Diary 2003

This diary archive was originally posted in an earlier version of the Frame by Frame forum

February 16th

A couple of great theatre events in the last week....the RNT’s tour of Noises Off arrived in Manchester in damn good shape. Cheryl Campbell, James Albrecht, and Tilly Gaunt being particularly stunning as Dotty, Garry and Brooke. The precision opening and slamming of doors is something my cast of The Ritz should have witnessed. Noises Off is one of the all time masterpieces of theatre...the film, not surprisingly, was so anaemice. Take away the tension of things working in real time and it does not work. I’ve seen this play so many times and its just gets better, and with my own play, more relevent.

The other event was seeing with Jo Chalkley the Halle playing a score to the 1925 Phantom Of The Opera. Ok some of the audience laughed at the melodramtic acting and the eye rolling, but what an amazing spectacle, and the masquerade section in colour was glorious. But how bizarre to make a silent film about opera!

The Ritz ambles along on its way....I’ve still not had a rehearsal with a full cast. Mind you I don’t know what the full cast is as people are coming in and going faster than the characters on the stage. The dance numbers should be fun, and my Swan Lake is certainly different.

The Oscar nominations were announced last week, and ten years ago I was all so excited about my own nomination. The Brits dominated that category for several years, but now we are very conspicuous by our absence. There is just not the chance to make short films here anymore.

Glad to see Chicago getting so many nominations....a great film, but I still prefer the rawness and sophistication of the theatre piece.

And my chum Brian starts a new job tomorrow, so here’s wishing him well.

February 23rd

Well a long week, with no move forward in terms of any actual work, but boy have I been busy. The Ritz carries on its farcical way both on stage and off stage. We were sharing the theatre with hundreds of Boy scouts doing their gang show. What with dozens of nuns the week before, theatre is certainly a strange place. We were without quite a few of the cast, but by the end of the week we almost managed a full cast. Some have dropped out at this late stage which has annoyed but others are loyally there lapping up every direction.

Saw Chicago on stage with Marti Pellow as Billy, and as I said last week, the stage version is certainly the best. Its everything I love.....all stripped back to its most raw and imaginative and sexiest. Brian and I managed to get tickets to this sold out show through a remarkable series of coincidences, and the evening was all the better for that. a great evening.

I’ve just been watching the BAFTA’s, and they were a great balance of the obvious, the commercial, the art house, and the brave and the imaginative. Randy Cook had invited me to be his guest, and I would have loved to have gone but I can’t very well shout at my cast if I go off on a jolly. Happily I’ve had some good chats to Randy, and even happier he won the BAFTA for Visual Effects on Two Towers. The animation award went to Fish Never Sleep...I’ve not seen it yet. It does seem ages since I was at the BAFTA’s with Achilles. I think that was my one bite of that cherry.

I met Robin Wei who had come over from an animation school in Korea. He’s been doing work experience at the various studios. So much enthusiasm and passion for animation. He’s trying to get me out there to teach, but hopefully I’ll be working by then...hopefully.

Other than Chicago its not been much of a social week, and as usual I seem to be living in my own disconnected world

March 2nd

just about to head into the long dress rehearsal day for The Ritz. Just packed the sandwiches and everything. It will be a long day.

The week started with a great chat to Ray Harryhausen who seems as sprightly and active as ever. Randy Cook was staying with Ray for the BAFTA’s , and happily Randy won for the Two towers. Randy had asked me to go as his guest but well, I was at The Ritz. Anyway that’s enough name dropping for one entry.

Every night has been dedicated to rehearsal,a nd every day has been about putting up the set...and boy does it look good. with the lights on it is going to dazzle the audience. The dark beginning, with all the candles, certainly makes an impressive start. The cast are doing well but itching to get an audience. It seems a bit laboured and mechanical, but they will be fine on Monday. Importantly everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and excited by it all. I think it is one of the most unusual productions the Garrick has seen. I’m worried that I’ve not put enough physical detail or gags in, or made it sexy enough, but we have been so short of time. Best to do what we have well. We still have a problem with one of the cast, and everyone is uneasy about this sensitive issue...we’ll see what happens on the dress.

There’s certainly a lot of adrenalin involved in putting on a show so quickly, an adrenalin that animation does not have.

No news really on any developments with any real jobs. Had a moment of huge sadness reflecting on all the scripts that have had so much worked pumped into them but have not happened....and I know they are good scripts. But where to take them?

Once again I’ve lost touch with the real world away from the theatre, so it was a shock to have a Saturday by myself. Anyway here we go with The Ritz - keep your fingers crossed.

March 18th

Well I can’t believe it has been ten days since I was last a swan!

But what a busy ten days. Four of them were spent over at a festival in Ales (www.itinerances.com), and that was great fun. Quite hard work as I was on show for most of it, and a total of five screenings of my films left me not wanting to see them again for a while. Having said that I’d not seen them on the big screen for a few months, and even though the prints are falling to pieces, and even though they do look a bit rough, they still work, and the auidences still enjoy them, which always amazes me.

The festival saw me meeting up with some old buddies, Antoine and Florence, and plenty of new ones. A good mixture of live action films and animation, and the guests a corresponding mixture. I’m not sure I’ve ever chatted quite so much, nor recieved such enthusiasm for the films. I got sad seeing the films as there are still so many films I want to make, and sad for all the scripts that I have written that are lying stillborn somewhere. I so want to get making another film soon, and a film that I can have some input in. Even whilst in France my brain was churning over with ideas.

And though I did not see much of the town, and even less of the smaller festival I went to, Ales did look a lovely place, especially in glorious spring sunshine. But a good time was had by all, and I was exhausted getting home, and facing the real world; that of the war, and my friend Michael still very ill in hospital.

Also still no confirmation of the job I’m waiting to hear about.

Culturally Brian and I had a good night out at the Royal Exchange, watching the very black Cold Meat Party. I love these evenings out with Brian as they just work......so, ok, he fell asleep in the last few minutes, but poor boy had been up since sparrowfart getting planes off to semi-exotic places.

March 26th

Quite a week. A lot of talk about the Oscars, and how inappropriate they are in view of the horrors of Iraq. Still they went ahead and dear Randy won his second for Lord of the Rings and Colleen won one for her costumes for Chicago. I’d love to see her again as she was a good pal on Mars Attacks. And one day I will actually meet up with Randy...we’ve only chatted from far flung corners of the world so far. Chicago got the most awards and people are heralding this as a start of a wave of film musicals.. inevitably there’ll be some awful ones, but maybe this is the time for Into The Woods to resurface.

It was ten years that Ian and I were up for the same Oscar - I spent this Oscar night not quite in the same glam surroundings of LA’s Chateau Marmont, but rather it was some student accommodation in Newport where I’ve just done some teaching with some very enthusiastic hungry students. As always I worry whether I am going to have enough to say for two days, but then worry that there is still so much to say. They’d not seen most of the films so it was good to have such exciting responses.

I’d also done a talk with the St Margarets’ Ladies Fellowship which was quite hysterical - one lady got a fit of the giggles when she suddenly realised she’d seen me with no clothes on a couple of weeks earlier in The Ritz. A lovely bunch of mature ladies who certainly support each other, and enjoyed their magical’ evening.

Whilst in Newport I went to see the amazingly preserved Roman Amphitheatre and was tickled to see two lads jostling each other whilst one of their girlfriend sat where the nobility would have sat, casually looking on. Were they aware of the irony?

Michael is now back home and much happier, and has been out shopping and ventured to Chicago. And Brian got burgled losing way too much, including a lot of my DVD’s. Someone’s market stall will now be selling a very eclectic range of DVD’s! So angry with the burglary though, so angry and helpless.

The film still continues to get nearer with my people’ talking to their people’ as it were. I have a feeling this will actually happen. Good. Apart from which, the financial aspect is getting very worrying at the moment.

April 5th

Am going totally mad waiting for news of this big feature film. I’m screaming to get involved, and frankly I am bored witless at the moment. It’s so odd not to have anything to be writing or rewriting. There are so many ideas in my head but is it actually worth developing them any more when the animation business is so dull just now, well the TV business.

Anyway I’ve kept my self amused with a few cultural trips this week. B, his Mum and sister and I drinking over looking the water at the Lowry before an evening of the George Piper dances was a particular highlight.

There has been a mail from an antipodean country asking whether I’d be interested in working on a much rumoured remake of a classic animation’ film....oh yes, but tell me when and make it definite and I’ll be there. So at the moment its like buses. No work for 19 months and suddenly there are two major films lurking but neither definite. Yes, I’m cracking up with this. I think everyone around me will be much relieved when I’m working again. Not a happy bunny like this.

Well I caught Monkey Bone and there is some extraordinarily athletic animation of the monkey, and he sits seamlessly with the live action. I can’t begin to think how complicated that must have been. But Paul and his crew’s animation is quite quite stunning. I loved the Marilyn Monroe scene.

In the Guardian today is an article announcing that Valiant is finally going ahead at Ealing Studios. And there’s a picture of the plucky little pigeon himself. So I guess its alright to talk about this film...this is what I’m waiting to hear about.

You might also want to check out Anthony Scott’s great website - http://www.stopmotionanimation.com - there’s a colourful discussion raging about the proposal to remake King Kong. There’s the whole range of arguments for and against. Personally I don’t think doing Kong in stopmotion would actually pass muster next to live action today....but, and this may be surprising coming from me, it is the performance that matters, not the technique.

12th April

Well quite a week. I had an epic day yesterday travelling to Bournemouth to give a talk. Eleven hours of travelling for a two hour talk, but there we go. A packed theatre, but a very hushed one.....maybe it was awe not indifference! The course here is mainly computers and I certainly had my usual rant about the joys of working with puppets, their spontaneity and their whole tactility. But hey its only a technique But there’s been some good feedback from the talk which is satisfying.

the rest of the week has been waiting for news about pigeons, and giant gorillas. I have a feeling the next few weeks are suddenly going to take off and throw my life into total confusion, with some travelling. I’d love to do one of these big films and then come back and do my own short film. I still feel sad when I think of all the scripts I’ve written that are sat gathering dust. I wonder if I go away for one of the features whether I’d be able to join an am dram group and do something live at the same time. I’m still getting calls about The Ritz, saying how it just worked in every department, and was such a blast of fresh air. The Garrick said that it may not have been an overwhelming box-office hit in terms of actual bums on seat, but there were a lot of new bums on seats that have already booked for other things. Now that is satisfying.

It was the london marathon yesterday...an amazing stirring sight. As usual there were the bizarre costumes, and as usuall there were the smattering of rhinos. Now they have had some wear out of these costumes. I think they were made about nearly 15 years ago for Peter Hall directed production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, which did include the remarkable sight of 20 or so rhinos tap dancing in an empty shopping mall. This was at Chichester and starred Mandy Patinkin and I think Maria Friedman (?). This was a musical and has not seen the light of day, but those costumes live on. I wanted to animate the play at one point...in every literal sense of the word it is an absurd play. can’t say I’ve ever animated a rhino.

April 19th

Summer has hit us in a spectacular fashion, though as quick as it arrived it went again. Stil the shorts were out for a few days.

But a bit of an odd week. Silence from one job I’m waiting to hear about, and then a call from another job that will take me half way round the world I hope. Quite a major life change there. In between these two jobs I was offered a day on Postman Pat, and a friend in New York wants me to go and workshop a new performance piece Off-Broadway. But of course the only one confirmed is Postman Pat. A very odd situation to be in.The Postman Pat job is ironic as a good few years ago I worked on a notorious commercial that took the piss out of Postman Pat something rotten, and got the commercial company into some trouble. Maybe this time round I should not have sheep in the background doing mucky things, or Pats’ animal companion yawning through sheer boredom!

But hopefully by this time next week, all the various jobs would have fallen into place one way or another, and i’ll know where I stand. It’s being in limbo. a rather broke limbo, that is driving me mad.

Otherwise its been a week of trying to clear huge amounts of clutter. The bin bags, and the past, are being thrown out of the house, but I can’t see much difference yet.

Not a wildly social week, more taken up with walking two dogs, Freddie ( a husky) who is staying with me, and Leo ( a blue rhone spaniel), who is staying with B. Oh the joys of carrying that telltale plastic bag. But its been so long since I had the company of an animal, and its good to have them around again.

Easter.......! Rather, a lot of chocolate floating around in vastly overwrapped boxes, it seems.

An odd week where I’ve been quite upbeat, hopefully for some reason. In the next week I’ll know exactly when I’ll be heading off to New Zealand, for that looks a distinct possibility. The job in Ealing involving a certain pigeon seems to be still lurking but I’m still waiting to get involved. I’d like to do both but New Zealand looks as if it will be confirmed first. Consequently I’ve been doing a lot of homework about whats out there. Crikey its a long way, but a wonderful fresh start....although something of an upheaval. Been trying to talk to the bank about what needs to be done but can’t manage to talk to anyone human. I just keep getting forms or phone numbers thrust at me.

Otherwise a bit of a week in limbo, waiting for confirmation.

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