Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Springtime frolics

If everything's all a bit too quiet for you in these times of global peace and serenity then here are a couple podcasts to break things up a bit. In our first Skwigly Animation Podcast of 2021 we reminisce about the before-times, bemoan uninteresting movie versions of characters best suited to shorts and pick through the animation highlights of the current awards season. 

On the guests front we also welcome the teams behind the Oscar-nominated films Soul (Pete Docter, Kemp Powers and Dana Murray) and If Anything Happens I Love You (Will McCormack and Michael Govier).

You can also check out a new panel from Tanya and Hodan's brilliant Visible in Visuals series. Following on from the first Women in Animation panel, this episode brings together animation professionals with over 50 years of experience between them, including some dear friends whose voices I hadn't quite realised how much I'd missed, discussing their experiences with inclusion, struggles women face in the workplace, and ideal working environments.
As with all of these discussions it brings about some genuinely surprising revelations and there's a ton of food for thought as regards workplace impropriety, casual misogyny and, well, toilets.

Some festival news in that The Gift, Laura-Beth Cowley's BBC Arts film on which I contributed some character animation and shouty bad language, is currently part of CineMagic's On The Pulse Online Short Film Festival until the end of the month. Festivalgoers can check it out as part of the screening programme Tales of the Unexpected.

Finally a quick reminder that this Thursday (March 25th) at 8pm you can catch the special Skwigly edition of Cardiff Animation Nights, curated by Laura-Beth and I. The full selection is as follows:
  • Oh, Darling! (Dir. Cornelius Joksch, Germany)
  • Betty (Dir. Will Anderson, UK)
  • Bubble (Dir. Morgan Powell, UK)
  • Mountain Heart (Dir. Uncle Ginger, UK)
  • Just A Guy (Dir. Shoko Hara, Germany)
  • The Edge (Dir. Zaide Kutay/Geraldine Cammisar, Switzerland)
  • Nod. Wink. Horse. (Dir. Ollie McGee, UK)
  • Peepin (Dir. Haein Kim/Paul Rhodes, Australia)
We'll also be including this year's Cardiff Quick Draw winner Not OK Cupid (Dir. Friend Party Studios) and exclusive Q&As with directors Shoko Hara, Haein Kim, Paul Rhodes and Will Anderson. Tune in to the Cardiff Animation YouTube channel on the night to check it out and hopefully catch some of you there!

Friday, 5 March 2021

March Bits

Hey there good buddies. A little bit o' Speed news for ya with the unveiling of the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI)'s 2021 official selection. These lovely Canucks also gave Sunscapades some love a couple years ago, so they're aces in my book. This time around my film will be part of the suitably-titled Oddball Collection (Shorts 6) at 3pm Toronto time on March 27th. I may even make a virtual appearance of some kind if y'all are super, super lucky. Grab your tickets here.

A little bit before then on the 25th Laura-Beth and I are presenting a special Skwigly screening with our good pals at Cardiff Animation Nights. It's gonna be a great hour of top-notch animation (including Will Anderson's incredible new film Betty, pictured above) with some Q&As to boot. As usual that one will be a free stream via their YouTube channel kicking off at 8pm and won't be staying up once it's done, so be sure to not miss it!

Another project Laura-Beth and I both worked on (a good few years ago now) was the Brazilian preschool series Lendas Animadas, which I gather is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. Alas it doesn't appear to be accessible outside of Brazil, but if you have young'uns and are based in South America this might be something fun to plonk them down in front of. It was certainly a fun one to work on.

Also worth mentioning that the recent BBC Arts/Calling the Shots film The Life and Times of a Witch Bottle animated by Laura-Beth (on the heels of her own witchy film The Gift), is the subject of an online event being put together by The Folklore Society that takes place at 6pm on the 23rd. Laura-Beth will be speaking about the film alongside researchers Owen Davies and Nigel Jeffries of the AHRC who conceived the film as part of BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine's Animated Thinking series. Head to Eventive for more info and tickets.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Monday Mindfulness

If you're after something to help break up the day then there's a new episode of Visible in Visuals to watch/listen to. This time around the subject is mental health, marking the first (and possibly only) panel to include myself, alongside organiser Tanya Scott, director Evgenia Golubeva, psychotherapist Sarah McCaffrey, animator Mohamed Orekan and Steff Lee of Kino Bino Studio. In this episode we discuss the realities of taking care of yourself while working in a competitive and often stressful industry, and how we can improve our understanding of mental health at work. Swing by Skwigly for some additional resources and be sure to keep in touch with Visible In Visuals if you have any feedback or are interested in getting involved with them down the line.

It's been pretty quiet on the festivals front, with the only news being it's about to get quieter as the Brussels Independent Short Film Festival: Courts Mais Trash (which this year includes Speed) will be postponing its March dates to instead take place April 21st-28th as a hybrid event. Honestly it's anyone's guess what will or won't be able to go ahead by then but I'm keeping my fingers crossed as they're a lovely bunch. Updates when I have 'em.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Keepin' your minds occupied

Good gravy these weeks are spinning by quick - yet at the same time life has slowed to an interminable crawl. What a fun little paradox. 

If, like me in all of my adorableness, you're inching incrementally closer to having just about effing had it and could do with some distraction then you might want to pencil in the next Cardiff Animation Nights. This will be their ninth online edition and, while I'm bummed it's been over a year since we last got to do it in person over at Kongs, you've got to give the team props for keeping their community spirit alive and kicking. As with some of their previous editions Laura-Beth and I will be including some exclusive Skwigly filmmaker Q&As, so be sure to tune in to their YouTube channel 8pm on February 25th and check it out.

If you haven't swung by Skwigly in a while it's worth mentioning that we're still churning out our interviews with some of the industry's best and brightest. Among the filmmakers we've featured over the past year or so whose work has qualified for this year's animated short film Oscar nominations are Frank Abney (Canvas), Nadja Andrasev (Symbiosis), Jordan Canning/Howie Shia (4 North A), Michael Govier/Will McCormack (If Anything Happens I Love You), Shoko Hara (Just A Guy), Steven Clay Hunter (Out), Andreas Hykade (Altötting), Max Lang/Daniel Snaddon (The Snail and the Whale), Catherine Lepage (The Great Malaise), Jean-François Lévesque (I, Barnabé), Arnon Manor/Timothy Ware-Hill (Cops and Robbers), Louise Mercadier/Frederic Even (Sororelle), Michaela Mihalyi/Dávid Štumpf (SH_T HAPPENS), Robin Shaw (The Tiger Who Came to Tea), Benjamin Morard/Frederic Siegel (The Lonely Orbit), Josephine Lohoar Self (The Fabric of You) and Soetkin Verstegen (Freeze Frame). Much gratitude as always to the folks for giving us their time as well as Laura-Beth and our other brilliant Skwigly team members Aaron, Nathan, Martyn and Amy for pitching in with the interviews.

This week also sees two animated NFB productions screen at Clermont Ferrand, one of the biggest festivals around - if it passed you by a few months back you can read an interview with Daniel Gray (co-director of T.O.M. and teeth, a prominent case study in my book Independent Animation) about his film HIDE, plus the festival marks the premiere of the incomparable Joanna Quinn's long-awaited new Beryl film Affairs of the Art. Check out parts one and two of Steve's chat with Joanna and writer/producer Les Mills and look out for an extended interview as part of a future Skwigly podcast.

Something else that might serve as a welcome diversion is the upcoming BBC series Chris Packham's Animal Einsteins, a six-part look animal survival skills. I'm not sure if I can elaborate on what specifically my connection to it is right now, so for the time being just take it as a general recommendation. I mean, who doesn't love animal stuff? That'll kick off on February 21st on BBC2.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Piggy, where'd it all go wrong?

Happy inauguration day folks!

Man alive, we actually made it to this point. To mark the occasion here's a completely unrelated new song I wrote about a certain Piggy that outstayed its welcome. The last Struwwelpeter EP in anticipation of the nearly-done new album My Head Is Too Small For My Body is available from today via Bandcamp (stream below) featuring the exclusive extra track Mysterious Bruises with guest vocals by Laura-Beth as well as an alternate acoustic mix of the title track.

Gracias to Hannah Stevens of Weird Eye Collective for the painterly assistance with the EP cover art.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Trash begets trash

The first Speed update of 2021 comes with today's announcement of this year's Brussels Independent Short Film Festival: Courts Mais Trash Official Selection and programme. I'm happy to say I've had my trashy ass invited back after these fine folks gave Sunscapades a couple screenings back in 2019 - festivalgoers can catch Speed as the first film of their Opening screening alongside other Courts Mais Trash alum. All being well it will take place at Cinéma Aventure in Brussels on March 10th although I don't know the actual time just yet.

Going back a couple films it's worth mentioning that, in anticipation of some to-be-determined screening events in the summer, Bulgaria's Kinematograf NGO have furnished me with Bulgarian subtitles for my 2015 short Klementhro, which was mighty nice of them. So now you can share the poignant journey and emotional message of everyone's favourite paddle-enthusiast to all the Bulgarians in your life!

Monday, 11 January 2021

Visible Listenin'

Happy new year, gang. Hope you made it through the shackled season with some degree of merriment.

The first podcast we're putting out for 2021 is a new episode of Visible in Visuals, this time around focusing on working in the animation industry from the perspectives of an all-female panel. As always it makes for fascinating and, as a CIS white fella, revelatory listening - in fact if you've not yet caught up be sure to watch/listen back to the other panels Tanya and the team have been putting out in the interim, including Diversity and Inclusion in Animation: An LGBTQ+ PerspectiveA Discussion on Brexit and the recent Career Advice panel held at last year's Cardiff Animation Festival.

There are a whole bunch more panels in the pipeline, so if you want to be kept up to speed and maybe participate down the line be sure to follow them on Twitter.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Cheer. Brimming with it.

If you're in the mood for a holiday movie marathon on this most Xmassy of Eves - or if you just want to drown out the family squabbling - you could do worse than catching up on our seasonally-themed batch of Skwigly Film Club podcasts we've been putting up this month.
Head over to the Podcasts section of the site and get caught up on our watch-throughs of Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon), Dot and Santa Claus (Yoram Gross), Arthur Christmas (Sarah Smith and Barry Cook) and our latest episode where we press play on The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick) joined again by special guest Joseph Wallace

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Storytime with Ben

As I've found myself with a much freer schedule than anticipated this week (thanks BoJo, you mop-headed dunce) here's a little story not remotely connected to Xmas, harking back to a time when people could congregate in the tens of thousands. Perhaps one day that will be something we can do again and you'll get more gems like this. Fingers crossed innit.

Happy holidays, m'lovelies. Stay safe.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Don't it all spin by quick

I realised, thanks to the cruel joys of social media and their respective 'On This Day' thingies, that today marks the ten-year anniversary of my fourth Struwwelpeter LP The Book Of Women. After the soaring (scraped quadruple digits, phwoar) sales of the not-as-good previous LP Agnosticaust in a post-MySpace world this one quietly came out digitally (with a physical release the following week) to a more tepid response. My G5 had crashed two weeks beforehand so I'd lost a bunch of the masters as well as virtually all the assets for a couple of animated music videos that would have gone with it and ended up cobbling the released album together from a mix of partially-recovered files, earlier demo versions and a couple tracks hurriedly remixed from scratch. Even still it was a fun one to piece together and had some great guest musicians. 
History has repeated itself with my iMac shitting its stupid iMaccy britches earlier this year so my plan to have released a new LP by now hasn't happened, but the EPs have been going down OK (once the stats are aggregated, at least). At any rate if you've yet to give The Book of Women a whirl it's available Bandcamp, Spotify (below), iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon, Tidal and Deezer
Fun fact: while this album didn't set the world alight, the main single Set You Free did get played on BBC Introducing back in the day - although the hosts kind of took a dump on it, which seemed slightly at odds with picking it in the first place. Comme ci, comme ça.