Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Boo etc.

Happy day-of-heightened-spooky-confection-sales, everybody!
We’ve been hard at work over at Skwigly central (a place that doesn’t actually exist outside of this sentence) to spread some cartooney godlessness about the interwebs. We now have episode six of the Skwigly Podcast up and, fittingly, it’s rather Halloween-centric. Courtesy of Steve there are some fantastic interview gets, such as “ParaNorman” directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler as well as Peter Saunders, one half (guess which one) of MacKinnon & Saunders, the amazing puppet-making team behind “Corpse Bride” and, more recently, “Frankenweenie”. Steve also managed to chat with “Hotel Transylvania” director Genndy Tartakovsky, an animation TV legend whose legacy includes “Dexter’s Lab”, “Powerpuff Girls” and “Samurai Jack”, three shows that, though I didn’t discover them until I was in my later teens, were the shiznit. I think all told this is one of the best episodes we’ve done and I’m pretty excited with the direction things are going. Listen below and don’t forget the subscribe on iTunes!
Skwigly Podcast 06 (Halloween 2012) - Genndy Tartakovsky, Peter Saunders, Chris Butler & Sam Fell by Skwigly Animation Podcast

If you’re still in the Halloween mood but are also itching for some Christmas spirit, you might want to head on over to the Arnos Vale Cemetary in Bristol - 8pm November 2nd - where “The Naughty List” will be showing. It's part of a program put together by CineFeatures, a new initiative for screening indie films that will feature it as a cartoon before the main film “Electric Man”. Just like in the old days!

For the benefit of those of you who paint Spain a light shade of green on this blog’s stat map, “Naughty List” is back on TV again in the graveyard (keeping with the theme I suppose) slot of 3am this coming Monday (12th) on Canal+ Xtra. Better than a kick in the baubles.

Monday, 22 October 2012

New look...

...Sort of. Actually the layout's exactly the same, I've just switched up the colour scheme and brought in a new design motif. The ol' pre-"Throat" concept sketch of me on the pishadoo was starting to seem a little out of place now the book's out and the character's technically not supposed to be me.
Adios, old friend...
One of the eighty billion current projects I have on the boil right now is another website redesign that'll hopefully make the accrued creative projects I've put out over the years a little more navigatable and less scattershot. It occurred to me that about half of them have vectorised logos for the purposes of EPKs and similar such promotion, so I've been designing some more for the remaining half. This way each film, album, book or whatever will have its own associated image. A bit like OS application icons or, as a friend pointed out the other night, video game achievements. It's just one of those staples of web design that I never really embraced so figured it'd be worth a shot. No idea when said website will actually manifest itself though, but I expect it'll be far less of an undertaking than my last site overhaul which got a bit out of hand; though fun to do, the pages were so densely packed they each took like a minute to load.
Will keep you posted. It's what I do.

Back in the real world - Bosnia & Herzegovina, to narrow it down a little bit - I'm very chuffed to say that "Ground Running" has been included in the line-up for this year's edition of the Banja Luka International Animated Film Festival. The 2009 edition of the festival threw in my first film "House Guest", and much like I was back then I'm amongst some pretty superb company this year. Other films being screened include "Oh Willy..." (Emma de Swaef & Marc James Roels), "Kuhina" (Joni Männistö), "Luminaris" (Juan Pablo Zaramella) and "Bendito Machine IV" (Jossie Malis), all of which I'm a big fan of. My screening is Competitive Program 1 which will be at 10pm tomorrow, repeated on the 24th at 2pm, both at the Dječije pozorište Children's Theatre. Apologies for the short notice for those of you who are too far away and may have been interested, I didn't get the memo and only just now found out about it by chance. Just in case you're a Bosnian or Herzegovinian (or both, I'm not sure how it works) and fancy giving it a look there's more info here.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ah, foreshortening. We meet again.

The life drawing sessions I go to have started up again this month after an extended summer hiatus. Looking back over these entries it seems that the last batch I put up was in March. I know there were definitely some sessions after then, though I'd have to do some digging to find whatever the results of them were. The whole March-July period of this year was a bit of a manic blur to be honest, largely down to "Throat", but if I stumble on any worth scanning in I'll throw them up. In the meantime here are some drawings from our two most recent sessions this month:

Not too bad for a getting-back-into-it batch, although I'd taken a step backward as far as tackling faces; The one pose where she's not pointedly looking away (not sure if I should take that personally) fell prey to my old habit of saving the head until last and then running out of time.

This lot was a bit better, at least I managed to tackle more or less everything with each pose. Kind of a different approach with this model as we went with one single pose for the whole evening, drawn from four different angles. I'm okay with the heads in the side views, the ones from behind or in front were a massive pain though. Now that my Monday evenings are a little bit more free it's good to be back at it. Not sure what the next problem area to tackle should be, possibly my approach to shading or my insistence on using mechanical pencils (I know technically there are far better tools for sketching but these just seem to work for me). We shall see.
In the meantime if any of you want to constructively deride me, have at it. I'm eager to make progress.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ben just doesn't stop talking...

The zen approach to dealing with BT's ungodly customer service...
Just a heads-up to any Bristolians who might find themselves in my neck of the woods: Keep your eyes peeled for any BT Homehubs that might fall from the sky and brain you, for I’m alarmingly close to chucking mine off my fourth-floor balcony with a previously-undisplayed athletic strength only made possible through being driven to the absolute edge.
After a 36 hour Mexican standoff wherein the crafty plastic s***head would choose to drop my broadband signal only at moments when I absolutely needed it, we seem to have come to some sort of understanding and it’s now being good. But any more shenanigans and the little bastard gets its first and only flying lesson while I use my free hand to call up Sky and switch services.
All this is a rather long-winded and excuse-laden lead-up to announcing that our latest Skwigly podcast special on Bristol’s Animated Encounters is now finally up. While nobody seems too miffed about the delays, a recent surge in audience numbers (hooray!) has put an added pressure on the future of said podcast, and we’re currently working out a way to make the process more consistent and audience friendly; Ideally we’d do two one-hour episodes a month rather than one massive two-hour chunk that leaves people hanging for 4-6 weeks at a time. There’s fine-tuning to be done, but we’re getting there slowly.
In the meantime you should probably get comfortable ‘cause this one comes in at over two-and-a-quarter hours. Granted there’s a lot of ground to cover, my enthusiasm for the festival and the many talents associated with it seeing me amass a lot of material. Not least of which is my own warbling self waxing-asskissey about all the festival highlights. As it turns out I enjoy talking about stuff I like more than stuff I hate. I know, right? I’m as surprised as anyone.
I also got to interview my lovely friends Paul and Jane of A Productions on producing the animated visual branding for the festival each year, as well as animation programmer Kieran Argo and this edition’s special guest Paul Bush, a man who, despite firmly residing on the artistic end of the animation spectrum (while I, as is obvious by now, am still at the coyotes-falling-off-cliffs end) was very down-to-Earth and a sincere pleasure to chat to.
With fortuitous timing playing a big hand I also got to interview David Sproxton, chairman of the festival and Aardman producer/co-founder (along with Nick Park and Peter Lord, who I also got to talk to back in March for episode one). While the podcast edit of the interview focuses on Mr. Sproxton’s involvement with Encounters itself, there’s an upcoming written piece that I expect will be a little broader and Aardman-ey, so stay tuned for that one. Good stuff indeed.
As usual you can stream it below or download it for later. Of course, if you want to subscribe on iTunes and possibly even give us a rating/review that’d be golden delicious of you!
Skwigly Podcast Special 02 - Animated Encounters (11/10/2012) by Skwigly Animation Podcast

On a final note, this has nothing to do with anything, it just made me very happy tonight:

Friday, 5 October 2012

It's Always Sunny in Belo Horizonte

Given that we’ve been mired in a state of perpetual winter for the last twelve months, it’s perhaps fitting that I can still find cause to pimp my seasonal short “The Naughty List” from time to time. I know it was finished over two years ago but little reminders that it ended up doing pretty well and still gets out there occasionally is a helpful assurance that yes, these projects do get done eventually as the ever-marinating “Bullies” still has a long way to go before the end’s even in sight.
So this month my pantsless Santa flick rears its head three times at the 10th MUMIA Festival in Belo Horizonte, Brazil as part of their ‘Internacional 4’ screening. Dates/times/venues are:

Tuesday 9th October, 6:30pm
Cine Humberto Mauro 

Tuesday 16th October, 7pm
Instituto Undió

Thursday 25th October, 7pm
Cineclube Joaquim Pedro de Andrade

All times BRT, which I imagine doesn’t need clarifying. So if the very small section of Brazilian readers (that region of my statistics map is a fairly light shade of green, I’ll admit) fancy popping over there I’m sure you’ll have a grand time. As ever my film’s amongst some pretty good company, including the likes of Grant Orchard, Juan Pablo Zaramella and Dmitry Geller.

Complete change of subject: "Red Dwarf X"didn’t suck.
In fact, after an admittedly shaky first five minutes I’ll be damned if I didn’t even laugh out loud a fair few times. And I pretty much never laugh out loud at TV; I’m a cold, soulless fellow after all.
So fair play, chaps. Here’s to an unexpectedly strong comeback. Yes, I know this isn’t the type of thing I usually put up here, and it’s probably the first time I’ve even mentioned being aware of the show at all (li’l prepubescent me was quite enamoured of it) so that aside might be a bit confusing.
Meh, such is the spice of life. You guys should just be grateful I don’t post naked pictures of myself up here every day.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Old Hat

I figured the expiry date on my first two films has been up for awhile and it’s a bit daft that I don’t have official full versions of them online. Especially as my third has been up for nearly a year. Granted, that was the only one that had any real demand I suppose, but I don’t want it to get lonely, resent me and not take care of me in my old age. That’s just too meta and weird.
Sooo anyway, you can now watch my first film “House Guest” (2008) in full HD (although the first-season-of-“Beavis-and-Butt-Head”-quality-linework is treated far kinder by these little SD blog windows):
Strange to think that this blog started as part of the UWE MA the film was made for. Four years on I’m still inexplicably not heralded as the Winsor McCay of the 21st century. Wuddup wi’dat, yo’s?
My second film was “Ground Running” (2009), most of the animation for which was done very shortly after “House Guest”, then it pottered around a couple fests in pencil-test format for a year or so before I added some bits and coloured it in the following year. I never really pushed this film because by the time it was finally done it didn’t really line-up with my artistic direction (if that’s what you can call it). Both these films are pretty rough for me to watch but there’s the odd moment here and there I’m quite proud of.

"Ground Running"
from Ben Mitchell on Vimeo.  

And what the hell, just as a reminder here’s film #3, “The Naughty List” (2010):

Quick TV plug - if for some reason Vimeo is acting up in Spain and you simply can’t last a week without seeing it, the next broadcast by those lovely people at Canal+ Xtra HD will be this coming Sunday 7th at 6am. So either get up extra early or stay up extra late.
Finally, while 2011 was pretty much work/“Throat”-centric, I did manage to whip up this mini-short out of my love for O&A. This one’s also been up for a while but at this point I may as well just make this entry a retrospective.
All being well, 2012 will indeed be the year I finally finish production on “Bullies”. Then the whole torturous quest for validation may begin once more.
Ah, it's all good. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it so much.