Thursday, 14 July 2016

Small steps, giant leaps...
In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we’re joined by Skwigly contributor Wez Allard in discussion of the recent Annecy festival and its film/event highlights, in particular the presentation of Blue Sky’s latest offering Ice Age: Collision Course which is released this Friday in UK cinemas. Joining us are the film’s director Michael Thurmeier and producer Lori Forte who discuss the journey of the franchise, the evolution of its technological sophistication over the years and the process of working with the film’s voice cast among other topics. Give 'er a download or stream below:
Other discussion points of this episode include the value of staying practiced when it comes to animation fundamentals, the legacy of the recently-passed Camberwick Green and Trumpton creator Gordon Murray, hopes for Disney’s upcoming Wreck-It Ralph sequel and Laika’s latest offering Kubo and the Two Strings.
I also talk a little bit about the upcoming release of my book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films, which I'm very happy to say will be tied-in with Skwigly upon its release. In fact there's quite a lot in mind for the ways in which the site and the book will complement one another, and there's some real potential for the book to be the foundation of something quite exciting that I'll be building on in the months (possibly even years) after it comes out. On that note, don't forget the book will be released this September through CRC/Taylor & Francis, so swing by their site and give it a look!

Monday, 11 July 2016

International Waters
My plucky goofabout of a film Klementhro continues its tour of Germany as July toddles along. Shorts Attack is taking its Travel Stories programme to the following venues over the next couple of weeks:
July 13th, 9pm - Lichtwerk Kino, Bielefeld
July 14th, 9pm - Babylon Kino, Fürth
July 15th, 9pm - Casablanca, Nürnberg
July 16th, 8pm - Filmraum, Hamburg
July 18th-20th - Arsenal Kino, Tübingen
July 19th-20th, 7:30pm - Haus Rode, Dortmund
July 20th, 9pm - Puschkino, Halle
Hope some of y'all in them Germanic regions can make it to a screening!
Several thousand miles west (or a lot further east if you chose to go the other way) in the wonderful city of Montreal, Klementhro will make its Canadian debut as part of the Animaze Montreal International Animation Festival. Très bon! The city being my sometime-stomping grounds, I'm really happy and grateful to finally have something of mine play over there - at the Museum of Fine Art, no less! That's right, Klementhro is officially 'fine art', there's no going back now. The festival runs from August 18th-21st, will post the usual update when I have an idea of when exactly the screening will happen, in the meantime check out the full selection here.
Seems like a nice place to spend some time over the summer...

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Next Leg
Gute Nachrichten! My latest film Klementhro will be paddling its way across Germany throughout July as part of the touring programme Shorts Attack, put together by the fine folks at Interfilm. It will play alongside other films linked by the theme 'Travel Stories' by such excellent directors as Fluorescent Hill, Mark Lomond, Zsuzsanna Kreif, Borbála Zétényi and Jossie Malis among others. Things kick off this Saturday (July 2nd) 9pm at the UT Connewitz venue in Leipzig, followed by three simultaneous screenings on Wednesday July 6th at the Kinobar Prager Frühling (8:30pm, again in Leipzig), Berlin's Acud Kino (9pm) and the Medienhaus in Hannover (9pm).
Later in the week the programme will play in Hamburg at Filmraum (Saturday July 9th, 8pm) and the following night in München at the Werkstattkino. Check back here for more dates/venues later in the month!
I'm particularly pleased that the film is continuing what's been a long-running and very harmonious relationship between my work and European territories, especially given the recent outcome of the EU referendum that's left a lot of us shaken. In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast myself and Steve attempt to make some sense of it all and talk through the potential ramifications Brexit may have on the animation industry should it go forward. If nothing else this is one of the more cathartic episodes we've ever put out. In a sunnier second half we also welcome the talents behind the latest Disney/Pixar box-office smash Finding Dory as well as its accompanying short film Piper, both of which we were able to catch at this year's Annecy festival. Stream below or direct download (of course you can always subscribe and never miss an episode).

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


"Look into the mirror, look into your soul!"
I'm back from my not-as-rainy-as-expected Annecy trip and feel like I've run a marathon. It was a whirlwind of catch-ups, meet-ups, write-ups, interviews, parties, rain-dodging, sun-spotting, networking and completely responsible drinking; all in all, we made massive pests of ourselves and had a blast doing so.
Following on from last week's pre-fest round-up, here's the first batch of coverage put out while we were over there (and check back later in the week as there's plenty more to come). Firstly, as promised, you can have a read of my interview with Franck Dion, whose film The Head Vanishes was one of my personal highlights of the festival that had the good manners to win the Short Film Cristal!
I also note with glee that another top pick, Theo Ushev's Blind Vaysha, received not only the Jury Prize but the Children's Jury Prize - you can have a read of my recent interview with him about that project here.
Another Cristal winner (also picking up an Audience Award) was the gorgeous feature film My Life as a Courgette by Claude Barras. While it initially lured a lot of festivalgoers in simply by looking pretty, when word got around about just how amazing it was on the whole the remaining screenings sold out pretty quickly. You can have a read of my attempt to put my own enthusiasm about it into words in my review, which went up today.
Also discussed previously, I was able to chat with Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming about her feature-length NFB production Window Horses, brought to life by an assortment of top Canadian animation talent such as Kevin Langdale and Janet Perlman. It's a lovely film and a tremendous showcase of different animation approaches and styles, so keep an eye out for it.
The latest episode of the podcast is our first to be recorded from the festival's gathering ground for inebriate tourists, Captain Pub. Give it a listen to hear about my travel woes, an interview with Chris Renaud (director of The Secret Life of Pets, which saw its premiere at Annecy on Thursday) plus Katie and Julia join us to discuss Annecy's good sportsmanship traditions. Download here, subscribe or stream below:

Later on in the week we did our first ever live vodcast via the Skwigly Facebook page, where myself, Steve and Katie discuss some of the highlights of the fest as well as the grim fate that befell our Marketing Director Aaron.
I also swung by the Toon Boom booth at MIFA to catch up and found myself being interviewed about Skwigly, the festival and my upcoming book Independent Animation. You can give it a watch below:
On our last day I met the world's biggest Klementhro fans, one of whom being acclaimed Lithuanian animator and caricaturist Ilja Bereznickas who was keen to immortalise me, throwing in some references to the film (cheers to Steve for documenting).
Will post again soon with more good stuff from the fest, in the meantime check out the full list of special prize recipients and award winners from this year's edition!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

I hope I packed enough sunscreen

Happy Sunday everyone! Typin' atcha while bathed in the eerie, warming glow of Bristol Airport's flourescent lights at a time of morning I'm very rarely awake either by or until. Soon, however, I'll be Annecy-bound and it's sure to be a fun jaunt, if wet and exhausting. There'll be lots of Skwigly coverage, naturally, in fact some of it's already gone up. Steve has a round-up of the UK presence at the fest while I catch up with Patrick Osborne, he who directed the universally-beloved Oscar-winning Disney short Feast (that we spoke with him about previously). Since then he's been working away with the Google ATAP team on the VR film Pearl that festivalgoers can check out at the festival, where Patrick will also be part of a panel discussion on the possibilities and practicalities of VR filmmaking.
While most of what Annecy has on offer will be new to me, there are few personal recommendations for others who are attending that I have from my various travels and dealings in recent months. On the features side of things, look out for Ann Marie Fleming's NFB film Window Horses, which draws on the talents of some wonderful animators to tell a story of Iran's cultural landscape from the perspective of an out-of-water Westerner (I also have a director interview going up next week).
Also worth a watch is the fascinating Psychonauts: The Forgotten Children by Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero, a feature-length outing for the characters established in the short film Birdboy boasting much-improved design and animation and some unexpectedly bizarre humour that was right up my street. You can read my full review of the film for more on what I made of it.
I also have to give props to Penny Lane's Nuts! - it's a film that at first strikes the viewer as misguided and a little confused, being an adaptation of a clearly non-impartial biopic of medical and broadcast pioneer 'Doctor' John Brinkley. As it goes on, however, all confusions are evaporated, revealing a very astute and commendable character study. Ironically my only issue with it is the animation, but I'll expand on why when my review goes up later in the week.
As far as short films are concerned, again there's a lot I've not yet seen but of the ones I have here are some absolutely cracking pieces of work to watch out for:
How Long, Not Long (Michelle Kranot/Uri Kranot, Denmark)
Squame (Nicolas Brault, Canada)
Spoon (Marcus Kempken, Germany)
Stems (Ainslie Henderson, UK)
Blind Vaysha (Theo Ushev, Canada) 
Accidents, Blunders and Calamities (James Cunningham, New Zealand)
The Head Vanishes (Franck Dion, France) - interview going up on Skwigly tomorrow.

In non-Annecy Skwigly round-up news, on top of an interview with Ren & Stimpy APC veteran and Looney Tunes-redesigner Jessica Borutski about her new show Bunnicula, last week was largely devoted to shining a bit of a spotlight on some fresh-faced Canadians who have recently made their first professional animated films as part of the National Film Board of Canada's ongoing Hothouse apprenticeship scheme. We did a similar thing last year, this time around hearing from Hothouse alumnus and Mentoring Director Malcolm Sutherland, as well as the filmmakers themselves: Curtis Horsburgh, Duncan Major, Rhayne Vermette, Lorna Kirk, Catherine Dubeau and Pascaline Lefebvre. There's some really lovely work there and the films are all very short, so give 'em some love.
Righto, time to wrap up, I've got a plane to catch.
UPDATE: No I don't! Not for another five goddamn hours. Top notch work, EasyJet!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

What happened, Billy?
So more good news for June, to follow on from Monday's post I just got the memo that Klementhro is also playing at Porto 7 - Oporto International Short Film Festival tomorrow, June 9th. It's in the festival's Competition 4 screening that kicks off at 11:30pm. Full venue and programme info can be found at the festival website.
As well as being the film's Portuguese debut this inclusion also marks the third film of mine to be shown at this festival, with Ground Running and The Naughty List both getting an airing back in 2012. So obrigado to the Porto 7 team, I'm stoked to be involved again!
Looking forward, here's another GIF character preview for my next film Sunscapades. Meet Billy, the non-IP-infringing friendly ghost!

Monday, 6 June 2016

You can't keep a good Klementhro down

A good year in, I've finally gotten off the ol' tuchus and slapped together a teaser trailer for Klementhro. Enjoy the vagueness!
I've also learned my prior assumption that the film would be having a quiet month until July has turned out to not be the case. The film will play in Romania (the country of its premiere) at the Ploiești International Film Festival in their Dark Comedy screening, which runs at 8:30pm Thursday June 16th and again at 4pm Friday June 17th at the AFI Palace.
That week I'm very happy to say I'll be back in France for the Annecy Festival, mainly for meetings about a few projects on the boil, but I'll also no doubt be pestering some of the talent for interviews and hopefully getting some sunnage and swimmage in. If anyone's there do give me a shout! Daytime drinking is always more acceptable when one has company.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Living Legends

It's been a particularly busy week over in Skwiglyville, with highlights including Katie's interviews with voice actor Jeremy Shada of Adventure Time fame and Jackson Publick, creator of the longest-running Adult Swim series The Venture Bros. Plus migraine-riddled worrywart Dani recounts her bank holiday weekend spent devoted to making an animated short from scratch and Laura-Beth interviews the team at MewLab about their ambitious installation-cum-short The Evening Her Mind Jumped Out of Her Head (which some of you may have seen at our MAF screening last year).
Meanwhile my Lightbox video interview series has kicked off again, featuring a chat with Job Roggeveen and Joris Oprins; two thirds of Job, Joris and Marieke, the Oscar-nominated studio who've made such fantastic work as MUTE, A Single Life and their latest, (Otto). You can hear from remaining team member Marieke Blaauw in our recent KLIK! Podcast minisode.
On the subject of podcasts, we've officially barrelled past the fifty-episode mark and are pleased to welcome back the legendary Bill Plympton, whose divisive (the LA Times call it one of his "most entertaining feature films", the AV Club call it "fundamentally misconceived") new film Hitler's Folly is free to stream from his website as of today. We also chat about other projects including Revengeance, the next fully-animated feature he has lined-up, a collaboration with kindred spirit Jim Lujan. As I've doubtless mentioned before, I credit Bill with my decision to shift my attentions from motion graphics to character animation and storytelling and am always stunned by just how prolific he is (he's like the Mike Patton of animation), so it's always a privilege to feature him on the show. Stream below, download here or subscribe for future listenin'!
Another crucial influence at a key stage in my animation studies was legendary Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer, whose gloriously bizarre work embraces animation's full potential and often tows the line between comedic and nightmarish (an interplay I have a particular fondness for). As such I'm beyond thrilled to have gotten an interview with the man himself, which is up today. This was no easy feat with the language barrier - to the best of my awareness his English is only marginally better than my Czech - so I'm hugely grateful to him and his team for taking the time with their translation efforts.
Jan Švankmajer in his atelier (©Kazumi Terazaki)
In the interview we mainly discuss what he has declared to be his final feature film Insects, which he is presently crowdfunding. It looks to be an absolutely wonderful endeavour that embraces everything I love most about his work and process, I hugely advise you all to give it a look and help it become a reality!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Summer Break

It's been a long journey for our simple lad Klementhro, but the last stops of Kurzfilmnacht Schweiz, the first leg of the Short Film Nights tour focusing on Swiss-German speaking cities, will be this Friday (27th) and Saturday (28th) in both Uster and St. Gallen. For both nights the Uster programme will start at 8:30 at the Kino Qtopia while things kick off a little earlier (8pm) in St. Gallen at the Kinok Lokremise. Many thanks to the folks at Short Film Nights and I'm looking forward to the second leg of the tour later on in the year!
In the meantime Klementhro will be laying down his paddle for June (I'd had my fingers crossed the film would be picked to screen at Bill Plympton and Nancy Phelps's wonderful Annecy + party - which included The Naughty List a few years back - but alas it looks like the event is taking a hiatus this year) though it will be back in Germany for Shorts Attack, a series of themed screenings from Interfilm Berlin, in July! Exact time(s)/date(s) to follow.
I'm also happy to report that the recent burst of activity and wonderful response the film received has broken a dam, so to speak, and I've been filled with a renewed energy to make more films. While I'm not quite ready to start uttering the B-word again, I have scripts for several short'n'bizarre - as well as one not-so-short-but-especially-bizarre - film ideas that I'm itching to get started on, the first of which (working title: Sunscapades) I've already put a rough animatic together for and even done some early assets/animation tests. I'll leave you with one of the latter to chew on:

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The podcast that wouldn't die

Don't want to fall behind on the updates, so here are our latest Skwigly podcasts for May if you've not yet chanced upon them yet. Both of these feature the wonderful Laura-Beth taking time out of her busy MA to speak with the excellent filmmaker Conor Whelan (director of the enchanting Snowfall) and Joe Brumm (whose work includes the short film The Meek and some of CollegeHumor's most popular animated skits, including Tinderella and Paperman Threesome). Laura-Beth and I also go through some of the Stuttgart official selections that stood out the most, including some fantastic work by Chloé Alliez, Erik van Schaaik and Joost Lieuwma among others, while regular co-host Steve and I discuss animation highlights from CIFF, creepy animated propaganda, animation's debatably racist roots, upcoming films and festival etiquette.
The latest episode brings us up to 50 shows. Back in the days when we first began, where I'd grumble about crap like the Road Runner and Steve was obsessed with listmaking (we've both come so far), I don't think either of us thought it would last this long. Thanks to all for the support over the years and here's to another fifty!
Stream below, subscribe or, if you want to save them for later, download episodes 49 and 50 respectively.