Friday, 23 January 2009

Spread 'Em!

It's another monthly update for 'House Guest: The Graphic Novel', my endeavour to milk the film for all it's worth by making it into a comic book. I've finalised the layout of the entire book and it now comes to about 106 pages. So, it's not 'War & Peace', but pretty respectable for a graphic novel.
As the film adaptation itself only takes up two thirds of the book, I wanted the additional material to be justified and not just filler. Admittedly the last couple pages will be ads for my other projects (books, music and so forth) but I'm such a whore I would've included those anyway.
Aside from an intro and an afterward, the book is divided into four sections. Here's a little glimpse of how the spreads will look:

Section A: The Graphic NovelThis is essentially the story as told in its original, animated form. I've also included some dialogue and visuals that were eventually omitted from the final edit.

Section B: Concept Art

This part features all the original drawings I slapped together for my UWE pitch presentation back at the start of '07. Between then and the film's completion there is an obvious chasm of stylistic development.

Section C: Rough LayoutsThis section gathers together a selection of layouts on which the animation was based. I'm really fond of the way these look, just pencils on creased paper. While it is undeniably more watchable and professional, the cleaned-up/coloured-in visuals lose a little bit of the artist's soul in translation. That isn't self-aggrandising on my part (well, not deliberately), I find it true of all animation.

Section D: Production Scrapbook
A short, sweet and indulgent note to end the book on, this last part features a handful of behind-the-scenes photos with scribbled captions.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Who'da Thunk It?

Either as a consequence of the film's recent screenings and reception, or just randomly, 'House Guest' has been invited to be listed on the Internet Movie Database.
It's pretty exciting until you realise how much fucking work goes into it. So I thought I'd do a little breakdown for y'all. From talking to other film-maker friends, I've gathered that the website is, in theory, a free-for-all in terms of who can submit, a bit like Wikipedia. Although IMDB's filtering system is a lot more strict. If it wasn't, every Joe Q. Douchebag-Nobody would be submitting their dreary, waffley, studenty crap and the database would be bursting at the seams with mediocrity. It's primarily for this reason that I never would've submitted 'House Guest' unsolicited - after all, I'm the biggest Joe Q. Douchebag-Nobody there is.Even proper, award-winning film-makers I know have reportedly had trouble getting their work listed. My guess is the only guarantee you have of being on there is to either be with a major production company or have the site approach you. In my case I got sent a code to type in which I guess puts you nearer the top of the pile. From that point shit gets tedious.Names and titles have to be checked and re-checked - am I sure that the film I'm submitting isn't 'Houseguest' - the 1995 madcap romp starring Sinbad? Because if it is, they already have it listed. Am I sure I'm not either of the Ben Mitchells of 'Neighbours' or 'Shortland Street' fame? Am I sure Joanna Hepworth didn't play a prostitute in 'Gangster Kittens'?
Actually, I wasn't sure of that last one. She could very well have a secret acting career playing prozzies and kept it on the QT.Duller still is the technical info, which can't be interesting to anybody. I mean, it's my film and even I could give a fuck whether the sound is Dolby or just plain ol' stereo.
When you're done with that stuff you get to add less important, trivial bits, I guess to make the entry less clinical. Although, to be honest I couldn't think of much to add. Crazy credits...well, I did credit my pseudonym as playing a character who has no lines. Pretty kuh-razy, right?Ugh...I sicken myself.
Then you throw in some stills and a poster and, shazam, you're done!
They say it'll be a few weeks before it's listed, if they give it final approval. If they do I'll post a link, if they don't after all that fucking work I'll most likely just delete this entire post in shame. Then I'll spend the rest of the year trying to scrub the stench of failure off. I'll scrub and scrub until my flesh is raw but it'll never go away completely.
Either way, time will pass and events will occur. That's a certainty, boy-howdy.Ugh.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Simmering Away

There’s a rather depressing thread over on Bob Camp’s blog bemoaning the effects of the economy on the animation industry. It’s a sobering thought that a man whose credentials include ‘Ren & Stimpy’, ‘Cow & Chicken’ and movies such as ‘Robots’ and ‘Ice Age 2’ still struggles at times to find work.
Personally I keep myself ticking over with freelance commissions that see me working about two weeks out of each month. It pays well when it comes in, but the gaps in between jobs can get downright unsettling at times. As there are more frequent openings for graphic designers, I’ve been reverting back to that in lieu of animation work. In my free time, however, I’ve been working on a number of ideas for shorts and projects, mainly to brainstorm in the hope of coming up with something worthwhile. A good way to motivate oneself is to search out whatever funding schemes are out there. These usually have deadlines which help kick me into gear and get stuff done.
Still from 'Life In The Key of Aaaargh!', a UWE/RAM collaborative project. This character was developed and animated by Sarah Lawrence.

For example, in November my friend Sarah and I worked on developing a story based on a character she had created as part of a previous collaboration. The new story was for a local funding scheme, and while our idea wasn’t developed enough to get selected we had gotten it off the ground, which was the important thing.
Script excerpt for 'The Best of Intentions'

Then in December I developed a script for the film for a Canadian screenwriting contest, the main prize being a budget and additional resources to get the film made. Again, we didn’t make the cut, but now our project had a script. I don’t know if I’d have found the time or enthusiasm to make the effort otherwise. I probably would’ve just wasted it watching YouTube* videos.
Concept art for 'The Best of Intentions'

Presently we’re working on layouts, backgrounds and storyboards, as the next call for projects in February warrants more presentation material. This one we almost certainly won’t get as it’s extremely coveted and high-profile, but nothing ventured…
And by mid-February we’ll have a lot more substance to work with.
My long, meandering point is this - as long as there’s something to work toward, work gets done. This is a film that didn’t exist three months ago, but if we keep incrementally developing it we won’t even need funding. As Ralph Bakshi commented in the now-famous speech I referred to previously, with today’s technology material costs are negligible - the real expense is time.
Other projects on the boil include a possible web series that would be made very minimalistically, combining CG and Flash. The premise is based on possibly the worst job I ever had, as a bouncer for a nightclub in Southampton. Here’s the absent-minded doodle I’m working from:
I’ve also been giving serious consideration toward developing something for children - either a short, series or book. I’ve been scribbling a character currently named ‘Cameltoe Jo’ (which will obviously have to change - believe it or not the name’s origin is perfectly innocuous). I see her as some kind of moral crusader - unfortunately my own morals are sketchy at best so I may need some help in that respect. Here are some early scribbles:
So all this along with the ‘House Guest’ graphic novel (the film incidentally has been picking up more steam and getting some pleasing feedback), the new Struwwelpeter LP and an unexpected fondness for Salsa dancing is keeping me at peace with myself. Not that my day job isn’t riveting.
Give me a break, I gotta eat.

*Yeah, okay, YouPorn. Who am I kidding?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Bringing Home the Macon

Just a quick follow-up from last week's entry, with some details on the inclusion of 'House Guest' at this year's Macon Film & Video Festival. It'll be shown on February 21st (Saturday) at 9pm EST at the Douglass Theatre. For more info you can go here or check out the festival schedule.
It looks like a fun few days, with filmmakers such as the great Don Hertzfeldt among the others included, as well as a surprise screening involving Karen Black. Y'know, just my luck I bet it'll be 'Firecracker', which in spite of my alarming devotion to Mike Patton I never managed to see.
Wow, I put a lot of external links in this post.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Duck Went Down to Georgia...

Happy new year everybody!
Here's hoping that your holiday season was holly, jolly and peppered with just enough domestic squabbling to make it exciting. I personally fell into a stupor of hedonistic gluttony, and ate about eight turkeys' worth of turkey. I don't even like turkey that much, I basically just used the legs and wings as cutlery to spoon brie and cranberry sauce into my fat maw. I got me some nice xmas presents though, including some animationey loveliness worth talking about at some point.
In the meantime, I found out yesterday that 'House Guest' has been snapped up by MAGA - another festival, this time in Macon, Georgia. Everybody who knows me will recall that I've frequently commented on what great taste they have over there! I don't have the full schedule details yet but they should be on the festival website soon, and I'll post them here when I know myself.
It's little bits of good news like this that take the sting out of the near-apocalyptic financial crisis we're all about to endure. And a-one, and a-two, and a-three:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot..."