So Christmas is here and 2015 draws to a close. Before I head east for the holidays I’d like to wish all a joyous and peaceful Yuletide with all good things for 2016.
Yep, that’s right! My animation, Eli, has been selected for screening at London’s Underwire Festival this weekend – Saturday 21st to be exact – and my score is up for the Best Composer award (with props to producer/arranger Heathcliff Blair who made it sound so nice and shiny). A pretty amazing result, really, considering this was my first official animation, my first score and my first festival selection, so to say I’m hugely pleased is an understatement indeed. Since it was founded in 2010, Underwire has been growing year on year, celebrating the contribution of women to film both in front and behind the camera. Eli’s screening on Saturday is part of the Aural Pleasures section, from 5-7pm, which includes both music composition and sound design. After the screening I’m also doing a Q&A session, so if you’re in the London area why not come over to the Attic at the Hackney Picturehouse and join us? Tickets are available here.
I had the great pleasure of working with Nigella Lawson again this year, for the third time no less so I must be doing something right! I did two shoots with her in her light and airy London home, as she busied herself finishing work on her new book, Simply Nigella, which was published last month. She was on great form, as focused as ever but relaxed and happy in her new pink and green kitchen. Here’s one of the pieces to camera I shot for her, with Nigella explaining the philosophy behind her latest book. Her YouTube channel features more of my videos for Simply Nigella and for her previous book, Nigellissima. Feeling strangely hungry now!
Back in February I was delighted to work with Michael Van Clarke again, filming some of his stylists re-creating some hair looks from the red carpet at the 2015 Academy Awards. Here’s Tassilia Varda‘s take on some lovely long, flowing glamour hair as sported by Keira Knightley. The results are better than Keira’s original do, if you ask me.
So here we are on the other side. A happy new year to all! As promised back in 2014 here’s the (belated) animated Christmas card, A Tiny Tale of Christmas. I got so busy finishing this I didn’t have time to post it. Irony.
Well… it is DONE. After nearly six months of post-production Project E is finally complete pending permission from the copyright holder of the music to use his song. By all accounts he’s a very affable chap so I’m optimistic that he’ll be behind the project. It was a long, hard slog at the computer and I would have completed much sooner if my commercial work hadn’t taken precedence over the summer and autumn (as it must!). Since June/July I’ve been busy at Redwood working on the Barclays and Boots Health & Beauty Magazine accounts, I’ve also been editing a Spanish version of the Skatefresh Inline App, which is due for imminent release. In September I zipped over to Germany and back in one day to film at a clinic in Bad Dürkheim for the CBRE and also filmed some amazing young people at Preston’s College for City & Guilds/August Media. In October I was part of a camera crew filming the Constella Ballet and Orchestra under the direction of Heathcliff Blair and did a couple of jobs for Shortlist Media, editing some footage of Lena Dunham for her guest editorship of Stylist Magazine and filming the awesome James Ellroy for the Shortlist Magazine Book Club. And as if that wasn’t enough, I also started filming a documentary project about my grandfather, Morgan Jones – but more on that in another post.
So in the small spaces between jobs I was painstakingly retouching and balancing Jpeg after Jpeg for Project E in a post production session so gargantuan it put me in mind of hauling that steamer over the hill in Fitzcarraldo. I was to learn that my approach to animation was a tad overcomplicated after I went on a week-long stop motion course at Central Saint Martins in December 2013, under the tutorship of Kevin ‘The Puppetician’ Griffiths. The course was intense and really rewarding: I learned how to make an armature puppet and a jointed 2-D cutout puppet, and the basics of how to animate both using iStopMotion software. I also learned that the approach I was taking with Project E was creating more work than necessary. For example my main character was a doll not built specifically for animation and needed a support most of the time to stay upright, which was visible on camera that I retouched out later. As I was still shooting at the time it was a bit late to change, but later during the retouching phase, having applied a mask to what seemed like the zillionth Jpeg, I made a note to self to act on what I’d learned and use the right tools next time, make a proper puppet that I can pin to a bit of board and maybe employ a bit of chroma keying for special effects. And yes, there is going to be a ‘next time’. I’ve got an animated Christmas card in the works and a spool of aluminium wire on my desk ready for a spot of puppet production. But back to Project E, here are a couple of before and after shots from the post production marathon so you can see what I was up against.
A flying shot with rig wires visible top and bottom.
The epic, 5-hour plane fly-past shot. Wires and shadows visible.
Look ma, no wires! No shadows!
On the upside, I learned a shed load about Photoshop.
So, as soon as the use of the music is sanctioned I’ll be doing the Big Premiere.
Watch. This. Space.
It was during the Saturday Film School session at Raindance London that I first had the inspiration to make *some kind* of film, I wasn’t sure what at the time. If you’re a filmmaker, active or aspiring, I’d highly recommend Raindance’s 1-day course, as you come out with a mad gleam in your eye, wanting to film the world. So buoyed by post-course energy, I made a decision to use whatever downtime I had between bill-paying jobs to make something of my own. I had two projects in mind initially, an animation and a live action/time-lapse idea that seemed a bit too ambitious, so I opted for the animation, as that would be ‘quicker’. Oh if only I’d known.
I had an idea to do a music project, so I picked a tune that I really like, made by a copyright holder who seems relaxed about fair use. I drew a terrible, stick figure storyboard and started thinking about design. The big leap forward came when I decided to dismantle my bedroom to make a studio. After that there was no turning back. Months of moving things frame-by-frame followed. I worked through a July heat wave, lights blasting, wearing a bikini top and shorts, I fretted over the weather when shooting outdoors, I nearly got mugged in my local park (learned my lesson there), Christmas came and went and I never thought I’d finish, but finish I did last week and now I have an planet-sized amount of post-production to wade through.
It’s been an amazing ride and I’ve loved every super-focused minute of it, even the terrible ones where I accidentally nudged the camera or the set, when I chewed on my fist or beat the crap out of a sofa cushion, shouting terrible, terrible oaths. But then you have the wonderful moments when you get a shot up on the computer and it exceeds all expectations. I’ve relished the problem solving, learned a shed load and can’t wait to get the finished result posted.
From all the E Gang, ta-ta for now.