Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Body Talk

My aging - yet vexingly alluring - body has been ravaged by a series of ailments, each more pathetic and old-man-like than the last. Right now I've been embarrassingly felled by some kind of wrenched abdominal muscle. Thankfully it's not a hernia, as it turns out I'm just a little pissy-sissy fairy-mary girlie-girl (my GP's exact terminology there). The upside is the revelation that I actually possess abdominal muscles - I guess they've just been well hidden all these years. In short, I'm staying pretty immobile and popping Solpadol like Skittles. Before my insides collapsed completely I was able to get in a life drawing session on Monday, the first in a while. I haven't had as many opportunities to make it over there much over that past few months but here are a few stabs at it since last October.

Pregnant gal is, shall we say, 'augmented' in the chest region which carries with it the slight danger of the breasts coming off unnaturally spherical when drawn. I found one I hadn't put up before of the same model pre-pregnancy which sort of shows what I mean a little clearer:
Blame saline, not adolescent misogyny
Here are the results of Monday's most recent session, three angles of the same pose:

I figured I'd be pretty rusty but these turned out better than I thought. This particular model, though a little fidgety, is one we've had a lot which may have helped.

The importance of life drawing is amongst the many things discussed with Bill Plympton in the second part of our interview which is now online. Following on from January's Skwigly Podcast where we mainly chatted about his latest film "Cheatin'", this time around we go into the wealth of additional projects he's taken on in the last couple years, including segments for "The Simpsons", new short films and his restoration of the Winsor McCay short "The Flying House". It's pretty inspirational listening for those with an indie-filmmaking bent, so if you fit into that category I'd recommend you bung it on in the background.
"A Liar's Autobiography" - Not a Monty Python film, though you'd be forgiven for thinking so based on this cover...
We also take a look at a particularly interesting UK contribution to the indie features scene, the multi-studio collaboration "A Liar's Autobiography". Essentially a posthumous, quasi-fictional biopic of Monty Python's Graham Chapman, it came together last year with the involvement of fourteen animation studios, each working on separate segments that were edited into a single feature. While the end result is somewhat patchy it has some solid gags and inspirational visual ideas throughout. I was able to get a few friends who worked on it together to chat about the experience for the podcast - Jane Davies (director of the "Looshkin" short I did the music for) and Leah-Ellen Heming of A For Animation as well as Matt Walker and George Sander-Jackson of Arthur Cox. Continuing the prevailing theme of recent Skwigly coverage, their segments predominantly deal rather joyously with cartoon sex, penis puppets and all. Here for your delectation is a snippet of A For Animation's bit:

Assuming that's whetted your appetite (amongst anything else of yours that requires whetting) you can download the podcast now, subscribe on iTunes or stream it below:

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Success Stories

Quick catchup post as I find that if I don't use the small slivers of time that present themselves to get stuff up on here I tend to just not bother - and none of you deserve that level of deprivation.
Firstly a massive congrats to Bill Plympton and Signe Baumane who we chatted to in the last podcast, both of whom were successful in their fundraising campaigns and knock wood will have their features out in the coming months. I'm certain they both would've made it without Skwigly's coverage as they're both hugely respected and well-known, but from the feedback we've gotten recently I get the impression we made a little bit of a difference which is still a nice feeling.
Tim Reckart, director of "Head Over Heels"
On the subject of Skwigly, back in December I was able to chat to a very talented NFTS graduate Tim Reckart, whose film "Head Over Heels" is a brilliant and deservedly lauded piece of stop-motion ingenuity. Since our conversation it's received an Annie award and Oscar nomination which is obviously huge. I'm not sure if we'll be able to incorporate the interview in a future podcast (though that would be ideal) as the Skype line was a little dodgy for some reason, but the written piece went up this week. I'd really recommend it as a read for his insight into the conception and process of the film. Also you can watch the whole film for a short period of time, so check that out while you can.

A Conversation With Tim Reckart

Lastly, I'm very happy to say that my short film "The Naughty List" will be getting another screening in France next month at Ciné-Court Animé in Roanne. It was part of their competition screenings during last year's edition and will be included this year in their 'Best Of' section which is mighty sweet of them. Not sure of the time/date specifics yet but as ever I'll post them when I get them.
Oh look, the sun just came out in reflection of my good mood. Pardon me while I go out and frolic!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sex and Cartoons

As I mentioned when discussing our most recent Skwigly podcast a couple weeks back, I've recently become a huge admirer of the work of Latvian animator Signe Baumane, a woman whose staggering perseverance now sees her in the post-production stage of her first feature-length animation "Rocks In My Pockets", a mammoth undertaking considering the minimal funds and crew behind it. She's been raising funds the last month or so for the sound and music budget and there isn't a doubt in my mind that the Kickstarter goal will be met in time.
"Rocks In My Pockets" (Signe Baumane, 2013)
It's rare that one encounters a practitioner so immediately endearing, and it doesn't take much research to determine why Signe is held in such high regard by her peers. Her effervescent, quirky and oftentimes jet-black humour is perfect for the types of films she makes, and her candour as a storyteller is incredibly refreshing; Story is always put first, before appearances or concerns that the audience will be shocked. The raw honesty of some of her autobiographical reminiscences on the "Rocks..." production blog are alternately hilarious and gut-wrenching with her idiosyncrasies laid completely bare, but that impulse provides a real air of authenticity and assurance that what she's set out to achieve with her film comes from a very sincere place indeed.
"Birth" (Signe Baumane, 2009)
I'll readily admit that my heightened receptiveness to a film such as "Rocks..." can doubtless be attributed to the relatively recent release of "Throat", which still carries with it a lot of anxiety as to how well it will be received in the long run. So to see someone else tell a personal story with raw, balls-out honesty is very comforting and, given it's been achieved as an entire film, greatly inspiring. As the interview we did for the last podcast was heavily edited to focus on "Rocks..." and her campaign. I felt there was a great deal of additional material worth sharing with the world that extends to her prior experience, particularly that surrounding one of her most successful projects to date, "Teat Beat of Sex", an episodic series of sexual reminiscences told from a female perspective. They fit perfectly into the pantheon of animated films by the likes of Joanna Quinn, Ruth Lingford and Michaela Pavlátová that celebrate female strength and sexuality, one of my favourite subjects since probably way too young an age, kicked into gear by fairy godmothers like Betty Dodson and Susie Bright. Lord knows how I came across them in my preadolescence, but they sure set me on a noble path.
"Teat Beat of Sex" (Signe Baumane, 2007)
As well as the humour, what gives "Teat Beat..." its strength is its sense of identity; Though Signe concedes in the interview the lead character is something of a composite, no misguided efforts are made to conform to any sociological ideologies, favouring honesty in much the same way "Rocks..." seems to. It gives the audience the opportunity to relate to it on their own terms; While I'm a staunch supporter of Signe's organic juice policy, for example, I'm less behind her squash-discrimination policy. There's also a sweetness and naïveté to its execution, with its simple design work, stream-of-consciousness metaphors and visual malapropisms. Other standout shorts of hers include "Dentist", "Love Story", "Five Fucking Fables" and "Birth", with several others I've yet to watch in their entirety. I'd really recommend giving the extended interview a listen, even if you already heard the podcast segment. This is over twice the length and goes into numerous areas worth learning about, such as the role of social media in self-promotion, our mutual fondness for Ruth Lingford and the bizarre semantics of acceptable sexual content on an online platform. You can download the interview here or stream it below (brace yourself for my Mariella Frostrup-esque flu voice):
But most importantly please check out her blog and campaign and throw some sheckels its way while there's still time (pledges are being accepted until Valentine's day). I really, really want to see this film get funded, A) Because it's part of this whole game-change-in-progress for the future of indie animation, which I'm obviously hugely invested in, and B) Because I really want the DVDs I have coming to me once the target's reached.
¡Viva la Revolución!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Now I can finally get the folder labeled "AssBabies" off my HD before the feds come knockin'...

I'm briefly emerging from the subterranean land of Worst-Flu-Ever-meets-Most-Stressful-Deadline-Ever to provide some quick cartoonery to ram into your adorable faceholes.
This was a fun little between-commissions commission for one of YouTube's original content channels FlipTV (they who host Carpool, David Mitchell's Soapbox, Simon's Cat and...possibly others) whose latest sub-channel HuHa! is being headed up by Jonti Picking and Sarah Darling of Weebl's Stuff. Basically it's a way to get out a bunch of animated webisodes and original content to that oh-so-cynical of crowds: The YouTube audience. But so far the response has been very strong. Weebl is already a pretty established name as far as online animation goes so them's some fine coattails to ride.
My first contribution is the mini-skit "Assassin Babies" for the debut episode of their sketch show "Wobble Box". It was written by Sarah Darling while I took on all the visual stuff - character designs, storyboards, animation etc. They also wound up using what I'd thought would be a placeholder audio track so the sound and voice is me too. What a little showoff I am.
You can watch episode 1 of "Wobble Box" right here. My bit's around 23 seconds in. Other bits I didn't do but am rather fond of include "Unrealistic Dog" and "Mr. Bubblehead".
Here's some development scribbles and whatnot:
First character concepts. I was very relieved they preferred the top batch.
Character sketches for layouts
Character sketches for keyframes
Background Design 1
Background Design 2

Knock wood when I get my evenings and weekends back I can do more for HuHa! I have a particular fondness for anything named after any inexplicable noise Al Pacino's been known to make.