Tuesday, 1 January 2019


And we made it to 2019. Go us.
While 2018 was a very positive year for work and creative endeavours, in the real world we had a barrage of sadnesses to deal with that all came to a head in December. Such is life and its strange, at times arbitrarily cruel ways. Needless to say I am in awe of my wife, whose incomparable beauty in body and soul is matched by immeasurable selflessness under the hardest of circumstances. Would that we should all be so lucky to have such people in our lives and be better in ourselves as a consequence; maybe the world would be less streaked with the impotent rage and entitlement and fear that seems to be driving us forward these days.
Ultimately right now I'm in a bit of a bubble where most of the stuff I write about on here (chiefly the podcastey/cartooney stuff), seems especially frivolous and my energy to accompany news updates with not-especially-pithy asides is pretty much nil. But I do continue to have enormous gratitude and respect for the arts festivals and magazine/podcast guests that give me their time, not to mention my employers and students, and so for the next little while I'll try and keep this site updated when I can, but if it seems a little more dry and methodical than usual, well, this is why. That was a long, clunky sentence.
Firstly a little correction, last month I mentioned that the In-Short Film Festival based in Lagos (not to be confused with the near-identically-named InShort Film Festival) had selected Sunscapades to screen although the info they supplied was a little vague. Suspicions proved valid as it turns out they had been telling everyone who was preselected (possibly everyone who submitted) that their work had gone through so that they would spread awareness of the festival and boost its social media presence. Be it an innocent mistake or deliberate chicanery it's pretty poor form either way so I'd flag this event as one to avoid in future. Even this many years in I still occasionally learn lessons about being more discerning in which festivals to submit to and I guess this was one of those occasions.
Fortunately there are some more reputable events that Sunscapades will be involved with this month. Firstly I'm really pleased to again be part of the London Short Film Festival following Klementhro's inclusion back in 2017. This time around I'll be part of the New Shorts: Animation Variety Showcase on Sunday January 13th, 4pm at the Regent Street Cinema.
Then for the film's German debut another festival to have previously included Klementhro is the British Shorts Film Festival based in Berlin. They'll be screening Sunscapades in Festival Screening #3 at the Sputnik Kino on Friday January 18th at 11pm.
The following night the film sees its Belgian premiere at the Brussels Independent Short Film Festival: Courts Mais Trash in their Unclassifiables 2 section. This one will be at 7:30pm at Les Riches-Claires.
Finally for its first outing in Jamaica the KingstOOn Animation Festival will be showing it among their line-up at the University of Technology in Kingston. The festival runs from January 18th-27th and while I don't have an exact time yet the schedule should be up on their website soon.
And that's it for now. Be excellent to each other, my friends.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Everybody Scream

In our last Skwigly Animation Podcast of 2018 we look back at the seminal stop-motion feature The Nightmare Before Christmas which this year celebrated its 25th anniversary – and I'm delighted to welcome the film’s screenwriter Caroline Thompson to discuss her career and contributions to the film. It was especially exciting as Caroline also wrote Edward Scissorhands and the 1991 Addams Family movie, both of which were also favourites of mine growing up although Nightmare is definitely at the top of that particular leaderboard. Her other projects include Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Black Beauty, Corpse Bride and the recently-released Welcome to Marwen (out in the UK this January). Download here or listen below:
I want to give a special shout-out to my pal Isabel Peppard who helped put this in motion - I hadn't really planned out putting out a podcast this month for various reasons but thanks to her help this all managed to come together very quickly and sort of out of nowhere. I interviewed Isabel about her work for the site as well as our 2013 Annecy documentary and you can follow her amazing work on Instagram.
Don't have much else to offer on a Xmassey theme save for this looping animation I did the other day. I think it's pretty self-explanatory:
And to all a good night!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Last Orders

In the fourth episode of Independent Animation, the companion podcast series to my book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films (still on sale, folks!) I explore the daunting world of taking on feature-length indie animation with several auteurs who’ve taken the plunge. Building on the book’s explorations of major case studies including well-established artists such as Bill Plympton, Signe Baumane and Nina Paley, in this podcast several relative newcomers in the animation world talk about the challenges they faced when both taking on and releasing such mammoth endeavours without a pre-existing fanbase or substantial crew. These include Joel Benjamin (Where It Floods), Nicholas De Fina (LeSeurdmin) and Dan Ekis (Grey Island), who had me on his own indie animation-themed podcast last year.
Also in this episode I speak with Natasha Price of Engine House, a Cornwall-based studio who are embarking on their own indie feature Back From The Dead Red thanks to the support of blockchain entertainment studio SingularDTV. If nothing else you all might enjoy listening with amusement as I attempt to fathom what blockchain even is like the out-of-touch fool I am. You can stream the episode above or direct download, whatever excites you more.
Just to shake out the last few drops of 2018 festival news before the year comes to a close, the Ploiesti International Film Festival's Dark Comedy screening featuring Sunscapades will be taking place this coming Tuesday, December 18th 9pm at the Filarmonica ”Paul Constantinescu” Ploiești.
Later in the week/month the film will supposedly screen at the In-Short Film Festival in Lagos, marking not only the film's African premiere but the first ever screening of any of my films in Nigeria. While they can't seem to decide if the event itself takes place on the 20th-22nd or the 27th-29th (and the comments on their Facebook page make for interesting reading) I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Unless anything else pops up in my inbox I believe that's it for 2018. While this film has proved a harder sell than I'd honestly anticipated, the last few months of screenings and audience responses have been a massive boost and I'm really glad it's been finding itself some little cracks to fill. Who knows, maybe there'll even be a Sunscapades 2: Still Sunscapadin' one day.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Unseasonable Warmth

I'll start as I intend to go on with this entry; radiating sunbeams of positivity that will warm your heart and carry you through the day. In that spirit I'd like to let you all know that Taylor and Francis/CRC Press have resumed their site-wide sale - that sees my book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films available at 20% off - through to the end of year. Plus you save even more if you grab it up with another CRC book - or why not just buy multiple copies of mine and stuff them in the stockings of your nearests and dearests this holiday season? You'll have to really ram them in there though, they're quite bulky.

It's a busy end of the year for Sunscapades, and I'm excited to be headed down to the London International Animation Festival this Saturday for its inclusion in the Late Night Bizarre programme (9pm at the Horse Hospital - be sure to come or all those horse ghosts will never find peace).
On December 13th the film returns to Brazil for the CRASH (formerly TRASH) International Fantastic Film Festival. This will be part of the 3pm International Shorts 1 screening at the Cine Cultura in Goiânia.
Kicking off shortly after that will be Romania's Ploiesti International Film Festival, an event that had the damn fine taste to screen Klementhro back in 2016. Reassuringly Sunscapades has also passed muster and will be playing in the festival's Dark Comedy section.
It will also be presented in Georgia at the Tbilisi International Film Festival 6pm tonight at the Cinema House as part of a special Best Of British Animation screening curated by the Anilab/Encounters Festival team and introduced by my pal Laura Tof.
Speaking of UK Animation, as previously mentioned the BBC4 documentary Secrets of British Animation screened last night to much enthusiasm and will be available on the BBC iPlayer for the next month or so if you didn't catch it. Personal highlights include a wonderful segment on Joanna Quinn and a behind-the-scenes look at my 2017 summer fling Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires. At only an hour it could never have been a fully comprehensive overview of all of British animation's best and brightest, but the laundry list of conspicuous absences make a pretty good case for a follow-up doc or maybe something more like a series down the line. Fingers crossed someone over at the BBC feels the same way. At any rate be sure to get it watched while you can and massive kudos to director Seb Barfield, producer Sophie Taylor and the rest of the Academy 7 team for a fantastic job.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Skwigly: We're woke as f*ck

In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we welcome back one of our earliest guests, Paperman director John Kahrs, whose latest film Age of Sail was made for Google Spotlight Stories and launched online earlier this month. Give 'er a listen below or direct download here.
Also discussed in this episode: Skwigly’s Manchester Animation Festival events, the brilliance of Frame Order, Women In Animation’s male allies panel at Annecy, the response to Ringling College’s dismissal of Anime and the upcoming BBC4 documentary Secrets of British Animation. - the broadcast date for which has been confirmed as this Sunday, December 2nd at 9pm. So pencil it in, you pencilling little pencillers!
On the subject of firming up times and dates, I now know that Sunscapades will screen as part of the 16th MUMIA Underground World Animation Festival's International Competion 8 programme at 6:30pm December 6th at the Sesc Palladium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Should be a fun time, so get your fine Brazilian selves down there.
Speaking of Brazil, following the series' broadcast earlier this year on CINEBRASiLTV, one of the episodes of the Brazilian preschool series Lendas Animadas that I animated is now available to watch for free on the streaming platform comKids. It will probably make it easier if you speak Portuguese, although I can't and I followed it well enough to animate it. I'm pretty sure the main message is that singing turtles are troublemakers.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sunnier Climes

A few more little spurts of news to keep y'all in the loop. Firstly I'm glad to hear that Sunscapades will be playing at the 16th MUMIA Underground World Animation Festival in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. These folks previously included The Naughty List and Klementhro in their tenth and fourteenth editions respectively, and every time I have work played there it's always in grand company indeed. This year's official selection also includes such amazeballs talents as Anete Melece, Job, Joris and Marieke, Jennifer Zheng, Steven Woloshen and Tal Kantor. The full list can be found here and I'll get back to you with exact screening times and locations.
In a few days' time however you can catch the film at the 2018 Animation Marathon - well, you can if you happen to be in Greece. Sunscapades will be playing in Competition 7 which plays twice this Friday, November 23rd - 1pm at the Serafeio Complex, then 6pm at the University of Athens.
I expect many of you will be caught up in the fevered fervour that is Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or whatever name has been assigned to our culture's hallowed tradition of consumer discounts by corporate decree this year. While a brief search does indeed indicate that my book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films can be picked up at various percentages off at various online outlets, it looks like the best deal you can get is if you grab it from the publisher directly, as until this Wednesday (the 21st) it's available at a whopping 20% off (25% off if you get more than one Taylor and Francis book)! As far as seasonal gifts go - for either yourself or the aspirational animation filmmaker in your life - one could do a lot worse, as it's crammed with inspiration, advice and wisdom from the cream of the indie animation crop. Plus the shipping is free. FREE, I TELLS YA!

Friday, 9 November 2018

November News Dump

This week on Skwigly our tradition of bringing our lovely listenership a taste of the KLIK Amsterdam Animation Festival has continued, with another batch of podcast minisodes released featuring all of this year's filmmaker Q'n'A sessions. This time around the interviews are hosted by Anna Eijsbouts, who herself was featured as one of the directors in our recent Cardiff Animation Festival minisode series earlier this year with her film Hate For Sale. These chats span a huge gamut of perspectives and insights into student, indie and professional filmmaking so definitely give them some of your time. You can listen to the full set of minisodes below:
Speaking of festivals, don't forget that next week is the fourth edition of the Manchester Animation Festival, fast becoming one of the industry's most exciting fests and boasting its best line-up to date. As well as the usual programmes there are special events including a Barry Purves retrospective and behind-the-scenes presentations for Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, Isle of Dogs, This Magnificent Cake and The Highway Rat, not to mention a whole heap of panels loaded with industry wisdom if that's what you're in the market for.
Of course the event with the most bang for its buck is the cheap-as-free Skwigly Screening, another selection of excellent shorts (plus Sunscapades for filler) that aren't playing elsewhere at the festival. These were personally hand-picked from various showcase scoutings and festival preselections I've been involved with over the last year or so as well as a couple of recommendations from the MAF team that didn't quite make the official selection. These screenings are always a joy to put together and I hope some of you can check it out. It'll take place 5pm Wednesday November 14th at the Event Space in the festival's main venue HOME. The full list of films are as follows:
  • Living Like Heta (Dir. Bianca Caderas/Isabella Luu/Kerstin Zemp)
  • Donald Trump Watching The Voice (Dir. Joost Lieuwma)
  • Ooze (Dir. Kilian Vilim)
  • Thirsty (Dir. Oscar Barany)
  • Room (Dir. Michał Socha)
  • Winston (Dir. Aram Sarkisian)
  • The Hanging of Cowboy Benny (Dir. Joost Lieuwma)
  • Haley and Joanna (Dir. Laura Jayne Hodkin)
  • Adam (Dir. Emma Allen)
  • Sunscapades (Dir. Ben Mitchell)
  • Flipped (Dir. Hend Esmat/Lamiaa Diab)
  • Letting Go (Dir. Ülo Pikkov)
  • Fortune Telling at the Airport (Dir. Joost Lieuwma)
Immediately afterward in the same room Steve and I will be torturing festivalgoers with another edition of our infamous Skwigly Quiz. The questions will kick your arse but the prizes will be pretty amazing so you may as well try your luck. On the following day (the 15th) you should also swing by the Student Films Panorama to catch Laura-Beth Cowley's wonderful Boris-Noris. The one will be at 2:20pm at Cinema 2.
Also on the 15th I can confirm the screening time for Sunscapades at the Abertoir International Horror Festival of Wales will be at 3pm for Short Films Competition Part 1. The festival takes place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Ceredigion, Wales and should be a blast, so check out the full schedule here and swing by if you can.  
Right after that will be the Rome Independent Film Festival, an event that will see Sunscapades return to the fragrant shores of Italy. You can catch it in the shorts programme that will kick off at 4:20pm at the Nuovo Cinema Aquila on Monday November 19th!
Meanwhile, back here in the rainy U of K, the BFI will be presenting a special preview of a new BBC4 documentary Secrets of British Animation followed by an onstage chat with the director Seb and the legendary Joanna Quinn, who I gather is featured quite prominently in the documentary (rightly so). I've not seen it yet but having had some peripheral involvement in it I can definitely say it's been put together with a lot of love and consideration. Plus hearing Joanna talk animation is always a joy, so if you can get yourself a ticket you won't regret it. Right now the broadcast date isn't 100% confirmed but I'll follow up when I know for sure.
One last November nugget to nibble on is the excellent news that, following the first game's release on Nintendo Switch earlier this year, The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle - Episode 2: A Bleaker Predicklement will be doing likewise on the 22nd! Be sure to get it downloaded and treat yourselves to more puzzles, puns and dubious, hopefully-not-actually-offensive accents from my good self.
Now g'wan and get back to work, you.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


Just in time for Halloween, our spooky eighty-sixth episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast features directorial duo Dale Hayward and Sylvie Trouvé - whose National Film Board of Canada film Bone Mother has been released online this month - speaking with Laura-Beth. We also round-up some creepy animated short film highlights we've caught during our recent patronage of the BFI London Film FestivalCardiff Animation Nights and the Encounters Late Lounge and get up to speed on the progress of Marimo, while Steve and I discuss the legacies of two dearly-missed animation stalwarts Roger Mainwood (Ethel and Ernest) and Claymation pioneer Will Vinton, whose work has and will doubtless continue to leave a lasting impression on animation history. As always you can either direct download or give it a stream, although if it's still the 31st when you're reading this I'd recommend the latter as there's a 50/50 chance you'll get to hear a secret (well, not so much now) 'haunted' version of the episode. 
Sticking with the theme, the next festival that will be featuring my own creepy short Sunscapades is Abertoir: The International Horror Festival of Wales that takes place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre from November 13th-18th. I'm not sure when exactly the film will screen just yet but I'm assuming it'll be either Thursday 15th or Friday 16th in one of the shorts programmes. In the meantime treat yourself to a gander at the festival line-up, it looks like a pretty fantastic event, all things considered.
Right, back to my evening of waiting for trick-or-treaters to show up and watching their faces fall when I give them handfuls of loose Fisherman's Friends. You've got to keep active as the nights draw in, folks.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Spreading Some Sunshine

As the days grow darker and chillier I take some comfort in seeing that Sunscapades is gradually picking up steam, with international screenings scheduled through the new year and the online community ablaze and agog with chatter about its impact on the independent filmmaking scene (by which I mean a few people have tweeted about it). One upcoming event who've just announced their full programme is the excellent London International Animation Festival, one I've frequently attended in a Skwigly capacity but never before as a filmmaker. Fortunately Sunscapades has been deemed grim enough to be part of their Late Night Bizarre programme on Saturday December 8th at the Horse Hospital, an indie arts venue that's no doubt riddled with angry horse ghosts whose vengeful equine spirits can only be assuaged by my cartoon merriment. You know how it goes.
In the more immediate future I have some updates on the busy few days the film has ahead, with screenings in Wales, Serbia and the US coming up. First off the SoDak Motion Festival in Brookings SD will include it on October 25th in their official selection that kicks off at 7pm. This will be at the South Dakota Art Museum (I'd previously mentioned it would also play in Sioux Falls on the 27th but I gather that one's been cancelled - FIE ON YOU, SIOUX FALLIANS. FIE I SAY!).
The following evening it will be in Serbia for Film Front, who've now announced the International Selection screening time will be 8pm at the Novi Sad Cultural Center.
Finally on Saturday 27th I'll be heading over to Chapter in Cardiff to catch the film's inclusion as part of Cardiff Animation Frights, which starts at 7pm - tickets for the screening are now on sale and as it's my birthday eve I'll be in an extra jubilant mood, so come along and keep me company as I continue to age gracelessly.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sunny Disposition

Getting to see Sunscapades in front of a proper festival audience for the first time at Encounters last month was pretty darn wonderful and a hard one to top. However the massive crowd at yesterday's BFI London Film Festival screening proved to be up to the task. I was also blessed to be among some fab film talent whose work was also screening - including recent Skwigly interviewee Anna Mantzaris - not to mention most of the Sunscapades crew Laura-Beth, Hannah, Fiona and Phil. I appreciate that when men who look like me get sentimental it just comes off as creepy so I'll be brief in once again voicing my love and gratitude to such a fabulous team as well as Elaine and the rest of the LFF gang for letting my creepy little film be part of such a great event. If you missed the Real Horrorshow screening yesterday then you can still check it out this Thursday 6:30pm at Rich Mix, if you act fast there are a handful of tickets still available here.
Having sadly missed the fourth birthday celebration evening for Cardiff Animation Nights I'm excited to be swinging by later in the month for their special pre-Halloween screening Cardiff Animation Frights, curated by the wonderful Dani and at which Sunscapades will again be playing. So let's all go ahead make scare ourselves shiteless at Chapter on the 27th (screening will kick off at 7pm, after which I'm sure there'll be a beverage or several to be had).
That same weekend the film will be getting its hotly-anticipated (in so far as nobody's explicitly informed me that it isn't) Serbian debut at Film Front, or Filmski Front as is more fun to say. These fine folks previously programmed my films Ground Running and The Naughty List back in 2010, nearly eight years ago; that's right, folks - I've mastered basic subtraction. Although they've announced the official selection I don't know exactly when the screening will be, but the festival takes place October 25th-28th at the Novi Sad Cultural Center.
Do sljedećeg puta!