Monday, 4 May 2015

Addendum

Quickie update to amend the info in the last post, the episode of Short Cuts I'll be appearing on will now air this Thursday at 10pm, not tomorrow. All the channel info remains the same to the best of my knowledge. A few frames of The Naughty List also seems to have made it into the opening credits. Take a gander:

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Upcomings & Outgoings

I've made the somewhat douchey decision to self-set the release date of The Birdcage, my first LP in a good while, as the week of May 18th. I say 'douchey' because this is also the week both Faith No More's new album Sol Invictus and Clive Barker's Hellraiser swansong The Scarlet Gospels - two projects I've been hotly anticipating to say the least - both come out. There's no real connection, it just generally helps to have a deadline to work to when I'm in the last stretch of anything, plus I reckon my album's pretty much cooked at this point. I have to say I like how it's turned out - it's the quiet, folksy death rattle of a would-be-rocker-turned-production-music-scribe giving in to a secret, guilty urge to be melodic and quaint rather than edgy or avant garde. I expect I'll release it digitally on Bandcamp to begin with and then see what new options there now are for a physical release in the 4.5 years since my last LP.
http://throatbook.com
This will pave the way for another upcoming release, the final installment of my lingering graphic novel series Throat. I'm still finalising the bonus content but the proposed release date is August 3rd. As with Book 1 and Book 2 it should be available to buy in US retailers and on Amazon for the UK and elsewhere.
On the Skwigly pile this week, the Lightbox series I've been producing has resumed with a video interview from mine and Laura-Beth's encounter with the talented and dapper Luc Chamberland, whose OIAF-winning NFB documentary Seth's Dominion (an exploration of the life and work of Canadian comic artist Seth) is playing at Toronto's Hot Docs at the moment.
Also on the site I chat once again to auld acquaintances Seb and Joe from Rumpus, whose game The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle is now available on PC via Steam as well as it's original App Store release for iOS. This interview is the first in a series of Skwigly profiles on South West-based studios/artists in association with the South West Animation Network, an organisation put together by Becalelis Brodskis and Susannah Shaw. Keep an eye out for more Skwigly/SWANraderie and if you're a South Westerner yourself check them out at swanimationnetwork.co.uk
http://www.madeinbristol.tv/programme/short-cuts/
Bringing it back to my own ephemeral output, as is my egomaniacal wont, I'll be appearing on the TV show Short Cuts hosted by James Ewen of CineMe, who's been a much-appreciated supporter of my work in the past. I'm not sure what'll get included in the final edit but I expect the focus will be on my old seasonal short The Naughty List. It'll be broadcast on Made In Bristol (Freeview 8/Sky 117/Virgin Media 159) May 5th at 8:30pm, so tune in if your receivers are suitably receptive.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Box Trawls

Our Skwigly guest spot at the London Animation Club earlier this week was a massive success. Thanks to everyone who came out and especially to Martin again for having us, hopefully you all enjoyed it as much as we did! For those who weren't able to make it I got the impression some of it was filmed and I believe that will go up at some point down the line, so keep checking their website.
In the meantime I've uploaded a special Lightbox compilation video I edited together as part of our presentation. It's impossible to do a complete 'best-of' in 20 minutes but this I think gives an impression of the range and scope of our coverage, from emerging up-and-comers to established Oscar-winners.

The video features snippets our chats with Mikey Please, Dan Ojari, Robert Kondo, Dice Tsutsumi, Bill Plympton, Torill Kove, Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson, Will Becher, Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed and Jeff Turley. Don't forget you can watch all of their interviews plus many more in full over at our official channel.
http://www.thisisnotacartoon.com/
For those of you based up North, I strongly urge you to check out This Is Not A Cartoon, a new Skwigly venture in association with the BFI Film Hub. The events have been programmed primarily by Jen Hall of Manchester's Cornerhouse/HOME, the first of which taking place April 24th at the Stoke-on-Trent Science Centre featuring a live Q&A with the aforementioned Ainslie Henderson, director of Monkey Love Experiments and I Am Tom Moody. For more info on the programme and upcoming events head over to the website.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Club Life

So both the chances of new Twin Peaks and Opie and Anthony ever getting back together have seemingly gone up in smoke over one Easter break. Good going, bunny-Jesus. If anything happens to The Scarlet Gospels or Sol Invictus before May I'll have pretty much no more cultural interests left.
Well, there's the old ball-and-chain of animation, I suppose. Although on some fronts things are without a paddle, so to speak, I recently had a nostalgic opportunity to revisit an old film for an interview that will hopefully surface late April/early May. Will post that when there are postables.
https://www.facebook.com/events/337977323063007/
Before then, however, those of you near and within ol' London town may wish to swing by The Green Man around 7:30pm this coming Tuesday (14th) for the London Animation Club, at which Skwigly - in the comely form of Aaron, Steve and myself - will be doing a special presentation on the past, present and future of our fine website, now in the third glorious year of its diabolical new regime. Many thanks to organiser Martin for extending the invite. Check out the Facebook event page for more info and I hope to see some of you dapper darlings there.

Friday, 3 April 2015

The World is Yours

I hope you're all geared up for a weekend of eggy chocolate Jesus zombie antics. I myself am rebuilding myself emotionally from an intense end-of-March deadline while cracking on with what's proving to be a rather therapeutic day-job. I don't think I can talk about it until it's done but I'll just say it involves lots of wavy lines that have proved to have quite a calming effect. Right this second I'm waiting on a bit of client feedback to come through so I'll take the opportunity to do a li'l update post.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/melissa-johnson-robertino-zambrano/
I have two new interviews up on the site I hope you'll all enjoy. The first is with directorial duo Melissa Johnson and Robertino Zambrano who made Love in the Time of March Madness, one of my favourite films from last year. It's essentially a docu-memoir about Melissa's own romantic misadventures as a uniquely tall athlete, with Robertino putting together a host of truly impressive visual interpretations that really showcase how much more effective animation can be when it comes to communicating abstract concepts within non-fiction. Have a read here.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/hertzfeldt-world-of-tomorrow/
Speaking of abstract concepts, Don Hertzfeldt released his new film this week. It's called World of Tomorrow and is more than worth the price of admission; You can stream it for a month for a paltry rental fee on Vimeo, and I can't recommend doing so enough. Like most of his recent work, such as the graphic novel The End of The World and his independent feature It's Such a Beautiful Day, it solicits a huge gamut of emotional response and, primarily, is goddamn hysterical. Gladly I also got an interview with Hertzfeldt himself, something I've been angling for really since day one. Good times indeed.
Also I've noticed that Shaun in the City, the arts project that will see a whole gaggle of oversized Shaun the Sheeps dotted about London (similar to the Gromit Unleashed project in Bristol a couple years back) is now in effect. So there's no harm in putting up some of my own submissions, all of which were sensibly rejected:
Counterclockwise from top-left: Shaun as a Blue Meanie, Shaun as Wallace, Shaun as an old-timey cartoon and Shaun that'd go great with a side of mint jelly
I can appreciate 'Blue Shaunie' may have been a bit thorny, rights-wise, and while I assume 'ShaunWallace' wouldn't have been as big an issue it's a bit on-the-nose (see, he's Shaun, but he's all coloured in and dressed like Wallace geddit? Teeheehoho etc). That being said I quite liked 'Rubberhose Shaun' on the bottom right and, my personal favourite, 'Mrs. Bleaton's Cookbook', top right. Like all truly great artists I'm sure the genius of them all will be more appreciated after I'm dead. It's a fine cause so check out the Shaun in the City site to find out more.
Completely changing the subject, this wonderful new item of vinyl Faith No More-ery is now in my possession:

It's been a month since the song debuted and I still can't fully convey in words how goddamn in love with it I am. It's worth mentioning that the vinyl version sounds better, and I don't mean that in that douchey way vinyl enthusiasts insist upon; It's actually a different, less 'produced' mix that feels more traditionally FNM to my ears. Adrian at newfaithnomore.com put up a little comparison analysis I made (which you can also listen to here).
Let it not be said that I don't give back to my community.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Northern Exposure

It's another busy period with little blogging time available; I'm currently hard at work cackhandedly educating today's youth working on some more science-ey films while alternately hard at work cackhandedly educating today's not-so-youthful youth putting Project Group Hug together, the next milestone deadline for which is the beginning of April. So between the two I'll be radio silent for the rest of the month.
In the meantime check out a video interview with NFB director Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, whose film Jutra has, in the time since my original February article went up, gone on to win both a Canadian Screen Award as well as a Jutra Award, suitably enough.
 
On the subject of the NFB, I was able to catch up with Chris Landreth, director of the Oscar-winning Ryan, on his involvement as Mentoring Director of the most recent Hothouse apprenticeship programme which the Film Board have run since 2003. You can read more in our interview here as well as some insight into each of the scheme's participants: Esteban Azuela, Stephanie Braithwaite, Alex Boya, Alexandra Lemay, Frances Adair Mckenzie, Neal Moignard, Benjamín Mugica and Kathleen Weldon.
Chris is also the director of the Annecy Cristal-winning Subconscious Password, for which Steve interviewed him when we were at the festival back in 2013:
 
If you missed it at the time, you can hear the full interview in episode 15 of the Skwigly Podcast.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Blessed Days

First things first - Radio 1 debuted Faith No More's new single 'Superhero' last night. This is the one I've been most vocal about being on tenterhooks to hear - having been at its first ever live performance last year - and it's so unbelievably goddamn great the English language frankly comes up pathetically short when it comes to existing adjectives that might describe how utterly elated I am.
Their new LP Sol Invictus (their first since 1997) isn't out until mid-May, so fingers crossed my skull doesn't pop in anticipation before then.
Another reason to be cheerful was discovering my animation had made an unexpected appearance on The Anthony Cumia Show when my old O&A/Jim Norton short (the dancing chicken one) recently got played by accident. To my relief it got a good response, have a watch here my friends:


While I'm still typing things I'll point you in the direction of Skwigly where fellow cartoon-making personage Matt Walker has done this month's site banner:
Matt Walker
Also worth mentioning the other two excellent 2015 banners, Rumpus for January and Tony Johnson for February. Talented bunch we're amongst, us Skwigly lot:
Rumpus

Tony Johnson

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Skwigly Spectrum

https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/skwigly-podcast-28/download
A good ol' Skwigly roundup for you fine folks today. Starting with the latest podcast which went up today - Steve has interviews with Daisy Jacobs (director of the BAFTA-winning NFTS film The Bigger Picture) and Chuck Steel creator Mike Mort, while one of our talented writers Nathan Wilkes chats to the Shaun the Sheep Movie directors Mark Burton and - making his return to the Skwigly Podcast (having also been featured in episode 11) - Richard Starzak. It's a fun one, friends! Subscribe, stream or download to your heart's content:
There's also a new episode of Lightbox up this week in which the always-brilliant Laura-Beth learns about Disney's Feast from Director Patrick Osborne, Designer Jeff Turley and Producer Kristina Reed. There are two versions of this one, you can check it out on YouTube (where it's already doing very well) or watch the slightly nicer edit below:

On the other end of the animation spectrum I'm really happy to have an interview with legendary Estonian director Priit Pärn up on the site this week. I've been a fan of his work since 2000 when I saw Hotel E on, of all things, a semi-pisstake Adam and Joe C4 documentary that doesn't appear to have surfaced online. It was pretty funny though. My prevailing memory is a moment where BaaadDad threatens to stab a child for a Pokemon card. Cheered me some.
Back to Priit Pärn, if you've not caught his work it's worth the research; Though heavygoing at times it's often incredibly witty and always brilliantly-executed - and absolutely, irrefutably Estonian. His latest film Pilots on the Way Home, one of several co-directed with his wife Olga and his first collaboration with the NFB, shows he hasn't mellowed with age either:
On top of all this there's a new book review up on Animate to Harmony by Australian indie animator Adam Phillips. It's an invaluable guide to ToonBoom Animate and Harmony and it's really filled in some gaps in my overall knowledge of the software. More importantly, reading it has motivated me to follow-through on a recent promise to myself. Sometimes when we feel like we're floating without a paddle...well, a good book can take one's mind to a better place. To read my gushing in full check out the review here.
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/animate-to-harmony/
Lots more in the wings but I reckon that covers it for now. Happy weekending, everyone!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Exercises in Humility

Jutra (Dir. Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre)
This week on Skwigly I have an interview with Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, a kindred spirit in the sense that she makes animation documentaries, albeit with more of a creative spin. Working with the NFB and notably influenced by Norman McLaren, she's made the multi-award-winning McLaren's Negatives and last year's Jutra among others. She has a brilliant style and interesting process, you can learn more by giving the interview a read here: 
Interview with Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre
Back in the more straightforward world of my mini-documentary series Lightbox, this week we have a special on Aardman's Shaun the Sheep Movie in anticipation of its release on Friday. We went up to Aardman Features in Aztec West where one of the film's lead animators Will Becher gave Steve, Laura-Beth and myself a nice demonstration of their puppets:
I'm quite interested in seeing how the film does compared to their other recent features, especially as this one feels more unabashedly/traditionally Aardman without trying to play to a broader audience.
Elsewhere I've had some disappointing news regarding the planned distribution of my most recent film Bullies. The short version is that interest from a company I'd been holding out for since last summer has been rescinded, so I'm back in limbo for the time being. Bit of a knock but I'm fondly keeping this little cinematic analogy in mind:
video
Frankly I'd been getting a little spoiled with things coming off without many hitches of late, so in a sense it's good to be brought down to Earth every once in a while. Keeps a fella humble, which is always a hard business given how unbelievably gifted and handsome I am. Plus, sometimes when we feel like we're floating without a paddle...well, new plans emerge. Watch this space.
Finally, just a reminder that I'll be in Cheltenham this Saturday, exhibiting at True Believers. Swing by and peruse my bookey wares, why doncha?

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sticking Points

http://www.skwigly.co.uk/jeff-chiba-stearns/
The latest Skwigly feature is on a brilliant chap who I got to chat to recently as part of Project Group-Hug, Canadian animator/documentarian Jeff Chiba Stearns. The piece focuses on his short film Yellow Sticky Notes, an extreme-auteur production (it was animated entirely straight-ahead, using Post-Its) that went viral in 2008, as well as its follow-up Yellow Sticky Notes: Canadian Anijam which extended the same production approach to a mass collaboration with every exceptional Canadian animator under the sun - including the likes of Cordell Barker, Janet Perlman, Paul Driessen, Alison Snowden, David Fine and many more. Check out the interview (and watch the films) over on Skwigly.
http://oktruebelievers.com/
While I'm a-blogging I want to mention that on Saturday February 7th I'll be exhibiting at my first indie comics fest in a good long while. The True Believers Comic Festival will take place in my old stomping grounds of Cheltenham at the Racecourse and will be open to the public from 11:30am. Please do swing by and say hello, I'll be predictably touting my graphic novel wares in a bid to shift some leftover stock. On sale will be House Guest: The Graphic Novel (with a free DVD of the film), Brain Spillage and of course multiple versions of my 2012 labour-o'-love Throat. I also want to mention that I will be selling the last handful of copies of my 2006 comic anthology That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child. Once these are gone, they're gone for good (I'll be pulling the eBook editions too).
http://benmitchellblog.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/that%20isn%27t%20funny%20you%20stupid%20child
Not that anyone's asking but there are two main reasons - I'm not that crazy about the overall presentation of the book and, being nearly a decade old, I wouldn't say it's dated terrifically. I'm still proud of the stories in some regard and, at the time, I felt I was being terrifically witty in lampooning all sorts of social taboos and bigotries. It seemed back then that people were getting smarter and more attuned to the role satire can play in pointing out the ludicrousness of intolerance, but I've watched with increasing despair in subsequent years as it's all gone the other way instead. It's less 'political correctness gone mad' (possibly one of the most misused phrases in the English language) than Poe's Law run amok. More to the point - especially as I'm loathe to self-censor in light of recent events - I feel like I've since moved away from my outlook and artistic direction of that time. So if you fancy yourself a Ben Mitchell relic that may or may not serve as an appropriate blackmail tool (for the shite drawings more than anything else) down the line, this'd be your last opportunity to grab it.
Check out the festival as well as the other smashing guests and exhibitors over at oktruebelievers.com - hopefully catch some of you there!