Friday, 28 December 2012

Lenny (1974)

Last night I got the chance to watch the 1974 biopic, Lenny, starring Dustin Hoffman as comedian Lenny Bruce. I haven't really had the chance to watch a film for sometime apart from the usual dirge of Christmas flicks that flash on and off in the background of television haze. But this was a film that I found a few weeks ago and it sat on my desk just waiting to be watched. My expectations were surpassed beyond anything I could imagine.


Lenny Bruce was always a comedian I admired. In my teenage years, the discovery of Carlin and Pryor lead to Lenny Bruce. All the great comics of the modern age were directly influenced by this man. Bob Fosse' film explores the life and struggles of Bruce, from his early days working smalls clubs and telling bad jokes, to his later life, addiction to heroin and his battle with freedom of expression.


Most famously, Bruce was known for his use of language, leading to multiple arrests for obscenity. His act was passionate and provocative, exploring the darker aspects of life. Aspects of life that were still very much taboo in 1950's America. Hoffman plays the role with an excitement and passion that seems appropriate, although at times it can feel overly dramatic there always seems an appropriate level of bubbling passion. It is this passion that made Lenny Bruce, the want to speak to people and be honest about all aspects of life. The understanding that his words were powerful and important tools that helped change viewers. This is the soul of Lenny Bruce and it makes it all the sadder when he is arrested for use of profanity.


Bruce's troubled relationship with his wife is shown as a loving but broken connection. There is a self destructive side to his character that conflicts with the normality of marriage and family. But despite all of this, there is a real sense of love and affection, an awareness that they will never really be together but they always should have been. It is a tragic story in itself, coupled with drug abuse and legal battles.


Despite the drug abuse and broken relationships, the soul of the film is about expression. The opening shot stares at Honey Bruce's mouth as she begins an interview. From the outset we are shown that words and expression are key. This is what Lenny Bruce was always trying to achieve, honest and free speech within his act. This constant battle for free speech ultimately makes his story all the more saddening. It is a very moving and affecting film, with a starkness and honesty that match the words of the great comedian perfectly.

"Please, don't take away my words. They are just words....I'm not hurting anybody."
                                                                                                                                   - Lenny

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Home - Test Footage

My blog has been pretty quiet since graduation, this is largely because freelance work has taken over my time and can't be posted for various reasons. However, I have also been working on my own projects, trying to make things happen and attempting to get a foot in the door of the film making world. Working for myself has personally been a big achievement and the variation in projects is genuinely exciting. I'm constantly facing new challenges, trying to solve problems on my own and keeping control of deadlines whilst also meeting new people and trying to become more than just a CG artist. I knew when I left university that I wanted to be more than a CG artist. My ambitions have always been concentrated on making work that is impactful and lasting. So, what is to be said of all this? Well, I will be showing more work on my blog. Most of it will be tests and proposals, rejected ideas and projects that didn't quite make it. Some of these may develop further, but mostly, it is exciting purely showing my personal work. I will also be redesigning my site and relaunching it sometime early next year. I have a lot of ideas for the new site, all of which I still need to develop. So, I would like to start by showing some test footage for a project idea I had a month or so ago.

Home - Test Footage

In 1969, before the U.S set foot on the moon, Nixon's speech writer wrote the follow letter in case the worst should happen.

IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
 Source - http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/11/in-event-of-moon-disaster.html


The first moon landing was one of the greatest achievements of the century, watched globally as we stepped forward in both science and technology. The act of transcending our own planet and venturing out to expand knowledge and understanding was perhaps the most inspiring moment of the generation. However, behind all this passion for success was a real sense that it could all go wrong. The fear that two men could be left isolated and alone, away from home and left to die. The proposal for this animation was centred around this scenario. A moving and affecting story that lasts far beyond the credits and stays with the audience. This is an animation about life and death, the bravery of stepping forward into the unknown and the idea that even in the darkest times, good acts will always provide hope and inspiration. The short would have been a series animated digital paintings documenting the final moments of the stranded astronauts as they contemplate the life that they have left on earth. Flashes of their former lives would inter cut the sequence, demonstrating all they have lost. This sequence of slow and still shots would have been overlaid with the voice over of the speech above, as if read out to the nation.

Ultimately, this proposal was rejected and I think I know why. Mostly the narrative and atmosphere of the piece need some work. But despite the weaknesses, this rejected project will push me forward to creating another project. The style of the animation is something that I want to keep exploring. Animated concept art such as this has an emotive quality. It feels hand made, formed from lines and shapes crafted by a person, rather than the cleanliness of CG. My life since university is centred around finding new ways of working, producing animation that is lasting. 

My graduate film "The Minor Key" had some problems and at the core of them was the sterile CG. I created an interesting narrative with emotive characters, but the quality of the image didn't quite match up to this. So I find myself exploring new paths, new mediums. All the while expanding my CG knowledge, hoping to one day use it in a new way that truly captures the audience. This is an exciting prospect, more work will be generated, ideas explored and mediums discovered. All in the pursuit of creating interesting, lasting work. Let me know what you think of my work so far and keep checking back as I begin to get my website rolling again.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Matthew Noel-Tod A Season in Hell: Fall / Winter 2012

My life as a freelance CG Artist has been going extremely well in the past couple of months. After a few shorter projects I had the pleasure of working with Matthew Noel-Tod again for an animated installation at the Canary Wharf Screen. Matthew's latest piece will open tomorrow night, Tuesday 6th November from 6.30 pm and run until December 2nd. The event will be open to the public so pop along and take a look for yourself.


The final part of LUX: The Adverts, A Season in Hell: Fall / Winter 2012 is an animated winter warmer for Canary Wharf Underground Station. In a blazing inferno turns an image of the world orbited by four cartoon children. Encircling the globe is the Latin palindrome; In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (We go in circles into the night, we are consumed by fire). The phrase is originally attributed to the behaviour of moths around fire. In A Season in Hell: Fall / Winter 2012 the children are in constant movement, never landing, never leaving. Purgatory is overwritten by the ecstasy of the spectacle.

Matthew Noel-Tod lives and works in London. Noel-Tod studied at The Slade, Norwich School of Art and Design, Goldsmiths and completed the LUX Associate Artists Programme in 2008. He is Senior Lecturer in Moving Image at University of Brighton. Recent projects include Chisenhale Gallery, London; Norwich Castle Museum with Outpost; Picture This, Bristol; ICA, London; Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona. Noel-Tod is a recipient of the Acme Studios Residency 2010–15.


It was again, a true pleasure to work on the project, with the responsibility of the work resting solely on my shoulders. I had constant communication with Matthew during every stage of the project so that I could get the best possible feedback. This simple idea of communication ultimately makes a project far easier to control. Various stages of testing could be seen and commented upon immediately, allowing changes to be made faster and giving a final sequence that is as close to the artist's initial idea as possible. I'll be heading up to London tomorrow night to take a look at the show and will post further details and pictures soon. 

For more information check out:

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Aaron James Draplin

I recently found this gem of a video online, a talk from graphic design Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. He talks honestly and openly about what to do, how to do it and where to go in the industry. Quick warning, this video has a little bit of swearing.

You may have heard of Aaron Draplin from the video "Why America is Fucked? (Graphically at Least)." He is a designer with a refreshing honesty about the state of the industry and the difficulties of making a career from a passion. For more information check out the Draplin website at http://www.draplin.com/

Friday, 7 September 2012

Sightseers - Ben Wheatley

Director Ben Wheatley really made his name as a director with the sublime "Kill List." A dark and beautifully British film about contract killers and the strange world of the English countryside. Wheatley is now releasing another film which looks just as exciting and brilliantly funny. Sightseers is a black comedy about National Trust visits, caravan travelling and of course, passionate murder.


Even if Sightseers doesn't look like a film for you, check out "Kill List." A refreshing film that makes most modern horrors look like a kid's show.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Bang! - Matthew Noel-Tod

Recently I had the pleasure of working with artist and film-maker Matthew Noel-Tod on his latest venture "bang!" Yesterday the project came to an end as Matthew displayed his work at the Chisenhale Gallery next to Victoria Park.


Produced and filmed during Matthew Noel-Tod’s year-long residency with Chisenhale Gallery and Victoria Park, Bang! (2012) is a film with talking dogs that traces the development of the world spirit from Plato thru August 2011 riots to today. Using references from popular film and television, the work presents an idiosyncratic reflection on contemporary life, in which live action is combined with CGI animation – a technique frequently used in children’s films with animal protagonists. Bang! is set against the backdrop of the newly renovated Victoria Park, including the playgrounds, Chinese Pagoda and the statues of the Dogs of Alcibiades, which stand at the Sewardstone Road entrance to the park.

Writer Benedict Seymour describes the film as “a materialist history of the present that uses the language of internet memes, advice dogs, and infantilised avatars to tussle with the journey from an organic society to the surreal subsumption of capital.”


I worked alongside David Keefe for part of the project creating characters and animation for the final video piece, some of which I will show soon. All in all, it has been a great experience, I've had the opportunity to work on a variety of different tasks and always had superb contact with Matthew and David to make sure the work was going in the right direction. It's also especially gratifying to see that people genuinely want CG artists to help curate a vision. After three years of university one can become rather numb to the idea that the skills you have learnt may be needed. It is an exciting time with hopefully many more projects to come, but my first experience in the world of a freelance CG artist has been a genuine pleasure.

If you would like to see Matthew's latest work it can be seen on Saturday 22 September, 2 - 4pm at the Hub Building in Victoria Park. Dogs are welcome too. Find out more at http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/offsite/matthew_noel_tod.php

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Ai WeiWei - Never Sorry

On a rainy weekday last week I travelled into Soho to catch a glimpse of the latest documentary on Chinese artist, activist and dissident Ai WeiWei. As an artist Ai WeiWei made his name globally after designing The Bird's Nest Stadium for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He later became one of the key figures in the boycotting of the games after the Chinese government started evicting vagrants from the city. This movement marks the beginning of an exceptional film exploring the life and ideas of a man who tirelessly opposes a communist government despite the constant threat of lengthy prison time and personal harm.


It is a documentary that completely evokes the worries and fears of a generation growing in a country of restricted freedom. Ai WeiWei is almost a hero of this culture, the face of an emerging protest that demands change and refuses to bow down to such a regime of suppression. The heroic image of Ai WeiWei is handled superbly throughout, rather than becoming a homage to an icon the film tells his story with an honesty and truth that allows us to see his flaws and mistakes along with the intelligence and bravery that makes Ai WeiWei stand out not only as an artist but a vital dissident of his time.

The artistic works of AiWeiWei are clearly demonstrated and provide the perfect history for a character who clearly wants to challenge tradition. What is particularly interesting about AiWeiWei is the lack of pretence that surrounds him. Even his most abstract works have a serious and honest explanation  making him feel easier to connect with as he doesn't pretend to be above his viewer. In fact, quite the opposite, at time he appears genuinely excited about the young generation who follow him on twitter and expand his work beyond his own possibilities.


It is difficult to sell the film to viewers, some may have never heard of Ai WeiWei whilst others may not care for his ideas, but, "Ai WeiWei - Never Sorry" is truly a life affirming tale. Despite the dark events that still occur daily in China, knowing that there are still people ready to fight against such oppression in a modern world is not only inspiring but also brings some hope for a future that is more open and free.


"Ai WeiWei - Never Sorry" is definitely one to check out, it will inspire, enthral and delight anyone who is interested in the problems facing freedom of speech. For more information check out the official website below.


This is the first blog post I've made in some time and with today marking my 22nd birthday it's about time I start turning this blog around. I'll be updating with work, ideas and interests more regularly than ever before and I've never been so motivated to succeed. Keep an eye out for more posts very soon.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

A few weeks ago I made a post concerning an upcoming documentary film examining the world of independent games. On June 12th 2012 the film was finally release across multiple platforms and it blew me away. I was expecting to see a humble and interesting view on what seems like a very small part of an already ill respected art form, but instead the film delved into the honest stories of artists who are utterly devoted to creating. Video games are generally dismissed by our society, news stories across poorly informed media sources tell the nation that they lead to school massacres and teen depression. The truth is very different, below the franchise games (which still deserve merit in themselves) lies a world of far more personal and creative talent. Independent games represent an entire generation of creatives who want to produce work for a different reason. This part of the industry is not driven by profits or money, but instead by the desire purely to creative and connect with an audience.

Indie Game: The Movie examines these worlds, looking mainly at three individuals as they get ready to launch their first major independent titles. 

Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes are the minds behind the brilliantly infuriating platformer Super Meat Boy.They both seem like normal good guy gamers, they sit at their desks hour after hour trying to create a platformer that brings back the memories of older generation games. We follow their struggles as they prepare to launch their game through Xbox Live Arcade, deadlines and bug fixing seem to have led them almost to insanity, but they continue to work long hours because this is what they feel they have to do.

"My whole career has been me trying to find new ways to communicate with new people because I desperately want to communicate with new people..." - Edmund McMillen



The film concurrently examines the development of 2d/3d platformer Fez, by creator Phil Fish. The same stresses concern him, but along with the usual bug fixing and tweaking he is under pressure from a ton of fans who want to see his game sooner rather than later. A world of internet hate plagues his mind as he desperately tries to get his project out into the world. What the film demonstrates perfectly with all three men is that they clearly care about connecting with their audience. They have dedicated years of their lives to making a game that they feel people may care about and in a world of internet reviews and message boards it could all fail very easily. 

"It is the sum total of every expressive medium of all time...it's awesome!" - Phil Fish


Interviews intertwine each narrative strand as indie game creators such as the legendary Johnathon Blow (creator of the incredible Braid) talk honestly about why they create. Underneath the games and stories is a very honest tale that talks personally to anyone who has ever tried to create anything they care about.

"Making it was about - let me take my deepest floors and vulnerabilities and put them in the game" - Jonathan Blow


As an animator (an industry that equally goes ill respected by most) it all felt extremely close to what I have experienced over the past three years. We work so closely on projects that we deeply care about in an attempt to truly connect with other human beings in a personal and special way that when these projects sometimes fail it all seems too much. The creative process is all consuming, taking years away from us and often leaving us hollow. But we still continue to do so, not because we hope one day to make vast amounts of money or gain high levels of fame, but because it feels as though that is what life is for, to connect with other people.

This is is the heart that makes this small budget documentary so compelling. It is an inspiration to see people so dedicated to creating despite all that could possibly go wrong. 

"All you have been doing for four years is look at this, like this close...you can't see anything else. You don't even see the mistakes any more." Phil Fish

I couldn't give Indie Game: The Movie higher praise, it is a truly inspirational tale that warms the heart. There is plenty of hate for the movie on the internet, but that could be said of anything. The documentary gives a beautiful insight into what it is like to dedicate oneself to creating. Whether a gamer or not, this is a film that has to be seen.

To find out more check out www.indiegamethemovie.com

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The End is in Sight

The project deadline is closing in and the stress of three years is mounting on what will be our final hand in. However, things are going well and the animation is almost complete. I have a few things to tweak with the music and complete some other minor issues, but I'm happy with what I have achieved. I won't be showing any final animation or documentation until after hand in, but I have some still images from the short that I'm hoping you will like.


All is going well, despite the various things still to do and despite the areas which I wish were better. However, at the very beginning of this project I knew a short animation with two characters and a detailed environment was going to be tough. I did so because I wanted to push myself further than before to create a narrative that I crafted and understood. I've worked like hell and I've tried my hardest at every stage, whether it's rigging, modelling or animation. The real result of how effective the film is will be known once an audience can see it, whether this is good or bad, I still tried to achieve something, and in the words of Charlie Kaufman...

"Let’s not worry about failure. Failure is a badge of honour; it means you risked failure. If you don’t risk failure you’re never going to do anything that’s different than what you’ve already done, or what somebody else has done." 

Charlie Kaufman

Check back tomorrow night to see the final animation.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Indie Game: The Movie

Animation is an area that is little understood, we work hours upon hours to create digital images that a small audience will hopefully enjoy and if it fails, our hard work has been in vain. The frustrations and joys that come with such a creative medium have been felt by all of us and so it is this film that most excites me.


Indie Game: The Movie Official Trailer from IndieGame: The Movie on Vimeo.

Indie Game: The Movie documents the lives of passionate game developers who feel they have one purpose, and that is to create videogames. It is obviously within the creative spectrum of animation itself and the emotions and tensions that can be seen in the trailer reflect those of almost everyone in the industry. With the pressure of ones own artistic ambition it is easy to become overwhelmed, but this film looks to be uplifting in the most pure and honest way. These are individuals whose only goal is to follow through on their artistic ambition without selling short or loosing sight of what makes them passionate in the first place. I have yet to see the movie as it obviously has little coverage in national theatres, however, it will be available soon from their website (pre-order at http://www.indiegamethemovie.com/) and looks to be something rather special.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Character Design

This week I've been trying to push my character design forward and hopefully get close to completion. It has also been a stage that has allowed me to experiment with the art style whilst still in sketching. The pages below demonstrate some of possible designs for the repairman character, these were developed from the silhouette stage and then drawn with some detail in order to see how a possible saturated art style could work.


After feedback these character sketches will move towards a final character, presented and converted into orthographs. The process has also begun with the pianist, however, this character isn't as resolved as the above. 


The animatic has also been adjusted and is ready to be moved forward, this week I want to add more shots and get the close ups and eye contact between characters working. Hopefully this version is starting to move in a better direction.



This week I'll be trying to get these final character designs drawn up and ready for production. I will also try and get the concept art for the environments drawn up, all while continuing the editing of the animatic.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Mary and Max (2009)

I felt a post about the heartwarming claymation Mary and Max was appropriate for such a project. When I saw the animation about a year ago I couldn't help but fall for the charm and beauty of such a piece. The film follows an unlikely friendship between two pen pals, one is a small girl in the suburbs of Australia named Mary Dinkle, whilst the other is an overweight and overanxious man living alone in New York, named Max Horowitz. Thus begins a long term friendship between two completely different people with completely different lives. The dark and desaturated landscapes of the film add to the often bleak aspects of the narrative, but the witty humour and loving characters really make it a charming watch. 


It is a beautiful film and one that everyone should watch, but what really becomes important within this project is the character of Max. He is an overweight, lonely, anxious guy who at the surface appears rather odd, but at his core is really a sensitive and loving sole. These are exactly the qualities that are needed within my own TV Repairman. He needs to appear creepy and odd, but all of a sudden these ideas need to fall away and show a sensitive character at the core.


The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette and Barry Humphries. All three seem perfect for the roles they play. The design is stylised and adds to the charm of the off-kilter world, with monotone streets and misshapen object in ever shot. The world of Mary and Max seems as though it is a dark and odd place which just so happens to encircle two very human and very lovable character.