Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Wee Springtime Roundup

Like most Canadians with dignity and self-regard, I'm still reeling from the tragic news of Pauline Marois bowing out. Always a sad day when you see the back of level-headed charmers like her.
While one of the low points of my recent Montreal visit was learning just how terrifying the degree to which certain brands of separatist nonsense had been tolerated, it did remind me that my actual reason for being there was to focus on the more positive state of the arts over there. The initial plan was to put together a Skwigly documentary on the National Film Board of Canada based on their proposed 2014 animation output, but in the intervening four months some of their plans have been shuffled around a bit, so I'm currently rethinking the best way to get the footage out there. As a number of their upcoming films are now all set to debut months apart I'm thinking something more episodic and filmmaker-specific would best suit, so stay tuned.
In the meantime some of the written NFB director interviews are already up, such as Claire Blanchet who directed the fabulous film noir short The End of Pinky, adapted from a short story by Heather o'Neill and which uses 3D stereoscopy to amazing effect; As well as fellow up-and-comer Emmanuelle Loslier, whose own short Inspector Street evokes the surreal humour of Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and PES, amongst others. I also teamed up with Laura-Beth for an interview with Theodore Ushev on his fabulous Gloria Victoria, the final installment in his 20th Century Trilogy, and got a chance to speak with Michelle Kranot, co-director of the fabulous Hollow Land, a story of misjudged assimilation which marries 2D theory with stop-motion puppets.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/producing-animation-michael-fukushima/
Most recently is an exclusive chat with current NFB Executive Producer Michael Fukushima, a supremely friendly and well-dressed fellow who I feel very privileged to have gotten some time with. There are many more similar interviews in the chamber which will hopefully be up soon, not to mention part two of our 2013 Festival Special which is sitting in After Effects, ready to be rendered out. I'm just waiting on some final permissions for footage so knock wood it won't be much longer.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/norman-mclaren-masters-edition/
Lastly, for all you consumers out there who, much like myself, still have that lingering impulse to keep your cultural interests on display in big lovely boxes, I've put up a review of the NFB's spectacular DVD set Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition which puts together seven discs' worth of films and documentaries. The set's a few years old now but given that April is the kick-off month of numerous McLaren centenary celebrations it seemed worth a nod.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Cotton Anniversary

It seems like only two years ago that we began the Skwigly Animation Podcast, mainly as it has. So my time perception is functioning highly, which is nice.
https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/skwigly-podcast-20-31-03-2014/download
This month's entry also marks our twentieth episode and doesn't disappoint on the guest front, with Steve chatting to the spectacular The Eagleman Stag director Mikey Please on his new film Marilyn Myller while Laura-Beth brings us some insight from Ainslie Henderson on his crowdpleasing short I Am Tom Moody as well as his collaborative work with the equally-talented Will Anderson. Also featured are Vivien Halas, currently in charge of preserving the legacy of UK studio Halas and Batchelor, and BAA sting winner Jack David Evans.


https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/selections-from-the-skwigly/download
Also marking the anniversary is a slightly-tweaked version of our Selections From the Skwigly Podcast compilation I originally put together for a promotional CD last year. Featured on it are some of our most noteworthy guests from the first year, including Peter Lord, Genndy Tartakovsky, John Kricfalusi, Bill Plympton, Billy West, Brian Cosgrove, Barry Purves, Robert Morgan and Signe Baumane among others. Since then we've been privileged enough to get such equally notable talents as Eric Goldberg, Adam Elliot, Joanna Quinn, Richard Williams, Chris Landreth, Daniel Sousa, Chris Shepherd, Jerry Beck, Michaela Pavlátová, Lauren MacMullen, John DiMaggio, Richard Starzak, Kirsten Lepore, Daniel Greaves and Marc James Roels, with many more lined up for the rest of this year. I'm pretty proud of what we've managed to achieve and that we've stuck with it rather than let it peter out, which has been the fate of a lot of similar endeavours out there.
All of this is irrelevant, however, as for the third time in five years everything in my life has to take a back seat to the news that, once again: FAITH NO MORE are back!
http://www.bst-hydepark.com/
Granted, it's a support slot, but I'm not exactly going to sniff at getting to see Black Sabbath as well, am I? Or Lemmy, fer chrissakes?
Okay, I get it, I'm old. But in my defense, these bands were already old when I was a kid, so I'm not that old. Just an old soul. A merry old soul.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Libidinous Fruition

Grand news to report, in that Love, Lust and Libido, the Skwigly screening I put together with the lovely Ms. Laura-Beth went down a treat last night. Great turnout and audience response, hopefully we enlightened some folks. Here's the final film list as screened:

Yeah Just There
Dir. Grant Orchard

Amourette/Lust to Dust
Dir. Maja Gehrig

Teat Beat of Sex – Kirby
Dir. Signe Baumane

Einfach/Simple
Dir. Marcus Wende

Venus
Dir. Tor Fruergaard

Divina Lomax
Dir. Òscar Julve
 
Little Deaths
Dir. Ruth Lingford

Sandy
Dir. Joseph Mann

Teat Beat of Sex – Hair
Dir. Signe Baumane

Chick
Dir. Michal Socha

Dipendenza
The Banjo String
Dir. Matt Oxborrow

Achilles
Dir. Barry Purves
 
Teat Beat of Sex – Envy
Dir. Signe Baumane

El Gato
Dir. Galen Pehrson

Base Wanking
Dir. Ross Butter

How to Make Love to a Woman

Dir. Bill Plympton

There's a good chance it might get some repeat showings at other venues around the UK, though probably with a tweaked playlist (El Gato was CineMe's contribution and a couple of the others only granted one-time screenings). Many thanks to James from CineMe for his assistance and Ed from...I'm not sure where, but he helped get us set up on the night. Special thanks of course to the filmmakers themselves and to Laura-Beth for coming up with the main idea. Here are some more of the online flyers I slapped together to promote the event in the days leading up to it:




Also on Skwigly this week is an exclusive video from our recent British Animation Awards coverage in which we interview finalists Tim o’Sullivan (Sarah and Duck, Karrot Entertainment), Bjørn-Erik Aschim and Sam Taylor (Everything I Can See From Here, The Line), Gergely Wootsch (The Hungry Corpse, Beakus), Mark Nute (Laish – ‘Carry Me’):

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

What Once Was

This here's one of those procrastination posts, the kind that keep me from getting on with the crop of proper, important stuff I have laid out for the rest of the evening.
I'm gonna go ahead and come clean, the blog's gonna be pretty sparse for the next little while. Aside from Skwigly roundups like documentaries and podcasts, since the Channel Flip contract ran its course I've gone back to working on projects that can't be publicly discussed. As far as personal projects go, there's always stuff on but I feel like some streamlining needs to be done. I recently sat down in front of Excel and put together a grand master plan to see if I could tie up all the loose ends I have as far as unfinished projects by the end of the year. The conclusion, in short, was "No effing chance."
Nothing new about this. I'm a habitual bite-off-more-than-I-can-chewer, always have been. For every five things I set myself, if I can get two done it's a minor miracle. I guess on some subconscious level I've adopted the approach from my musical hero, entrepreneur and sometime anger sphere Mike Patton:
Study the above video well, mainly the bit before the awfulness of Wolfmother deservedly gets a dressing down. Let's recap the upcoming projects he lists from about seven years back:

•"A couple film soundtracks" - these you gotta give him, as he's scored three feature films and an indie short in the years since.
•"A record of 60s Italian music with an orchestra" - this also got done, came out in 2010 and is bloody great.
•"A record with Dan The Automator" - one assumes this is a project called Crudo, very little of which ever saw the light of day if it was finished at all.
•"A record with Amon Tobin" - Yep, this never happened
•"Me and Rahzel are gonna do a record" - If only, but nothing's appeared as of yet.

So that's two out of five. Am I calling the man lazy? Hells no. I admire his proactivity, and one thing I myself have experienced many a time since this video was filmed is that lots of creative projects fall through for a multitude of reasons. Also, plans change; The Amon Tobin, Rahzel and Dan The Automator albums never materialised but instead we got three live DVDS (with Fantômas, Melvins and Kaada), a third and fourth Tomahawk album, six Moonchild albums, an album with Ictus Ensemble and over twenty guest spots on other records. Oh, and he also had the good manners to rejoin Faith No More for a three-year reunion tour. He performs countless live shows, does voices for video games, runs his own record label - the man's a busy sumbitch. Seriously, I don't understand why someone wouldn't be a fan, if you don't like one of his records you only have to wait ten minutes for a new one that sounds completely different.
So I doff my cap and try and take some cues from his attitude and overall approach as an artist. Not everything one wants to have happen will happen, but as long as you're enjoying the process, go for broke.

Obviously paid work comes first, but as far as things to attempt to get done in my free time, right now I have:
Bullies - fourth film which has been 'finished' since 2013 but still just doesn't quite hold together. If I tweak away at it much longer it's in danger of falling apart completely.
Speed - fifth film I don't think I've ever mentioned before, which is 'half' animated but, complicatedly, not completely written yet.
Throat: Book 3 - pretty much ready to go but waiting on final sign-off for the additional content.
Brain Scrapings - a second volume of sketches following on from Brain Spillage
My Pretties - a compendium of character designs, a very limited run of which went out in 2011 but since the surge of design work last year brought in I'd like to put out a proper, updated edition.
The Birdcage - latest Struwwelpeter album that has been marinating since 2011 after the release of The Book of Women.
Erica - first graphic novel since Throat, although I'm contemplating releasing it as a miniseries of five 20-page comics first.
On top of all these are two potentially major projects I have to bite my tongue about, remastered reissues of all my major musical releases in the past decade or so, an assortment of behind-the-scenes vids, promotional whatchimajiggery and the demanding mistress that is Skwigly, which in and of itself involves documentaries, podcasts, regular written content and the odd field trip.
So, which of the above will get done? Who the bloody bloodying hell knows? Irritatingly I have two more film ideas I really, really want to get started on now, but that would take an already ridiculous situation and make it outright farcical. Realistically the next few months will yield two more Skwigly documentaries which I've been having a blast putting together, the final volume of Throat and, if I'm being super-optimistic, the final cut of Bullies. Whether or not that means other stuff will evaporate remains to be seen. I hope they don't but I don't exactly shift enough units to suggest that the world would stop turning if they do.
So I'll be retreating for a while, to focus on the slog and poke my head out for podcasts and whatnot. On a sort-of related note, I'll be with Skwigly at this year's British Animation Awards to get some coverage of the event, so knock wood there'll be a nice little featurette out of it next week sometime. If any of you folks will be there and I don't seem too squirrely, tap me on the shoulder and say hi.

One last thing, I recently found some source files for two EPs I put out in the lead-up to The Book of Women, one in 2008, the other in 2010. Both feature a smattering of early versions/alternate mixes and I figured there'd be no harm reposting them on my Facebook page. The physical versions of each have long since run out but they each come with printable artwork if you're old school and like your music in them shiny plastic boxes.

Download Sibling Ribaldry EP (2008)
Download Digital Stimulation EP (2010)

Monday, 3 March 2014

Voyeurism

'Chick' (Dir. Michał Socha)
Following the success of our first showcase evening, in two weeks we have a new Skwigly screening event here in Bristol. This time around we're teaming up with James Ewen of CineMe and Tobacco Factory Theatres to present Love, Lust and Libido. As the title indicates, the focus of the screening is themes of relationships and sexuality, so things are bound to get a little risqué.
Flier design by Sereena Knapp
Spanning all forms of animation and storytelling styles, the event is the brainchild of Laura-Beth Cowley and it's been a joy to curate it with her the past few weeks. Some of the international filmmakers involved include Skwigly favourites Ruth Lingford, Signe Baumane and Grant Orchard as well as a bumper crop of both established and up-and-coming talent. For a mere £5 (£3 with concessions) it's sure to be a fun evening out, so swing by and enjoy the ribaldry!
Love, Lust and Libido takes place Monday March 17th, 8pm at the Tobacco Factory Brewery Theatre. For more info and tickets click here.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Shiny Metal 'Cast

♫ New podcast day, new podcast day, ♫
♫ Life's a bit less crap because new podcast day! ♫



https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/skwigly-podcast-19-27-02-2014/download
Another good'un, alongside myself and Steve's riveting discussions of crucial industry developments like the Postman Pat movie and a possible Shrek 5, we have two fabulous guests, John DiMaggio (who was Bender off Futurama, currently Jake in Adventure Time) and Laura-Beth chats to "tiny director/animator" Kirsten Lepore. Kirsten directed the fabulous short film Bottle as well as her more recent Move Mountain which was recently released online:

On top of his voice work, John recently produced a documentary on, fittingly, animation voiceover artists. It's called I Know That Voice and looks pretty damn decent, so keep your eyes peeled for it:
The podcast, as always, can be downloaded, streamed and subscribed to and is still cheap as free, so go get it:
This episode is dedicated to Harold Ramis, a fine chap who, along with the likes of James Gandolfini, Patrice o'Neal and Philip Seymour Hoffman, has joined the ranks of too-soon-departed men I never met but admired hugely.
RIP sir.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Retrovertigo

A series of Skwigly articles I've never brought up here were revived yesterday. They're basically unnecessary critiques of old shows from my youth that have long-since left the airwaves. It's not exactly the most hard-hitting coverage as far as Skwigly goes but they're fun to write. From this point on I want to try and do them more regularly, in the meantime here are the first four:
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show

The Powerpuff Girls

The Real Ghostbusters

Little Shop


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Real wrath-of-God-type stuff

https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/skwigly-podcast-18-29-01-2014/download
Bit of a manic week with a deadline today and two more Friday, so gotta make this one quick. BEHOLD - new Skwigly podcast: Discussion in this episode mainly focuses on the various upcoming awards ceremonies, dotted with the usual tangents such as Croods crudity and fond frog-cock memories. As always you can stream, subscribe or download directly. Guests include the recently Oscar-nominated Daniel Sousa, whose beautiful film Feral is now available to buy online. Also Skwigly correspondent Tom interviews Cartoon Brew's Amid Amidi (he who wrote a rather nifty little book called Cartoon Modern) and Steve talks to British Animation Awards director Jayne Pilling.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/animating-unconscious-book-review/
Jayne also has a few pretty darn decent books on animation under her belt, you can read my recent review of her latest Animating The Unconscious: Desire, Sexuality and Animation here.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/endoftheworld/
On the subject of book reviews, I recently picked up Don Hertzfeldt's wonderful new graphic novel The End of the World from Antibookclub. The capsule review is that I can't recommend it enough, but the full review also went up on Skwigly this week. I also got wind that the man himself reposted it, which is mighty nice indeed.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Social Meh-dia

Back when I first independently released my graphic novel Throat I set up a Facebook page to help promote it and put up some exclusive extra content. Ultimately what really shifted copies came down to the old-fashioned, in-person approach of self-debasement through flyering and convention appearances. The extra visibility of the new, serialised editions of Throat gave things a shot in the arm but I don't have a whole bunch of extra material to keep the Facebook page updated, and given how much slower it's going than anticipated (had things gone to plan all three would have been out by now) I very rarely have news updates.
https://www.facebook.com/benmitchellcreative
So I've basically made the Facebook page about everything I do, just so there's stuff to actually talk about on a regular basis. There's also a trove of character designs, sketches, videos and whatnot I have littered about the place that could all go up over time. Mainly it's so I don't have to go through the rigmarole of setting up a different page to promote each new film/book/album/whatever when they come out, this way things stay in one place. It's another branch of social media to channel my thinly-veiled narcissism through, but at this point enough other creative types do it that I'm not going to pretend to be meek about it. Instead I'll opt for painfully needy:
LIKE ME!
I MUST BE LIKED!
CLICK 'LIKE'* TO SHOW ME YOU LIKE ME!

Ben Mitchell - Creative Offal

While you're liking things on Facebook (you contemporary soul, you) here are a few very decent artist pages to check out in a desperate bid to not come off as entirely self-involved:
 
Chris Reccardi 
Clive Barker
Robert Morgan
Leah Heming
Fatima Yasrebi
Sophie Klevenow
Kris Genijn
Don Hertzfeldt
Tine Kluth
Philippe Vaucher
Rumpus
Bill Plympton
Bros. McLeod
Eric Drooker
Skwigly Online Animation Magazine (what?)

*Also make sure you click 'Follow'. They're sneaky, those scurrilous li'l Facebook elves...

Monday, 13 January 2014

Oy, with that white balance...

http://www.skwigly.co.uk/2013-festival-special-part-1-skwigly-annecy/ 
One of the lingering Skwigly projects I finally knocked on the head during my time away (mainly by scrapping the laboured first attempt and doing a simplified re-edit from scratch) is our first proper documentary covering the animation scene of 2013. Given it's a pretty mammoth event, the first doc is centered entirely on the Annecy International Animated Film Festival which myself and Steve visited last summer.
https://vimeo.com/83090583
I'm pretty proud of the amount of coverage we managed to get done and it's one of the most longform video editing projects I've undertaken in a good long while. Given that it was shot using basic, high street HD camcorders I think it comes off as pretty watchable. While some higher-end technology might bolster the slickness of this type of video, really it's the talent of our interviewees who agreed to be involved that sells it. The line-up includes Marcel Jean, Eric Goldberg, Lauren MacMullan, Robert Morgan, Isabel Peppard, Ainslee Henderson, Will Anderson, Bill Plympton and Chris Landreth, with contributions from Corrie Francis Parks, Kris Genjin, Robbe Vervaeke, Jamie Badminton and Sarah Gomes Harris.

You can stream it online or direct download it, either way if you enjoy it please share it around as I'd love for this to be one of the strands of what we do that has the opportunity to evolve. If nothing else, it should make you appreciate the podcast all the more for not having to look at these two creeps:
Ee-yikes...