Friday, 16 January 2009

Simmering Away

There’s a rather depressing thread over on Bob Camp’s blog bemoaning the effects of the economy on the animation industry. It’s a sobering thought that a man whose credentials include ‘Ren & Stimpy’, ‘Cow & Chicken’ and movies such as ‘Robots’ and ‘Ice Age 2’ still struggles at times to find work.
Personally I keep myself ticking over with freelance commissions that see me working about two weeks out of each month. It pays well when it comes in, but the gaps in between jobs can get downright unsettling at times. As there are more frequent openings for graphic designers, I’ve been reverting back to that in lieu of animation work. In my free time, however, I’ve been working on a number of ideas for shorts and projects, mainly to brainstorm in the hope of coming up with something worthwhile. A good way to motivate oneself is to search out whatever funding schemes are out there. These usually have deadlines which help kick me into gear and get stuff done.
Still from 'Life In The Key of Aaaargh!', a UWE/RAM collaborative project. This character was developed and animated by Sarah Lawrence.

For example, in November my friend Sarah and I worked on developing a story based on a character she had created as part of a previous collaboration. The new story was for a local funding scheme, and while our idea wasn’t developed enough to get selected we had gotten it off the ground, which was the important thing.
Script excerpt for 'The Best of Intentions'

Then in December I developed a script for the film for a Canadian screenwriting contest, the main prize being a budget and additional resources to get the film made. Again, we didn’t make the cut, but now our project had a script. I don’t know if I’d have found the time or enthusiasm to make the effort otherwise. I probably would’ve just wasted it watching YouTube* videos.
Concept art for 'The Best of Intentions'

Presently we’re working on layouts, backgrounds and storyboards, as the next call for projects in February warrants more presentation material. This one we almost certainly won’t get as it’s extremely coveted and high-profile, but nothing ventured…
And by mid-February we’ll have a lot more substance to work with.
My long, meandering point is this - as long as there’s something to work toward, work gets done. This is a film that didn’t exist three months ago, but if we keep incrementally developing it we won’t even need funding. As Ralph Bakshi commented in the now-famous speech I referred to previously, with today’s technology material costs are negligible - the real expense is time.
Other projects on the boil include a possible web series that would be made very minimalistically, combining CG and Flash. The premise is based on possibly the worst job I ever had, as a bouncer for a nightclub in Southampton. Here’s the absent-minded doodle I’m working from:
I’ve also been giving serious consideration toward developing something for children - either a short, series or book. I’ve been scribbling a character currently named ‘Cameltoe Jo’ (which will obviously have to change - believe it or not the name’s origin is perfectly innocuous). I see her as some kind of moral crusader - unfortunately my own morals are sketchy at best so I may need some help in that respect. Here are some early scribbles:
So all this along with the ‘House Guest’ graphic novel (the film incidentally has been picking up more steam and getting some pleasing feedback), the new Struwwelpeter LP and an unexpected fondness for Salsa dancing is keeping me at peace with myself. Not that my day job isn’t riveting.
Give me a break, I gotta eat.

*Yeah, okay, YouPorn. Who am I kidding?

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