Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Book Launch and Screening

The aforementioned Animate book Rethinking Animation, was officially launched last week at the Curzon in tandem with a screening of the shortlisted films for the Animate Award. This was useful for those of us who couldn't get to Brief Encounters this year. The award was for innovative work and it was certainly an exciting selection, thrillingly not limited to CG either. It was quite a boysy bunch of films, all except for Jonas Odell's Never like the first time, in which five people recollect their first sexual experience, the last two stories were extraordinary. It was the second time that I had seen Film Noir by Osbert Parker, the first time was last week when it was broadcast on Channel 4, did it look different? It seemed so. It's a stunning film, every shot is beautiful and the animation flawless, the narrative and pacing didn't quite work for me, I couldn't quite tell what the intention was, though I might watch it again and revise my opinion. I was quite glad to see Empire by Edouard Salier, I loathed his film Flesh, but in seeing Empire I could see how he came to make Flesh and look forward to seeing what's next. Other films shown were Park Football by Grant Orchard, which has been very popular on the internet and no wonder, it's simple and sick. Leviathan by Simon Bogojevic Narath was also shown, it's like watching the actors in a complex video game mutiny, naked, some finished off properly and others, roughly hewn, it's great actually. Have I made it sound terrible?

How it's going

I have managed to animate for three days in a row this week. It will be the last little stretch I'll get at it the film because we are hoping to finish it by the end of January. Presently there is six minutes of very untidy animation, and I cant quite tell how it will be when it's done or what I need to reshoot. Mark Jenkins is the editor who I lean heavily on for guidance, this will be a remote activity because he is moving to Burray in Orkney for a year. Wow. Last time when we edited The True Story of Sawney Beane, I was mostly in Canada and distracted by the imminent birth of my son, so not for us the luxury of sitting side by side and thrashing it out surrounded by Boaster crumbs. Not this time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

shot SC003sh005a - ruined

Using a straight ahead technique, there are some no no's, but yesterday I forgot myself. I found a mohair cardigan in the salvation army shop for one pound, I threw it straight on for the afternoon's animating and now it looks like shot SC003sh005a has been made on the floor of a pet shop.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The animate! book Rethinking animation book is good. It't hot off the press and I was overjoyed to get a free copy. It comes with a DVD and is a readable mix of essay and interview, mostly giving the artist's their say. It wasn't long ago that I was standing by the animation section in Foyles yawning and now my cup runneth over with the excitment of Paul Wells' The Fundamentals of Animation and Clare Kitson's insightful Tale of Tales publication too.

Friday, November 24, 2006


On the Old Man animation front, I shall be lavishing my attentions on the film from December. I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully I won't receive any lucrative job offers. So I beg of you, no pop video offers*. No huge-fee-taxi there and back, large -lunch-included workshop requests*, as I shall only say NO, NO, NO.*

(*exceptions may apply)

Off site

There hasn't been any news from the bog studio, because I'm doing an artist's commission for SPACE Media Arts in collaboration with the Pinhey Ward at St Clement's Psychiatric Hospital. I've taken my big rostrum to the ward and once a week I set it up in the corner of the dining room, amongst the peas that escaped from lunch. We have been animating using pen on glass, chalk on blackboard and photographs.
It's been really exciting to see the change in the drawing and animation over two months, and I've learnt a great deal from the group who have been brave enough to give it a go. I only wish we had a bit longer together.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The famous Thomas Parr

I was surprised and delighted to notice a comment!
It came from Anders Jonason who has a great blog all about Thomas Parr, it's called Thank you Anders, there are quite a few things that I didn't know. I hope it's true that you are related to Thomas Parr, the genes are obviously good.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The dogs bollocks

I dont know if its clear but here is an image of my tile with a picture of Thomas Parr's dog trying to cool down in the summer.

Production photos

Sunday, October 22, 2006

In the afternoon, Run Wrake and Dick Arnall sat side by side to talk about Rabbit in the context of Run's other work. It served as a bit of a retrospective and an insight into the run up to making Rabbit, an animate! film that has been doing really well at festivals around the world. It was great to see where it came from and hear Run talk about what it was, it certainly brought it together for me. For some reason I didn't enjoy it as much as everyone else at the beginning, I think I thought it was a bit smooth compared to his other work, but actually it's beautifully crafted in every way and it's been getting better every time I watch it. Run Wrake was modest and frank: when Dick asked him about retaining the use of the words under the stickers he said "there was no great idea behind it, I just thought it looked nice".
The film definately deserves all those prizes.
Priit Parn
On arrival I sprinted straight to the cinema to see the second programme of Priit Parn's work. Hotel E is extraordinary every time, I'm surprised that it was made as late as 1992 though I dont mean that as a slight, I hope I shall still be watching it regularly until 2092, it's completely compulsive to watch, all those languid pastel people in the room next door to the scratchy people, linked by flies and the odd escapee. I also enjoyed his film Triangle from 1982. I will admit to being a little dismayed by a macho discussion that took place afterwards, in which P.P. and Igor Kovalyov talked about the animators in their studios, it seemed a bit despotic. Being of the one-man-band school of animation, part of my enjoyment of a film is imagining the animator scribbling cheerfully away in the dark, the bubble was popped when I heard Priit Parn say that not one frame of his films are drawn by him.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Onion Rings
Tommorrow I'm off to Norwich to visit the fantastic International Animation Festival run by Adam Pugh. My newest film called Little Skipper was shown during the week. I'm hoping to relive my Zagreb experience by having Calimari twice in one day. Though I suspect it will be more like onion rings on the train there and the train home.

NIAF's publicity is designed by Marius Watz, lovely.

The shape of the old man

The film is beginning to feel like a film not just ten scenes and a hundred shots. I've done enough animation for Mark Jenkins, the brilliant editor in Fife, to have a first swipe at it. At first it lifted my spirits by making some parts look tremendous even with my voice as a guide track but it also highlights some pretty hefty dead patches, and the tale piddles along and lacks dramatic tension at the moment. What I would like now is a week in my bathroom studio to get my head around it, but all I have is a bit of Mondays. I think Kathrein would like us to finish by Christmas, wouldn't that be great?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ms Mary Anning

In the evenings I have enjoyed mono-printing portraits of Mrs Anning, she'll be a part of the Whitstable open house trail in the middle of October, thanks to my friend Vicky. Mrs Anning was an amateur fossil hunter from Lyme Regis, she found the first fossilized plesiosaur and Ichthyosaurus, so a serious amateur.
My Russian centaur.

Have you ever seen a sexier animation prize?

Friday, September 15, 2006

The King in a torpor

Going at top speed now

I'm going very fast now since I have some teaching and workshop commitments coming up, I dont have time to put the flight socks on anymore. My top speed is 45 seconds per day.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

scrap that

I've decided to begin again with the animation, having shot too many minutes to admit to. It may seem like a wasteful way to work but I've always found it hard to imagine everything on the storyboard or animatic and the purpose or centre of the story is better revealed through the animation. It's fairly liberating and I feel that I can scrap alot of the superflous detail and doing all the animation quickly will make it look fairly fresh. The technique in itself is fairly speedy, so I hope I can get it done in two months, though I am only working two days per week on it. If I'm wrong about that I can either use the old shots, or eat my storyboard on the steps of Hackney Town Hall.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Best of the Fest - LIAF
I didn't get to all of the festival, so it was great to get a much coveted ticket to the highlights on Sunday. It would be fair to say that funny films prevailed. Who I am and what I Want by Chris Shepherd and David Shrigley seems to get better and more sinister the more I've see it, which isn't necessarily the case with Shrigley's books, I would say it's down to the structure and performance. Bob Log III's electric fence story by Sebastien Wolf & Tinka Stock was probably a controversial choice for programme 2, looking as if it had been made on a bedroom carpet with an anglepoise but the goofy joy of it resonated with me. Back Brace made by Andy and Carolyn London also centred around a silly personal story told with a nice momentum and animated with inappropriate found objects. George Gendi's Pingpongs was a proper treat to see, capturing with great elegance two exchanges between an older couple who care greatly for each after many years, but perhaps havn't talked about certain feelings. I was a little bit surprised that The Corridor by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli didn't get a mention in either the audience or jury votes: it was one of my favourite films at Animafest, it's pretty well perfect. In the bar afterwards there was a lot of discussion about the programme and the winning films, I'm looking forward to next year already.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Three animation outings - this has been a busy week for spellbound.
On tuesday I was lucky enough to have lunch at L'Escargot, courtesy of the Quebec Government Office, it was only lunch, but I gloated until supper. It felt very nice to be nestled in amongst other animators drinking wine and eating beef on a tuesday afternoon.
On the 22nd August I went to a competition screening at LIAF in which Sawney Beane was showing. In this programme there were a few films I had been looking forward to seeing: A bus ride with flowers in her hair by Asaf Agranat and Invasion by Matt Abbiss, both very good and masterful in different ways, infact I enjoyed many films in the programme, in particular Woanders by Ulrike Keil, which had a tremendous soundtrack.
On thursday I sat in on a panel discussion about animated shorts at the Edinburgh Film Fest. The other panellists were Bill Lawrence from NMPFT, Matt Walton frim BBC Film Network and Becky Lloyd from Scottish Screen. Bill Lawrence urged us all to lobby Whitehall and the Regional Screen agencies to bring animation higher up their agendas and suggested that collaboration between games companies and animators be encouraged. Matt Walton suggested that if distribution were properly funded it would be easier to attract money to projects for production. There was also the discussion about distributing films on ipods and mobiles, which is an exciting thought, but only if a film was conceived for that context. I can quite imagine enjoying making films that could be downloaded in short installments.

(I can recommend the 5.50am from Edinburgh to London, nice and quiet)

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Talent in Animation

On Thursday 24th August I'm off up to Edinburgh to join in on a discussion about animated short films at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I've never sat under the hot lights on a stage before and I'm quite looking forward to hearing what other people have to say and putting my oar (or my foot) in too.

The launch of the London Internation Animation Festival took place last night at the Curzon Soho. Nag Vladermersky presented a taster of the festival by screening five films to a small and lacklustre crowd. LIAF doesn't start with a bang, but if it's anything like last year, most of the screenings are full and by Best of the Fest on the final day, London will be as pleased as it bloody should be that Nag and Malcom Turner have thought of getting the festival off the ground.

The first film screened was McLaren's Negatives by Marie Josee Saint Pierre, a Canadian animator who is coming over to give a masterclass during LIAF. The film was gentle, not embarking on any of the more colourful areas of Norman McLaren's life, but instead making much of two or three audio recordings and a quote. It was very exciting to hear his voice but I think it is very difficult to make a good documentary about Norman McLaren using animation. Also screened was John R Dilworth's Life in Transition, a slightly old fashioned and surreal depiction of Mr Dilworth's up's and downs. Mr Dilworth was at Animafest and because he's big and quite muscly I can't imagine that he really sits down with his Wacom for the long haul. Tragic Story with a Happy Ending tells a story that could be fey and simply shouldn't work but it's sincerity and an astonishing score by Normand Roger makes it the best film of the evening for me. A Long Day of Mr Calpaccio made me have a headache twice, once in Zagreb and again yesterday. I couldn't help quite liking Jona/Tomberry for being zealous and earnest but if I were to watch it again I would wish Rosto AD had had another go at the script.

My little servant

is hopeless.

Production meetings

My producer and I cycle to a pub on the canal halfway between our houses. We chat until the sun goes down and go home for tea. It's very crucial to the production, I feel immensely fortified and encouraged. Cheers Kathrein!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Addicted to statcounter

204 people have visited my new website in three weeks. Let's see how many will visit next month now that I've taken my own IP address off.

Two animation side effects.

My ankles are always a bit swollen after an animation day, so today I am trying out wearing my scholl flight socks. It could be expensive since I know that they only have 16 flights in them. My other animation ailment is a cricked neck. So I only hope this dosnt happen taking the flight socks off at the end of the day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Today was a beautiful day for me.

There were sausages for lunch, two cappucinos and I won an animation prize.

Bracknell - have you lost your humanity?

If I were queen, I would be sorely tempted to start again with Bracknell. Lost and Panicky I asked two separate people for directions and they both sniffed and walked on, noses in the air, brief cases swinging. Snobby cul de sac so and so's.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The smallest bird in the british isles came by.

Production was delayed today by a fledgling jenny wren, who flew in through the window and settled happily in the kitchen. I managed to persuade it to fly out but it made came straight back in. It was about the size of a ping pong ball but with a voice the size of a football, as for the rest of the morning I could hear an imperious cheeping from the window box.
"Let me in so I can do another dropping on your table"

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

squirrels beware


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Insulex - the animator's friend

I have a maximum of 275 minutes to shoot any one shot before my battery runs out. Removing the battery to recharge it means starting again with framing and exposure. So I am grateful to Nina Pope for my insulex tea pot which has a layer of air inbetween its inner and outer casing. The tea easily stays hot for 275 minutes. Now I just need some self control, to stop me eating all my biscuits in one go.

Friday, July 21, 2006

cock up

I spent the day filming the autopsy scene from above, and lost a morning's work due to the following obvious mistake: Thomas parr is (deceased, aged) naked. I erased his willy because it didnt look floppy enough and forgot to put it back.

God it's hot.
I thought the same thought when I was animating The Witches in a small black box, but I was in Scotland then and this is 400 miles nearer the equator plus Ive got four lights instead of two.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Even though it's hot, I've managed to get a script I like, and today I spewed out a scrappy storyboard and basic animatic.
Since going to Zagreb for Animafest I decided to start my animation again and try to draw with more economy. Everything I've shot so far is very busy on the eye and brain. So tommorrow I'll make a shotlist and start animating again, with a view to finishing the animation by the end of August.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Script wrestling

There’s no quick way to finish a script is there? My scriptwriting days always involve many cappucinos and nail-biting and long days without going out. Today I happen to know it’s beautiful out there and I need some tinned tomatoes for later, but I must stay in 1635 until I’ve got the order of things. I miss bouncing ideas off Mark Jenkins, the editor with whom I’ve worked with on my other films but he’s very busy and I also think I should be able to wrestle with this on my own.
I'd also like to try and write my script before I finish animating. This would be good professional practice, but counter intuitive. Sometimes you need to see a character moving before you know where they're going to.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I wonder why my titles have gone?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The winners

It was a thrill to see two British animators John Paul Harney and Joanna Quinn take no less than four of the prizes at Zagreb yesterday. Many congratulations to two splendid people. I am catching up on some sleep now and will pursue that train of thought when refreshed.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The last day of the festival.

We enjoyed a grand party last night and I met some animation heroes from around the world. The only problem was that the nibbles were there one minute and gone the next, there is a hungry Columbian around named Andreas. Today Shelly, John Paul and I want to extend our search for food to the Northern half of the town and try to buy something that isn't Calamari. Please I beg of you. But for now, a fantastic Oscar Fischinger programme beckons, I will have something to say about that.

I also want to say that I wasn't actually hit by a tram Bec, just nervous about it happening.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The great thing about being here is that the festival has taken care to see that we dont have anything to worry about. We have pretend money to spend in restaurants, all the films are in one venue and there is a water machine in the foyer. But of course I have been worried about a couple of things. One is being struck in the small of the back by a tram and the other was Greig Lawson who is staying at the Dubrovnik Hotel on the third floor. He hadn't been seen since the first night when he had seemed very excited to be here. Thankfully I can announce that he turned up yesterday, he looked a bit sweaty but alive.

I have just finished my P D James, I can't imagine there will be time to read the other 4 books that I borrowed from the library.
Day 3, 72 films, 72 Pivo beers.
Yesterday I went to the Botanical Gardens and during a stroll in the shade, I saw this frog. What a find!

My film has been screened in the Grand Competition Programme, I was very nervous, the film theatre is enormous, similar to the Royal Festival Hall in London, and it seems to be able to accommodate the festival visitors, every one. The print was a bit jumpy for the 1st 30 seconds and the speakers added a slight distortion to the narration (on all the films) In addition, the crowd had been polite but not particularly exitable so I was really pleased to hear a little shout with the applause after Sawney Beane. The whole screening was warmly received, my personal favourite, Apple Pie by Isabelle Favez, a cat and dog change the course of love in a small town. You'd think that there were already a hundred animated films that could be desribed that way but I'd boldly suggest that this one could top the lot. It was immpecably crafted and culminated in a hunter tripping over a log and shooting his own dog stone dead. Beautiful.
The other films I particularly appreciated were The Corridor by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, Snip by Steven Woloshen and the jolly Carnivore Reflux by The People's Republic of Animation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Competition films for Children and Student Films Competition 1

The children's programme started with a Little Matchgirl, sickly in every way and finished equally queasy with Dentist by Signe Baumane, a Latvian/US co-production, a violent film with a homoerotic ending, not an obvious choice for a younger audience. In between I enjoyed Greedy Pig by Mathieu Labaye and 19 children, beautifully lit and shot, I wonder how he kept their sticky hands off that lovely snake. The other films of note came from the Pilot Big Animation Studio, I've not heard of the studio before, but it seems like I'm alone in that. About Ram and Goat by Natalya Berezovaya was perfect and perfectly silly and Zlydni by Stepan Koval a good story about malevolent spirits in which the story and technique were well matched.

The programme of student films was pretty good. Death by Heart by Malin Erixon had a super and unexpected ending that brought tears to the eyes. The Possum by Chris Choy had great timing and characterisation. I didn't know that possums liked apples so much. Smile by Noam Abta was a mixed CG/live action that looked interesting (in 2006) but perhaps he ran out of time. The student programme was varied and of a high quality, only one of the films felt like a demo of technical flair that had been built into a too long short.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I can tell you how our time passes here. We muster and chat, and find somewhere to drink and chat and watch animated films and chat about them and drink some wine. It's not a holiday though, it's very tiring.

Everyone always says Croatia is lovely and it certainly is, Zagreb is beautiful, I hope we'll get some sightseeing done, thought it's hot.

This is the lovely Shelly Wain, director of The Cummerbund and The Love Nest, which won many awards. Here she is in Hotel Dora. There will be some thoughts on the films we have seen, I make no promises but perhaps tommorrow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The way I make animated films

I have been making animations since 1998 when I made The Last Regret of The Grim Reaper at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. I made this film in a three week hurry, and not having animated much before, I drew upon my printmaking background and used a story I had written as an artist's book in 1996. I used tusche which is a drawing fluid used for stone lithography and printmaking paper. I recorded each frame whilst it was wet and then mopped it up before it dried and put the next frame down. It left a trace upon the page that suited the story of The Grim Reaper dancing everyone on earth to death.

My next two films, The Emperor (2001) (pictured here) and The Witches (2002) were made with the same technique but using watercolour. For The True Story of Sawney Beane (2005) I animated with charcoal on paper with a watercolour background. I tried out charcoal on this film because I wanted to get very close to the characters and draw Betty Beane's wrinkly face. I was very pleased with the result, the film is presently showing at film festivals.

For The Old, Old, Very Old Man, I am using blue ink on white tile. I had been researching Charles I at the V & A and Museum of London and came across many depictions of him on delftware, mostly created following his execution. On these commemorative plates and mugs, his Royal Highness is painted carefully but with the economy of a craftsman making many of the same image. In using a tile, there is no trace left to guide the next frame, so I use the onion skinning tool on Premiere in which the previous frame is visible on the monitor of my computer. Here is a frame of The Old Man in The King's bed prior to his last gasp.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My bathroom studio

I have made an animation studio in our bathroom, luckily we have got another one for bathing. It makes a very handy studio. My set-up is of the basic variety, I have a good rostrum and lights kindly donated by Tim Olden. I use an old video camera and my ibook G4 laptop. I capture and edit using Premiere. It all works well for a project of this size, though I expect I will need to invest in a good grade. For a larger film, in budget and length, I would to capture the frames with a digital stills camera and upgrade my computer to run After Effects and Final Cut Pro.

The Old Man

The Old, Old, Very Old Man is based on a true story. Thomas Parr lived from 1483-1635 and was presented to Charles I by Thomas, Earl of Arundel when he was 152 years old. He died following the excitment and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
The title of the film comes from a poem with the same name written by John Taylor (1580-1654), who heard about Thomas Parr and created a pamphlet, of which there are two copies of in the British Library.

I'd been reading about John Taylor the water poet, since I came across him in Iain Sinclair's book 'Lights out for the Territory'. It seems he was full of words and thoughts that he didn't hesitate to share by producing pamphlets and reciting his long works whilst ferrying people across the Thames. I don't think his poems are up to scrutiny but provide a lively account of the times. I was immediately taken by his account of the Thomas Parr and felt I could make something of it, by way of another tribute to the elderly.

I submitted a script to the Hackney and Tower Hamlets Film fund in March and they agreed to support the project by giving me half the funding and the condition that I find a producer based in Tower Hamlets. I was lucky to find Kathrein Guenther and we are busily trying to think of ways to raise some extra money.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I'm excited to announce that I'm off to Animafest in Zagreb on Monday to swan around with other animators for a whole week. I've been to the library and borrowed five books because I've got a five hour wait in Vienna and because I'm a mother with some time. I hope I will have some lucid thoughts that I can post here.

The dog ate my storyboard

I've been working on a new film called The Old, Old, Very Old Man for two months, I thought starting a blog would shame me into doing a storyboard.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I attended Alan Gilbey's animation writing workout at the East End Film Festival. Alan is a personable and knowledgable screenwriter, who quickly created a merry atmosphere by encouraging the workshop participants to be physically goofy together. I encountered some resistance within myself but certainly felt warmed up to the task of doing some unselfconscious writing, so it was an effective technique. There were also alot of animations to watch and so four hours zipped by, however near the end I felt snappy and my friend Shelly had a funny smile that didn't reach the eyes. Some rich teas at half time would have helped.
What we learnt: Show don't tell. Have a few ideas going at once, put one in a drawer for a few weeks. Everything needs a good edit.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

my first post

I went to 20 years of Pixar at the Science Museum. Hooray, an exhibition about animation here in London. I paid my £9 and I was immediately absorbed with the splendid colourscripts and collages for films such as Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc and The Incredibles, plus a very lively storyboard by Ralph Eggleston for The Birds and an X-ray of Mr Potato Head. All the Pixar productions started with named individuals and their pastels, charcoal and paint and the works had been saved and brought to Kensington. But then it was spoiled, since you couldn't leave until you had endured an unaccountable burst of machismo that was 'artscape', in which the aforementioned drawings were arbitrarily 'animated' in a high res 3D environment in a summary that was very Thorpe Park indeed.