Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bullyboarded

Here are some more random storyboard excerpts from "Bullies", my current in-progress fillum. I'm purposefully dealing with very limited, Hanna-Barbera-esque animation this time around, so my range of expression is automatically restricted. Hopefully the dialogue and compositing will fill in the gaps and make it fun to watch.
I'm not putting these up in any kind of chronological order, so there won't be a lot of sense made from them. Ain't I the mischievously mysterious scamp?






Storyboard is pretty much done at this point, so the next stage is the dialogue record and animatic, both of which will be equally crucial in determining whether or not the film can be feasibly produced without funding. Otherwise I'll have to start puckering up to thems with the monies, yo...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Panelling

Every time I visit my old home I try and get at least one attic rummage in to clear things out and, on occasion, unearth toys with ornamental value. So far I've found all my ghostbusters except Winston, which is pissing me off. Especially as I've found THREE Janines. Seriously. THREE. Why would I have even had ONE Janine?What I did unearth this most recent trip was an old "Ren & Stimpy" comic, apparently the last one ever, which makes sense as it was put out around the time the show itself would've been canceled. I'd forgotten about this completely but I wanted to show it some love here because it holds up surprisingly well. As passionate a "Ren & Stimpy" fan as I was, I never got that excited over the comics. Most of the artwork was by Mike Kazaleh who, despite being a perfectly passable artist, was very distinct stylistically and didn't really replicate the atmosphere of the show. The stories by and large were much lighter in tone, with far less by way of the violence and psychotic meanderings that gave the show its edge. You would get some lovely artwork from time to time, like this:Generally I wasn't a regular buyer and at present only have the first sixteen issues collected over four graphic novels. Rediscovering the final issue I'm kind of curious to look into what came between.The art is by Jeff Jarka and it's really fantastic - a lot of severe, extreme poses and an overall tone that echoes the faster pace of the unfairly maligned Games-era episodes when they were in their stride.I guess the reason I never really committed to subscribing at the time is the rather sad admission that, in all honesty, I'm just not into comics. Unless there's something really special about the draughtsmanship (eg. Doug TenNapel, Eric Drooker) or the story ("Maus" = no brainer) or if it's just really weird, creepy or funny. Otherwise I struggle to muster up much by way of excitement.
It's sort of bizarre, given my passion for art, animation and sequential storytelling, as well as the fact that I've produced several of my own graphic novels and comic anthologies (available at these LOW, LOW PRICES, kids!), with two more being worked on at present.The only series I ever followed with any fervour was "Clive Barker's Hellraiser", mainly motivated by my love for Barker himself and the first few "Hellraiser" movies, helped along by the comic's lack of mainstream popularity that made them fairly easy to grab up in bulk on eBay. Recently, and for reasons I'm unsure of, this series was revived after a twenty year hiatus. I've bought the first two issues and enjoyed them, but mainly I'm curious as to what Barker's long game is with the characters. If it's to gauge consumer interest, the outlook is good as both seemed to sell out the moment I got my copies.I'm personally hoping it will serve as a prelude to "The Scarlet Gospels", a forthcoming Barker book almost as mythical as the universes he creates in so much as he's been writing it FOR-FUCKING-EVER. I seriously cannot think of another book I've been more excited about seeing published. Supposedly it will serve as a magnum opus, concluding the story of his progenies Harry D'Amour and "Hellraiser"'s Pinhead in a presumably far more respectful manner than the relentless parade of stilted, straight-to-DVD sequels. But my "Hellraiser" geekery is a post for another time.
I was recently at a small press expo in Bristol where a few friends of mine were exhibiting. Wandering around it seems that there really is an impressive degree of talent in the independent scene as far as artistic ability goes, if not necessarily as much in terms of storytelling. Some standout stuff such as "100% Squishy" and "Babel" really grabbed me on a visual level, as well as this anthology put together by a bunch of artists at Aardman:I'm working on a feature on it for Skwigly, and so far the people involved I've discussed it with have some pretty interesting things to say about the process, so I'll let you all know once it's up. It's essentially a collection of short stories and standalone artwork that encapsulates the spirit of Great Britain, in an alternately patriotic and derogatory sense, but where it really shines are the visuals.
Meanwhile my two graphic novels "Throat" and "Erica" are continuing to take shape, and I'll leave you with the first full-colour layout from the latter. I've had to blur out certain bits to keep it family friendly.Reckon it'll be targeted toward something of a niche market. Ah well...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bully For You

The impulse with my latest short "Bullies" is to keep things all very hush-hush as it comes together. Why, however is beyond me; I'm not exactly making the next season of "Breaking Bad". Wikileaks doesn't have a special category labeled "Ben Mitchell's Cartooney Horseshit". I think it's more a reflection of my own over-cautiousness as it's a different type of film than I'm used to, story-wise as well as visually, and if I were honest I'd put up the whole warts'n'all process so the world (by which I mean the microscopically small percentage of its inhabitants who read this blog) can see me trip up at every hurdle.
But I'm not honest. No, I'm driven entirely by deceit and misrepresentation - not just on here, but in every facet of life. Don't judge me, it's society's inability to accept grown men who still watch "The Real Ghostbusters" on DVD and count Tangfastics as one of their five-a-day that has forced me into this corner.
The hell was I talking about?
The hell am I ever talking about?
Well, anyway, in a bid to get over my preciousness, here are the concept designs for the main characters, in full view for the first time. Meet Patrick and Liam:They're douchebags. Of the lovable variety, if I pull this little endeavour off right. And here they are in non-sequential storyboard form (my compromise is I'll keep the actual dialogue under wraps for now):






So there you go, the first gander at film #4, albeit a sketchy and smudgy one. I'm storyboarding the whole film as written (which is presently a tad overlong) and will put up some more excerpts in a few days. In the meantime, here's a man in his underwear:

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Running Ben

Last week I ran the Bristol 10k, which goes against pretty much every gene I've inherited. I appreciate that to some out there 10 kilometres represents a recreational morning jog but with my history of borderline-hedonistic decadence and general fatass-itis, it's a pretty significant achievement for me. Although I was somewhat humbled the moment I crossed the finish line when my body succumbed for a split second to some kind of sob/dry-heave hybrid convulsion, but that dignity lapse aside the event was without incident. Huge props to my PT Hattie for making the extra effort to keep me motivated, given that I couldn't run more than 2k in one stretch back in February it's been a big boost to my health overall.
My followers and I...just like Forrest Gump...

Before the run I'd set up a JustGiving page which is still up if anyone has the inclination to donate. There are some goodies you get in return - naturally my self-made pap and some animation-related bits and bobs, so please do check it out.More good news (back in the comparatively sedentary world of animation) is that "The Naughty List" will be shown as part of Anima Mundi, the Brazil-based festival which takes place from July 15th-24th in Rio de Janeiro and the 27th-31st in São Paulo. The festival screened "House Guest" a bunch of times last summer and I'm incredibly happy to be involved a second year in a row.On the subject of festivals, I recently wrote an overview of my experience at the Stuttgart Animation Festival (ITFS) which is now up at Skwigly. Generally speaking it's pretty positive, kinda makes me wish I could go to more festivals, so hopefully the next film will be the one that gets me flown all over the globe. Until then you can read the article here:
The 18th Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film – Overview

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Big Plympin'

While I blather constantly on this blog regarding my silly little films and my silly little life, there's a silly little voice in the back of my silly little brain that constantly screams: "Hey DUMBASS, who GIVES A SHIT?!"
To be honest, I write because I like writing, and for the most part all I have to comment on is the incremental, ponderously slow progression of my career. Keeping this up has been hugely beneficial for reference and updating contacts and SHUT UP BEN SHUT UP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY IS YOUR OPINION OF HUMANITY SO LOW THAT YOU THINK ANYONE WOULD GAIN ANYTHING FROM READING YOUR DRECK?
See, there...that's what...yeah.I'd really like to channel the writing impulse in the direction of stuff other people might care more about, while generally staying within the world of animation. To that end I've been doing some freelance writing for the online animation magazine Skwigly, beginning with three articles on Bill Plympton, one of my more significant influences. Two of them are up now, the first a review of "Independently Animated" which, as I've said before, is a great goddamn book so check it out.The second is an actual interview I was able to get with him while we were both at ITFS last week. It was a pretty superb way to start the trip (well, for me) and he was very generous with his time, sharing a lot of insights into the industry, independent scene and the animation process.
Read "A Conversation with Bill Plympton" by Ben Mitchell at skwigly.com
Given that I was disheveled, all over the map (on the tape some of my questions come out like Yoda dialogue) and hadn't slept for thirty-six hours he was incredibly accommodating, even signing a bunch of merch and sketching me a character from his newest in-progress feature "Cheatin'" (see vid below).
video
The third article will be more focused on "Guard Dog Global Jam" and I'm presently working on getting some of the other collaborators to contribute to it. Before then I'd like to have some more book reviews, articles and interviews up on the site so if any of those get published I'll link to them here. In the meantime, please do me a massive favour and spread the word about Skwigly through their Twitter, Facebook et al. The more I'm writing about other people, the less I'm talking about my boring ass, so everybody wins.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Montag

I'm headed back to the UK this evening after a spectacular weekend away. The festival really was a treat and my only regret is that I wasn't able to get to Stuttgart sooner. In all candour, a lot of festivals tend to throw in a hefty percentage of films that really are mediocre at best and leave you scratching your head. Stuttgart however seemed to really keep the quality level of the chosen films very consistent. I'm very inspired but also very humbled and a little intimidated. The bar is friggin' high these days.
Here are some more films that I got a kick out of (look at me with my hip turns of phrase, Christ almighty...):









Others I couldn't find clips for include Matray's "Babioles", Alexandra Hetmerova's "Swimming Pool", Ruth Lingford's "Little Deaths", Peter Baynton's "Save Our Bacon", Magnus Carlsson's "Hon & Han" and Joost Lieuwma's "Things You'd Better Not Mix Up" nearly gave me a hernia.
I also saw "Tangled", which made me feel old. The Disney princesses have now officially stopped infuriating me for being girly and irritating (as when I was a young'un) and instead now infuriate me for being sort of unattainably bangable.
Don't judge me, one of the main plot points is that she's eighteen...

To a certain extent I sort of wanted to have a crack at the guy too.
Damn lovable rogue with a heart o'gold he was...

But as always they threw in enough funny stuff to keep it watchable for a disenchanted old prick like me; the horse did kinda kick ass although he did seem a little borrowed from Ren & Stimpy's Mr. Horse at times.The awards ceremony was last night, I didn't understand a word of it as I don't speak more than seven words of German. Given that the rest of the festival seemed to be predominantly English that was a little odd. They said at one point that we'd all been offered headphones with translations piped through. I don't know if that was a joke or not, but we definitely weren't. Regardless, a lot of great films that deserved to win actually won, which again is kind of a rarity in the festival world. The list of winners can be found here.
Now to see how many bread and sausage-based foodstuffs I can cram into my suitcase without going over the baggage weight limit. Tschüss!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Trickfilm'd

It's my third day at ITFS and, not surprisingly, it friggin' rules. I've already met some personal heroes, seen some spectacular films and remained staggeringly abstemious, food-wise. Which is a miracle, given that all they seem to serve in this country is cake and sausage.
As cool as it was to have "The Naughty List" shown, the really amazing part of the festival so far was actually the very first thing I got to do when I arrived and, given that I hadn't slept at all in the preceding thirty-six hours I'm not entirely sure it wasn't just a dream. If when I get home it turns out it was real then I'll be putting it up here before you can say 'Ben, you attention-hungry, uneven-bearded nobody'.Back to "The Naughty List", I just learned that its latest festival inclusion will be the Crank Cookie Short Film Festival, which could be the greatest one yet by name alone. It's also based in Passau which will make it the fifth German festival to show the film to date. These Germans, they sure do love that Santa Claus. And cake. And sausage.
Well, I should wrap up as I'm typing this entry on a tablet in the park with my legs crossed and as a consequence my genitals have fallen asleep. It's a fat guy thing. So as not to go out entirely on that disconcertingly-candid thought, here are some of my festival favourites so far:





Monday, 2 May 2011

Getting Packed

My Stuttgart trip is drawing near and, predictably, the main thing on my mind is "How oh how can I best whore myself until I'm literally somewhat chafed?". Last week I officially gladhanded the last of many "Naughty List" promotional business cards to...I dunno, probably some Caffe Gusto barista I was trying to bang, that's where most of my cards end up. So I took the opportunity of a free evening to whip up some new "Bullies" cards in their stead. Hey, I bet that's where the word 'instead' comes from, right? I just taught myself something about my first language. Go me.
Technically it should read 'In lengthy, awkward, uncertain, self-doubt-plagued pre-production' but, y'know, font size...

Also, before I changed my mind and went with my "Naughty List" xmas card campaign, I'd designed a DVD showreel cover that went unused, so I've whipped up a quick DVD with my films and showreels to pass on to fellow Stuttgartgoers to go with it.This way all those empty cases won't be sitting around my apartment anymore, mocking my lack of follow-through. Well, I followed through, dammit! Five months later...
Some other festivals "The Naughty List" is scheduled to appear at after Stuttgart:Starting with Vienna Independent Shorts in Austria, which will show it on May 27th as part of their noon screening Très chic. Which is pretty très awesome of them, innit?
Next month it comes back to Germany for the International Filmfest Emden-Norderney, which runs from June 15th-22nd and will show the film twice, first as part of the main festival and then as part of a supplemental, family-friendly showcase. Exact times and venue information should be online early next month.I was also surprised to hear that in July my first film "House Guest" will be getting a screening at the Fest Anča International Animation Festival, an event that intrigues me given that its mascot appears to be a large, red, angry, toothed vagina. I generally consider the film to be retired from the festival circuit but it still pops up occasionally. Specifics closer to the time but that'll be sometime between July 1st-3rd.
Well, I should probably get my very small suitcase and attempt to jam at least one change of clothes in amongst all my self-promotion-ey crap. Toodles.