu's Breaking Bread, Noam Paul's The Quest for Freedom and the Longing for Belonging, Martin McNally's Excerpt, Michael Salkeld's Abstraction and Coffin from Gobelins. Meanwhile I take a look at Marine Blin's What Resonates in Silence, Tomek Ducki's PlantariumKatarzyna Agopsowicz's Prince in a Pastry Shop, Chenghua Yang's Self Scratch, Paul Mas's Precious, Cliona Noonan's Wet and Soppy, Marie Lechevallier's Knot, Claude Cloutier's Bad Seeds, Przemyslaw Swida's Co-Ognition, Yi-Han Jhao's The Frolic and Renee Zhan's Soft Animals

Renee also joins us for the latest episode of our Skwigly podcast Intimate Animation. Since beginning her animation studies at Harvard University, her films also include the Sundance Jury Award-winning Reneepoptosis (recently released online) and last year’s National Film and Television School mini-epic O Black Hole. Give it a listen below - or a download, whatever melts your butter.

Also discussed in this episode - more Encounters highlights including some of our Reflective Encounters focuses as well as the Animated Encounters Grand Prix winner Farce (dir. Robin Jensen), the Best of British Animation Award winner Eating in the Dark (Dir. Inari Sirola), Annah la Javanaise (dir. Fatimah Tobing Rony), Günter Falls In Love (dir. Josephine Lohoar Self), Love is Just a Death Away (dir. Bára Anna Stejskalová), Sweet Nothing (dir. Joana Fischer/Marie Kenov) and Granny’s Sexual Life (dir. Urška Djukić) plus recent work from Henriette Reitz, Christa Jarrold and Future Power Station.

In our latest episode of Animation One-To-Ones earlier in the month I also met Marie Valade, whose film Lolos (Boobs) is screening at part of the Encounters Late Lounge programme. Both equally poignant and witty, the film sees a young woman drawn in ink who is forced to deal with paper breasts that appear on her chest, leading her into increasingly unusual situations that reveal her deepest anxieties. We also discuss Marie's work as co-director of Festival Stop Motion Montreal, whose fifteenth edition just wrapped. You can watch the video above (don't forget to subscribe to our channel so as not to miss future episodes) or stream/download the audio podcast version.

If you're in a reading mood you might also want to check out my written interview with Ida Melum, whose NFTS grad film Night of the Living Dread is screening in both the animation and comedy programmes. The film - in which we follow the nighttime tribulations of Ruby, a young scientist whose attempts at sleep are obfuscated by an ever-relatable onslaught of embarrassing memories - brings Ida’s gift for storytelling, observational comedy and adventurous set pieces together with a full team of talented artists. She's definitely one to watch out for.

The Manchester Animation Festival has revealed its 2021 programme and with it the rather splendid news that Laura-Beth's latest film Crafty Witch (on which I made some noises and tickled some ivories) will be part of their MAFter Dark screening. This will take place in-venue at HOME 8:30pm on November 17th and online an hour later. The day before, festivalgoers can virtually join Steve and I for another edition of our rage-inducing Skwigly Quiz. That'll be at 9:30pm on the 16th so hope to see some of your lovely faces in those Zoom windows. Grab your passes from noon tomorrow!

You can catch Crafty Witch before then - this week, in fact - if you happen to be hanging out in Maribor, Slovenia where the 11th StopTrik International Film Festival is about to kick off. The film will be screening this Thursday at 3pm in the Big Hall at the Vetrinj Mansion as part of the festival's Panorama programme. Don't forget it's also part of the Encounters programme for the next couple days if you happen to have a pass for that.

Look, I went full circle; I'm smooth like that.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Seriously, where's the butter?

Well hey there, gang. Hope your August has been positively majestic.
Been a quiet spell for Speed but we've got ourselves a couple September screenings comin' up. First up is the 16th edition of Breda's BUT B-Movie, Underground & Trash Film Festival over in the Netherlands. I've always had a soft spot for these folks going back to when they screened my old student short House Guest in 2009; more recently they gave my 2018 gore-fest Sunscapades an airing and it's reassuring to know that, six films in, I'm still pretty trashy. This looks like a hybrid festival and Speed will be part of the Shorts Block 2: Mean Girls with the physical screening taking place September 5th 7:30pm at the Nieuwe Veste arts centre. Alas the online program is only available to locations in the Netherlands, but if you're so geographically blessed you can find out more at their website.

Later in the month will see the 10th anniversary edition of FIFIGROT Festival du Film Grolandais over in in Toulouse, France. Speed can be seen in Au bon moment as part of their Bar-Bars Cine-Bistrot et concert programme on the 24th September 8:30pm at O Bohem. Check out their full programme here.

In our latest episode of Intimate Animation Laura-Beth catches up with Will Anderson, whose film Betty was just released online this month following a festival run including screenings at Pictoplasma, Encounters, Animafest Zagreb, GLAS and PÖFF Shorts as well as a BAFTA Scotland win and Scottish Short Film Award at the Glasgow Short Film Festival. As with all of Will's films it's funny and unique as well as being genuinely quite touching. This was one of my favourites of the last couple years and I was privileged to get to screen it as part of Cardiff Animation Nights back in March - definitely give it a watch and have a read of Laura-Beth's longer interview from around this time last year.
Also discussed in this episode: The evolution of Lisa Hanawalt's Tuca and Bertie having moved to Adult Swim for its second season, BlinkInk's E4 miniseries Blind Love on First Date Island, Adeena Grubb's stop-mo short Dating is Shit, Sacha Beely/Strange Beast's animated Gillette spot A Song For Pubes and Diablo Cody's inscrutable “sexying up” of The Powerpuff Girls. Stream above or download 'ere, why doncha?

Lastly it's worth a mention that my book Independent Animation is again available to nab at 20% off as part of the publisher's Social Science sale. In fact for the next little while you can whack that discount all the way up to 40% if you enter the promo code X001 at checkout. Not too shabby, eh? You have to buy it from Routledge, mind, but they cover your shipping so why the ever-lovin'-heck wouldn't you?

Monday, 2 August 2021

Festivities approach...

You like films? Of course you do, you're not a creep. In celebration of liking films and not being a creep then, I bring you the news that the Encounters Short Film Festival have unveiled their Official Selection and, having been a little more involved on the animation preselection side of things than usual this time around, I can attest it's a belter of a line-up. Among some of my personal highlights to watch out for are Marine Blin's What Resonates in Silence, Marie Valade's Lolos, Ida Melum's Night of the Living Dread, Renee Zhan's Soft Animals, Marnik Loysen's Brunch, Urška Djukić's Granny's Sexual Life, Michael Cusack's The Better Angels and Franck Dion's Under the Skin, the Bark as well as work by recent Skwigly interviewees Joanna Quinn (Affairs of the Art), Anna Ginsburg (A Love Hate Relationship), Claude Cloutier (Bad Seeds), Cliona Noonan (Wet & Soppy), Michelle Kranot (The Hangman at Home) and Daniel Gray (Hide).

While I had to recuse myself from selecting it personally (although I would've without hesitation or the tiniest pang of guilt) I'm pleased to see that Laura-Beth's new film Crafty Witch will also be among the selection. I did the post-production on this one but it's the brilliant concept and process Laura-Beth came up with, along with some fantastic animation pre-vis from retro whizkid Sam Shaw, that really makes it.

This year's edition of Encounters will take place online through the entire month of September and you can grab your festival passes here. Fingers crossed there may be some physical events also, so watch this space.

Another event I'll be pitching in on is the British Animation Awards which has opened the Call for Entries for its next edition that will take place March 10th 2022. Be sure to get your new work submitted by October 29th if it falls into any of the following categories:

  • Best Undergraduate Student
  • Film Best Postgraduate Student Film
  • Best Short Film
  • Best Design
  • Best Voice Performance
  • Best Use of Sound
  • Best Music Video
  • Best Children’s Pre-school Series
  • Best Long Form Animation
  • Best Children’s Series
  • Best Animation in a Commercial
  • Writers Award
  • Best Original Music
  • Social Good Award
  • Best Immersive Animation
  • Lamb Award
  • Cutting-Edge Award
  • Factual Award
  • Wildcard Award (new for 2022)

The BAAs will also present their Public Choice category – for which audiences can vote – in the lead-up to the ceremony.