Friday, 17 July 2020

Another staggered update

Some very happy news regarding my latest film Speed is that it's part of the official selection at this year's Pictoplasma conference. This is an organisation I've been an enormous fan of since before I even started making films so to finally have work included is a real coup. It'll run from September 18th-19th, naturally it'll be an online iteration but their guest line-up and fellow official selectees are all top-notch, plus it's completely free, so it should be pretty damn great. You can check out what's on offer here.
Those wonderful folks over at Routledge are having themselves a summer sale, which means that my chunky book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films is along for the ride at a glorious 20% off until the beginning of August. Don't forget there's FREE SHIPPING on top of that, friends. Grab yourself a copy today and stave off them pesky lockdown anxiety attacks with 440+ pages of indie animation wonderment!
Speaking of books, I've gotten wind that all of the paperback editions of my independent graphic novels have disappeared from Lulu. After a bit of lazy sleuthing it looks like there's been some big update over there and a bunch of stuff's been thrown out of whack, so I'll look into getting them back up but from what I gather their customer service has been lax lately so don't hold your breath.
In truth I'm not really sure if I'll bother as sales of all of them have slowed to a crawl and, while it was a pretty nifty thing in my early 20s, the thrill of the self-published indie comics scene has waned a touch 10+ years on. You can still buy the non-Lulu version of Throat, which I remain kind of proud of, as a three volume set via Amazon and various other outlets. There might be something in re-releasing that as a single book again down the line, we'll see.
A graphic novel project I'm altogether more excited about is the long-awaited print edition of the late great Rosto's absurdist, metaphysical opus Mind My Gap, which finally arrived alongside a stunning vinyl soundtrack to his Thee Wreckers tetralogy and various other goodies. Before he passed away I was peripherally involved in the book as a proof-reader and it's wonderful to see it made flesh by the folks at Autour de Minuit who have really done the fella proud. I'm not sure what future plans there are for non-backers to be able to buy a copy but if I hear anything I'll definitely post it up as it's turned out beautifully and the more people who own it the better.
If you haven't swung by Skwiglyville in a while then you might want to catch up on some of our recent Annecy 2020 coverage, including a new interview with Andreas Hykade about his latest film Altötting. The Skwigly Film Club has also been continuing and the last few weeks have seen us do watch-throughs of Chicken Run, Isle of Dogs, James and the Giant Peach, Watership Down and The Little Prince. Swing by the podcasts section of the site to check them out and get in touch if you have any future film suggestions.
Think that's all I got for this month so far. As you were.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Summer plans (in lieu of, y'know, actual summer plans)

In the latest episode of the third season of our podcast series Intimate Animation we meet Prague-based directorial duo Michaela Mihályi and David Štumpf, whose recent short film SH_T HAPPENS has been screening to much enthusiasm and acclaim around the world at events including Sundance, Clermont Ferrand, LIAF and Anima Brussels. 
We also discuss Laura-Beth’s recent experience making The Gift for Calling The Shots, the unexpected revival of Tuca and Bertie, the recent YouTube virality of previous podcast guest Dario Van Vree’s Tabook, the long-overdue progressiveness of Pixar’s Out plus love’n’sex-themed short film highlights from the recent online edition of ITFS Stuttgart. Give 'er a stream or download forevs.
Some upcoming festival news (of the shackled, lockdown variety) is that Speed will return to Japan as part of the Official Selection of this year's edition of the Hiroshima International Animation Festival. I've had these folks on my radar since I first started making films so it's wonderful to be part of the line-up. Of course it won't be going ahead in the traditional sense but it's an honour all the same. You can swing by their website for an outline of the revised format and the deliberations will be taking place from August 20th-24th. 
In the more immediate future the film will also be part of FilmOneFest, an event focusing on micro-shorts that will be kicking off June 23rd with free screenings via Facebook live that will span the following month. Once things have returned to normalcy there is a public screening planned which I'll follow up on once I know the details.

Another event to make the switch to an online edition is Russia's Big Cartoon Festival, who will include my 2015 film Klementhro among its line-up for what I gather is something of a digital retrospective edition (the film participated in its 2017 edition and several associated events the following year). The event will run from July 3rd-12th with my film part of their What A Day! screening that plays on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th and 12th and you can swing by their website for more specifics in the lead-up. These screenings will also be free from what I can tell, so go ahead'n'treat yourselves.

Sunday, 7 June 2020


Guess who liked "Weird Al" album covers growing up...
It's been a minute or two since the last one but today sees the release of the second single from the upcoming sixth Struwwelpeter album My Head Is Too Small For My Body. The album's still a ways from being cooked but it's taking shape and unlike any records I've produced it's actually turning out to be quite thematically consistent. In the meantime this song is called Progressive and it draws on an affection for alternative synth-pop I developed during my time on Trampires. It also lyrically felt like a prescient choice given the recent convergence of cancel culture and societal uprising that kicked off a couple weeks back. To that end, if bought/streamed from Google Play, Apple Music, Spotify or Amazon then 100% of any sales revenue will be going directly to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Color of Change (so 50% each), two organisations doing particularly important work amidst all of this uproar. For those of you on Bandcamp they will similarly be donating revenue to NAACPLDF if you buy on the 19th of the month moving forward.
The EP also features an exclusive remix of the song as well as a re-recorded acoustic version of an old track Staying In, a song about...well, staying in. Although the original version was less about social responsibility and more about being anxious and lazy it felt like a fitting topic either way.
If you're after some more lockdown listenin' then there a bunch more episodes of our Skwigly Film Club series in which we watch and discuss animated features. We'll be resuming the podcast from next week for another batch if you want to get involved but in the meantime you can listen back to our watch-throughs of The Iron Giant (Brad Bird), Corpse Bride (Mike Johnson/Tim Burton), South Park (Trey Parker) and The BFG (Brian Cosgrove).

Friday, 8 May 2020

Stormy May Days

It's sort of reassuring that, even when the world is at an unprecedented standstill, if I wait long enough between blog posts I can maintain the illusion that it's all-go.
If you didn't manage to catch the BBC4 programme Get Animated! featuring Laura-Beth's new film The Gift - or if you want to see it again - it will be available on the BBC iPlayer for nearly a year from now, which is grand news. I hadn't realised earlier but the channel also had a repeat showing of Secrets of British Animation, a documentary in which my beardy face occasionally makes an appearance to talk about dirty cartoons, so that's also back on iPlayer but just for the next few weeks. There's some fun stuff in there so definitely give it a look if you didn't catch it the first time around.
Some really nice news in that Slovakia's Fest Anča International Animation Festival, one of the events who screened my very first film back in the day, have announced that my new film Speed is among the official selection for their 2020 edition. It's scheduled to take place from August 27th-30th so it's hard to say whether or not it'll go ahead as planned or make the switch to digital, but in intent my film will be part of the Extremely Short Section of Extremely Short Films. Will keep you posted with any updates that come between then and now.

Speaking of switching to digital, another event that has recently kicked off is Lift-Off Global Network's Genre Content Extravaganza, which includes both Speed and my preceding film Sunscapades in their Page 2 section. The programme can be rented and voted on through May 14th - with over 100 films to check out you get a lot of bang for your buck and, to be honest, it's not like you've got anywhere to be right now - so grab some popcorn and check it out. I'd originally submitted my work to this one as selected filmmakers get to visit Pinewood Studios and I was hoping I'd get to swing by the Channard Institute, so it's a bit of a shame that's not happening - but waddayagonnado? Nice of them to include the work either way.

If you need some audio goodness to accompany your extended weekend then - huzzah - we've got some podcasts for ya. The latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast welcomes back previous guest Kris Pearn to learn about his new Netflix film The Willoughbys and our Skwigly Film Club series continues with watch-throughs of animation classics The Land Before Time (Don Bluth) and The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet). Keep following us on Facebook, Twitter et al to get involved and help us decide which films we watch in future. We've also recently expanded our distribution platforms a touch so, depending on which floats your boat most buoyantly, be sure to follow us via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Acast and never miss an episode!

Friday, 24 April 2020

April Drizzle

As the world is generally moving a little slower these days I inevitably have less to post about, but this week's seen a bit of a clump of nifty updates I can share. Firstly the amazing Laura-Beth Cowley's latest film The Gift (made last year with Calling the Shots/BBC Arts and on which I was privileged to contribute some animation and sound) will be getting its broadcast premiere this Sunday evening on BBC as part of a special BBC Introducing Arts programme Get Animated! You can get a sneaky preview of what to expect here and be sure to tune in to BBC4 at 10:55pm to catch it - it'll also be available on BBC iPlayer afterwards.
After a long period of radio silence following its much-loved festival run, there are some rumblings of activity coming from the Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires camp in the form of a newly-revamped website for production studio Animortal and a recently-released behind-the-scenes featurette on the film itself. Have a gander above to see some of the incredible work that went into it (you may even catch a little breakdown of my own contributions to the VFX and compositing at around the 3:20 mark). Fingers crossed we'll hear some word of a release in the near future...

Meanwhile the wonderful Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film has, like many events for the foreseeable future, migrated its programme to a special online edition running from May 5th-10th. Having been involved in the festival as both press and as a filmmaker in the past I had been set to attend in a third capacity, this time as part of the International Competition Jury - but alas, I ain't goin' nowhere. We will, however, be convening online and I can assuredly say this year's selection of films is a uniquely strong and consistent cross-section of some of the best work around and I can't recommend checking this online iteration out enough. You can find out more info here but in short there are three options for experiencing the festival - a free edition, equivalent to their open-air Festival on Schlossplatz; streaming access to the entire official selection for 9.99€; and, for professionals, the Pro edition grants digital access to an assortment of masterclasses, presentations and the complete animated video market for 19.99€. When you think of what you're saving on air fare and accommodation it really is a steal, so check out the festival website for more info.
If life durin' lockdown is starting to drag you might want to get yourselves caught up on our new Skwigly podcast series Skwigly Film Club in which myself, Steve, Laura-Beth and possibly others down the line babble over a variety of animated feature films. Since we launched it a few weeks back with Don Hertzfeldt's It's Such a Beautiful Day we've since hit play on Adam Elliot's Mary and Max, Claude Barras's My Life as a Courgette (or Zucchini, depending on which side of the pond you're on) and Gerald Potterton's Heavy Metal. I'm sure episodes to come will be even more diverse and if anyone wants to weigh in with their suggestions, thoughts, memories and suchlike be sure to keep in touch via our Twitter and Facebook as the series continues.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Keepin' on
Howdy folks, hope everyone out there's having a fun (or at least tolerable) lockdown. I suppose now would be as good a time as any to stock up on some reading material, and fortunately the fine folks at CRC Press have kicked off another site-wide sale running until the end of May that knocks 20% off their paperback titles - including my own Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films! See, it's not all gloom and misery after all.
If you're not too wild about having things delivered then there's some even better news, as the eBook edition is available at a whopping 35% off!
On the subject of keeping ourselves entertained by wonderful indie animation, be sure to check out our brand new podcast series Skwigly Film Club, a new, quicker-turnaround affair in which myself, Steve, Laura-Beth and other members of the Skwigly team discuss animated feature films as we watch them (as such they can work as a sort of commentary track if you fancy it). In episode 1 our focus is Don Hertzfeldt's wonderful, hilarious and moving It's Such a Beautiful Day which the director has generously made available to watch for free for the time being.
In the episodes to come we're hoping to get listeners involved so be sure to keep your eyes on our Twitter and the hashtag #skwiglyfilmclub to see how you can get involved. Other ways you might want to interact with Skwigly during these housebound times include getting involved in our Tuesday evening chatroom sessions as well as #SkwiglySelfPromotions on Wednesdays. For more info check out this article and to hear the podcast you can direct download here or stream below:

Thursday, 19 March 2020

News from Isolationville

Some sad and inevitable (but 100% understandable given the circumstances) news to kick off with - due to the COVID-19 crisis the Cardiff Animation Festival scheduled for April has been postponed for the foreseeable future. It's a pointedly unfair situation that puts a lot of hard working folks in a tight spot and it's a rotten feeling to not be able to do anything about it, but knock wood it will resume as normal next year.
It always bears repeating that the work Lauren and the CAF/CAN team have done over the years as far as keeping the Welsh (and beyond) animation community alive is absolutely staggering and this was set to be another belter of an event. I'm sure what the future holds will be bigger, brighter and better than ever. In the meantime much love to all the brilliant people working in events organisation who've been unfairly caught in the middle of this storm.
Along with a major festival scheduled for May at which I had hoped to participate on the International Competition Jury, as well as a couple of unexpected final screenings for Sunscapades, said storm includes a number of other upcoming events having to outright cancel that would have featured Speed, and to be honest any planned outings for the film over the Spring or Summer are looking increasingly unlikely.
This of course is a microscopic concern compared to the miasma of anxieties that we're currently facing and knock wood things will be on the up again before too long.
In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we have a go at taking things to a cheerier place under the circumstances by looking back at last week's British Animation Awards, which probably marks the last indoor industry gathering we'll be seeing in the UK for a little while. Having recently been taken over by Helen Brunsdon and Kieran Argo since Jayne Pilling retired, the 2020 event proved to be a success and Steve was able to grab some inebriated green room interviews with a handful of the winners:
  • Richard Phelan/Will Becher (Aardman's Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon, Best Long Form)
  • Giovanna Utichi (Blue Zoo's A Whale's Tale, Best Original Short Form)
  • Danny Capozzi (Aardman's New Mindset, Best Social Good)
  • Sarah Cox (Aardman's Shaun the Sheep, Best Series)
  • Peter Lord (Head of Aardman)
  • Roxi Linklater (Aardman rigger and winner of the first BAA Lamb Award)
You can stream the podcast below or direct download (you can also check out the full list of winners here):
Not much else to say really, I expect things will be a bit quiet here for a little while. Stay safe, folks.

Friday, 13 March 2020

In the latest episode of the third season of our Skwigly podcast series Intimate Animation, Laura-Beth and I meet director/animator Natasza Cetner, whose RCA graduation film Nigel was recently released online as a Short of the Week Premiere and Vimeo Staff Pick to much enthusiasm.
Using quasi-traditional 2D animation approaches, the film is an inventive spin on the story of Nigel, a lonely gannet who hopelessly falls in love with a concrete statue. Serving as a reflection of our own misconceptions in love, the film has screened at numerous festivals including LIAF, PSIAF, Anifilm, Animocje, Tricky Women, PÖFF Shorts, Animac and Animateka as well as being written up on outlets including Creative Review, It’s Nice That and Directors Notes.
Also discussed in this episode: Selected love’n’sex-themed films and event highlights from the recent Anima Festival in Brussels and new shorts to watch out for at the upcoming Cardiff Animation Festival.
Direct download here or stream below:

Friday, 6 March 2020

What will or won't be
A little backtrack on the last post that went up here, it turns out that Speed won't be seeing its Japanese premiere this month at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival as the event has unfortunately been cancelled due to the growing COVID-19 coronavirus concerns. It's disappointing but I completely understand their position in a difficult time and it's an honour to have been officially selected for such a highly-regarded festival in intent at least. They haven't ruled out the possibility of a future screening outside of the proposed dates so I'll keep you folks posted if that comes along.
Cheerier news is that the Cardiff Animation Festival, scheduled for the first week of April at the fantastic Chapter arts venue, is so far still going ahead and has this week unveiled its full programme of events. As well as Speed being part of their Shorts 3 screening (2:45pm April 2nd and 12:45pm April 5th) and Laura-Beth's new film The Gift in Shorts 2 (1pm April 2nd and 1:45pm April 3rd), there's a ton of brilliant events to check out. A few highlights off the top of my head are an Aardman exhibition, special editions of Cardiff Animation Nights and Animation Grill, talks by animation talents Lorraine Lordan, Simon Chong, Avgousta Zoureldi and Kyle Legall as well as panels on storytelling, producing animation and industry inclusion (on the back of a very insightful recent Skwigly piece by Tanya Scott, who'll be participating).
As with the first edition of CAF I'll also be hosting the Animator's Brunch sessions along with Laura-Beth on the Saturday and Sunday morning at 10am, so swing by to hear about the amazing shorts being shown from the filmmakers themselves.
Passes are sold out but individual tickets are still available so act fast!

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

East and West
More good news for my latest film Speed, it will be part of the Official Selection for next month's Tokyo Anime Award Festival. The event looks absolutely spectacular and it burns a little that I won't be able to head over to Japan and enjoy it in person but as ever I'm enormously grateful to be involved at all.
Speed will be part of the Short Animation Competition Slot 3 alongside some absolute belters including Osman Cerfon's I'm Going Out For Cigarettes, Sarah Van Den Boom's Raymonde or the Vertical Escape and Michael Frei's Kids. Other films festivalgoers should keep an eye out for are Daria Kashcheeva's Daughter, Regina Pessoa's Uncle Thomas: Accounting For The Days and Ivan Rabbiosi's Iron Me
Slot 3 will be screening at 12:15pm March 13th and 5:20pm the following day at Shin-Bungeiza
It's also worth mentioning that this coming weekend my previous film Sunscapades will be getting probably its final major festival screening at the Anima Brussels Animation Film Festival. Following the announcement of its inclusion in the Official Selection back in December I now know it will be part of the Animated Night marathon screening that kicks off 9:30pm on Saturday 29th and wraps up in the wee hours of the 1st. Sunscapades will be playing fairly late in the programme so bring along whatever stimulants best keep you from nodding off.
It's looking like an absolute corker of a festival and you can swing by Skwigly to check out some of the programme highlights, special guests and industry days on offer. Laura-Beth and I will also be there from the 26th so pop over and say hello if you spot us.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Nothin' But Love
I'm extremely happy to say that the latest Official Selection for Speed will be at the Cardiff Animation Festival, which returns for its second edition this April. The first edition was absolutely tremendous and immediately cemented it as an absolute favourite so it's fantastic to see it continue and even more so to be involved. The film is in grand company too as they've also selected some absolute crackers including Laura-Beth's new film The Gift, to which I contributed some bits and bobs. Although I don't yet know the exact dates/times, The Gift will be part of Shorts 2: Body with Speed in Shorts 3: Heart. Check out their website for updates as they come and hopefully see some of you there!
In the latest episode of our podcast Intimate Animation we meet UK-based director/animator Elizabeth Hobbs, whose 2018 short film I’m OK, produced with the National Film Board of Canada and Animate Projects, explores the passionate and tempestuous love affair between Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka and his lover Alma Mahler.
On top of a BAFTA nomination in 2019, the film has screened at such major festivals as Clermont Ferrand, Annecy, OIAF, LIAF and EIFF and is presently in contention for the British Animation Awards Public Choice alongside her more recent work The Flounder, created for The Happiness Machine project.
Also discussed in this episode: Alternative approaches to animation education, Oscar contenders and love-themed films to look out for during both the British Animation Awards Public Choice screenings and the upcoming Anima Festival in Brussels. Stream above or direct download here.
On the subject of interviews with fantastic animation wimmins, you might want to check out a Q&A with Joanna Hepworth, who's been working up the road from me this past year or so as one of the main Animation Directors on Love Monster, a new series for CBeebies adapted from the books series by Rachel Bright. Give it a read for some insight into the unique production approach (the animation is being simultaneously produced in London at Karrot and Bristol's A Productions), working in CelAction and how the show aims to engage its audience. Having known Jo since I started in animation way back when, it's been a uniquely wonderful and inspiring thing watching her work go from strength to strength over the years and I'm certain even bigger things are yet to come. Be sure to check out the show on BBC iPlayer.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Knockin' About
The British Animation Awards Public Choice screenings are continuing over the next few weeks and, following an encouraging response to the first handful of January screenings, here's where you'll be able to catch my new film Speed (nestled in amongst Programme 2) in February: 
On the heels of its premiere last month I'm also happy to say that things are starting to percolate on the festivals front. There are a few events coming up but right now the only one I can announce is the Canterbury Anifest that takes place February 29th to March 1st. This is the first time anything I've done has been involved in this particular festival (although Boris-Noris did screen there a little while back) so it's lovely news indeed. Speed will play in the Shortlist Screening 2 on Sunday March 1st at noon in the Main Hall of Augustine House.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Spoilt for Choice
Although it's yet to embark on its festival rounds, my latest film Speed has managed to snag itself a place among the many fantastic recent UK-produced animated shorts in contention for the British Animation Awards! Ahead of the main event which takes place March 12th at BFI Southbank, the Public Choice screenings (comprised of three programmes, with Speed playing in the second) will be taking place at a variety of venues and universities across the UK over the next couple of months. Seeing what it's up against I'm honestly not holding out hope it'll get the popular vote, but I'm very happy to be tagging along and fingers crossed this is a good omen for how it does down the line.
The screening dates/venues for January are as follows:
If none of the above are close enough to you be sure to check back in February for the next batch!
Also this month it'll get a little preview outing over in Spain as part of Letto Studio's Micro Festival in Madrid. If you're in the area be sure to check out the festival's Micro Comedia 1 programme which takes place 6pm January 25th and 1pm January 26th at the Sala Equis.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Speeding into the new year

Happy end o' decade, everyone!
One thing I'm sure people are sick of is my propensity toward self-congratulatory posts about Sunscapades being screened at festivals. So in the spirit of turning over a new leaf, I'm going in to 2020 with a self-congratulatory post about my new film Speed being screened at festivals instead!
Lol I'm a cock.
That's right, I made a new film. Sneakily and in the background, enabled by the wonderful folks who run Shy Guys Studios. I'll hold back on the major details but needless to say it's pretty different tonally and graphically from Sunscapades (or any of my films really, though I suppose closer to Klementhro in terms of minimalist absurdism) and is actually a pretty old idea I came up with during my first trip to ITFS Stuttgart but I could never find a visual approach that fit until I started playing around with DUIK, a pretty incredible free character-rigging system developed for After Effects.
The first festival to officially announce its involvement is the brilliant British Shorts festival in Berlin. This marks my third consecutive of year of inclusion after they screened Klementhro in 2018 and Sunscapades last year, so it's safe to say it's an event I have a lot of love for. As before I'm in tremendous company, with other selected films including new and recent work by Lauren Orme, Robert Morgan, Anna Mantzaris, Caitlin McCarthy, Ben Steer and Laura Jayne Hodkin among others.
The screening will take place 8pm Sunday 19th at the Sputnik Kino at 7:30pm. Danke, chaps!