August 1st 2004
And there’s another mega week on Postman Pat just done. We all slowed down a bit on this week as the weather was very hot and humid...you can imagine how hot and smelly the studios were. Not very interesting shots this wee sadly....endless prattling about a lost garden fork! And just to make things awkward I was doing a series of wide shots that fitted nbetween a series of already shot close-ups so matching the continuity at the start and end of shots is always a pain. I’ve also done a lot of walking and these blessed characters have very short legs and fat feet......here’s a tip. If you are designing a character, the animator would love you if you gave it long legs and small feet! Actually the most interesting shot I did was a bit of a throwaway. One character had to blow a whistle...but with no mouths or cheeks to puff out how do you get the sense of something happening. well a nice extended arm with a well timed bit of vibrato shake in it, and that did the job very nicely. That’s the end of the mega weeks for a while, and Enjie Bengy has finished so I guess that is me done animating for a while.
Now for a bit of a rant, and I’ll try to keep my cool here. I applied for a job, basically one of two days a week for a year, looking after a total of four students producing a film as part of a museum. Their work would be watched by the public. I’ve been rejected, and not even short listed for an interview as I apparently don’t have enough experience working withyoung and emerging animators in an advisory role’. Well that phrase, I’m afraid, set me off. There is no-one who does more for students and young animators. I’m continually traipsing off round the country, no the world, giving workshops, advice, talks, beign an external examiner, helping aniamtors on a personal one to one basis. I am going to be very intrigued to see who has better qualifications for the job than 27 years of working in the industry in every aspect and on all levels, and who has more passion and enthusiasm for animation than I do. I am very annoyed about this rejection - not so much for the job but for the reasons of being turned down.
Well I’m not sure what happens next - I’d kill for my treatment of the feature film to be developed further and for me to be involved from now on. I do have an interview next week for an Australian company, which could be exciting, but there is that treatment I have written.......
August 1st 2004
I’ve modified this rant that I put on here over the weekend. Basically I applied for a job working with young animators, but did not even get an interview as apparently I did not have enough experience working with young and emerging animators in an advisory capacity’. Well that set me off and I did rant and rave, as no-one does more for students and young animators than I do. However the person who has got the job will do a damn good job,and does have more producing experience than I do, but I was angry at the perception that I don’t work with young animators. A list of what I have done in that respect would make for a very long CV. That story about Donald Woolfit comes to mind - where once he was a tour de force, he is now forced to tour!
Anyway end of rant.....
August 7th 2004
Phew! What a week and phew, what a scorcher! The weather has gone mad this week going from floods and hail one evening to electrical storms and heatwaves the next. This of course has the effect of making the british transport system fall to pieces out of the shock. Honestly, my trip to London on wednesday was fien going down, but a disaster coming back. You really do have to add a couple of hours to any journey due to unforeseen things. Appalling. Victor Meldrew, kindly leave the stage.
Just one day filming this week, on the very last day of Engie Benjy. That’s all gone. I just had a few simple shots...but there’s no such thing as a simple shot. On Postman Pat last week, one of the kids had to pick up a metal detector....that nearly defeated me totally. It was just not ergonomically designed for that child. So that’s EB gone. Not srue I ever understood what it was about but it was colourful and noisy and things raced around a lot, so there we go.
Things seem to be getting busier, or at least more complicated, and I don’t know how to juggle this autumn. I may have a million things to be doing, or I may lose the lot fo them and end up doing nothing. Festivals in Cairo and Dubai are being chatted about, as well as a trip to Mexico to visit some animators. I’ve started writing a horror film with Paul, and i’ve dug out the play again, and there’s talk of a film in Sydney, and i’m still waiting for further reaction to the treatment. So who knows. It gets me buzzing some times, but also I get anxious with the sheer unpredicatablity of it all.
Had my chum bruce staying with me this week whilst he did some animation tests at Cossie Hall. i’d love him to get a job there, but I’m not sure how much he was noticed or encouraged. I hope he was not just being humoured and allowed to have a space to do tests. I hope he gets a job there.
Exhausted at the moemnt, but I do have a free week ahead...at the moment.
Ah well, that’s dear Fay Wray gone. How very sad, but thanks Fay, not just for the legend that is Ann, but for all the other performances, and for putting up with us millions of stopmotion/Kong fans who must have asked the same unimaginative questions again and again. Thanks for being a trouper...and fear not, you’ll not be forgotten. Now, I must read your biography that sits about three feet away.
14th August 2004
Not a great week, well not much done. I got together a proposal for a commercial....the first time I’ve had an enquiry about a commercial in 6 years. If this happens it will be amazing, but guess what, the schedule and the budget are both totally unrealistic for what is expected. Still waiting to here back about the feature film treatment, and still waiting to here about the job in Sydney...though I did get a very ncie follow mail from that...now that is a rare thing, for a company to acknowledge any letters or meetings, but this one did, and they have certainly gone up in my estimation, and I have to say if Sydney offered, I’d go.
I dug out the play again, and after having not looked at it for two months, it came across as damn good, and I really must work to finish it so I can present it to various theatres. A certain death this week made the play even more relevant and I’m scared now in case anyone gets there before us.
I’ve also busy writing the ideas for the film script with Paul, and getting very dark and nasty.
So a lot of thinking, but no money earned as such.
We’ve had dreadful weather this week and the house showed its age with a lot of leaks that need sorting out...yep a lot in the house has to have work on, but I need to build up my finances for that.
Now Big Brother is gone (oh dear I’ve just confessed that I was glued to it) I’ll be glued to the Olympics.
19th August 2004
Well no pearls of wisdom, no animation gossip, no nothing this week. That phone just ain’t ringing. So I’ve been writing away on personal projects that may happen to be useful shoudl anyone phone up and sayI want a treatment for a horror film or a play about a certain famous film’ . Wouldn’t that be nice.
Instead there’s been alot going on in the world to get distracted with, and mainly due to awful weather conditions. Watching the news is getting pretty heartrending these days, seeing homes getting flooded or blown away. My own house, thanks to diabolical weather , has had several visits from the plumber and drains man. Yuk! And I got upset to see Wellington airport damaged by winds. Seven months ago I would have been watching every bit of that drama.
And then there’s been the olympics .....totally addictive. The organisers are worried that the attendance has been so low...maybe because the tv coverage is so stunning that the best view really is on the tv. Not the atmoshpere of course, but wow, what close-ups and replays.
August 26th 2004
Well a week totally devoid of any developments with work, and not a single work related work phone call. Now that is worrying, very worrying. I’ve been writing my own projects, but......
I had a mail from Saemi, who had just returned refreshed from a trip to the Hiroshima Festical. She mentioned lots of films, and for the first time I really feel out of it all. It’s ages since I went to a festival (well I have nothing new to show), and don’t know what films are being made. Usually I’m up to date with who’d doing what, but not any more.
I think when I started this diary, I had hoped it would be useful to other animators, especially aniamtors just starting. I had hoped to fill it full of the day to day process of making films, full of titbits and advice and observations and tips...but it’s not turned out that way at all. I had hoped to make it a celebration of animation, and my passion for animation. It’s become more about the day to day struggle of getting not just appropriate work, but any work. The diary obviously couldn’t say much about Kong, and I’ve not not my own film, so sorry about the lack of advice, but maybe this is a real reflection on the state of british aniamtion at the moment. Not exactly the glory days of a great innovative art form, as the 90’s were. Sad but true. I’ve definitely lost the plot - unfortunate when my mind has never been so creative.
Anyway I headed over to Ireland for a few days to see Amanda and Peter, and had a glorious time sitting on beaches chatting to seals, watching Irish dancing, getting stranded out at sea on a boat who’s outboard had packed up - I could make that into an alarming adventure, and at the time it certainly was alarming for Amanda who was thretening to jump in and swim back - but actually all was well. A passing seal thought it highly amusing, especially when we got rescued by a passing fishing boat. It’s certainly a different way of life in Ireland, very relaxing, and great for getting the blood pressure down. Back home now and the blood pressure is way up again as real life crashes in with a bang. I’ve been doing lots of work on the house, which has been showing its age, as i have. I’ve been clearign the various roof gardens and starting again. I ordered a skip, and have no trouble filling it. I’ve been clearing out cupboards galore. Very cathartic but hard. In the process dozens of props and materials relating to my films arer getting thrwon away. I look at those masks,props, storyboards, barsheets and artwork, and it hurts me to throw them away but I guess they’ve served their purpose...but crikey they each have a story to tell. I can remember they day they were used, but that really does seem a life that is not part of me any more, and if they sit round cluttering up the house they would only be a constant reminder of different times. In particular I’ve been clearing up the room that we shot Screen Play and Achilles in - there are still signs left over from the shooting. Oh dammit I’m desperate to start shooting another film. I’ve got all 66 awards sat in a corner gathering dust, and did at one point pick a few up, ready to throw them in the skip, as they sort of make a mockery of everything now really, but I guess they’ll sit there for a few more years, gathering even more dust.
A bit of a depressing entry to this week’s diary then...that was not the plan for this dairy. One day I’ll be again full of useful information and passion about the craft.
3rd September 2004
Well if there is a standard for travel in this country and for comfort, it is clearly not being achieved at the moment. Another Victor Meldrew moment here but what a hideous journey I had to London and back yesterday. The most direct route has been closed for the summer so the trains are taking much longer, but they are crammed as there are clearly not enough. I had to stand both ways....oh well, I dread to think what visitors make of our transport system, but it is awful and hideously expensive.
I went to London to pitch several features film, and certainly performed without a script for a couple of hours, hardly pausing for breath. some of the ideas seemed to make a good impression, and some fell of very stony ground. Apparently there have only been 14 animated feature films to come out of the UK...that’s not a very impressive amount, and the range of subjects is certainly even less impressive. Whether or not anything will happen I don’t know. I fear that my films still count against me, or in effect typecast me. People tend to see me as not family friendly. Just because my main passions are for things more culturally based or more adventurous it does not mean I can’t do family films. As long as I can do something interesting and different with a subject then count me on board. Though having said that the Garrick theatre, my local amateur company, asked me to do a show. Now I’d put in a bid to do Les Liasons Dangereuse, Death on the Nile, an Alan Bennett. So what do they offer me....Dad’s Army. Now never has a show less had my name on it. I hated the TV programme and no-one could bring anything interesting to a stage production as all the public want is to see exactly what they remember from TV. I could have done something very interesting with Les Liasons and the Christie. Ah well, I turned it down.
And as for the phone call from New York that raised a glimmer of hope last week, well, still waiting to hear about that. And I wrote to a couple fo other companies, but guess what, no response.
Maybe the weather has turned at last....its been sunny for four days. Well since I got rained off at the Car Boot sale. Curses. What a shame it was not sunny that morning.
It seems from the papers that King Kong is just about to start shooting in New Zealand.
All the cast are there, beaming away for the press. I still get a twinge of regret that I’m not there helping bring the old boy to life. I’m just reading Fay Wrays’ biography at the moment and what a lovely lady she seemed.
11th September 2004
Well not much of this week has been wasted at all. I squeezed in two days on Postman Pat, and they were quite fun shots with Pat and Mrs Coggins stuck in a hot air balloon, along with Jess. A lot of scarf flapping action which helped what might have been a bit static. I enjoyed making pat a bit of an air sick wuss!
But most of the week has been spent trying to get stuff together to pitch for three commercials...as a result of this New York phone call. As always, if they happen, the scedule is simply unrealistic. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things are needed. Not sure that most people realise the homework that is involved in animation, all the decisions and planning. It would be great to do these commercials; financially they would help, but the subject is very made...well truth to tell, I’ve made the subject be very me. They’d be fun to do, and they’d be seen a lot. So the presentation is on Monday, and this week I’ve had to ask various friends to do some drawings for me for free....hate that but at this stage it is necessary. I’ve been working out the complicated mechanics of the commercials - yes , they are those type of commercials. If they happen, they’ll have to happen straight away, and I’ll have to rearrange things for the rest of the year, which will mean letting a few people down, but work must come first. Anyway, we’ve not got the jobs yet.
Was sad to find that I’d not been aware of about 100 (along with 850 spam emails) emails that had been sent to me here. I assumed all messages came to the private message box, but there was somewhere else as well. I feel awful at all those unanswered mails, but that is very unlike me. Usually I answer things the same day if I can. So apologies everyone.
And with three days teaching in Hull next week, it could be a fantic but quite excitign week ahead. Let’s hope so. I’m looking forward to getting behind a camera again....fingers crossed.
September 12th 2004
(my sister Amanda’s birthday....!)
And thanks again to Peter as the galleries have been updated with lots of still from early tv shows and commercials, and photos fromt the time in New Zealand, and a few other photos. These will be updated every so often as I dig out all the photos, so stay tuned!
I’d forgotten some of those commercials, but nice to see Toadie again......
17th September 2004
Darn this has been a hard and long week, with hardly a minute to myself.
There was masses to do getting the BBC pitch together, and asking various mates around the country to do me drawings for free took a bit of cheek and a lot of organising. Sadly all the rushing about and effort was in vain as we did not get the job. Even though everyone loved our work and all that, I gather they’ve gone with something simpler (maybe jsut as well in the time) - but hey I can do simple. It would have been good to have had a meeting about it all. Anyway that’s gone, which is such a shame as it would have given me a bit of credibility back, as well as staved off financial dramas for a bit longer. And being about toy theatres, well I would have loved it, and would have done a darn good job. But maybe this week is really indicative of things. I don’t get that job, but I spend the week rescuing a disastrous animation course in Hull....I’ll write about that elsewhere and vent a huge amount of spleen. But teachign is fine and sort of satisfying, but I have to get back behind a camera again with something I can contribute to.
In the middle of the Hull business and the BBC business, I did two twelve hour days on teh new Cosgrove Hall series clearly aimed at girls. This called for large gestures - all the characters seem to be real drama queens, which is quite fun to do. Isn’t it interesting that the hero/heroine of such shows is always so insufferably dull, but the sidekicks have the potential to be more fun. There’s one here who I optimistically thought was going to be an out and out bitch, but she’s not quite that far gone...just a little prissy and stroppy. Still one shot I did the voice reaked of pure bitchiness and I played her as such.....so much more fun to play baddies. Some of the guys find it a bit hard to do big flowery gestures. I guess I don’t. Cossie Hall have a great new studio space and the atmosphere is much better than being cramped behind black curtains.
My chum Paul C and his lady Virginny stayed briefly over the weekend, and as she talked about a certain green short fella from a galaxy far away, with a deep voice, that she is working on now, and Paul talked about his big new film, my contribution to the conversation was definitely a bit lame. Still I got Paul drawing away for the BBC project...not exactly singing for his supper but close enough.
I was exhausted after the three days in Hull, and hadn’t slept much on the last night thanks to a very vocal lady next door clearly enjoying the fruits of her labours tramping round the bar downstairs...boy were they (all three of them!) vocal. And this was a hotel where Queen Victoria had stayed. Hmmm...I can guess at her expression. Hull is a bit of an odd place, a bit lost really. It does not seem to be a place people go to out of choice! It seemed to shut early in the evening. I kept thinking of the line by Betjeman (and I’ve got it horribly wrong here)...who are we, so full of care, that have no time to stop and stare? Well I don’t know about the cares, but the people of Hull certainly seem to stop and stare, but at what? Indivuals just seem to lurk in the squares rock still, staring at nothing in particular, waiting for Godot perhaps. I was wanting to rush back from Hull to see Ray Harryhausen talking in Manchester, but I was just too drained of everything really and probably could have done with a few aniamtion free moments.
Well Parliament has been upset this week, by several anti fox hunting banning protestors. They quite calmly walked in whilst the topic was being debated, exposing a horrendous lack of security. That’s one thing to be alarmed about, but another was the reaction. One old fart huffed and puffed, and sauntered down the chamber, wearing way too much ceremonial costume drama drag, rather bizarrely waving a sword. Did he intend to use it. Now so many complex issues raised by all this. I am totally opposed to anyone, dressed in best finery and pissed on sherry, who calls the ripping apart of an animal by a hundred dogs sport. Tradition or no tradition, it has to be wrong. But I will stand up for anyone who tires to get their voice heard by Parliament. And they tried this week, but seeing the old farts half asleep droning away in the chamber, it’s terrifying to think these are the people who are meant to listen to these protests. The protestors were dismissed with buffoons sayingloonies’. If only the protestors could have got into the chamber and been allowed a calm moment to put their case...but no it all ended in violence, especially outside in Parliament Square. Violenc probably brought on my mob thinking, alcohol,sport, and adrenalin. I fear that the fate of the fox, which I guess is what all this is about, or should be, was not actually on anyone’s mind. Who’s standing up for the fox?
24th September 2004
A bit of a non event this week in terms of work. Chatting to my chum Shaun last night about where I was at his age (that would have been 1992 for me)prompted by a few people asking about Screen Play has certainly set me thinking - I guess that year was the best year. I was in the middle of making Screen Play, Ma was working on it having huge fun. I was working with the best producer, Glenn, who had already lined up the next film, Rigoletto, as well as squeezing in a commercial or two. Awards were pouring in, and even Channel Four was asking if I had any more ideas. Now things are somewhat different, and I’m pleased to get a day’s cover work on Postman Pat. The irony of all this is that I don’t think I’ve ever felt more creative and clear in my ideas. I have so many ideas, and wake up breathless during the night as I try to shape an image or a story that’s come to me.
I can’t blame everything on the changing attitude to animation and lack of support for short films, but it is tough not to have most job applications not even acknowledged these days. Of the many jobs I have applied for on the AWN pages, just one or two have bothered to get back to me.
NOt sure what’s gone wrong really, but phooey to all that. There’ve been a few nice social things this week, with going to my godson’s birthday (and introducing him to thebumps’ in a blanket’) and a night out at the Rambert with Shaun, both of us dressed to the nines. There was even a glimmer of sunshine as I drove Judi to hospital with the roof down. And Jo’s gone of to Romonia on a big film. And I’ve exercised a lot.
Do you hear the sound of straws being clutched!
October 4th 2004
I’ve been doing quite a few talks and workshops recently, but I’d love to draw your attention to the Bradford Animation festival in the middle of November. Some great guests. I’m doing a talk on the 12th, talkign about things that have influenced me and showing lots of clips of surprising things. But on the 11th I shall be interviewing Paul Driessen on stage and showign lots of his films, which are stunning creative films. And on Saturday afternoon, a real treat. My pal Randy Cook is coming over from New Zealand. Again I’ll be interviewing him on stage and showing some of his early stop motion work and talking about the creation of Gollum. And let’s just say Randy is a great man for anecdotes, and when he and I get together, I think it will be a darn fine memorable afternoon.
Check out this site which will be updated with times shortly;
please try to come along. There will also some be very interesting people in the audience as well.
1st October 2004
A bizarrely uplifting and enjoyable week. Bizarre because I was pretty down and all the projects I’ve been trying to get going myself or with others have all as good as died. I guess there’s just not a marriage of money and imagination any more. I’m sad really as I’ve got so much going on in my head, and I know that others will beat me to some of the projects, as has happened before. So I’ve sort of made a decision to stop trying now to get anything going and see what happens.
Well I’ve had four days on Postman Pat, and I’ve frightened myself how much I enjoyed it this week. I was on a bit of a roll, and the seconds flowed out, and though I say it myself, I did some damn fine stuff under the circumstances. Some very funny stuff between PC Selby and Ted realising their hot air balloon has vanished - this led to some nicely timed double takes. Double takes used to totally defeat me....either they can be timed too quickly or too laboriously, but now I just breeze through them and smile as others sometimes make a right pig’s ear of them. Fun to be had too, with inflating and deflating the said balloon. My only sign of Victor Meldrew bursting out of me was with the balloon and the total lack of thought of how it would work. Anyway it did look great. In a not very interesting chatty shot Jess (the cat who seems to have lived more than his fair share of years!) totally upstaged the action by leaping out of the van and falling flat on his face in the snow. The last couple fo days have been a total change of pace though with one boy sat on the edge of a river. A very effective river, developing a technique we first used on Pied Piper. I had the boy throw a pebble in the water, and I have to say the splash’ was very effective for a bit of glitter and cling film, but again, it’s all in the timing, it really is. So I’ve been pleased with my shots, and I was lucky to have interesting shots. We’ve been watching the programmes as they’ve been transmitted this week...my stuff is very different as it has more follow through than anyone else. I don’t find it as easy to be so bold with movements coming to abrupt halts. Neither am I too good at the effective big comedy walks. I tend to get all a bit too true. Still I have done funny stuff this week.
And I drove back over to Hull to give an off the top of my head talk to the second and third years. The sound of pencils scratching as I mentioned words like acting, editing, film grammar...they are hungry for stuff. Long drive and a long day for me, though.
So I guess I’ve done a normal weeks work this week - sadly the money will have gone straight out as I’ve just had the car serviced and important bits replaced.
Not much time for anything else this week. The gym has to wait after a nine hour filming day. e-mails and festivals and letters wanting advice all have to wait as well.
So I’ve written off getting back to Kong as well, which is very sad as I am still so excited about the project. And the Corpse Bride is not part of my future either, but I have a feeling something surprising might just happen.
No social activities this week or much contact with anyone ( the source of some frustration and fretting) and little Inigo has made the most of the time I have been home.
8th October 2004
Another manic week where I’ve just not had time to catch up. I had a trip to London, and as you will have noticed from previous entries, I’ve hated these slow train journeys, but Virgin seem to have changed all that. Stockport to London is now 2 hours and 5 minutes, which is pretty darned amazing. However the trip turned out not to be very productive. I was there to see abut a feature using real animals. I have turned it down, not through any grandness, but because the schedule was extraorinarily tight, and would have not allowed for me to do much in the way of performance or strong story with the main characters. Does any film ever go smoothly. I’ve been hearing very troubling stories from a film overseas which has led various people to walk out. Egos, cost cutting, tight scheduling, and chaotic organisation - it is amazing that films ever get made really.
The rest of the week has been with Postman Pat....and let’s see what pearls of wisdom there this week. Clarity, I guess. With this tight schedule of 12 seconds a day, I may not be doing to softest or most smooth animation that I know I’m capable of, but I’m still pleased with the clarity of the animation these days. this could be the result of hours of children’s TV, spelling it out, but I think you can always read exactly what the characters are thinking. A good tip for anyone really is the let a gesture have time to breathe before the new one. If it was timing double takes last week, this week I did a fun nicely timed reaction to an offscreen noise....very satisfying. Did a few green screen shots...not satisfying at all.
Had a lovely evenng with Amanda N and friends over inWuthering Hieghts’ - oh what a beautiful place, with great food and very civilised company. A wide range of trades around the table from opera publicists to a guy studying coppicing. A good evening and I drove him a bit giddy really
A gloriously bizarre TV event this week saw Flash Mobb, the Opera. An opera performed live on Paddington station, to the rather astonsihed passers-by. And it sort of worked. Very lively and beautifully sung and played, and an amazinf eat of planning. The great british public, as they tend to do, often threatened to upstage this event. Turn a camera on any member of the public and they will wave, lean in at an odd angle, or do a silly walk...or as one guy did here, rush straight between the singing lovers....bless the performers for not batting an eyelid!
Just gathering my breath for a very hectic four weeks ahead, the organisation of which has already exhausted me.
October 15th 2004
Very tired and emotional after a hugely exhausting and complex week. i’ve had a house full of people staying which has made me a bit breathless as this week has been so busy, and I’m not the greatest of hosts when I’m stressed.
But I headed down to Newport for a very tiring and intense three day workshop. The more I do these the more I seem to frustrate the tutors and inspire the students. I did have my usual grumbles about lack of equipment and all theat, but I certainly found lots to do with the ten students. As we started they were the quietest bunch ever, sitting in a circle that was basically them and me. I managed to change that with a few games, and come the end of the course we were a pretty relaxed comfortable group. It is so important that everyone works together and feels free to chat. I worked them pretty damn hard, not really wanting anyone to sit for a second. But it was so satisfying to watch them improve hugely with each exercise I set, and more importantly to see them visibly enjoying the exercises, and concentrating and talking about it among themselves. A great bunch I have to say. I hope they are able to follow up and develop on what I have started. I was asked to do a talk to all the animation and film students right at the end of the three days, and I have to say I was somewhat spent, and felt a bit on automatic pilot as I walked to the theatre, but then it was my turn to be upset, but in such a good and touching way. Some of the students I had chatted to last year had remembered by obsession of humans with bird heads, and there all down the corridor were many such drawings that they had done, dedicated to Uncle Baz’. As I saw them my first thought wasoh I wonder who that is, and how funny that he likes the birds image as well’. Doh! I was very touched indeed, and this has only served to confuse me even more. I’ve never felt more creative than I do at the moment, but I’ve never felt less able to express it or less appreciative of the stuff I’ve already done. As I’m not making films, it must mean that my films are no good......strange logic but that’s what my head is saying.
This was further confused by going to Mary Poppins and bumping into the whole of the creative team from Cameron Mac, through to the designer, the music director, the composers of the new songs, the Disney head honcho, all at the back of the stalls at the end of the show. My friends Antony and George, with whom I’ve tried to get a film going, introduced me to all the others, and whilst they have just sat through another perfomrance of their huge baby, and their heads must have been so full of notes, they all of them said oh you’re Barry, oh we love your films’. Yeah yeah I thought, but then they went and mentioned them by name and story, and how much they loved them I think I then turned into a wittering idiot. Too confusing if the head of Disney loves my work, and the best I can do at the moment is understudy animator on a children’s series (no disrespect to Pat as I do sort of enjoy it). The equation does not seem to balance or be appropriate. And the fact that my bank balance reflects this fiasco is equally confusing and alarming.
Got back to a million e-mails and post and real life things that need tending, but I can’t catch up with those for a while. So knackered, and with all the driving in thick rain and a bizarre night in a B&B that was trying to win some competition for the largest amount of floral prints in one space, and then a late night with Matt after the show yesterday, well it’s all been a bit much. All this and Postman Pat and Dubai next week....my brain is fried!
Life ain’t dull that’s for certain. and boy, I could do with some help really.
October 22nd 2004
In the space of the last week I have been hanging out with a huge range of creative people, from the leading figures in musical theatre, directors, composers, actors, fight arrangers, artists, choreographers, art directors, to huge legendary literary figures - and it’s given me such a high, but has also frustrated me that my contribution to these arts have been somewhat insignificant recently. The nadir this week was animating several shots of clumsily made light switches going on and off. Not perhaps using my full potential. It is odd mixing and having such people staying my house, and yet being such an outsider at the moment. At one point today my house was like a reunion of some very major figures involved with Lord of the Rings. When we all last met we were in New Zealand in the sunshine. All those images and feelings came back, making me somewhat alarmed about the somewhat disastrous state of things now. But darn I’m feeling creative a the moment.....I have to find an outlet. I’m absolutely buzzing with ideas and vitality. I did do a couple of very satisfying shot son Postman Pat, and a couple of pretty dreary ones, but there we go.
Had a great day at Alton Towers with my godsons, still happy to go on the most terrifying of rides....actually a couple I declined for fear of seeing my breakfast again. One ride called The Hex had a very disconerting special effect but I wrote about this last time.
Have been too busy to catch up with any cultural things let alone switch on the TV. I would quite like a moment to myself sometime soon. It’s hard catching up with stuff.
23rd October 2004
I forgot to say that i should have been in Dubai by now. I’d been asked to be president of the first Animation festival, but it got cancelled just a few days ago, as the necessary restrictions of Ramadan finally proved to be too restricting for a film festival. Part of me was looking forward to a new experience, but I’m a little relieved as i’ve just been so busy, and I don’t really feel that great about the career and things at the moment. Still I might have met some one willing to finance something. Ah well.
30th October 2004
A pretty hectic week with a house full of guests coming and going - the cause of some of that was a Lord of the Rings convention in Manchester last week. I wasn’t quite brave enough to go to that, and didn’t really need any more reminders that I’m not in New Zealand any more. Apparently the most spectacular costume from a fan was a lady as Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean......not sure about the logic there.
A busy week writing, and a day on Fifi and two days on Postman Pat.....I enjoyed the latter as I had some good acting scenes. In one a rather sracastic girl embarrassed one of the boys by hugging him....and sure enough I managed to make the boy look very embarrassed. I did think of the obvious wiping of the face, but went for hopefully something a little more subtle. It is crazy but I do still adore animating and still get immense satisfaction (and surprise) when it all goes well. I’d love the chance to work on something with not such a heavy schedule so I could put so much more finesse in. Yep, I had hoped this diary would all be about the finer points of animating and film -making but I’m really no nearer to making a film. I did laugh to myself with a deeply ironic tragic chuckle well I worked out that I’m earning much less now than I was twenty years ago......something has definitely gone worng somewhere! But well I sort of have been enjoying Postman pat...and it was touching to be on it the week that Ivor Wood died. I’m still itching to be creative and get my mind going.
I am writing lots of things but whether they will ever see the light of day I don’t know.
I did have a good trip down memory lane this week my old university chum richard, who was in manchester over night....we did sound like the Sondheim songBum times, hard times; I’ve seen them all, and, my dear, I’m still here.....!’ Then many longs chats to DM (no not Dangermouse), whose intellectual and cultural conversation startles me, but is good fun and naughty. He’s studying film, and we had quite a chat about how no-one ever makes the film they intended to make....practilities of filmmaking, schedules, budgets, accidents and actors all lead to compromises - sometimes out fo which come something unexpected and vastly better. But the fact that critics and film theorists endlessly discuss film as if the film exactly represents the vision of the director, is a bit of a nonsense really. I’ve seen it first hand with my own film, where such and such a bit of business is apparently ripe with subtext...well actually I had to do it like because that thing was not ready, or I had to finish by 6.00. All film-making is compromise, which I guess is why we still want to keep going, to do better things.
I finished this week singing Karaoke Evita with a very tall, very charming, very tipsy Wigan lad ( as Shaun calls himself), whose entusiasm for the notes was more than their accuracy (Imagine Elvis singing Don’t Cry for me Argentina). Well they were certainly more accurate than mine... what happens to the brain when I try to sing...where do the words go, let alone the melody?. We also murdered a fantastic version of Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle - a song that sums up my life exactly, but then that’s the beauty of a great song; everyone thinks it applies to them. But good company was a good way to wind down after a frantic week.......my life is often rather surreal these days, and never dull.
Remember remember the fifth of November, 2004
A manic week, though I’ve not actually animated anything or earnt anything. i’ve certainly done my fair share of talking and writing about animation. Today I’ve done a very lengthy interview on camera for a BBC documentary, and certainly chatted passionately about the subject. Hopefully I wasn’t too bombastic and opinionated. I probably went on and on about the importance of acting, but the more colleges I go to, I realise I can’t stress that enough. I did say that a good few years ago we were all worried that CG was going to deprive us of our jobs. I’ll happily admit it now that it’s not been the CG that’s made things hard for us all, but the sheer absence of appropriate work. Yep I’ll happily embrace CG, given the chance. Hopefully on the interview I was eloquent enough and said some interesting stuff...hopefully! I was exhausted by it though. I was amused that for this interview I was sat in a large empty studio on an elaborate lush gilt chair - the last derriere to inhabit said chair was that of Her Majesty. They thought it somehow appropriate!
It’s funny that I can talk for hours off the cuff like this but anything rehearsed, I find much harder. I’m learning two pages of dialogue for an audition for a local play. Crikey it’s taking a lot of effort to get those words to stay in and flow and to sound natural. I’ve got the rhythm and journey in my head, but this darn voice of mine seems to cock things up.
Emil and I are winding up the treatment of our play. 30 odd pages should do the trick. I think we are both very pleased with it...certainly unusual and says some very interesting things about it’s subject. No surprise that I’ve taken a very famous icon and looked at it from a very oblique angle. We’ve now got to get it round and produced! Oh that it were that easy.
And with the mass of homework necessary for the three talks I’m doing at the Bradford do next week, I’m pretty exhausted from creative thinking. Next week is going to be quite a buzz. It would be nice to think it might bring me a step nearer getting another film going.
10th -13th November 2004
Well firstly, many thanks to Adam Pugh and his overstretched team for getting all this together and doing it with such grace, even under pressure.
It was a fantastic week, and in a week where I’ve had way too many rejections about work, it restored my excitement in animation. A fantastic programme with great artists from all over the world. I did three talks; one talkign about things that have influenced, and probably half the audience were wondering what clips from Swan Lake, Nola Rae, Nicholas Nickelby, Beatric Potter etc all had to do with them, but after bludgeoning that word performance into them, I think they got the point. A packed house and I felt relaxed and enjoyed chatting. Another talk was with Paul Dreissen, and again very casual, and I think we managed to say quite a lot of useful informative stuff, and anyway it’s just a joy to watch his films. I felt very at home chatting about fils. And on Saturday I did the talk with Randy. They were queueing for many hours to get into this, and there was a great buzz. Wonderful to see Randy and boy did we chat, and there was a good balance of informal anecdotes and technical information. So good to see him, and at the end of our talk I gave him one of my Achilles chorus Puppet. There was a gasp from the audience, probably as they all wanted one. Randy had one of his armatures from I, Madman, a beautiful shiny armature. Poor Randy was somewhat mobbed afterwards and I did have to rescue him a bit from a couple of over enthusiastic fans...mainly as there were a lot to get through. It was good to have Amanda and Peter, and Shaun and Mark, and Wyn and Jane, and Garance,and Jo in the audience, and Tobias the other day.
We’d done quite a few interviews...I did several TV interviews and was not wildly happy as being introduced as the man behind Postman Pat! But a good radio interview for radio Leeds, with the presenter clearly having done his homework and knew what he was talking about.
The festival was quite intensive and I rarely had any time to myself, and the only programmes I got to see were Caroline Leaf and Paul Dreissen’s film. That’s the trouble at such an event...so much to see and so many people to chat to. I made some great new chums, the effervescent Kerry and the quietly smouldering Aaron especially (whose film Hide and Seek I enjoyed very much), and many more. And lots of old chums were there. So all in all a great few days...confsuing though as I’m no nearer to making any films but there we go. Good to see my puppets and good to see a perpetual group of people round them.
There are some great photos of us all on http://www.baf.org.uk
14th November 2004
My life is strange at the best of times, but this has been one of the strangest. The start of the week saw a couple of depressing rejections from some pretty hopeful and exciting jobs, but the Bradford Animation Festival saw my work ( and things I had to say about film-making) being hugely appreciated. It’s too confusing, as I have convinced myself that all my stuff is not good or that people are laughing at something I’m not aware of, but there were so many people truly liking the films.....seeing Kerry get emotional about finally meeting the Shakespeare puppet was quite something.
It’s confusing with all this too, that I can’t earn enough money really. I know what I’m doing for the next couple of weeks, but after that it’s pretty scary.
I did an audition for the Garrick, doing a piece from Hitchcock Blonde. Not sure I did too well, (well the words are not mine!)but I was certainly getting myself in a state about something not that important.
But the end of the week and I was surrounded by great friends and family and making lots of new ones. Amand and Peter had come over from Ireland, Randy all the way from New Zealand, and Jo down from Scotland, so nice to catch up there. And I was glad Shaun was there, and the DVD he did for me worked very nicely for my talk.
After the madness of the festival we spent the sunday walking along the canal breathing fresh air. Inigo certainly enjoyed the attention he’s recieved. But I’m exhausted and the reality of the next few weeks is rather small and unexciting.
20th November 2004
well I’ve calmed down somewhat after the excitements of last week, and it was an exciting week. Had plenty of great feedback about the talks and stuff, which is always good to know. And more to the point I think both Paul and Randy enjoyed themselves. I had one somewhat negative response about me not asking the right technical questions....well the events werein conversation with...’ events rather than technical masterclasses. It is true how one rotten apple has such an effect. Anyway I had fun, and the audiences seem to be having fun.
Off to do more teaching this week.....never at my best after a long journey starting in the drk and the frost, but I had a great bunch of students. Apparently I was a bit of a task masker, according to one. Don’t mind that at all. I was going to make sure they could get as much out of me as they could in two days. I also talked with another college about helping set up a course.....still this acting and movement thing seems an after thought, or a token gesture. If we are not careful we will turn out a lot of mathematicians. Actually something interesting could be about to happen with Paul Wells over at Loughborough...sounds an exciting college there, and hopefully we might be able to structure something where I teach and produce a film as part of it all. Now which of the many short films of those that are queueing up? And Paul is putting out another animation book, hopefully with another still of mine on the front. I appreciate all that.
No other excitements really, just catching up, and still writing a million of my own projects. Still they come not as single spies but as whole battalions. They are piling up somewhere, waiting for release.
The Incredibles opens this week in the UK, ready to set the bench mark for all future animated films, in terms of standard, substance, and length. It really does appear to be about something substantial. And not a talking animal in sight. I will go and see this probably in the next few days.
November 26th 2004
A whole week immersed in Postman Pat, and I was lucky to have a complete scene in the same set. I enjoyed that I usually you just get a few shots here and there and there’s no chance to really lay down other little stories within the sequence. The temptation is to treat each shot as a complete sequence, which is usally wrong. this week I’ve been able to put in little details that only make sense in the whole sequence, and i’ve enjoyed changing the cutting points knowing that I was doing the next shot and could play to the camera. A nice set of a water mill interior.... a lot of stretching but fine really. A great new prop of an old car with four guys faffing around it, cleaning it.....more a case of how many Postman Pat characters does it take to change a light bulb. I was very pleased really as they seemed to be having fun. Of course Jess was in the scene and managed to upstage everyone really...I managed to put some Inigo-isms into Jess. Of course the animation was serviceable at this schedule, and I couldn’t iron out the kinks as I would have liked, nor done as much walking around, but I think that was a good week’s work really. some nice spirited character stuff. Was working in the area next to Jon so our conversations went from very lofty to very low, often in the course of the same sentence. A people watcher would be intrigued to see the games people play to get through a long shoot, and the battle of the CD player and what music is acceptable or not acceptable to work to would make for particularly interesting study. I personally prefer things on the quieter side, maybe celtic, or soundtracks, or classical. Too many words can get int he way of concentrating, and headbanging reggae does not do it for me at all!
I’ve also been working hard on the play, and I think we have locked off Act One good and proper. Boy has it changed since the first idea.
And I’ve also been working hard with a couple of guys from Cossie for a pitch for two very nice commercials. We did the pitch on a conference call today, which I always find pretty hard as I tend to be very visual. Now I would like to get this job.....the money situation is getting very alarming, mainly because colleges are so slow in paying. I am still waiting for just a small sum from a college some six months ago. Multiply this several times, and you can see why I am fretting, seriously fretting. Christmas looks to be indefinitely cancelled, and Inigo rationed. What an absurd situation to be in.
Still getting good feedback from the Bradford talk, but already that seems a long time ago. There are a couple of other festivals lurking next year, which have taken some work this week. As have a couple fo articles that needed writing.
So all in all I’ve worked damn hard this week, and no social stuff at all.....though I do confess to have sat collapsed in front of I’m a Celebritity... a few times. Hmm, can’t help feeling this is not healthy! For me or for them or for Television.
2nd December 2004
Just finished a pretty exhausting mega week on Fifi....a full week’s work squeezed in 78 hours makes for some tired feet, aching calves, and strained eyes. It also makes the shooting something of an event, and your whole life revolves around it. That sort of makes it feels to be of some significance.
Anyway I did some fun stuff with the flowers,(though flower people arranging flowers in a vase is a strange concept) and some not so fun stuff.One set has a very difficult floor....very slippy and too thick to allow for the magnets to work properly. So thank goodness for the digi playback where you can reline the puppets nearly every frame. Thinking about this, digi and video have made things so much easier. There was a certain thrill and adrenaline about working blind, not being able to see the animation for a few days, but crikey what a risk. If a puppet fell over there was no way to reposition it other than your own memory. Sometimes that was enough. But if you look at Harryhausen’s work, it’s amazing that, with only using guages and no video at all, he got such incredible results. having the luxury of instant playback does sort out so many problems....it may mean we rely more on technology than on feeling the animation, but it is a godsend. I certainly always look at the previous frame, mainly to see I’ve not knocked anything or no lights have changed, but still try to feel the animation as much as possible. Well a blance of feeling, instinct, and technology really. Digi is so much better than the video playback I used right up until the Gilbert and Sullivan film.....where this clunky machine had the soundtrack on a tape, and when you clicked a frame, it rolled back ten seconds, and then dropped the current frame on the end. It was good for feeling the rhythm, but was way too innacurate, and the picture quality was pretty awful, especially with my films that were usually pretty dark.
Pictures of the Kong shoot have been everywhere this week, and various magazines have even mocked up their own pictures of Kong himself. It all sounds as if I would still recognise the script and action sequences. I’m still sad not to be there on the film, and in glorious Wellington. Darn I did love that place. A very nice lifestyle.I still wake up sometimes expecting to see the sea out of the window. About this whole thing with Kong, Corpse Bride, and these huge stretches out of work; I wonder if there is something I can’t see. Some joke for which I can only can see the punchline.I wonder if the word hubris enters into this?
But well there was not much else other than work, coming home and going to bed, and work again this week. Christmas I have not got my head round yet.
BUT at least there are the first signs of greens shoot springing up already. Always a welcome sight.
9th December 2004
Here we are fresh, or rather not too fresh, from another mega week on Fifi. My head was full of stuff this week and it was good to hide in Fifi’s world, or have the excuse of long hours of work not to have to do certain other things. Actually, that’s one of the main themes of the play I’m now wrapping up....the total immersion of an artist into his work, often blocking out real stuff. Sondheim does it so well in Sunday in the Park with George.
But what of Fifi this week. I think I jumped about on four episodes at the same time, which was somewhat confusing. We watched a whole load of rushes and you can clearly see the different animators at work. Series work like this is tricky as some animators are slow but justify that with beautifully soft and bouncy walks and wonderfully fluid animation, but just don’t get the necessary seconds out - hence these long days. Other animators try to be as wonderfully fluid as they can but still producing enoguh seconds a day. A fact of life that good animation takes a long time. On these mega days we have to try to get out 17 seconds, otherwise the schedule just falls to pieces.I think on Corpse Bride, they are working to about one or two seconds a day...well they measure it in frames. I do remember on Wind in the Willows days, having to do 25 seconds a day. Not having a video and all that certainly stopped a lot of faffing about, but I couldn’t do 25 today. I’d be comfortable with about 7 or 8.
Of all the many genes I have, I was most certainly born without the gene for parties. Not quite sure why I am so useless at them, and why I just don’t get them, but obviously at the moment, there are many of these hurdles to overcome. It’s not about ego, and having to be the centre or attention, but it’s more about belonging or being connected I guess. And certainly this year I feel a distinct lack of either. So I have cleared steer of them. Not terribly social but there we go. I did go to Shaun’s birthday gathering, which I did enjoy, and i’m not sure I’ve been surrounded by such a diverese group of professions, from animator, through lift engineer, to porn star (is everyone who has done porn a star? Can you just have porn actor?)
As well as parties, it seems to be the season of students and their questionaires. Every day one gets sent to me, some without much of an explanation. I’ve certainly tried to reply to them all.
Also this week, I’ve heard of two more chums who are students woefully dissatisfied with their college and teaching standards and facilities. They are considering throwing in their course as they are just not learning enough. This does seem to be a huge failing in this country. I don’t know whether it is due to so much red tape and modules and stuff, or whether or lot of teachers are teaching from books and have no experience of the real industry. Or whether it is an informed passion that is missing, or whether it’s technology. Who knows, but a lot of people are contacting me and askign about good colleges. With that in mind I’m helping to write a curriculum for a college, hopefully putting my money where my mouth is. I’m still meeting raised eyebrows when I talk about getting in actors and dancers and so on...probably one of the most fundamental areas of animation I would have thought.
Ah well I have a challenge ahead of me....learning a huge part in a play at the Garrick. Crikey, I so want to do this well. It’s an enormous part, but actually quite me I think. A certain Valmont in Les Liasons Dangereuses.
So there we go - another action packed week, and a rather strange one.
December 10th 2004
SShhh! Don’t tell anyone but I entered into the christmas spirt yesterday...only briefly. Had an animation free day and headed into Manchester and some shopping. Of course the place was buzzing, but first stop was the magnificent Bavarian market overflowing from Ablert square. masses of foods, savoury and sweet, clothes, wooden things.....well a great place to be with a fantastic atmosphere. And I had a darn good crepe! I even went on the huge Ferris Wheel. I regretted it the minute I got on, but actually as it was turned it was fine - very smooth and quite an amazing view from on high. And I managed most of the shopping - and could not resist a cheap Karoake CD of Sound of music and Mary Poppins. I sang so much at home that I nearly passed out through lack of oxygen. Tragic really, but Inigo made a great loney goatherd.
Ah well, that’s it. That was my one burst of christmas stuff.
16th December 2004
Well that’s another mega week on Fifi done, and we have theI survived the Fifi mega weeks’ badges to prove it. I’ve only done about five of them, but the crew have done sixteen, and that is hard work. They were certainly exhausted this week and counting the hours. As usual I did some spirited stuff and stuff I would have loved to have done again. I did a nicely observed bit with one of the girls pretending to be a catwalk model. Very funny and daft. But I have enjoyed working with this crew. I didn’t do the end of shifts drinks do, and was annoyingly enthusiastic the next morning when they were all nursing hangovers. I was looking forward for a few days break but have been called in for a day on Postman Pat. Oh well that’s final....no christmas cards this year. Sadly I have just not been able to find the time...so apologies for those I’ve not been able to contact.
I’ve done masses of writing on various projects and the ideas are coming thick and fast. I have also been to see the University about doing this writing course. I have a better idea about it now and am quite excited. Very bizarre being back at University though, and my, they have better facilites than in my day. So with University and a few weeks of Postman Pat, a workshop in Belgium, a trip to Tempere festival, and the huge epic of Les Liasons Dangereuses, I now know what I am doing until the middle of April, which is comforting, though miles away from making another film. I read the script of Les Liasons today, and, crikey! What a lot of words, and when we get to the end there’s a fencing duel. I’m terrified and excited about this production.
Mary Poppins opened officially in London, and darn, I wish I could have been at the first night. I would have loved to have seen that again. i wonder what parts they have changed. Oh to see that flying again. Yep why does flying so excite us in the theatre.
17th December 2004
Ah well, it’s been a year exactly since I left Weta...crikey where has that year gone. That time in New Zealand was amazing and being involved with Kong is still the best job I’ve nearly had. Would have loved to have seen it through. New Zealand still seems to be part of my life...well it made such an amazing impression. The country has been everywhere on TV this week, with pictures of Kong,and Lion Witch and Wardrobe, and then Billy Connolly’s doucmentary was in Wellington this week - showing lots of familiar places, including the wonderfully strange orange wind sculpture, and the pictures of Elvis made out of toast in the supermarket. I even recognised some of the girls on the checkout. I wonder if i’ll get back to New Zealand or Weta. Loved them both really. Both very special places.
Not really to do with animation at all, but I’ve crossed the country today, to lay a Christmas wreath on my parents’ grave, and what a journey. I forget that there is still some countryside left. The sides of the motorway from Manchester now seems to be littered, literally, with hundreds of ugly lorries parked in fileds advertising kitchens or loans....are people really going to take down the number of a kitchen company they see mention on the side of a van in a field. But they are a real blott on the landscape...however as I got down to East Anglia, time seems to stand still a bit there, or at least goes a bit slower. Even the awful hail I had on most of the journey, gave way to glorious and thankfully appropriate watery sunshine. And as cemeteries go, this is a pretty tranquil cemetery. On one side is an allotment, with people happily tending the vegetables, oblivious to the emotions a few yards away, but probably mindful that there’s a place reserved for them, and probably next to many previous generations. On another side there are cows quietly doing what cows do. And on another side is Ely Cathedral in the distance. And dominating the whole cemetery is a tree one could not have designed as it seems so appropriate, watching over the cemetery. East Anglia still has a lot of beautiful open countryside - ok it is flat, but the light plays wonderful tricks on it, and its so great to be able to see so far. On one particularly bit near the motorway, there is an elegant curve of landscape with a single tree placed in exact Golden Section composition. I always love seeing that tree...and it means i’m near Cambridge. But sadly, bits of it s have fallen off since I saw it last.
A long journey for me there and back, and the emotions go on their own very long journey.
But of real journeys, I guess my favourite has to be the few miles by boat from the airport to Venice. A beautifully staged thirty minutes with such a climax.
31st December 2004
Well I have to admit I’m glad to see the back of this year. It has been one of the worse, only 1996 being worse. Financially it has been a disaster, and artistically I have achieved nothing...inspite of never having felt so creative, and inspite of there being so many animated films in production. I don’t remember asking to stop the world and be let off...or was that thrown off? BUT I’m still smiling, still buzzing with excitement over the smallest things, still laughing at the stupidity of it all.
So next year is going to be amazing. I have to get something of mine going or at aleast working ona prestigious show where I can contribute something. Definitely need to claw back some credibility. I’m worried that the longer I am so spectacularly out of the loop of film making, the harder it will be to get back. My history will start not to carry any weight for much longer. Anyway my ideas are coming thick and fast - anew one being born just a week or so ago. So let’s go for it. Of course, it’s not just a question of me having unbounded enthusiasm, producers and commissioning editors have to play a significant part as well. Let’s hope they can.
31st December 2004
Apologies for the missing week that got accidentally deleted last week. Peter was trying to cope with a flood of Russian websites causing havoc here. Sorry to anyone who lost any mails. I won’t bother writing anything again for that week, as in the light of the hideous disaster in Asia, anything else seems a bit trivial. So let’s begin a new year hoping for some recovery and healing, and a new start, and a lot of optimism.