Diary 2004 - page 2

1st April 2004

Not a good week at all, and I’ve been sinking a bit as any serious prospects of work, let alone appropriate work, do not seem within any grasp. Very bleak, and demoralising.

The one good thing of the week was a meal with Jo, Anthony, Bruce and myself. Four people sat round a table, all invovled in different aspects of stop frame one way or another, and all with a mad passion for it. In spite of the frustrations, bad organisation, and all those other hazards, we still love this daft art, and get so excited about it. What is it about puppets that brings out this passion that you don’t see in other animators. I was interviewed by Chrissy this week, a student at Sheffield, who is doing a dissertation on animation....well she certainly got a taste of the love of puppets over other techniques.

But all this talking about it makes the lack of making films even harder. I’ve been clearing out a room and there are so many scripts that never got made, and ten years, maybe fourteen years on, some of them are still damn good, and the ideas interesting. But oh how frustrating to see all the work that went into them only to be stillborn.

With Emil, I have submitted an idea to the Royal Exchange for a play - the idea of actually writing and staging this play is hugely exciting, as I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it is based on one of the most famous films ever, but from a totally new and relevant perspective. My ideas are flowing way too quickly. I’d be so pleased if this at least got written as a play.

So the old mind is still racing with ideas, but none of them are germinating just yet, let alone bringing in any money. Please don’t let it be back to WH Smiths again.

9th April 2004

Only one days’ filming this week, on Engie Benjy. A long 16 second shot - I enjoy the challenge of sustaining such long shots; it’s the nearest we get to a bit of adrenalin. We watched an episode go out on TV, and I must make my animation a bit bouncier and eccentric and cartoony. I’m being a bit literal at the moment. Sadly one day is not going to make the bank manager too happy. fortunately a few more days coming up.

I’ve tried to pursue a few leads about jobs, but oh the habit of not acknowledging mails and phone calls is damn rude, especially whe they are from someone in the profession. I try to answer everything I get...obviously some get missed. My e-mail inbox this week is full of mail apparently returned. This morning there were 25 mails returned from addresses I’d not sent anything to. Yep, I could easily turn into Victor Meldrew here.

But I’ve been beavering away writing a project that may at least get a commission to get scripted, but no word yet. Still I’m doing some research into the project, and the stuff I am finding is making me all the more determined to find a home for this script. I hope all this work is not in vain, and the script is destined for all the other unmade ones on my shelf.

It’s odd that since I got back from New Zealand, I have not taken a single photograph, whereas I took many every day before. maybe because I see photographs as some sort of life storyboard, and this particular period is not one that has any merit or significance.

13th April 2004

Well just back from a day on enjie bengy, and a couple of quite fun shots, but boy those colours hurt my eyes. One shot had a flag waving...not always the easiest thing to animate and make it look convincing. Probably the hardest things I’ve ever animated was Ratty rowing his boat (the logic of what is being pulled and when, and moving the hands but still keeping control of the oars, and the complicated rhythm is way too confusing) and the other hard thing was a snake twisting and sliding along. Every bit of that snake has to be repositioned each frame whilst still keeping the curves continuous. Got a few more days this week, and then in a few weeks they are starting the long mega weeks where two weeks are crammed into one. Hard work for everyone.

I finished slightly ahead of time and was able to take my chum Stuart to the airport for his one way flight to Australia. Quite emotional really. A bit of a sight to see my little mazda with two cases hanging perilously out of the back.

I woke up fretting this morning about work really. As one does when one is lying awake at stupid times, one calculates stupid facts and figures, and it occurred to me in the thirty months since Hamilton Mattress I have only managed to work just over nine months, and two of those were WHSmiths. I’m not sure that’s a very healthy career at the moment.

So easter came and went, its prescence for me indicated by the odd Disney film on TV and the usual biblical epic. Sadly the Easter bunny mislaid my address again. However I did see a squirrel laying into a box of a chocolate egg that someone had planted in the garde.

Still a couple of rooms got a lick of paint and subsequently look a bit fresher.

Madly writing away for this play idea, and the ideas are bouncing around my head at all times of the day. this has to happen...now I’m fretting someone will get there before me.

16th April 2004

Well the end of quite an arduous week filming on EB. Today was particularly hard with a long 26 second very energetic monlogue to do. crikey that is hard to sustain and keep interesting. OK, so I resorted to a lot of pantomime gestures, good old cliches, but they work. I quite enjoyed it really as it was just one puppet in front of a blue screen, with lots of pointing and acting away. Straight after I was launched into another shot on another set and another story.It happened too quickly and I had to finish by 6.00 and I made an absolute mess of it. It was using a prop I had not really had time to get to know....these props are so hard to hold - this was a stethoscope with way too solid wire in it. There was no device to attatch to the ears, and I struggled through the shot with the stethoscope twitching away...and it was ghastly. I abandoned it. Hideous, and I was grumpy as I’d made a mess of it. still the 26 second shot was pretty good, and very clear and controlled with a nice pacing to it.

Well a week off before the series of exhausting mega weeks. This is a good time to have a week off as I think I’m probably going down to the animal rescue tomorrow and may come back with a cat....or two. The house is so quiet without any animals. I fear this also may be indicative of the state of play at the moment. It does not look as if I’m going anywhere in the near future, and probably getting a cat is an admission of this; and they’ll certainly be the most reliable of company!. But I’m sure being at the animal rescue will be very hard. How can I come away with just one cat. I know I’m going to end up surrounded by one eared, one eyed injured abandoned animals. Ah the image of Norma Desmond and her dead monkey has just entered my head. Anyway watch this space.

Was feeling good about working again but this was soured with the credit card bill this morning....the car company in NZ, now ten weeks ago, had taken a huge sum of money. I’ve no idea what this is for, and they would have found a reason, but it has suddenly wiped out this week’s working and more. Very frustrated by that. I got my chums in NZ looking into it. I’m certainly appreciating every penny that i’m earning at the moment, but furious that a chunk just disappears.

Going to the theatre tonight gave me such a buzz that I won’t sleep. Oh the joys of watching creative stuff. I could not get anyone to come with me so maybe the cats will be sat there next time. I’m definitely having creative withdrawal symptoms.

April 24th 2004

Pretty much a damn good week; lots of writing creatively, lots of catching up with university pals and tutors, lots of dishing out advice to students and so on, five great live performances, great weather, a new moggie in the house - almost like a normal week, though if I’d have earnt even a single penny that would have made it much better. With all the writing and tuff it feels as if I’ve been working.

The addition of the new moggie Inigo certainly makes a difference round the house, and lready he is totally settled in, and familiar with the very confusing layout of the house. He’s very chatty and certainly likes to have company. he’s never far away. He loves the garden and seems to have fitted in very well.

Yes, like the number 23 bus, you wait for years to have any connection with the old university and suddenly this week has been all about the university. I caught up with my contempory Phil B, who is in Six Degrees at the Royal exchange. Great to see him, and I seemed to make his day as I swapped Mars Attacks paraphenalia, and he showed my his original set of trading cards. He’s somewhat a fan of those gloriously lurid cards...and he was thrilled to meet a real martian. And damn good he was in the play, which I managed to see twice this week. This Chris R from uni was passing through too, so saw her one evening, and then one of the tutors Alan had asked me in to have a look round their new facilities. He’s head of the film department.....in my time that was not many of us, and this was before video; I remember one holdiay course we re-edited a 60’s feature film looking at structure and what happened if certain shots were removed or put in a different order. Of course with the satisfying clunk and click of the editing cutter we destroyed that copy of the film. Today its so easy on video to re-edit thing. And at the uni, they have an amazing amount of facilities. A brand new well equipped theatre, and a concert hall they share with the music department, in which I heard some very twinkly Mozart, but some very spunky Debussy. But I might get to be involved back at the Drama Department which would be great. In their eyes I seem to have done very well, but at Uni I was not a high profile student, and certain my appearances on the stage were pretty disastrous...Phil and I certainly cringed at some of the memories.

Emil and I did a lot of chatting and productive work about the play, and we do have a meeting with the theatre to present our thoguhts. Very exciting, but the fact that emil fell asleep as I launched into one inspiring scene (I thought) I put down to his American jet lag. Crikey if this play can move forward I would be so thrilled. WE both love the Royal exchange so much- it is the best space anywhere. I took Big G for her birthday to see Six Degrees....we battled through those tradition St George’s Day displays of patriotism.....loud out of tune singing of phrases that never get finished, buttock display, and vomiting in the fountains. Ah so classy. Give me morris dancing any time.

So a busy week really, and it does look that I’m not back to New Zealand. Apparently others are being lined up to carry on over there...oh well another feature film I did not get to finish through no fault of my own. To outsiders that does not look good,but the film making process is never quite that simple. Shame as this is one film I would have liked to have seen through. Maybe it’s just best to say we were all there too early. And so the whole thing has already become just an anecdote.

But not a bad week.......

30th April 2004

Such a busy week, but no culture at all, no shows seen but so many to see. Harlem Dance company are here, complete with the representation of buffalos on stage....would love to see that.

But two long days on Postman Pat - they are doing these mega weeks, squeezing two weeks into one. Animating 12 hours a day is a killer for the calves, and the pressure is on the keep filming. Not sure the puppets are up to it as you always have to give them a good straightening out after each shot...they are getting very twisted and knotted. Did some fun slapstick stuff - that old foot in the bucket routine. I enjoyed that, but I can’t get that excited about heads talking. Some of the sets on PP are gorgeous. Its odd being on a set-up like this as still some of the less experienced guys come up for advice...quite flattering really. I found myself pontificating about the subtle points of animation....though there’s not much room for subtlety at the moment.

Looked at the catalogue for this years Stuttgart festival, which is one of my favourite festivals, and this is one of the first years I have not been. Nothing to screen sadly, though Screen Play was there (maybe in the whatever happened to them’ section, or the one hit wonders’). In spite of the doom and gloom of British animation European countries are still managing to make short films and there’s a healthy amount of puppet films still being done. How on earth are they doing it. I’ve tried to make a few calls and mails, but I’m still smarting at the amount of companies who don’t acknowledge or respond these days. There is no excuse for that.

I’ve had several meetings with Emil about the proposed play and a five hour session today flew by - we were so excited and fired up about the story and ideas were just flowing. We got through to the end of act one but got a bit stuck there...too many plot ideas to resolve neatly. have to rethink that. But it was exhilarating collaborating with someone on the same wave length. Now if only the theatre company share our enthusiasm and give us a commission to write it properly, then produce it. this is such a bold and brave idea, but actually quite an obvious one, that i’m hoping no-one gets there before us. Its funny how the characters in the play wihtout us trying are echoing our own predicaments. This play will have layer upon layer upon layer. this is almost like working, except without the pay!

Watched Peter Jackson’s early film Braindead this week...certainly gruesome but some spirited animation in it. Must check the credits to see who did that.

1st May 2004

I knew this, but I’d forgotten. It was Peter himself and Richard Taylor who had animated the manic monkey in Braindead. What a gloriously inventive visceral movie.

6th May 2004

Certainly a busy week....all normal people had a nice sunny bank holiday weekend doing car boot sales and annoying each other. Me, well I was tucked away in the artificially sunny pastures of Greendale and Postman Pat. Two excessively long days....12 hours shouting is tough on the old legs these days. the first day was fun and i think I did some good stuff, but the second day I got very frustrated with myself. I found walking a group of kids very hard as the puppets are smaller that I would like and just getting my fingers round their knees is hard...maybe i have too big fingers! It seems necessary in childrens animation for puppets to have short legs and huge fat feet...the nightmare of any animator. Just swinging those feet through is hideously difficult. That’s why all my characters have lovely long legs, usually. But I was grumpy with myself for not doing stunning work. My stuff does not seem to be as bouncy as the others....I’m not sure I’ve ever been a bouncy animator (consciously avoiding the ghastly Disney dip and turn stuff) but I must try to put a bit more bounce in. and bizarrely, I lookied at Jess the cat and could not for the life of me work out what his legs should be doing...and there’s me with a cat in the house. Jess’s legs did not seem right at all, but fortunately being black all his legs can tend to merge into an indistinct blurr.

The rest of the week has been spent working like mad on the play with Emil, and this period of unpaid creativity has been enormously stimulating. We presnted what we had to the theatre on Wednesday...though we had only 30 minutes to do ourselves justice. We have managed to write a nine page treatment of act One but not much of Act two yet. i’ve no idea what they thought but there were a few smiles and lots of nods. So we are going away to do a bit more work on Act two. But like the subject of the play,and I am being a bit cagey here, a group of people seem to becoming together at the right moment. I would kill to do this play, as it would tie together so many strands in my life.

No social stuff and cultural stuff...I’ve joined the big gym that’s just opened here, mainly to carry on the daily swimming I found so enjoyable in Wellington...but there basic medical found I had very high blood pressure. Hmm, need to get that sorted out soon.

Still keep hearing news of Kong down under, and still I get a bit of a pang about that....

12th May 2004

Damn, I just wrote an absolute epic here, about an absolute epic of a week, and the computer lost it somewhere......so a resume follows. A long long mega week on Engie Benjy, working a whole week in three and a half days. Quite gruelling and the back tends to groan, but its been fun, and they are a nice mob. Had a wobbly about props that are made for stills and not animation. That’s my bete noir definitely. Production meetings seem to be a luxury of the past. I enjoy the pantomime elements of Enjie Bengy and the nice big simple gestures...and at least most of the characters have long limbs.

Had Carrie staying over the weekend and got a bit upset trying to recall the actual experience of being down in New Zealand. Carrie was on MoCap and other things for all the films. We went to Six Degrees again and she loved the show, having been in the play herself...it was certainly a charged performance we saw.

Also had broocey staying from scotland doing an aniamtion test for CH....he’ll be good if he can get to think simpler. the animation he does is more visceral and raw, so this must be very hard for him.

Emil and i had a great session on the play and managed to crack the missing elements of Act Two. It now has a focus and I can’t wait to write it, but life is so manic at the moment. Too much going on and I could so do with a PA to help with the real life stuff that keeps intruding. Am absolutely knackerd, but I have a few more weeks like this.

16th May 2004

A few days without animating, letting the legs recover after these mega weeks. I’d arranged to go down to London and see Randy who’s over here for a couple of weeks. I got to London a good few hours earlier than planned and just happened to phone him from Leicester square, assuming he was still in his meeting. Well I got through to him, and admist all the crowds we seemed to be able to hear each other very well...not surprising as he was standing three feet in front of me. Very bizarre...especially as the phone call had gone to New zealand and back. We had supper with Carrie and corey and it was a little Lord of the Rings reunion...we werer all a bit surprised at the crowds and noise of london. Somewhat different from Wellington. But with all that talent roudn the table, we were all struggling to find not just appropriate work, but work itself.

Good to have a day out though. I’ve still been struggling with Act two of the play. So much material and emil and i have the trick for the act but its not flowing yet. At the moment it’s just a series of interesting incidents which aren’t necessarily driving forward with any tension.

The gardens and everywhere are looking great at the moment. Filming the other day in chorlton was bizarre as all the lime trees were shedding their floating seeds, turning everything into a slow motion snowfall. very beautiful and very Ridley Scott.

Getting so excited about seeing Troy, but nervous. Ok so they’ve removed one of the greatest love stories of all time, that of Achilles and Patroclus, and OK they have Achilles in the Trojan horse, and ok they’ve removed Hecuba and much or all of Cassandra, and they’ve removed the Gods, but to have Agamemnon killed at Troy rather wipes out nearly the whole of Greek drama and literature in one fell swoop. That leaves electra without her story to tell, that leaves Clytemnestra at home running the bath whilst clutching a dagger. Crikey...what’s left? Well the Horse does look magnificent at least.

And oh the blood pressure is still not good news....but at least its not due to diabetes. So I’m on happy pills and will be out of this world even more than usual!

20th May 2004

And there’s another mega week on Postman Pat done...and another week of legs aching at the end of the long day. I think I did some fun stuff, and did not have too many problems with props this time, but I confess to having a wobbly about some bizarre scheduling. I was given a nice lengthy sequence between Pat and an elderly female character and had planned it all to flow and for there to be lots of touchy feely stuff going on. I suddenly see that a previous animator had been filmed some random shots in the sequence...well our style was very different and i was having to match that continuity, and well the sequence does not flow at all. There was probably a reason for this but for anyone planning a film, do try to do sequences in complete chunks, and consecituvely, as it certainly makes it flow and does not jar with different styles of acting. I was pleased with one shot of the female being a predatory character, in much the way of Gilbert and Sullivan. Not too racy mind you - I do love it when puppets touch each other and react....suddenly they become something else.

Not much time for anything else this week, and I’ve still not got to Troy. Can’t wait though.

Oh yes I did have another play meeting with Emil, and Act two is shaping up now. But he’s ging to disappear soon to play Puck, so we must get it all done before he goes.

21st May 2004

and then the phone did ring actually...a call from a college in the USA to see if I was free for a term for an artist in residnce placement. That would be good. Watch this space. Also my university want me to do a writing term. Sounds good but what happened to film making? Hopefully I have a few more films left in me when the time is right.

27th May 2004

Not sure I could cram more into a few days if I tried.

So what to do on a gloriously sunny saturday - just spend 12 backbreaking hours with Postman Pat in the snow, rescuing a brat who was stuck on cracking ice. A real bit of drama so that was quite fun to do....the stretching nearly did my back in though. One very nice shot of the boy about to go under! With this high blood pressure nonsense I’ve been merrily tucking into nuts as recommended by the doctor, unfortunately one of the animators on the set had a serious allergy to nuts. I wasn’t aware of this and did not know what the fuss was all about, but it could have been very serious. The puppets had to be dusted down afterwards. I felt awful.

Anyway I’ve jsut returned from 48 hours in paris, and what an action packed 48 hours that was. Felt somewhat guilty at leaving little Inigo, but he was fine. I was there to do a talk for an animation association ( http://www.afca.asso.fr ). I was a little apprehensive as I’ve not done for for over a year and have sort of lost a connection with the films, and sort fo lost faith with the animation world, but this screening, with a packed audience, was at the Kodak private cinema.....and I have to say the films have never looked better or sounded better. Glowing colours, with real blacks and vibrant reds, and pin sharp focus. The sound revealed things I didn’t even remember recording. Well done to the projectionist as he only had a short while to get it all together. And well I looked at the films, and you know what, they are not bad. there’s a wealth of some pretty damn good ideas going on there. the response from the audience, both professionals and public, was extraordinary, and did rather make a mockery of my present position. I certainly got fired up about trying to get things going again. I had lunch with a producer, and who knows what this may bring. we got excited about chatting about ideas. Maybe the answer is France and Europe, as the indifference in the UK is deadly.

I had most of yesterday to myself and for the first time I became a tourist in France, and what a tourist. I raced to the Louvre, and after three hours I had to admit defeat. I could not take any more. I was astonished and moved and humbled and everything. Of course I saw Mona, and got angry with the other tourists experiencing her through a brief digi snap shot before moving on. Certainly it is an astonishing painting, but how has it become the most famous painting in the world. Is its reputation based on a snowballing fame, much like The Mousetrap play in London. Is it famous for being famous. I felt sorry for the other Leonardo paintings that were being walked by with ne’er a glance. The Raft of the Medusa made me sit and stare for a while, as well as some stunning greek statues. There’s definitely something about achilles that artists love - the sheer physicality of his story. Anyway I saw masses of wonderful glorious work in the Louvre, and was thrilled to see so many people there - maybe it is just another tourist thing to tick off, but there were crowds. There is a place for Art, even if commissioning editors on tV do not think so. Who needs art when you have Big Brother/celebrity get me out of here, set in a kitchen. Dear God!

After the Louvre I jumped onto a bus and just let it take me round the sights, and for the first time I got to really see the Eifel Tower up close. What an elegant structure (but what a hideous colour!), and so beautifully located with space and trees all around it. For some reasons its four feet are the most amazingly designed bits. I loved all the space in Paris, the huge open Place de Concorde. On the bus were two large very jolly ladies from New York. Great entertainment in themselves. So I caught all the sights and got back to the hotel, more a garrett thana room, and was exhausted, inpsired and ready to get going on a new project.

And getting back to Manchester, there was my new portrait from Sandro in new Zealand - me holding me as a toucan. It’s fantastic. Do look at sandro’s work - http://www.sandro-kopp.com . Everywhere I have looked this week have been images of people of animals, and I’ve come home with a great graphic novel, Blacksad that was very much like looking inside my head. So that’s been the theme of this week, and paintings.....funny, I have scripts written about both such subjects.

So thanks for Mikhal and her team at AFCA for getting me to Paris and thus breathing some fresh air!

June 2nd 2004

Crikey what a ten days. I am exhausted from it, having been to Paris, to Dublin, dished out way too much creative advice, done masses of writing, done too much organising, only managed one social thing, and earnt less than the minimum wage. What a strange life indeed.

I’ve just got back from two days in Dublin, finishing the external examining that I did back in February. A great bunch of students, with hugely differing attitudes to film making and animation. Some will clearly be able to walk straight into a job......After the two very arduous brain frying days I was very touched that they gave me a bottle of wine. sometimes I think I just spout useless impractical nonsense, but maybe not. As always it is the stop-motion that is the least obviously successful. maybe because I am closer to that or maybe because it does take mastering a larger range of skills to even get a basic level of success. Sound, once again and as in all the colleges i have been to, seems to be an after thought and not a dramatic element. It’s not there just to fill in the silences. And film grammar...well, there’s another thing I’d like to do some workshops on. But the good films were damn good, and very confident. An interesting observation, but I don’t know what it means. All the female students had produced shorter films, and had not seemed coy about cutting scenes and shots that did not work. The lads,their films were longer, and, well, it seems every shot frame was used and they seemed reluctant to cut things. No, don’t know why that should be.

Well that’s been too packed for one week, and then I have one more action packed week and then a large blank space.....fingers in pies, but nothing definite yet.

5th June 2004

Paris, Dublin, and now London - well that’s quite a schedule by any standards, and I sit here exhausted, but buzzing a bit.Just got one more mega week with Enjie Bengy and then that’s all done, but suddenly I have a lot of writing to do which could be exciting. I went to London yesterday to meet a producer...actuallly he turned out to be the Managing director of a big distribution company. Had a great chatty lunch, flanked on one side by Barry Humphries and on the other by Derek Griffiths. Yes a good lunch, and as we got excited about films, and I luanched into what was one of my favourites this year, Girl with a Pearl earring, I certainly said the right thing as this guy had, shall we say, a very personal interest in that film, and i’ve now come away clutching a copy of the DVD. I’ve also come away with a contract to write a short treatment of such a famous and enigmatic book. This is hugely exciting and terrifying at the same time, as others have been totally stumped as to how to transform this into screen material. Well I shall give it a damn good go. One other film idea that I casually dropped into the conversation also raised very interested eyebrows. So I now know what I’m doing for another six weeks or so...that does not sound much but it’s exciting. And all this came about from the trip to paris last week. Along with this is some writing to do, a short film, for Red Vision, after a meeting with them on thursday. Crikey. Some money will come in, but some projects are justwrite it and see’.

So I got back so late last night totally exhausted, and the day was not helped by the transport system in britain about to implode. The trains between Manchester and London are almost giving up, and getting round London, well it has finally reached the stage where it is quicker to walk, and walk I did.

All my boxes of goodies arrived back from new Zealand this week, and with them all manner of confusing and conflicting memories. There were all my beach clothes and other things suggestive of sunshine, the outdoor life and a damn great lifestyle. A million DVD’s and books reminding me of how well I’d been looked after in new Zealand. And there were various weta Collectables bringing back exciting memories of Rings and of sitting in the studio lot surrounded by Orcs doing the crossword. I don’t actually have a single thing to represent Kong though, and I also had a mail today from a chum still there chatting about the scenes they are working on, and confirming who is doing my job from next week...ah well. To be fair he has directed a feature film and a feature film about dinosaurs, so way more expereinced, but all the same I hardly disgraced myself, none of us did. Not quite sure what all that is about actually. But moving on.......

The meeting yesterday has given me a good buzz. The film we have talked about has no possible connections with any of the work on my showreel but the guy was open minded enough to see the thinking, and hopefully talent, behind my work. I fear the theatre Emil and i are trying to write the play for, are not that open minded. Since I don’t seem to have directed a play by Moliere or Racine, how could I possibly grace their theatre? Nor was the Arts festival in Manchester who were looking for a Creative Director open minded enough to give me even an acknowledgement let alone an interview.

Anyway its a relief to know something is happening. A lot of writing to do.

June 12th 2004

Was a bit shattered by the long hours of a mega week on Engie Benjy...sort of enjoyed it and the crew are good value! But that’s the last animation I’ve got. who knows when I’ll have my mitts on a puppet. Hopefully the aching calves would have recovered by then....calves certainly give up after twelve hours of animating.

Haven’t quite thrown myself into the writing as I could have done. there’s a lot of tidying up and catching up and stuff to clear my head of first. But I’ve read the book a few times and I think I know where I’ll be going with it. The play has lost a bit of momentum as I’ve been distracted and emil is in London doing Puck, But we will get there.

Keep reading about PJ’s King Kong every day and get excited, but then forget I’m not involved any more. It was announced officially that Andy Serkis isplaying’ Kong as well as a art in the film. Kong is still very much in my head. Also the first pictures of Corpse Bride have been released and look fantastic and dark and creepy. this is going to be a huge film. It’s odd hearing so much about it and not actually being involved. It’s a year today that I left for New Zealand, and what a strange year that has been. talk about ups and downs. And yes, if I’m honest, I’d much rather be still out there.

Anyway good to see Opera north this week, and to see them being so adventurous, but boy am I starting to hate audiences who don’t give a show their full attention. I can’t believe that mobile phones still go off and people talk as if they were watching tv.

19th June 2004

Let the train take the strain....huh! I’m sure there are countries with worse travel systems, but having suffered a woefully inadequate inefficient train journey to Cardiff and back, I’d be hard pushed to see how things could be worse. I’ve not had such a bad journey - since the last time I travelled by train. They are simply not reliable. I took the train to Cardiff so I’d be there relaxed and ready to do my talk, but after countless stops, diversions, transfers to buses, more stops, it just became a farce. Still I stepped on stage to do my talk at the Glammies - the Glamorgan day of showing the student films and awards and guest speakers (www.glamfest.net) - very hyper indeed, and charged through my 70 minutes. There would a good reaction, perhaps they needed some arty stuff after a lot of technical stuff! Though Shelley was wonderfully articulate and passioante about Dreamworks. Good to see the clip from Shark Tale with De Niro as a shark and also Scorcese, complete with trademark eyebrows. Very surreal. I enjoyed the day, and had chum Alex in the audience, and a few other friendly faces. Watching the films in the presentation in the evening, I still worry about stopmotion at colleges. It does seem an increasingly familiar story of overambitious production values and film subjects, told with puppets that can barely support themselves and stay in a pose. I’m not sure animators should be given a fully detailed puppet until they’ve learnt to move the most simple fo objects with a certain amount of clarity and expression.

Alex and I found a great restaraunt on the waterfront and chatted endlessly about the joys of Sondheim...a good evening. And I was glad to get home today, exhausted and frustrated by the train journey - again.

Otherwise i’ve been busy all week writing the various projects. The main one has taken most of my tiem, but I’ve had cause to keep watching Hitchcock’s The Birds. I read the BFI classics book on the film,and this is probably the most lucid book I’ve read about Hitchcock. I was just getting too excited at one point, as the author was saying exactly what my reaction was to the film, but with far more eloquence. It is a magnificent film with no wasted shots or anything.

June 24th 2004

Well not really trivia, as that insults the people involved, but I just heard from Randy that apparently Ray Harryhausen and Fay Wray met at the top of the Empire State Building a couple weeks ago. Now how many icons and legends can you get in one image. I think that is just a fantastic act; whoever arranged it, well done.

Maybe someone out there has some photos.

This could segue into another related thing in the press today, of a gorilla that climbed over its glass wall in Berlin zoo and went and sat on a park bench quite happily enjoying his freedom, and doing nothing particularly sensational or dangerous. Of course everyone panicked and tranquillised it, but the photo of it on the bench is beautiful.

25th June 2004

Midsummer is meant to be full of nice dreams and romps in the woods on mellow evenings. The UK has had so much rain, that any thoughts of nocturnal excitements have been washed away.

A whole week dedicated to writing, and that takes a surprising amount of discipline. I have to go and walk round the garden with Inigo when a new thought arrives...I then think it through before I write it down. So there’s been a lot of walking this week as the writing is goign well. Adapting a very famoud book brings all manner of responsibilities...I’m not wild about adding anything to this story, and scared of leaving anything out, but I’m hopefully doing more than just tellign its story.

I can see how this next year is planning out - dozens of bitty part-time jobs all over the country.Various bits of teaching and writing and running courses. This is exciting and may let me get by financially, but I’m worried in case it takes even further away from making another film. Teaching isfine, but I need to be behind a camera putting my ideas into practice, especially as my ideas keep coming thick and fast. I’m worried in case I disappear from the scene. I’m already feeling pretty removed from it, even more so by reading daily news about Kong and the Corpse. Kong is hard to read about as my mind is still full of Kong and his history.

But it is exciting to be doing a variety of things, and maybe this year will be about laying down the foundations for a big film. I could become the living incarnation of the anecdote about Donald Wolfitt who was once a tour-de-force but ended up being forced to tour.

Ah well at least the creative juices are flowing, and this writing has been exciting. Oh dear I need need my glasses full time now. Inigo loves having me at the keyboard. He sits just next to me on his own chair, and makes a noise when its time for a bit of attention and distraction.

July 2nd 2004

Busy week on the script, trying hard to rsist the temptation of putting too much stuff in it, and overcomplicating it. It is a simple tale and not a plot driven one like Harry Potter. I think it’s going well, and I get emotional when I get to certain parts. A few friends are kindly doing some token illustrations. As a screen play about different levels of illusions and reality, I had hoped to get to see the brilliant production of Pirandello’s Henry IV that was in town....so I duly turned up and it had started ten minutes before at 7.00. Now whenever did shows start at 7.00. Curses. So I missed that.

there was a great South Bank Show about a year in the life of Ian McKellen - full of clips of the last days of the Rings shooting, and of the Stone Street Studios, and Seatoun. Yep I did get very homesick indeed. I wonder if the dolphins are still lurking in the bay outside the house.

Had a few dramas with Inigo this week, who was a bit poorly, but an injection has sent him bouncing up and down like Zebedee, and he really is a happy boy now, eating like a horse.

Was pleased that on Corpse Bride, one of my chums has already been promoted to senior animator on the strength of her first shot - well she shouldn’t have been an assistant anyway. So can I add Margot Channing to my list of multiple personalities (Norma Desmond is already there - oh dear god, imagine Norma and Margot meeting!)?. The word coming from the set is very exciting. All the papers are full of the pretty damn amazing voice cast this week.

Oh the joys of Amazon....I discovered Amazon ordering only last year but I’ve certainly recieved some treasures, but this week I got not a book, nor a dvd, nor a CD but a blood pressure monitor...and I’m busy making notes about all that. Still a bit alarming.

6th July 2004

Just getting to my feet again after having spent a few days in bed, laid very low with something very nasty that raced through taking the wind out of my sails....not at all nice. Apparently I’ve not been alone in getting this. But it came out of nowhere. Bizarrely it felt like strong sunstroke, but have you seen the british summer....! In the midst of all the night sweats I was still thinking of the script and various new ideas kept getting stuck in there with no chance of being writtne down, adding to my already pretty hallucinogenic state.

And of course it was my birthday, and I had Alex up from Cardiff. I can’t have been the best of hosts. I had promised to go over to Bronte country and have supper with Amanda (ex the Bradford museum) and we did drag my very weary bones over for a fantastic night. Oh what food and company, and oh what a house. I know whenever I get to write a biography details will be somewhat loose and florid, and Amanda’s house will become the house that inspired Wuthering Heights. Gorgeous.

But sadly a bit of a bleak few days where I’ve clearly lost impetus (and some weight!)

July 15th 2004

St Swithin’s Day, and yes it is raining fit to embarrass Noah....so that means there’s going to be a lot more rain.

Well I’ve just finished the film treatment and sent it off. It looked fantastic with a few illustrations from Barbara and Warren. I read it through at midnight last night, checking syntax and ideas I might have missed. As I got to the final scenes, I burst into tears. It is a very sad oblique story, and one that I feel I could really translate to the big screen. Without giving too much away, I’m amazed how the story has come to echo things going on in my own head at the moment. But I have loved writing this, and was very reluctant to send it off, as removes the spring I had in my step each day for the last six weeks. I do enjoy being creative, and I do hope that this burst gts carried forward, and I get involved further down the line. I am feeling very isolated, like the main character, and really need to get my teeth into a big project. Still I’ve enjoyed working with the artists, however briefly, and I do appreciate them doing the work for free.

Had a great evening over in Buxton - perfect weather (for a change), and great to see Wyn conducting again. Dammit I’d like to do another film or a musical with him.

Lord knows what’s happening to our summer, but it aint happening! There was a couple of hours of sunshine when Ian came to the garden with all his Corpse Bride crew for their photo. They looked amazing with all their t-shirts, amongst the trees.Dozens of them. As it happened I unpacked the Weta crew photo the same day - this was done in a sports field back in October. Looking at all those people I’m not sure I can remember all their names any more. I should think only about a tenth of them are still in New Zealand. Wonder where everyone else headed off to.

Yep, I wonder when I’ll hear back from my treatment. I’d love to go straight into something more whislt my brain is working!

21st July 2004

Just finished a mega week back on Postman Pat. He does not hits the screens until September but the papers are making a big thing of his comeback this week. i think its been ten years since he was last in production, and everyone is saying how things have changed and howGreendale’ has moved with the times, with a more ethnic community and more technology. Have to say Jess is having a good long life! The mega week hours are a bit of a killer, not just for us oldies, but even the youngsters. Twelve hours of stretching and bright lights is damn hard...the calves start to shake in the tenth hour, and the back refuses to straighten. It’s usually striaght home and a bath really. But I’ve enjoyed animating this week, and have done some fun slapstick.I know its not the smoothest or most inventive animation I’ve ever done, but at 20 seconds a day, the pressure is on. Still I think my stuff is spirited to say the least, if not as bouncy and subtle as others. It’s been fun this week as one of the prop guys Paul has been enthusiastically watching my stuff since he was a kid...and yes his dad used to watch Captain Kremmen. How old does that make me feel!

And working with this crew, you certainly get a varied choice of music played. We all get a turn with our choice, but mine usually gets taken off if I head to the loo. Classics don’t seem to go down well; sometimes celtic is OK. Endless CD’s of 60’s and 70’s got everyone leaping about yesterday, but usually it is headbanging stuff.....it usually just goes over me. I supply the odd film soundtrack or Penguin cafe or something. I don’t think they’re ready to animate along to the best of Sondheim and opera is definitely off!

But there’s been a good atmosphere on the set.....there is a sense of us all being the people who did not make it onto The Corpse Bride, but I guess that was inevitable. Tales from those on that film sound like a foriegn exotic country, and they are spoken of in hushed tones!

So far I’ve had a very short but very positive response to my film treatment....and an apology for taking so long to get back to me. I don’t consider three days very long. I like working for this company, and I like and applaud their attitude. They have respect and professionalism and consideration by the cart load...and that’s rare.

July 27th 2004

So great to go to a wedding instead of a funeral - and what a wedding. My good chum Sue Jane Tanner was marrying her John, down in Uplyme, just outside Lyme Regis. There could not be a more beautiful spot. Jo and I met up down there and had a gentle morning on the famous Cobb - they are still haunted by, or celebrating, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. She’s everywhere. Anyway we strolled to the church in glorious weather, and what a glorious church; full of country flowers and a packed congregation. Rebbeca Caine sang Puccini’s Doretta’s song with such clarity (and volume - I gather a hearing aid shorted!), Shiela Reid read a great amalgam of Shakespeare’s most romantic lines, and we all sang very heartily. The reception overlooked the cricket ground, with a cricket match happily going on. It was all so idyllic. Sue and John looked fantastic and beamed and cried. They sang and played for us, as did Bobby Crush - oh he knows how to play a crowd and get 200 people singing along. All in all a fantastic day, with none of the squirm-making empty formalities usually associated with a wedding - this was just real, and great to have so much singing and music....I fail there. I can’t stand up and entertain at a wedding.

And weddings, well they certainly make you think.

But there is definitely something lurking in the air or the soil in the west country - it is a very calming place and so beautiful. As I drove away the reality of motorways and the midlands kicked in. Aaargh!

On the way down I’d called in to see Amanda, over from Ireland, and the boys. We took it in turns for rides in the car driving round the very picturesque villages of Henley. You know, England, still has places of such beauty.

A great few days.