Honey, Honey ~ Feist

March 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

In my last film, “Nagasaki Circus” I was desiring to push some boundaries.  The film itself isn’t entirely innovative or experimental, but to have called it “animation” might have been.
I like arguing about animation.
Currently, the question, “what is animation?” has become very subjective.
I wanted “Nagasaki Circus” to simply be honest about it.  Although it doesn’t follow the traditional “succession of photographs” or “frame-by-frame” definition, it is indeed, very animated.  “Nagasaki Circus” is animation in real-time.  All the AE compositing involved in the piece might be able to cheat it into the realm of “animation”, thanks to the volume of commercial animation work these days that consists of more compositing than actual “animation”.
Considering the direction of computer generated, interpolated graphics that are widely accepted as “animation” (motion capture being one example), I don’t think we have been able to use such clear-cut and strict definitions for a long time.  On the opposite end of the scale, I’ve enjoyed “animated” films which consist of one frame for the entire scene — illustration, edited, with no motion at all — essentially an entertaining slide show.
“More power to ’em!!” I shout to the heavens!  If it works, so be it!
The term “animation” is subjective, and the fine artists of animation need to be open to redefining if we’re going to continue to evolve and experiment and find new twists and turns and ways to entertain each other.
It has quickly become an argument parallel to “what is art”?  I’ve long since walked away from trying to define it, and decided to simply enjoy it.  That is, after all, what art is meant for.
In fact, I might feel a bit of a failure if someone was able to look at my artwork and easily categorize and label it as a type.
Feist’s music video, “Honey, Honey” sets a great example, and it makes me proud.  It’s a beautifully animated piece, regardless of filming technique.
Where does the line of “animated” end, exactly?  This short film feels like stop-motion and is far better than many.  The average person enjoying it might not even notice that it’s puppeteering, under a live-action camera.  There’s no compositing that I’ve noticed, no trying to pretend it’s any more complicated than it is (apart from the frame chopping, to give it a nice stop-mo feel).  But it’s puppets moving in real time, with hands even playing a roll in the story.
But, you know, I’d love to see it in an animation festival.  And it will probably get into some.  Why?  Because festival directors will like it and option to turn a blind eye to categories.
I’m trying to tear my world wide open here, in my career as a animation filmmaker.  But I’m afraid that too much experimenting will leave me somewhere in-between both worlds, without acceptance into either one.  I feel as if there are still things I’m not allowed to do as an animator.  I became an animator so that anything could be possible.
I’m beginning development on my next short film and I believe it’s going to be mostly classical, partially because I miss drawing, but also because people understand what to make of it.
I hope to never water down my art for the sake of acceptance, but I also need acceptance in order for my art to be seen, and essentially exist.  What is visual art if it isn’t seen? (If a tree falls in the woods…)
I love the animation festival world more than anything and my eyes are always opened to new and wonderful things when I go, but in some ways I think the commercial world is more accepting of experimentation, because they don’t care what category if falls under.  If they like it, they like it.  If it sells, it sells.  But festivals have rules.
Perhaps filmmakers older than me have been through these sorts of questions already and maybe it’s not an issue once one has found themselves and their style and have become comfortable defending it.  But I’m finding there are still a lot of animation purists around who have a hard time opening up to step outside the rules and official categories, when it comes to animated film.
I originally tried to send this note as an email to OIAF’s Artistic Director, Chris Robinson (who once jokingly referred to “Nagasaki Circus” as “cheating”.  I jokingly agreed.  But then I believe the entire art of animation is cheating — Cheating real life.  So should there be such strict rules to cheating??)
Anyway, I found that every email address I tried was a fake.  Hopefully he’ll find his way here through Google alerts when I tag him.  Then maybe some one will start a nice, good fight!

Ottawa or Bust!

October 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Film Festivaling

(I just wanted to say the word, “bust”.  I’m cheeky like that.)

I’ve recently arrived home from two days at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival where I discovered Artistic Director, Sean Wilson has the exact same head as Rick Mercer.  Not the same face, mind you.  Just the cranium.  The shape, the hair, and the disproportionately child-like size.  It was pretty cool, I must say.

I was actually in Ottawa for three days, the first being made up of a lovely evening out at McDonald’s with my “Little Brother Figure”, Aaron Bradford.  I’m pretty sure he’ll thoroughly hate this paragraph.  When I first met Bratworst he was in high school, with long, blue hair, and had just let his friends shave his eyebrows off.  He said, “They made me.” but I highly doubt they physically pinned him down.  People called him “Marilyn Manson” for a year.  Now Bradford is all grow’d up, I suppose, and not actually that much younger than me, now.  He has a good hair cut, he can grow a full beard, he wears pants that fit and he has begun showering regularly.  It’s working for him.  Back in the early days when I knew little about animation and Bradford knew little about changing his pants, I starred him in a video series for a large Youth organization.  It was called, “Bradford’s Magic Photo Album“.

Evening #2 for me involved a screening of the Moving Stories Film Festival and a very friendly Hospitality Room.  Paul (Quarrington) had arrived at the Hospitality Room earlier in the day and thought it very inhospitable that it was closed.

I enjoyed hearing an audience respond to my film that evening, although it was very noticeable that we were at a writer’s festival, and not a film fest.  Nobody claps at readings and thus, nobody clapped at the films.  …It felt kind of like church.  I did, however, hear one person sheepishly air-clap and whisper, “woo-woo” after mine.  That rocked.

I met Charles Hodgson, of Podictionary.com, the pod cast which explores a word root every day!  I now have a CD and a book I am very interested in delving into.  It’s not often you meet a real, live etymologist.  In fact, it’s not often I use the word “etymology”.  Where does that word come from?  Charles would know!

Day #3 was for masterclasses.  I attended “Adapting Books: From Page to Screen” with Judith Keenan and Paul Quarrington, moderated by Tom Shoebridge.  Intriguing, entertaining, and informative.
Quarrington was trying to salvage his voice for a concert that evening with his band, The PorkBelly Futures, so his comments and answers were interspersed with swigs of Buckley’s Cough Syrup.

From six to seven I attended my own masterclass workshop, entitled, “Animating Books: From Page to Screen”.  I was joined by Gary Thomas of Crush Inc. and it was moderated by Chris Robinson, Artistic Director of the Ottawa Int. Animation Festival.  (Who, by the way, if he reads this post because of the Google alert that comes with the tag, is NOT a “Cranky Fart”.  You heard it here.)

I really enjoyed being on the small panel of two, but only wished it could have gone longer.  We screened our work and that took up some time.  I realized once we were up there that both Gary and I are animation cheaters.  I mean, our current, featured work was barely “animation” at all (not that we don’t animate, but what we were showing involved a lot of live-action).  But then, perhaps animation by its nature is “cheating”.  Yep.  That’s what I’ll say.  And if you disagree, you can fight me.

Then on to a nap, during which I was not able to sleep, in spite of my cushy hotel bed (two of them, actually.  I love the superfluous second beds.)  I wasn’t able to fall asleep on either of them.

I got up and eagerly jotted off to the big show, “Writers That Rock”, with a lovely line-up, including the most creativity I’ve seen in some long time by the hilarious Bob Wiseman (Keep an ear to the ground for his live performances, wherever you might be), and closing off with the PorkBelly Futures with Paul Q., who, by this time had a line-up of throat medications displayed for the audience, taking appropriate swigs and drops and suppositories, depending on the difficulty of the given song.
Despite his struggle to stay coherent and conscious (enough Buckley’s will do that to you), they all sounded great.

As the evening wrapped up and people headed out to be hospitable, I tried that “sleeping” thing again, with some success.

And that’s that.

Now it’s time for one of those “real jobs”, I guess.

Until the next festival…