Friday, 16 January 2009

Influences part 1: eca animation dept

The opening post dedicated to my artistic influences is in regard to the animation department at Edinburgh College of Art, because without it my knowledge of animation would barely reach past anything further than Disney, Hanna-Barbera, and The Simpsons.
Through the tutors and my classmates I have learnt about the wide variety of ways in which animation can be used, and how animated works can look like something other than an anthropomorphic blob of flat colour with a black outline... For example: the cool music videos by Michel Gondry; the highly artistic Paint on Glass films of Aleksandr Petrov; the beguiling films of Yuri Norstein; and the abstract craziness of Norman McLaren or Len Lye...
I have been able to work on many graduation films directed by my friends in the years above me, which has given me a lot of experiences and useful advice about how to make my own graduation film this year. Many of those friends have, in some way, helped to develop my graduation film (through their art, their advice, or both), so here I shall praise them:

Erica Weiste:
I did most of the scanning and colouring on Erica's lovely little graduation film The Gardener. Erica has one of the nicest drawing styles I have seen in animation; I just wish the Photoshopping didn't hide the beautiful line quality - but it's still a really nice film. The Gardener has been screened at the Flip Festival in Wolverhampton (England) and at the Kettupäivät Film Festival in Helsinki (Finland) both during November 2008. Working with Erica throughout the last year was a wonderful experience, and I would love to work with her again in the future.
My work with Erica last year has given me an extremely accurate timetable for all the scanning that I will need to do in my own film [does anyone want to test it to the nearest minute?], and she introduced me to some of the animators who I have found to be influential on my own work - such as Piotr Dumala and Michael Dudok de Wit. While I was searching for Dumala's version of Crime & Punishment (after Erica told me about it) I stumbled across the live-action film by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki - who has also become a big film influence on me recently!

Alison Cross:
Ally made the beautiful 2D stopmotion film Tale Soup (in a style loosely similar to the work of Yuri Norstein). Although not complete, the film is visually stunning and is my favourite from last year [sorry to disappoint the rest of her class!].
Ally had a lot of great story ideas, was always friendly and approachable (even after spending a full month working RIDICULOUSLY hard on her film prior to the deadline), and she is also [to some extent] responsible for the sarcastic humour that I developed throughout the last year ("Ally, I've bought you a cake for your birthday. But I ate it"). This sarcastic humour culminated with my pitch for a short film called The Invisible Cat "where you see nothing, it's just a blank screen... but you might hear some cat sounds"). As I have written in an earlier post, Ally had a lot of those cool 3D bookcover photographs by Thomas Allen as research, and she did some early visual tests for her film using illustrations by Arthur Rackham - whose work recently influenced the drawing style of the storyboards for my graduation film.

Jessica Cope:
Jess has a really cool expressionist style in all her artwork, which I have always found really interesting. Her influences (as listed on the BBC Film Network) include Edward Gorey, Brian Froud, and Tim Burton - each of which I have found relevant to the development of my graduation film to various extents. I helped Jess with her 3rd Year museum project for the 20 Years Of Pixar exhibition when I was in 2nd Year, and through that work I learnt how to set-up the scanner for animation, how to colour frames of animation with Photoshop, and how her film would later get edited together in Premiere and AfterEffects (things I would otherwise not have known much about until at least a year later!) Jess' great graduation film The Owl House was a big influence on my desire to produce a 3D stopmotion film this year, but the story for my film no longer suits that technique, so regrettably I won't be doing it this year...
(Jess can share with Ally part of the responsibility for my sarcastic humour leading up to The Invisible Cat; so thanks you two, I really enjoyed last year!)

Lynn Gerlach:
Lynn came to eca on exchange from HGK in Luzern (Switzerland) for two terms of 3rd Year while I was in 2nd Year. Lynn was not here for very long, but she left a big impressions on me - I was fascinated with the film she made for the museum project (a 2D stopmotion style like Tale Soup but with a Japanese theme), she gave me lots of critical/interesting feedback about animation that I have not had from anyone else in Edinburgh, and she introduced me to the conceptual animations of Paul Bush (a part-time tutor at HGK) which uses various unusual techniques that I would like to experiment with at some point in the future.

Julia Petitperrin:
Since helping Julia with her graduation film Another Nasty Little Character last year I have realised that it can offer me a lot of relevant experience for my graduation film. Julia used an unusual colouring method for her film - of rendering everything in a minimalist grey/black tone with crosshatched pencil or ballpoint pen over a plain white background.
She was animating on 12" animation paper, whereas I plan on animating with a 35mm field size, but Julia's loose rendering style is directly linked to the look of my film. The colouring is voluminous and the lines are very noticeable, yet rather than looking messy and abstract, it created a very vibrant aesthetic for the film. With my film I plan on drawing with ballpoint pens on a much smaller scale than Julia, therefore on the cinema screen my film should also look really vibrant. However I am slightly concerned that my drawing style could become too vibrant and therefore make the film look really abstract - as I had initially feared would happen to Julia's film.

I will also mention:
- Lora Jensen whose graduation film Harold & Margaret I worked on while in 2nd Year, and which was recently screened at the Exposures Film Festival in Manchester. Lora's colouring technique inspired some of the colouring techniques that I later experimented with in my own work during 3rd Year.

- Bob Robinson and his graduation film STYX, which was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2008.
Bob recently e-mailed me some photos of the miniature sets that he built for his film and also gave me some advice about how to do it effectively because I was planning on incorporating a similar technique into my film.

- Ewan Green who has been a great classmate since 1st Year, always has lots of constructive feedback, and was a strong director when we worked together on a project for the 2007 Degree Show in 2nd Year.

- Our tutor Alan Mason who almost always persists with his Friday Film Show, and which has over the course of the past 3 years slowly been responsible for me spending a ridiculous amount of time and money buying/renting/watching films. I barely had any films on VHS or DVD when I was in 1st Year at eca, and my cultural acknowledgment of film back then probably went from the odd mainstream cinema release to Aardman animations on TV with little else in between! Nowadays I have a bookcase stacked full (and then some more) with DVDs and a few VHS tapes of films from countries including: Japan, Finland, Germany, and France - with directors such as Kaurismäki, Tarantino, Godard, Hitchcock, and Burton... (Don't ask me what my favourite type of film is, because thanks to Alan I now watch just about anything)!

- Dr Jonny Murray for the last two years of CVCS seminars/lectures. [In 1st Year and 2nd Year I never thought I would want to thank somebody who tries to lecture us about Modernism and Postmodernism and other random modern art nonsense; but for these last two years Jonny has been providing us with much more stimulating seminars focusing on Film & Animation]. 3rd Year's What's Up Doc? Introducing Animation module was interesting, and the big bad 4th Year project was great! Not only did the lectures/seminars get better as each year progressed, but they gradually became more and more relevant to my own studio work by critically analyzing processes and debating the reasons for animation being the way it is today... Unfortunately my CVCS research has given me a huge prejudice against all CGI work, but I'm now trying to remedy this.

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