Monday, 25 July 2022

What goes around...

I've been beavering away at a few projects that will start seeing the light of day soon. The first of which is actually released today - a special tenth anniversary edition of my 2012 graphic novel Throat.

This is the first time the entire, non-serialised version of the story has been in print for a fair few years, and it includes all the bonus content from the three-part editions as well as a brand new afterword that was a fun excuse to revisit and reflect on the project. As with pretty much every version of Throat that's come out, there's a standard black and white edition (dark cover) and a full-colour 'deluxe' edition (light cover), depending on how many shekels you're willing to part with in these tough times. If you're not struggling with the ol' finances and are after something a bit more fancy then you might want to hold tight for a limited edition hardcover that will be coming soon. Not 100% clear on the release date of that one just yet but will pop it up when I know.

In the meantime if your interest is piqued and you want a budget option, you can buy the older three-part set from me directly and cheaper than what they go for at most other outlets. I'll be selling the standard B/W set for £5 and the full-colour for £10 (plus shipping), heck if you want 'em signed I can do that although that'll probably just lower their resale value. If anyone's interested pop me a message on Facebook or Insta and we'll work it out.

Friday, 15 July 2022

Seasons of culture

Some news on the international events front this time around. Earlier in the month I was honoured to be part of this year's preselection team for the Fredrikstad Animation Festival that focuses on new work from the Nordic region, alongside festival director Anders Narverud Moen and Merete Korsberg of Krystallplaneten. Given the curational remit of the festival it proved a uniquely interesting look at the current animation scene from that particular corner of the globe and I'm really excited to share the programme we've been able to put together later on in the summer. All being well I'll be over there again for the event itself, which runs from October 20th-23rd, so give us a shout if you happen to be around.

In the meantime, Skwigly have paired up with the Linoleum Contemporary Animation and Media Art Festival for I'M FINE!, a joint cultural project supported by the British Council within the framework of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture. With a focus on mental health, specifically the pernicious issue of burnout, the event will take the form of film screenings curated by Linoleum director Anastasiia Verlinska and Skwigly's Aaron Wood who drafted me in to create some exclusive content with the participating filmmakers that will accompany the programme. We'll also be putting out interview panels as podcasts in the near future, so keep your eyes and ears on the ol' Skwigly podcast feed. As well as I'M FINE! and the accompanying programme Sensitive Content being included as part of Linoleum's online edition via the platform MEGOGO from September 7th-11th, there'll also be some physical screenings starting August 27th at the Chichester International Film Festival.

Obviously with Linoleum being a Ukrainian event the issues presented are especially timely, and while the festival as a whole has been able to continue in spite of unfathomably challenging circumstances they still could do with some help, so if you have any funds to spare you can learn how you can give them a hand here.

Monday, 13 June 2022

That 'monthly roundup' idea didn't pan out, did it?

I've been kinda quiet 'cause, well, shucks, I don't have a whole lot to say these days. I'll rattle off some general updates to keep this site from going into atrophy.

The epic, protracted journey of Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires has reached its conclusion (some five years after I joined the film's post-production team in its latter months) with a suitably-retro home media release. I don't really buy blurays, except for the occasional animation one, but the sheer strength of craft that went into this is a pretty good justification to pick it up and by some accounts I've read this version looks a little nicer than its streaming alternatives.

Another journey's end worth mentioning is my stint with the fine folks at Shy Guys Studios wrapping up after four-and-a-bit years. It's probably the longest I've been at one place (albeit while juggling a ton of other gigs on the side, as my gluttony for punishment dictates) and it led to some really fun projects including graphics and titles for a bunch of TV shows, animation for educational/health films (the one above was a lot of fun) and my most recent film Speed which managed to tick a few more festival selections off my personal wishlist. As with all the best gigs the real highlight was the people I got to meet through it and I hope we'll manage to work alongside one another again down the line.

Elsewhere the world of Emojitown is growing like gangbusters, having just hit a million followers on its main YouTube channel and over 125k on its more recent TikTok channel. I've been working with WildBrain Spark as a consultant and contributing director/producer on its social media shorts which have accrued a stunning 250+ million views since the end of last year. It's a pretty incredible thing to see this kind of response to a brand new IP, so fingers crossed things continue as it's been a fun world to be a part of and occasionally inject my weirdness into.

Things are still active and busy over in the land of Skwigly (I certainly post there a lot more than I do here) with some National Film Board of Canada/Annecy coverage highlights including a chat with Métis filmmaker Terril Calder (Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics) and conversation with multi-Oscar-nominated duo Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby (When the Day Breaks, Wild Life and The Flying Sailor). Also in competition at Annecy is Magical Caresses, an NFB series on demystifying masturbation by Le Clitoris director Lori Malépart-Traversy, who returns to our podcast Intimate Animation to discuss the project. Stream below or download here

Other coverage to check out includes an interview with Hamish Steele who recently adapted his progressive YA graphic novel series Deadendia into a new Netflix show Dead End: Paranormal Park (some brilliantly talented folks worked on this one), Laura-Beth's interview with Sam O'Leary, who did an incredible job paying tribute to the shit-your-pants-scary animated PSAs of yore in the series 7 finale of Inside No. 9 (cheers to Mr. Shearsmith for the RT), a trifecta of interviews for Autism Awareness Month with Jorge R. Gutiérrez, Dani Bowman and Grainne McGuinness courtesy of writer Martyn Warren and new contributor Ryan Gaur's editorial pieces on streaming vs cinema, the upcoming Futurama reboot and the feature film Lightyear.

Ryan joins the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast with a segment interviewing Lightyear director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman. We also feature a chat between Laura-Beth and director/writer Loren Bouchard, co-director Bernard Derriman and co-writer/producer Nora Smith of The Bob's Burgers Movie. Again, it's streamable below and here's your download link, ya lucky so-and-so.

I think that's all the talk-about-ables for now. This summer might see things get a bit less quiet as there are a bunch of project announcements on the horizon, so, y'know, stay mildly alert.

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.