Sunday, 26 June 2011

Fatherhood

Today is a glorious day - for my life, my career and my emotional maturity as an adult. A couple weeks back I made the life-altering decision to adopt a li'l Estonian bundle o' joy. She was being neglected in her home country and, frankly, needed a more nurturing environment where she could be raised with the love and attention she deserved. Things didn't run as smoothly as hoped - multiple delays and red tape presented themselves, accompanied by much anxiety. For nearly an entire week she was being held by the British government before being released to me. It was a trying time for us both, I'm sure.
This weekend the bond of familial love won out and we're now together forever. Here's a pic - I've decided to call her Cindi:Sure milked that analogy dry, didn't I?
That's right, lovelies. Blessed art me, FOR I AM WITH CINTIQ! It had to be done, my desire to continue to produce traditional animation had been too long at odds with the back strain of...well, back strain. And endless hours spent cleaning, inking, scanning and re-cleaning each individual frame. Now I can do all that on the screen - the Cintiq essentially works like the world's most awesome Magna Doodle. Observe this classy product demonstration:
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Predictably enough, the first thing I drew on it was my schwanz. What did you expect, a fucking sunset? This is me we're dealing with here.So, while I abandon all hope of finishing any of the eight billion projects I have on the go right now in favour of a lifetime of technologically wondrous doodling, my now pathetically antiquated film "The Naughty List" which I made with (sneer, scoff, derisively snort) pencils and paper has been snapped up for the 2011 edition of the Film Sharing Lo/No Budget Film Festival Tour, which will see it screened at various times/dates/locations throughout Germany from July to September. "Ground Running" was part of the 2009 tour so it's very cool to be involved again. I especially like the way my film is represented on the front of the program, flanked by a pair of bare boobies and a pair of gouged-out eyeballs respectively. Makes sense to me - tits, Christmas, gore - pretty natural grouping there.The usual info is up and online at their website if you want to see if the tour makes it anywhere near you. Assuming you're in Germany to begin with.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Lions and orgasms and validation, oh my!

So it’s been roughly twelve months since I finished “The Naughty List”, and I’m happy to say that in its first year out there it’s managed to score a nice round thirty international screenings. This is a really happy feeling as it’s roughly the same amount of outings that “House Guest” took twice as long to accrue, plus I’m still at the helm of my own distribution and am getting this stuff out there and seen without any sales/studio representation. I’m sure plenty of auteur filmmakers and indie animators out there know what a dreary uphill struggle the process can be at times, so all the festivals and networks, big and small, who have seen value in what I’m trying to do mean a lot to me. Go go pantsless Santa!The thirtieth event in question is Cluj-Napoca’s Comedy Cluj International Film Festival, which makes for the second time the film has been shown in Romania. Maybe they get a kick out of the anti-consumerism angle. Well, maybe they would if there was one, it certainly isn’t a deliberate theme of the film. I’m the biggest consumer I know; The inside of my apartment looks like a Forbidden Planet tradeshow – toys, film posters, standees, no women in sight, you name it. Anyhoo, the festival goes from October 14th to 23rd.While I’m a-typin’, I may as well point y’all in the direction of a couple more pieces I did for Skwigly. One is an interview with established animation veteran Ruth Lingford, former RCA lecturer, two-time Animate Projects director and current Professor of the Practice of Animation at Harvard, which I’ve heard is kind of a big school. Her most recent film “Little Deaths” was produced as part of their Film Study Center fellowship. It’s something of a stream-of-consciousness visual affair, not ordinarily my thing except A) this one’s about orgasms and B) Daffy Duck’s in it. Kind of.Truthfully it’s a really interesting film with a lot to like, not least of which the soundtrack which interweaves conversational snippets wherein a variety of contributors attempt to describe sexual climax and its associations. It makes for alternately fascinating, amusing and unexpectedly poignant viewing.Another interview is with Alois Di Leo, one of the NFTS graduates from last year whose student film “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lion” is, frankly, a pretty masterful piece of work. Bucking a lot of the less positive trends among younger filmmakers today, it very deftly deals with a story (a deaf boy retreats into a fantasy state after developing an imagined affinity with lions) that could easily lend itself to hackneyed sentiment or audience pandering. Instead the narrative unfolds very matter-of-factly, so the moments of humour and emotion occur completely organically. As it progresses it sort of slaps you upside the head, but not in a contrived way.Both filmmakers had a lot of interesting things to say about the process and how they regard their craft, so I’d advise any of you with animation/filmmaking impulses to give them a read:
A Conversation with Ruth Lingford – “Little Deaths”
A Conversation with Alois Di Leo – “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lion”
There are more features/interviews/reviews a-comin’, some of which I’m pretty excited about. Insufferable braggart that I am, I’ll doubtless link to them here, so stick around folks.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Brighter Side of Rejection

I got a really pleasant surprise the other day by learning that “The Naughty List” was screened at Annecy Plus, a standalone event after the Annecy festival organised by Bill Plympton and Nancy Phelps. It’s essentially an annual showcase of films rejected by the main festival, and I have to say I’m stunned by the company I’m among. Films by Mark Nute, Joost Lieuwma, Kirsten Lepore and MoonBot are all festival standouts and crowd pleasers – comedically, visually, really in every respect - so to find that they didn’t make it in is a real head-scratcher. I’m really pleased that we got a showing at all though, and have yet another reason to be hugely grateful to both Plympton and Phelps.
For more info you can read an overview of the evening up at Skwigly by Steve Henderson. Many thanks to Sara Barbas for letting me know about the event and who was at Annecy pitching her new feature project which, knock wood, will be coming together shortly.By the way, “Naughty List” will be headed back to Germany for Filmfest Emden-Norderney in a couple days, showing twice as part of the program “New Pictures, New Worlds” (Friday June 17th 8pm and Monday June 20th at 9:15pm). ‘Cause I haven’t patted myself on the back enough with this post, apparently…
Yeah, I know. I suck.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pencilled People Ponderings

I’ve been keeping at the life drawing after my resolution to do so earlier in the year. Amazingly, when I resolve to be a better human being and eat more salads it never pans out, but staring at naked people I’ve really been able to stick with. Huh.
It’s a strange beast, sketching the non-cartoon universe. Some days I’m really happy with what comes out, others see me mortified with how childlike and amateurish my drawings seem. I still hit a brick wall with faces although I’d say my sense of proportion and perspective is gradually improving.As well as the figure drawing I’ve been dabbling with some landscape and environments as part of a sketching group that meets on the weekend. I’m a lot less happy about the quality of these than when I draw people, so they’re not going up here any time soon. I’ll crack on regardless, I guess knowing that you suck at something is the first step toward getting better at it.On a completely separate note, I realised last night that today is the two-year anniversary of the greatest day of my life, seeing the briefly reunited Faith No More headline at the Download Festival in 2009.I’ve honestly never been as euphoric as I was for those two hours, and it’s unfortunate that the only footage of the whole show that exists online was ripped from the SD, mono, muddy-sounding webcast. Recently however a snippet of the setlist did get broadcast in HD and stereo, so In Memoriam here they are.
Coincidentally I have also made some baby steps back into the music world. Two weeks ago I did my first set in four years at a Bath-based venue I’m not too prepared to disclose as I’ll be doing more shows there in the coming months and want to keep them on the QT (I’m adorably shy).Of course my obsession with the band insisted on me throwing in not one but two Faith No More covers. Here’s a rough, unmastered snippet for your enjoyment – assuming you enjoy derision. When I have time I’ll do a proper mix and chuck it online somewhere.
Struwwelpeter - ‘Midlife Crisis’ live cover snippet

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Affected

The last few days have been spent putting together a rough dialogue record for "Bullies", which has led to the crushing revelation that the film as it presently exists is TWENTY-FIVE minutes in length. Fucky-fuck-fuck. And, might I add, a fuckity-fuckeroo.
That's actually not so much a concern as far as the production goes - "House Guest" was originally eighteen minutes and took about six months to produce, including the trial and error of cutting my teeth on the software and a more laborious overall animation style. The issue is that longer animated shorts just don't do as well. Sales agents and the festival circuit tend to like their films short and punchy. The exceptions tend to be the types of films that break new ground or just massive studio productions. Mine ticks neither box, so unless Aardman want to pick up the rights (Hinty-McHint) I'm in a lickle quandary.
That aside, I'm really happy with the way the recording went. I may have to redo it more professionally down the line, but for the purposes of an animatic it came off quite well. Here you can see me step up to the plate as a mic stand on top of my directorial duties:
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The guy playing Liam is my old school friend Chris Richardson, which is apt as it's a film about old school friends reuniting. Also Chris has pretty decent acting chops, which is kind of important when it comes to, well, acting. We first met at school where him and a couple other kids would record skits impersonating members of staff with eerie precision. They were calamitous, indecipherable at times and frequently abandoned at the midway point due to constant corpsing. But motherfuck, they were funny.
The Larry Soundtrack, for which I designed the cover. Trust me, it both made perfect sense and was incredibly witty back in 2000

I kept trying to insinuate myself into the process, encouraging them to do it professionally in a way that I could make marketable. Even at fifteen I was a fiscally conscious executive douchebag at heart. Fortunately they smelled my despicable agenda a mile away and wouldn't have any of it. But now the tables have a-turned!
In a slightly more professional environment (note the use of an actual pop shield in lieu of an unwashed sock - and they say Kubrick gave his performers shit) I recorded my dialogue separately, on my lonesome which made for a strangely schizophrenic experience:
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So, with altogether too much material to work with, the film's preproduction is pretty much done. Sumbitch, I may just end up pulling this off. If I can decide which region of Ireland my character's meant to be from...