I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.


Film Talk – Contemporary Silence – Part 2

With the loss of dialogue, a very conscious decision by the makers of the film, there naturally becomes a massive reliance on the audio to carry more of the plot. Traditionally audio is split up into 3 tracks – Dialogue, Sound effects and the Soundtrack.

“The soundtrack of any film…tends to condition an audiences response to it, sound principally creates the mood and atmosphere of a film, and also it’s pace and emphasis, but, most importantly, also creates a vocabulary by which the visual codes of the film are understood.”

Understanding Animation – Paul Wells – Pg. 97

Sound is a vital component of animation adding more depth and understanding to the images and the narrative, allowing the audience to engage with a film. Naturally we take for granted the sounds around us, helps our awareness of our surroundings and situation. The additional an extra layer to the visuals we process.

 “Moreover, visuals are not always subtle-note the overly obvious miming of silent film-and words are not necessarily blatant…Engagement is called for whether one is interpreting action or speech, visual images or dialogue.”

Overhearing Dialogue – Sarah Kozloff – Pg. 11

However to rely solely on dialogue doesn’t mean we can’t understand a narrative without dialogue. Silent films relied upon title cards and the actor’s performances to convey emotions and move the plot forward. Today it’s very rare to silent or near silent films. One example is Robert Redford’s All is Lost (2013); the lack of dialogue was actually a draw for the actor who explains in this clip.

Silent film has had something of resurgence in mainstream film in 2011. With The Artist and Hugo. The Artist a loving homage to silent film that celebrates classic Hollywood. Whilst Hugo by Martin Scorsese is his tribute to early film, set in France, we meet an older Georges Méliès, who in the film is running a Toy store at a train station. It’s also a film that speaks about the importance of film preservation, something, which is very important to the director.

What they are really doing to attempting to re-energise a love for silent film.

“…Hugo and The Artist are only the most visible instances of a broader impulses to make silent cinema “new” at various moments in film and media history…”

New Silent Cinema – edited by Paul Flaig and Katherine Groo – Pg. 2

If you want contemporary silent film – not re-mastered/restored/re-released silent films you have to look out for films such as Ki-duk Kim‘s Moebius (2013), which relies on vocal expression, about

“…a father’s infidelity leads to his son’s all too literal emasculation, as the same actress plays both vengeful mother and wanton mistress, as the genital transplants pile up…”

Back in the U.S. Gus Van Sant‘s Gerry (2002) places two men into a salt desert, where they try to retrace their steps back to the car. Very minimal dialogue, there are long stretches where it’s just Matt Damon and Casey Affleck looking over the landscape.

More recently we have The Revenant (2015) the true-life story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose scene are almost dialogue free. Focusing on his struggle with nature, his own torn body and his anger to seek out revenge for being left for dead.

I ended the talk with a longer show reel, which is the best way to explore and understand the power of contemporary silent and minimal dialogue in film.



Painting the Town… Update (17/11/17)

This piece has really sped out of the starting blocks. It’s not long since I began making this piece, building up the basic frame of the model miniature saloon which soon took shape, even with all the amendments that it’s undergone it’s moved along steadily.

Today I have made even more amendments, starting with a new mirror which is also carefully angled before I fixed the mirror in place. In all honesty it sits a lot better at this size compared to the last one which was overwhelmed. I then move onto make start on the stairways, firstly on the left hand side, it went up pretty fast, once I made a decision of the measurements it went up with little hassle. By this point I was onto the balsa aspect of the work. I wanted to onto the stairway on the right-hand side. On referring to the screenshots it was looking like the false wall/blinds that I made for the previous model miniature. I had to consider how this would work, alongside the posts that go over the bar – a rarity in itself. I knew these pieces couldn’t be fixed in place yet, waiting until I had painted the cardboard elements. Also both pieces don’t meet so extra pieces are needed before I can take them further.

I am otherwise happy with how things have progressed with this piece. I will be going into paint mode next time, whilst I’ll still be working the large balsa pieces which eventually be joined up and later fitted in place.

Parkland (2013)

After watching Jackie (2016) I have become more curious about films that depict or revolve around the assassination of J.F.Kennedy. Just recently catching Parkland (2013) that depicts the aftermath again, but from the viewpoint of 3 points of view. This historical event broken down to the personal level was something I had to look into. Jackie took a very focused look at how the Presidents death affected the now grieving first lady Jacqueline Kennedy who we only see briefly in Parkland, still not much of a focus for film in general at this time. The mystique around her and these events are still maintained. Only seen from the sidelines, kept away from the main focus of this films version of events. It also takes a more linear and traditional viewing into the aftermath.

I was curious to know how these events unfolded on the ground away from those surrounding J.F.K the bystanders who could only look and watch as they saw a visionary yet divisive leader’s life was ended. Parkland chose to focus on Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) who was the only one to have filmed the shooting, a precursor to our fascination of recording horrific events, the need to share, be apart of something potentially bigger than yourself. We first meet him, allowing his team at a clothing manufacturer to take the day off, wanting them to share in this special occasion. He practically encourages everyone to leave their desks for the day like a public holiday has just been announced. Another focus being Dr. Charles ‘Jim’ Carrico (Zac Efron) working at the Parkland Hospital, who later attempted to save the life of the dying President. Whilst secret service veteran of 30 years Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) is trying to piece together what happened on his watch.

I feel I’m taking the position again with Parkland as I had with Compulsion (1959) which I feel both films could have done more. Focus was rightly given to those at the scene. You felt early on for the impact of the events had on Zapruder who filmed the events on his super 8 camera, which was meant to be a record of a great day when the President was visiting the town, only record his death. Before he spent most of the day with Secret service agent Sorrels who knows all of this happened on his watch, he has to ensure they catch the killer as soon as possible, his career depends on it. The pressure is tangible between Sorrels and Zapruder whose driven around to get his film developed and copied to ensure that the investigation continues. These are rushed and intense scenes creating a sense of real urgency that is needed.

The same sense of urgency is felt in the emergency room of the Parkland hospital where we meet Dr. Charles ‘Jim’ Carrico played by Efron whose faced with the presence of a dying Kennedy, brought in with hopes of saving him. Naturally shocked and slow to react, I found myself thinking, “get on with it, save him” then you understand does he, this is the President, no ordinary patient, what you do here could change history. I felt sorry for Efron, not words I thought I’s be saying, given only a handful of scenes, sure they are important to the film as they bring to life what happened in those precious moments. However we don’t see the emotional impact this has on him, or really the whole team around him, Instead moving onto infighting between the local police and Secret Service over who has jurisdiction over the body. Yes it’s important, yet at the same time, you have a medical team in shock, they have lost the President on their shift, all they could do was not enough. Couldn’t we see them after the finished their shifts, perhaps going home to their families, drinking some scotch.

Interestingly we spend time with the Oswald family, not so much Lee Harvey, himself we only see at the time of his own death. Meeting his brother Robert (James Badge Dale) whose naturally shocked by the accusation and the possible realisation his brother has committed such an act. We meet his mother Marguerite Oswald (Jacki Weaver), the only defender of a man whose believed to have been a Russian double agent, a traitor to the end of his life. Creating her own conspiracy theory in hopes of saving him from prison. Being in the company of the Oswald’s is something I do appreciate, seeing the cost of these events on a family level. Two families ultimately have been directly affected over the course of the film. It’s a controversial decision to depict Lee Harvey Oswald’s funeral as we hear coverage of the President overlapped. The Oswald’s are not generally seen as a family in terms this historical event, both deserving a decent send-off, we see ultimately everyone with, contributing to the burial, whilst over in Washington, the world watches another, everything carefully arranged in the days have passed by.

It’s a rushed film that is over in a flash, no sooner is the President dead, are we burying the assassin, an odd way to end a film that tries to bring life to those outside of the White House. A massive undertaking of an event that at the beginning shows promise and gets carried away with the few who were actually at the parade itself. Not to take away from the trauma/shock and days they experience after, however it doesn’t follow through for those at the hospital. The F.B.I. are brought in towards the close as they attempt the destroy evidence that would later come back to haunt them. Not their finest hour, that had to be shown up once more. I’m now looking out for other films at focus on this event, to see how they deal with the assassination, which point of view do they take and how they fit with the other films.

Film Talk – Contemporary Silence – Part 1

Tonight’s Film Talk focused on the silence and minimal dialogue found in contemporary film, the notes are below.

I’m taking a look at a more obscure aspect of film – silent or minimal dialogue in contemporary film. Starting with The Red Turtle (2017) a French and Belgian co-production with Studio Ghibli. Directed by Oscar winning animator Michael Dudok de Wit, which he won for Father and Daughter (2000) about a daughter who longs to see her father return from a rowing trip.

“In this elegant short film about how love can transcend time and death, a young Dutch girl witnesses her father inexplicably rowing out to sea, never to return…A simple and poignant dialogue-free story it is complemented with elegant and graceful design and animation, and the use of silhouettes and shadows.

The World History of Animation – Steven Cavalier -Pg. 324

The Red Turtle is a castaway film that begins by pitting man against nature as a lone survivor is washed up on an island, we first his multiple attempts to escape, only to be prevented by nature – in the form of a giant red turtle, before a woman, who he has a family with, joins him. They stay together on the island and live into old age; complete with all the trials that island life brings them. What I was initially drawn to was the radical choice to have no dialogue in the film, an idea that has been explored in my own work. De Wit’s reason’s comes from a story telling decision, which he explains in this interview.

I wouldn’t be doing the film any favors without looking at past desert island films, which have periods of little or no dialogue. First looking at Hell in the Pacific (1968), a WWII film that placed an American and Japanese soldier on a desert island, first they are still at war with each other, before they realise they have to put their politics and ideologies to one side in order to escape. The first barrier being language that had to be over come. There are sections where there’s no dialogue, a decision taken by director John Boorman , which he explains in this clip.

Moving forward to the turn of the century – Cast Away (2000) there dialogue is kept to a minimum when Fed-ex man Chuck Noland – Tom Hanks lives for years on a desert island, he has only himself and later his ball – Wilson for company, essentially he’s projecting his thoughts onto an inanimate object.

Admittedly there are some vocals – cries or gasps of emotion when necessary in the narrative, as De Witt allows for these moments of verbal expression. An example of this can be scene in the Tsunami scene.

Staying with animation, the decision to have minimal or no dialogue is nothing new. As we saw in the director’s short film Father and Daughter (2000), other animators have made the same decision. Such as Sylvain Chomet The Illusionist (2010).

“The lack of conversation is rationalized here by the different nationalities of the characters and is carried off by the strongly visual nature of the animation, creating a treat of visual story telling that leaves space for its audience to use their minds and discover the detail for themselves.”

The World History of Animation – Steven Cavalier – Pg. 392

Relying on visual cues and associations to bridge the gap. In Pixar’s WALL-E (2008), the first act of the film is near silent, referencing silent film, relying on other audio to express the little robots thoughts and emotions.

“…Wall-E comes to resemble a pet whose thoughts and feelings we believe we can interpret. And like a pet, WALL-E cannot talk, expressing himself only in mechanical beeps and squeals”

The Art of Walt Disney – Christopher Finch – Pg. 400

Whilst in Japan we have Kunio Kato’s short film Le Maison en Petits Cubes/The House of Small Cubes (2008) focusing on an lonely old man who reflects on his past.

“This story is told without any dialogue or narration, there is just a simple soundtrack.”

The World History of Animation – Steven Cavalier – Pg. 379

In the next part I’ll be looking more technically at the function of sound in animation and film.

Painting the Town… Update (15/11/17)

Even though I’ve had a shorter day in the studio I have again made some good progress. I began by making even more changes on the false wall, the single stack of shelves had to be removed and replaced by a single shelf. I’m constantly questioning and looking back at my screenshots to ensure I’m getting the model as close as possible to the footage as I can. As I’ve found with previous model miniatures you have to keep revisiting what you’ve done to see how it looks.

Once the amendments were carried out it was onto business of adding more, the shelf on the adjoining wall was up next before turning to the tables which are very different from the others I’ve made for the others. The round table in particular, which were previously much more simple, fixing a circular piece of cardboard to a section of tube. I thought that as I was only making one I could take the time to make something more unique and accurate table with four legs and not just a simple suggestion. I’m tempted to remake all the tables now. I saw the thinking through to the larger table, taking a cue from the Minnie’s Haberdashery again. I really enjoyed making these tables and the time they took.

I also made the piano and the mirror which sits above, I am tempted to remake the mirror as I don’t feel it’s right still. I’ll have to do that before I start on the rest of the balsa detailing which is mainly being the stairs which should be more straight forward than before. This piece is moving incredibly fast, I guess partly down to the size and the amount that I have to do. I’m looking forward to what happens each day, how it evolves and changes.

Painting the Town… Update (14/11/17)

I’ve been working at home today, but I have turned my attention to the video that will be projected into the model miniature of the saloon set. Using found footage at the end of the film I have been produced a rather different piece. There are two acts of violence, one – the back of a Winchester in to a mans head that knocks him to the floor, the other, the mass shooting. Again taking all the guns out, the protagonists who commit the act. I initially left in the breaks where the removals were made. During the early playback, the breaks the act really left the one of act violence disjointed, meaning I had to bring all of those pieces together so it ran a lot smoother, which is something I’ve not had to do before. Usually the violent act is very brief, not needing such an intervention to make it work as a whole violent act.

My only concern with this, is the overall effect, the flailing bodies that bounce around on the floor are reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde (1967), which The Great Silence (1968) may have been influenced by.

Still the scene is depicting more victims – which is debatable as they are outlaws who’re caught, making the act questionable in this piece. They were defenceless, making them more of in line with what you would describe a victim. It makes me question the function of bounty hunters in film and the history of Frontier Law, were they on the laws side or out for themselves, making their “trade” and lust for killing. They would/could be seen as lawful when they’re are bounty’s on them, however the method of tying them up, does that make it a lawful kill. I’m really curious to know.

Painting the Town… Update (12/11/17)

Another busy day in the studio, for some reason I thought I’d have it all done today, the construction side of it anyway. Things became more complicated as the day went on. Working on the pieces behind the bar I began with the larger set of shelves which I thought went smoothly enough. I realised that I would be needing a false wall to really continue making this section up. When I had the second shelf unit made up, I looked back at my plan of the model miniature, everything else I needed to make wasn’t going to fit on. I had to reduced all the shelves in length by a few CM to fit everything else on, which was easier than expected, not a neat job but effective and on the surface looks OK, so I’m happy.

Moving on I went onto make the rest of the pieces and fixing them to a false wall which allows better access to those pieces before they’re fixed into the main piece. I also thickened up two of the walls, one which the bar touches and another where the small set of stairs are. I also brought the wall up near the stairs to hide them slightly, helping me when I add the rails and balustrades later on with the detail I’ll be adding. I finished the day by added a strip of gum-tape and sealing up an edge with another wall, making it look as good as possible.

Two days in I’ve achieved a lot really, I guess it helps being a simpler design, I could be getting the balsa out sooner than I’d thought, paint soon after that, being potentially complete and ready for testing before Christmas or early new year as I maybe taken that month off as the studio gets colder.

Painting the Town… Update (11/11/17)

I spent much longer than usual in the studio today, wanting to make a really good start on this model miniature. Working from screenshots from my found footage I gained a pretty good understanding how the saloon looks, and it was pretty simple really, even with two stair-ways which lead to nowhere, which I’ve always found quite interesting. It took me sometime to work out the size of the model miniature, ultimately becoming the smallest of the series. The simple design of the saloon will make construction and the painting process go very fast.

This is the first model miniature to have two stair-ways, one of which is hidden behind another wall, which I’ve decided to attach the saloon bar directly too. I might thicken the wall out before I move much further as it looks flimsy at the moment. I ended the day by fixing everything in place, the making process moved along smoothly, having repeated a stairs so soon after the previous model which was far more complicated. I’m looking forward to seeing how fast this piece develops. I’ve also noticed that with both pairs of models that there’s a denser, more complicated one opposite a simpler, emptier design, this could make things harder in terms of presentation when the four are occupying the same space.

Painting the Town… Update (10/11/17)

I’ve taken just over a week off from my work, now I am ready to make a return to the studio. I haven’t been idle, looking at my next possible work. Whilst also sitting down to watch The Great Silence (1968) which in all honesty is a gruesome bloody Spaghetti Western. One of the few where the bad guy wins, showing that in reality that its never as black and white as we want our myths to be. I wanted to see where the influences came from for The Hateful Eight (2015) which are quite a few. Both completely different plots, however visually Tarantino has taken some cues, politically its a bit more overt, than Sergio Corbucci outlaws against outlaws, everyone is out to get someone. Unlike the methodically written Agatha Christieesque Eight which gets the audience thinking what happened before we arrived here, who can we trust.

Another aim of watching the film was to find a scene that I could use and build another/final model miniature for this piece. I had to wait to the end, when Klaus Kinski and other bounty hunters kills defenceless outlaws in the saloon. The fact they are outlaws is even more interesting as they were only a few days away from an amnesty being passed, instead they are rounded up and killed like animals. In terms of violence, its the volume of the violence we see, not the graphic nature of it. We see so much in the snow covered landscape of Snow Hill.

I’ll be taking the final scene – the mass murder of outlaws and build the saloon, using scenes that build up to it. It’s not the biggest as I had thought, but intimate enough to make for something interesting to be made. I’ll be make a start on drawing it up as soon as I return to the studio and my tools out and make again.

Cowboys & Aliens – Explored

Whilst I’ve been away from the studio, I’ve not been completely idle in my work or thinking, looking at a potential new piece inspired by Cowboys & Aliens (2011) which really fired up my imagination. I was thinking in anthropological terms how people – both white and Native American would cope under an alien invasion – moving forward seeing it as an occupation of the aliens, who had originally come to colonised by the “Dar” people. With the help of another alien – a friendly one taking a female form “Kai Chak Ra” who makes herself know to Zeke and Verity who before the attack had been leading a wagon train to their new home.

My initial thoughts were to make an animation of how both White settlers and Native American’s would’ve already come together, putting their differences aside and forming a resistance against the invaders of not just their home, but their planet. I’ve also been thinking about how it could be a cross-sectional model miniature, allowing you to look cowboys and Indian figures living in a gold mine that has been re-purposed as an underground base. I’m still unclear as to any real direction but feel there’s something to explore.

I also noticed a lot of differences in the film adaptation of the comic book. We don’t begin with a wagon train almost at the end of their journey, instead we have a confused Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) the comic’s heroes are Zeke and Verity who work together using their unique skills to save the day. We feel more danger in the original comic book, as much as we see danger, explosion and people being abducted, there feels more at threat in print. Maybe it’s what you can get away with in a different medium. The relationship between the Cowboys and Native Americans is resolved much earlier in print. We don’t meet them in the film until halfway through, and with the help of a friendly Native. The Apache who’re depicted know the alien invasion is beyond what the Whites could accomplish, they aren’t stupid, 2 dimensional people, instead given minds that can see what has to be done and work together far earlier. The earlier alliance allows for more action early on, it’s all about survival. Whilst in the film its takes a lot longer, getting others onside, before the final showdown that brings both sides into a harsh rocky landscape. There’s no abductions in print, all the victims are presumably killed.

There have been a few times were the two genres have collided – more recently with Westworld which was successfully adapted and expanded for TV. Both a very rich genres to explore, especially when they work together. I’m still unsure where to take the possible idea of an occupation. Should it be an animation – a series of shorts that build up a to a successful alien retreat. America is very much divided at the moment under Trump – who is not the worlds biggest fan, In his own country, you either love him or loathe him. You could see his time in office as an occupation or an invasion, which I could bring adapt for a possible piece, which would be very exciting and very decisive. However using Cowboys it wouldn’t work in terms of the gun-control which they would be all for. I think this idea needs more time to develop so it’s not so blatant.