Thursday, 15 November 2012

Episode XVII

I was lost beyond words in my previous post. My ability to think straight was barred by the iron fist of corporate Disney as they took over something that meant a great deal to me. I shouldn't sound too negative, however, because fans should praise the fact that Lucas will not write and direct another Star Wars film. But there is a lingering thought that troubles me; Disney's franchise over Star Wars (SW) could lead to SW Princesses or SW babies (cartoons and nappies), which will destroy this galaxy once and for all. I am still open minded about this fiasco and haven't quite had time to really ponder the outcome. All I know is that there is a great disturbance and I have three letters for you: WTF.

I had recently volunteered to help out with the FLIP Festival in Wolverhampton, which would also be my  first time visiting the festival. After receiving news that The Money Tree would screen here it felt like I needed to attend, regardless of the volunteer opportunity. It had been confirmed that I would work my assigned shifts over the weekend at FLIP (which would entail ticket collecting, direction pointing and advice giving). This was a great chance to mingle with other volunteers and watch the animation screenings at the Lighthouse venue, the home of FLIP animation festival. Unfortunately I was unable to view our animation on the Saturday evening, but I heard it had a warm reception from the crowd. I was particularly interested in meeting up with Jim Parkyn, lead model maker from Aardman, for a chat after his seminar that afternoon. Luckily I found my opportune moment and conversed merrily (as you would do with Jim as he's a very jolly guy. In fact, I would not hesitate to cast him as Tom Bombadil in any upcoming Tolkien adaptation). He reassured me that I am doing the right thing when looking for a studio job, as the key word (echoed from his talk from earlier) is patience. I quote the Guinness slogan good things come to those who wait. And there have been some very good developments in these recent times concerning 'good things'.

Jim signing my Flip programme (FUCK YEAH).

The bee was FLIP's chosen logo for the 2012 festival
The volunteering itself was a fantastic experience. Just the sheer involvement alone was enough to confirm my ever wandering thoughts that this is where I want to be. Animation is my calling. The more people I meet and talk to, concerning this art genre, the more enthralled I become and wonder why I hadn't pursued it earlier. I met up with Gareth Hirst once again (after our encounter in Bristol) and carried out our volunteer duties as promoters of the FLIP campaign. This entailed the two of us to stand outside in the freezing cold holding up shoddy cardboard signs and directing the occasional festival goer towards their venue. One of these venues was an interesting little cubbyhole down a mysterious alleyway and behind a vast padlocked gate; this was the shop around the corner. After successfully aiding a few groups to their destinations, Gareth and myself decided to call it a day and investigate the mysterious alleyway and what role it had at FLIP. We met Sam Groves inside (events programmer for FLIP and Flatpack festival) who was screening a collection of animations. This was the Metamorphosis screening and included a much anticipated (and my favourite out of all that were screened)  short film called The Making of Long Bird. 




Nothing is revealed from within room 214 mwuhaha!
After a productive few weeks, revolving around experiencing the studio environment and extreme networking, I feel that I am very close to forging a completely new CV and self promotion. Especially with references from Drew Roper, Flip festival and the team at Animate and Create. October and November have indeed been the most jam packed months I've had for a while. I feel like I am on countless mini-pilgrimages that take me all over the country. But this is exactly what I want to do, unless I do manage to settle down with a career at a studio. And with my ever growing experience at hand I don't see why (in the not so distant future) this cannot happen for me. I think I need to finish a couple of animations at home and add them to my show reel and then I shall be ready to apply for jobs again. I have got three short animations that could be done (if I animate relentlessly) in the next few months; Barney gets a virus (animatic on previous blog entry), Steve and Alan (the awkwardly placed dinosaurs) and Zabrina the Zebra. Although the problem with one of these animations is with the aesthetical appearance of a certain Serengeti mammal. After listening to Jim Parkyn talk at FLIP festival I took away a vital piece of information that highlighted 'what not to animate' (in Aardman's eyes). These were fire, water and zebras. I was actually flabbergasted upon hearing this. I thought it was a general rule to avoid animating water or fire with the stop motion technique, but the zebra preference did baffle me. It has something to do with the appearance it has on camera, where the black and white stripes seem to prevent a good clean image for the character.

I thought the test animation I animated a couple of months ago (here) wasn't too bad and managed to capture the zebra fairly efficiently. I think the main focus would be to alter the lighting; this animation has an incredibly yellow tint to it - perhaps I hadn't changed to camera settings to natural light capture.

So I shall move swiftly on to the job at hand. I have spent the week helping out at the Animate and Create studios with their paper cut out animation project for an ale advert. I don't know much about the advertisement or what ale company, but I do know that this animation has been a lot of fun to assemble. The sets have been coming together really nicely this week (although they have been since before my arrival on Monday) and with all the paper people and tiny props being created, it has been a wonderful environment to work in, albeit a little tedious at times. With each individual person needing a book page stuck to one side and labelled, it has been a lengthy process. The picture below gives a better idea of the 'book page' design, rather than my attempts to explain.

A selection of the cut out props I have designed or attached wire stands to. 





















I am writing this from the self acclaimed comfort of a dimly lit room in the Bat and Ball bed and breakfast in Canterbury. I really like the town (even if I have only ever seen it after sun down), but this room could do with a spruce of the 21st Century. I have one channel, which is either a darts championship or a dodgy Channel 5 film, curtains from the 60's and no kettle (just a large supply of pot noodles and cuppa soups). But it is cosy and cheap; besides, I am in the studio for nine hours of the day. I have really enjoyed my time here and would kindly thank Dan Richards, Liu Batchelor and Stuart Clark for getting me involved and being very hospitable. The project looks amazing and I wish them the best of luck when they begin to animate next week.

Since working at the FLIP festival and these studios, being a little older than most students or volunteers, I have been asked to give advice or help with various animation tasks. This is something I cannot get my head around; not because I can't give said advice, but simply because I don't deem myself worthy to teach (well, not just yet anyway). I have considered becoming a teacher and have even spoken to the burser of the college I work at; he wants to see my CV before emitting me to the art department. I'm just scared of showing him my shoddy excuse for a 'professional' resume, especially after he declared his tendency to rip even the most qualified applicants apart.

This new found sense of responsibility led me to look through my old animation folders and see what gold I could dig up that would help not only the younger animated generations, but also me! When I left University and began to animate at home, I felt like I had to begin again. Re-learn the basics and principles that we took for granted (unlearn what you have learned - Yoda, Episode V). Whilst perusing these folders I stumbled across one of my favourite walk cycles I drew from my first year at Staffordshire University, and will remain the most accurate (apart from image 2; the chap shouldn't be leaning that far back).



It is basic principles like this that will retain any budding animators ability to succeed in this industry. I admit that I am out of practice with some of these exercises, walk cycles included, but luckily I was able to get some advice from Barry Purves after I showed him a clip of a recent walk cycle I animated with Barney. I also have Drew Roper to seek advice from and also the other work experience guys, Laura and Michael. Blimey, there are endless names I could list off. But I would get carried away and too excited. I think it's time for a lie down.

And then it's time to clean my teeth.

And then eat some cheese, ignoring the fact that I have just brushed my teeth, so as to have another whacky and unpredictable dream.

I shall keep you posted.

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