Friday, 19 December 2008

A Cautionary Tale (of Coital Mishap)

Just a post to say that my epic new ten-second film is done. In total the animation took two evenings, and I actually had to trim quite a bit to get it down to ten secs. Ultimately it's a bit of a clusterfuck that speeds by, so it might take a couple of views to really get it. That being said, it turned out quite well, and there's something to the idea that makes me think this may grow into a bigger film if time allows.
You can download it in hi-res here, or have a look at some stills (with the obligatory warning of it being, I dunno, kinda-sorta-not-really adult):

NOTE: For this version I've put an Auf Der Maur poster on the wall which I guess I'd have to change if I ever make this into a proper film.

Monday, 15 December 2008

A Mere 10"

Here are some drawings for an itsy-bitsy new film I'm doing. This one's the shortest yet, running at no more than 10 seconds. I decided to throw together the story of how I lost my tooth a little while ago, an anecdote which takes me about half an hour to tell as I love my voice so much. Turns out if you cut out the irrelevant bits ten seconds is ample time to tell it. So, yeah, I need better anecdotes.
Anyway, it's for a ten-second film competition being held at this month's 'Straight To Video' screening at Start The Bus. A couple friends of mine are also contributing entries, including Jo (she who done all that stuff on my film innit). It's a nice idea and sounds like it'll be a fun night.

I also thought you might enjoy two slightly grotesque line tests. First off is the last layout in motion. You might want to cover your gums.

And here's some classy'n'mature contruction-line shagging to go out on. Look at the fat bastard go!

Saturday, 6 December 2008


Here's a sneak peek at the still-in-progress adaptation of 'House Guest' into a graphic novel. I'm not a big fan of the lettering - computer fonts generally look out of place when it comes to comics - but that can be changed later on.As I really need to spend my time on work (or searching for work) that pays, I can only spend time on this project in fits and starts. It'll definitely get done, I'm sure of that, but it may not be for a while.
So Frank Miller needn't worry just yet :P

Saturday, 29 November 2008

I McGraduated!

Thought I'd show some photographic evidence that all this zombie duck cartoon nonsense actually had some legitimate application when it came to getting me an MA.
I'm highly edumacated! Along with several others who helped out here and there with 'House Guest', so thanks again in photographic order to Hanna Merilainen, Verity Ross-Smith (script supervisors), Helen Shaw, Cari Merryman, Vibeke Cleaverly (clean-up/colouring assistants) and of course my family for their amazing support.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


'I Castelli Animati', an Italian animation festival, has picked up 'House Guest' and will screen it as part of their International Showcase on November 27th! So, if you've been looking for an excuse to visit that delightful city, why, this should be the clincher.
In truth I'd be there myself except, naturally, it falls on the day of my graduation. Not only would it have been amazing to get over to Italy, but the whole festival looks like it'll be a blast. Check out what's on offer at their website if you don't believe me.

On a related note, my MA coursemate Michael Rokes's film 'Bertha & Bruno' was recently shown at this year's 'Flip Animation Festival' in Wolverhampton, alongside such greats as Smith & Foulkes and even Bill Plympton! Having had a front row seat to all the blood, sweat and bloody, sweaty tears that went into the film, I have to say it undoubtedly deserves all the success and accolades it will hopefully garner. Plus, my name's on the credits for composing the score and I need all the exposure I can get.
Ah, backhanded, self-serving compliments. They make the world brighter, don't they?

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Comically Illegible

Rather than let the idea evaporate in the wind (as ideas are wont to do), I'm making a concerted effort to find time to make 'House Guest: The Graphic Novel' a reality. Indie publishing companies like Cafepress and Lulu would make distribution a breeze, and I can say that from experience. I've sold albums, merchandise and books through them in the past at no cost, and if the product is good, people do buy it. Of course, if the product is crap, then not so much. Hopefully the 'House Guest' book will fall into the former category.
The bulk of the book will, naturally, be the adaptation of the film itself. I've broken it down in an almost-indecipherable way:Believe it or not, those have proved very dependable in terms of laying out the comic. It comes to about 64 pages though, which in my opinion is a little skimpy. I think to graduate it from just a 'comic' to a 'graphic novel' it'd need to be 100 pages, minimum.
So I'm not quite sure what to do next. Do I have enough material to pad out 40 pages? I could possibly collect some roughs and concept art, or maybe even include another story ('Ground Running', being largely a visual film, would translate very easily into a comic). I guess time will tell.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

So my baby doesn't get too smug...

After the encouraging news of the 'Ground Running' festival premiere the other week, I'd been pondering as to whether or not 'House Guest' would ever get screened, being such a different type of film. It was nice to see it responded to positively at the bar screening last month, so it seems a fair enough assumption that it won't send the average festivalgoer fleeing up the aisles in revulsion and disgust.
With that in mind, it was a well-timed piece of good news to hear recently that on November 30th 'House Guest' will get its UK festival debut during Nottingham's 'Bang! Short Film Festival'. Yahoo!
This festival has in the past shown films by my MA coursemates Miho Matsuda (including her super-creepy graduate film 'Dancers of the Stolen Heart') and Maria Gracia Bisso.
Check out their website and, if it's your thing, go along and give my flick a look see on the big screen. Well, I'm assuming it'll be a big screen. Big-ish at least.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ya Gotta Love Them Grecians...

Well, it didn't get snapped up by Depict, but my naked-baby-adventure-romp 'Ground Running' has fared better elsewhere. God bless those Greeks, particularly the ones at the Thermaikos 2Min Film Festival.
Although it was only confirmed today, 'Ground Running' is among the films that will be screened at the event which starts this saturday (Nov 1st). For more info check out their website.
So, if you've always wanted to go to Greece but never had the right excuse, what better than to see a film of mine that runs at about 90 seconds?
Okay, there are many, many better reasons to go to Greece. Culture and architecture and blah-de-f*cking-blah...but, I mean, c'mon, look at how cute the little rascal is...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

So am I Huey Lewis or Ray Parker Jr.?

When ‘Ground Running’ was screened for the first time one of the evening’s fellow directors came over to our table to say some nice things, mentioning briefly that my film reminded him of a viral Xbox commercial he had seen. I told him I’d give it a look and, well, I did. Frankly, I’m a little freaked out as the commercial is staggeringly similar to the first few seconds of my film.

A woman in the agonising throes of childbirth shoots the baby out of her v’jay and it smashes through a hospital window. From there the similarities diminish, with the baby aging as it flies through the air and landing in a coffin (I guess somehow representing that…I dunno, ‘Life is short’, so waste it playing Xbox games?). As my film is primarily about being a postgraduate weighing up his options, the bulk of it is, in its own right, original. But watching this commercial is unsettling as it’s like looking at my idea done in live action and with a budget.
Here’s the kicker - they did it first. I am making absolutely no claim of being ripped off as this advert was made years ago (the youtube upload is from 2006) - but at the same time I am absolutely certain that I never saw this commercial. If I had, I probably would’ve sent it to everyone I know as, to be fair, it is pretty cool.
So, it’s a dark night of the creative soul for me. Is it really just a coincidence that my film’s opening is so similar?
I decided the only way to make peace with myself is to dissect the process. Looking back at a previous entry I remembered thinking about other funny birth scenes from film and TV. The ones that stick out in my head include the fantastic intro to Addams Family Values, the pacing of the birth scene being very cartooney in and of itself.

I think other inspiring elements came from Ren & Stimpy…
…As well as a lovely sequence from Big Fish where the baby is popped out and slides along the floor. Given that was a pretty high-profile flick, I’d imagine that said sequence could’ve also been a springboard for the Xbox ad. Elements such as the timing and the ‘bungee umbilical cord’ are unique to my film as far as I know, but as a visual it could easily have been done before.
The real pisser is the baby flying out the window. I can think of a number of sequences from cartoons and movies where things are hurtled out of windows comedically, Looney Tunes, Farrelly Bros. movies, again Ren & Stimpy most likely. Later on in the Addams Family film the baby gets hurled through a skylight...
With all this in mind I’m fairly confident that my idea was the product of my own independent bricolage process. Bricolage being, essentially, the deconstruction of pre-existing ideas and their subsequent reassembly to create something new. To be honest, all creativity could be seen as a type of bricolage, as nobody can really create something new without drawing upon the cultural and societal influences around them. I think it would take a particular brand of arrogance to dispute that.
I’m still not comfortable with it, though. I think it might be worth it to create new footage for ‘Ground Running’, maybe get the runtime up to at least two minutes and change the structure of the opening scene so that it doesn’t share the same similarities. Until then, I think I’ll put further festival submissions on hold.
Now I find myself asking that vital question every young man asks himself at one time or another - ‘how do I get that baby out of the vagina and into the street without accidentally plagiarising an Xbox viral?’
Why, it’s a question as old as time itself.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Squeezing My Duck Dry...

A couple months ago I wrote about the possibility of developing a character from my old webcomic ‘Mitchells In England’ for a graphic novel (or possibly several). This has been incrementally taking shape, but only as far as the writing is concerned. I think it’ll be a funny and interesting story when it comes together, but I’ve been going back and forth as to what kind of visual style I should use.
While my usual ‘Mitchells In England’/’House Guest’ look seems logical, it may be better to approach the artwork in a more contemporary way. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.
In the meantime I’m still eager to produce a graphic novel of some sort, and a friend of mine came up with a pretty nifty idea: adapt ‘House Guest’ into one! In theory it’d be pretty easy - as all the artwork produced for the film could be used, converting it to a comic-book format would just be a matter of laying out the stills and text. I could probably even include segments that were eventually edited out of the film, so it wouldn’t just be a picture-book of material people are already familiar with.
It’s early days (well, early first day) but I think that with some thought it might come together really well. I actually got so enthused last night that I even whipped up a concept for the book cover:How do you like them apples, Spiegelman?

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Today I got my first rejection from a film festival. It’s basically the same type of template letter you get with applying for jobs or schools or whatnot. I’ve known from the off that ‘House Guest’ wasn’t for everyone, and that inevitably I wouldn’t get through to most of the festivals I submitted it to, but it is a little disheartening for the very first reply to be a fob-off.
As the great Les Claypool once sung, ‘lack of persistence is surely a sin’, so I’ve resolved to find two more festivals for every ‘no’ I get. So long as I stick to the ones that don’t charge (or don’t charge all that much) there’s nothing really to lose.
I found out recently that most studios actually have people on staff whose entire job is to scour the listings for festivals and send films off. So a (pretty good) studio film that’s won a couple of awards out of twenty-odd festival screenings was submitted to about two hundred festivals. Them’s shit odds, and for us indie folk who don’t have the staff or the time to send stuff out to that extent it’s a pretty unbalanced playing field.
On a cheerier note, last week I decided to thank Adam Carolla personally for his unknowing contribution to the completion of ‘House Guest’ by calling into his show. If you have any interest in hearing me kiss arse, you can listen to the archived segment here (skip to about 9’30” in).
Carolla brings up a fantastic web animator Michael Narren, who had previously created some short webtoons using snippets of conversation from Carolla’s prior show Loveline. They’re brilliantly executed and work really well as standalone shorts to people who have never heard the show. You should check them out at his website, or take a look at my favourite ‘Grand Theft Submarine’ (and see why the phrase ‘cone opens’ cracks me up).

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Baby Boom

Here are some more layouts from my Depict submission-in-progress.I doubt this one'll be too popular with the ladies, but it's helped me get in touch with my feminine side. Plus, giving birth is generally a bit trickier when you keep your legs closed.Here we see the baby's dramatic entrance.Cut to a side-view and the poor little whippersnapper is snagged on the still-attached umbilical cord.
Here are the latter two images in motion:
It's a tiny detail but I really like the way the arms and legs settle into position. It really conveys a sense of tension and balance.This is a similar shot to the first appearance of the baby, although with an acceleration to the speed of the approach to the camera. In the first animation the baby slows down as it gets closer, so with each in-between less distance is covered. In the animation below (combined with last entry's 'skid' shot) the baby speeds up as it falls so each in-between this time covers more distance.
Does that make sense? Does anything I say, for that matter?

Monday, 4 August 2008

Left Holding The Baby

My initial plan to produce my new film 'Ground Running' using a combination of 2D animation and cut-outs/pixellation has been somewhat hampered. This is for a number of reasons, including time, economics and, primarily, my friend who I'd hoped would help with the photography just bought a puppy. On one hand, just having the film limited to 2D animation on its own will doubtless see it less interesting aesthetically. On the other hand -Aaaaw...So cuuuuute...
Actually I think the film will work fine this way. My lament during the production of 'House Guest' was that a lot of the charm in the animation was lost when the rough pencil tests were cleaned-up, inked-in and coloured. It'll be cool and somewhat fitting thematically to have a film be done entirely pencil-on-paper. This way I'm gonna have to make the animation shine through to make it visually impressive, as I won't be able to hide behind any slickness or polish. Here are some layout drawings I've come up with based on the storyboard: For when the baby is skidding along the ground. Although no real harm comes to it, I want there to be a couple Kricfalusian moments where you wince a little bit.On that note, the doctor's glasses are a little homage to John K.I want the facial acting for the woman in labour at the start to be fairly true-to-life. Slightly panicked...and sweaty.The baby graduates! So foolish and full of hope. Poor bastard.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Panel Discussion

I am presently musing on the surprisingly wide-ranging and diverse subject of graphic novels, or bandes dessinées as the Montreal bookstores refer to them. It has previously been a casual interest of mine, although recently I’ve grown to become fascinated by them and developed a pressing urge to do one of my own.My initial interest came as an offshoot of my childhood devotion to the band Faith No More over a decade ago, when I traced the source of one of their album's covers to 'Flood!', a then-obscure graphic novel by Eric Drooker, a New York-based artist, poet and political activist. It was interesting to see the book’s story told without words, as well as seeing the author’s style develop and strengthen as it goes. At the start there’s a cartoonish goofiness to the characters, which evolves into a more disciplined rigidity that takes nothing away from the artwork’s stripped-down charm.
Since then I’ve stumbled across a handful of others that really serve the medium well. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to embrace comic-book culture. 'Batman' and 'Spawn' nearly won me over in my early adolescence, but ultimately I’m just missing that part of a geek’s brain that finds appeal in superhero stories.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m making no pretence of being above it - I’m one of the biggest geeks I know. While most of my friends’ interior decoration comes from IKEA, mine comes from Forbidden Planet. One time I even went to all the way to Birmingham just to meet Pinhead. Y’know, like an infant gets taken to meet Santa Claus at a shopping mall. Here’s the proof:So that digression will doubtless have left no ambiguity - I’m a total fucking dork, and I've finally embraced it. Back to the graphic novels...
Being limited to non-Marvel/DC franchises my tastes are a little less obvious. I guess I generally enjoy the Indy section, veering toward stories with dark humour rather than the indulgent and/or emotional stuff.An exception being Art Spiegelman's ‘Maus’ which, like all good literature, is over-hyped until you read it and find it lives up to every expectation you could have of it. Marjane Satrapi's ‘Persepolis’ is similar in that the strength of the story is its virtue more than the artwork, and it’s ultimately an easier read, being peppered with welcome moments of levity.Jo Hepworth put me on to Roman Dirge’s ‘Lenore’ when I first showed her the concept art for ‘House Guest’, chiefly for its similar aesthetic. The development of its universe and the characters within remind me a great deal of my own, infinitely more obscure webcomic ‘Mitchells In England’. You can tell that the stories mean a lot to Dirge even in their apparent ridiculousness (in the good sense of the word).Doug TenNapel is probably my favourite in terms of artwork. He created ‘Earthworm Jim’, which was a fantastic games franchise (although, ironically, not an especially good cartoon series) and, among other things, writes and illustrates graphic novels that have such visual depth as to rival Bill Watterson. I’d recommend them all, but ‘Creature Tech’ is a great starting point.

Over the years, my cartoon sister and self maintained pretty much the same attitude toward one another.

The aforementioned 'Mitchells In England' had few consistencies - it was a strip that took people I knew and cast them in a series of fictional adventures. As it spanned ten years there were characters based on friends that would alternate in their association with my cartoon self, much as they did in real life. When my friend Ed moved away he eventually stopped being a character in the strip; When my parents got divorced their cartoon versions just disappeared - and so on. The only characters present in every* series (the whole strip was divided into twelve self-contained stories, and with each one I'd consciously develop the style and modify the premise) were myself and my sister, Erica, who was essentially the villain.
Erica threatens the world in series 10.

The in-joke with that scenario was that, bizarrely, the two of us got on in real life far better than any other siblings I've met. Even in the tempestuous furies of adolescence any mudslinging between us was swiftly resolved. Maybe that's just the way I remember it.
But when Erica left for college the arc of her character also changed, and after a period where she was barely a presence in the strip I reintroduced her with a heightened desire for spreading evil and despair. In the strip she forms an all-girl alliance called 'The Emasculators', eventually selling them out so that she can destroy the world and rule what remains. In the penultimate series her character has become so iniquitous that she has physically morphed into an androgynous demon-silhouette.
The decidedly-more 'evil' Erica from series 11.

To return her back to normal, I (well, the Ben in the comic) team up with a lime-green-suited Jesus Christ and follow her into a fugue of non-existence that she has created. At this point I was in college too, I guess I was trying to be deep. In the last series of 'Mitchells In England' the now-human-again Erica has become an actress whose face is repeatedly seen on billboards as a recurring sight gag.
The evil-silhouette Erica is probably my favourite character to draw. Mainly because she has no features, just eyes and proportions that vary on mood. This is the character I'd like to do something else with, perhaps by writing the story of how she originally grew so demented and Machiavellian, which was never explained in the strip. 'Mitchells In England' is definitely something I drew a line under, and I don't fancy doing another comic strip again any time soon, but I think a one-off spin-off (a 'spin-one-off', perhaps? Actually that sounds kinda dirty...) graphic novel might be a good excuse to revisit the character again.
*Actually there was one series in 1996 that I misguidedly set in space, which didn't feature any of the other recurring characters save for the one based on me.