The Slow Lane

...now leads to Sunderland, where this tiny road movie has been selected for the short film festival. Which means I will actually get to go to a festival which has my film in it - so that's a new combination.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a short post (about nothing to do with animation, but involving thinking rocks and goats) has been accepted in this fine blog Febulous February.

And a second set of cackling witch woodcuts is underway, this one exploring the thorny problem of careers for young girls/ witches (virgin, mother, crone and ...er...the other one).

I had originally set out to create very short versions of Shakespeare films...but this is so much more fun. Apparently, what I'm doing here is adaptation.


MacBeth/ Macbeth/ mac beith ...

...is turning out to be enormous fun. Read Learned Papers! Disagree with them! search the internet for mad German woodcuts of what Choleric temperament looks like;confuse yourself with Elizabethan/ Jacobean customs, attitudes and belief systems; wish you still had a copy of "1066 and all that".

Some of the papers I found were student dissertations and essays; some of the evidence and rationale was scanty. But all of it was interesting. Put it in a sack, shake it up, and pull out some mildly controversial fragments which I hope will encourage people too look at and enjoy the plays. For those "forced" to study them at GCSE/ A level. For those frustrated by the deeply gender-divided and unequal world view of the day but looking for a way through it. Or bored by the passnotes which are just that - notes to get you a pass, but not necessarily to make you think deeply/ or sideways-on. (yes, it's "about ambition". but also the pointlessness of war, gender politics, philosophy, Brechtian devices, "Mock the Week" and the perils of patronage. A cultural mash-up) (maybe...you decide)
And now, even more fun, I get to draw woodcut-esque and intricate Black-and-White images with a vulgar disregard for perspective, anatomy... or anachronism.
God, I feel Shakespearean!


Toonies Bar...the club for People.

Finally. The latest experiment - working Hi-resolution - is completed. This has been a major challenge technically but also because the film has a larger cast of characters. ..many of whom have no obvious or unambiguous gender. Some of whom - being robots, blobs and scribbly yellow things - don't need a gender anyway.

It has been very difficult to keep gender and sexuality assumptions out of it; to establish two characters being friendly or even intimate but "not in a sex way"; and to establish simple identifiers of masculinity which operate as clearly (and as annoyingly) as long eyelashes or hair-ribbons do for femininity.

Also problematic is how to suggest the shrugging off of gender - which is so central to human identity - without simply suggesting transitioning between genders. Is is even possible to discuss gender-freedom in a way that is not overtly political and essentially "queer". Or NOT to be defined by gender, nor in relation to it nor by its absence?

I suspect this will be the first in a long line of tries and possibly fails - but that is sort of the point of research, no?


it's that time again...

Happy Christmas... I always make my own cards, and I always make a christmas animation. why? because it's FUN. Because home-made gifts are the best in almost every case; they come with more love, more thought, and an investment of time which is most of my friends' most precious commodity. Mine too.
12 days of Christmas from Fin McMorran on Vimeo.


What she said...

in case you were confused, cows are female
Other people looking at the tiresome sameness of female characters (visually) versus the startling variation in male characters' faces
Animated characters should have a visual representation of their characters, they are designed, not cast and so every curve, angle and idiosyncrasy is deliberately added - or left out. Which sort of suggests that the female characters are themselves less well developed and differentiated in terms of attitude, characteristics, behaviour.
Have we really not progressed since the days of 3fold women virgin/warrior, mother and crone?Babe, Carer, and Wicked Witch. I wonder how many animators (heterosexual male) are happily married - you know, to an actual real woman with attitudes, ambitions and mis-matched underwear?


Black & White

Finally, after years and miles and forgetting what I'd even written, and losing heart and pretending not to care (draw breath) and hoping they hadn't changed their minds...THE BOOK is out. A text book, a theory, some big words, Colin the Dog immortalised in black and white (and no green). Available here http://www.brownsbfs.co.uk/Product/Dobson-Julia/Mapping-Cinematic-Norths--International-Interpretations-i/9783034318952. First brainiac thing Ive written since the PhD (and covering a totally different area). If anyone ever reads it, do search Youtube for the accompanying video...
Now I've an idea to serialise Colin's trip in the form of a blog...not a piece of academic writing obviously, but an account of his travels as a serialised...um...surrealist novelette? Since I have actually been to Norway ( though not via North Utsire sadly), and seen the northern lights (Iceland, and again, sadly not from a hottub but a very cold hilltop cowering in the windshadow of a coach), I might be able to pull this off. Now, if I can just learn to speak Dog...


Animation Pig-out!

still from Mr Madila. Rory Waudby-Tolley 2016
...at the ASFF festival. It runs over the weekend so I can actually go, although I still wish schedulers would consider the possibility that someone might want to watch (eg) ALL 6 of the animation sessions - rather than a random selection or a broad overview - and not schedule them back-to-back on opposite sides of York!! However, manged to do all 6, one family friendly (but the not the one I really wanted to see) and a couple of randomly selected experimental/ artists selections. ... 60 films over the weekend. Plus, caught a samba band, some art galleries and a couple of specialist shops, with time left over to walk the walls. Hoorah!
This year again a major theme seems to be autobiographical and "illustratory" - adaptations of existing stories which have a narrator reading the story. Some of these have no "events" , more an exploration of feelings or relationships, which makes the animation a challenge but also renders the images incomprehensible without the sound. Is this a good thing? The sound and vision should be integrated and complimentary...or a bad thing? I remember being taught back in artschool days that if a (static image) cartoon wasn't funny without the caption, then it wasn't funny...which I suppose should also work for sad/ mysterious/ challenging/ mindbogglingly thought-provoking...etc
For myself I like the challenge of working without dialogue or narrators, (as opposed to the hideous technical challenge of lipsynching).
So I saw some great imagery, some interesting stories, (and some horrors)... but my favourite in the festival was Mr Madila...or the Colour of Nothing. It had great pace, propelled along by a well-considered dialogue which ranged from the profound to the ridiculous with a natural rhythm. The drawings were energetic and expressive; the humour made it popular with the audience but it was more than jokey - after I stopped laughing I went away thinking about it...about why it was so affecting and about what the colour, and the importance, of nothing might be.
check out the trailer...


Goin' Posh

 Hastings Tall Sheds. Not, as family legend had it,
tall inside for mending fishnets (or fishing nets),
but a 3 storey shed, to exploit limited beach space.
Well last year a kind reviewer  (Eugenie Johnson) described one of my films as a breath of fresh air...but also as Crude line drawings... http://narcmagazine.com/review-sunderland-shorts-opening-night-sunderland-minster-2-7-15/ . Now I'm going to up my game crudewise - specifically to make the original drawings on a larger scale that wont get crudified so much by being enlarged on a big screen. Having resisted this for a long time because of the limits of the size of the monitor I'm working on, clearly its time to invest in some bigger better techno. Meanwhile an experimental pilot project (with a storyline around gender and specifically gender in cartoons) should help sort out what else needs to change with size - the scale of marks? the type of marks? - and how much longer will it take to complete?
Also, I realise it is some time since I attempted to animate an inanimate object...like a shed. This raises interesting ideas about the nature of the word animat/e/ion and why anyone would think a shed was not already animated by the dense layers of history and human intervention...and fish.


Having a plan...

wasps don't actually have teeth like this...OR DO THEY?
Finally, latest 4 minute animation (about gardening, magic realism and - er -  wasps) is completed and sound mixed, ..Actually, I spent today so far redoing the soundtrack, because it just didn't quite have the pace; but I still made my deadline of  the start of the new teaching year. Last week was induction but my bottom line was to be done by my first (PT) day of the teaching year - tomorrow. I don't usually have a strict deadline for films, except for a few ludicrously quick submission dates for themed shows... it's usually more like...just do it! and when it's done, do another one... But it is motivating to have a timescale, a plan, a deadline. It also means you can actually get ahead of it and give yourself time off, which is hard to do for an artist/ animator when that isn't your (every)day job.
And some of those things that annoyingly motivational business people say are useful... If work expands to fit the available time, it can also be made to contract to fit it...but only if you have a clear sense of how much time you're giving yourself. I'm always telling the students the importance of planning and managing their time... so you'll all be pleased to know that my house looks like Mr Trebus lives here (google it) and the garden looks like an amazonian rainforest...but the film is done...TaDa!


life isn't all animation...

13 maniacs and a bunch of drums at the taiko workshop
photo: by David (Mugenkyo), rehearsal at the Dojo
...apparently. I took some time out to do Taiko drumming with Mugen Dojo this summer.  (a week's workshop and performance at the Edinburgh Festival) Unlike animation which takes for ever, drumming is instant gratification and while both are seriously good fun, drumming is something you do with other people (and unicorns...that was the German taiko connection), learning together, laughing together. Contributing - maybe in small ways, within what is essentially someone else's creation - but live, organic, and physical. Every animator should also be a drummer! I planned to make an animation about the workshop/ performance /process...but, you know, in my tea break.


rejection letters

heyho...more rejections from more film festivals.
I once met a woman (artist) who, having sent a proposal to a major art gallery, was really angry that it hadn't been accepted ..."but it was good!" she cried, passionately convinced there was some kind of conspiracy theory or at least rampant nepotism going on.
Alas...good isn't enough. Lots of people are good and film festivals like gallery exhibition spaces are hugely competitive. We-e-ell, that's what I'm telling me. But I think it's also time to admit that those particular two festivals are just not looking for the kind of work I do and its time to move on ("But I love her!" "forget it, girl, she's in a different world"). Not out of my league so much as playing a different sport.
So - be true to your own style, format, vision and just keep on. If just doing it - making the movies, drawing the vampire blackbirds, dreaming the storylines -isn't fun, isn't passionately, wretchedly, magically, hysterically good fun...then stop, because you'll never be better than hohum at it.
Meanwhile, back at the dayjob, the University has elected to give me some research remission so I can make even more animations. whoop!
...and also, possibly "argh!".


What did we learn today?

Normally, I work from beginning to end, perhaps more like writing a novel than making a film. I make a first draft - seldom a pencil test unless it's really hard to draw - and then go back over it, to re-edit, also in order beginning to end. BUT - Just because it's a cartoon, doesn't mean you can't shoot it out of sequence. So, what did we learn today... stop banging your head against the sketchbook going "wah! it's too hard to draw a little fat man doing 360 degree rolls in mid air" and - duh - move on to to the part where he's admiring his wings in the mirror. Go back to the hard part when you are feeling more energetic, have better references...or maybe rethink the sequence based on what it is supposed to show/generate/ suggest. Of course this does imply you have to have a reasonable idea where the story is going...

A proper storyboard is not in fact essential unless you want to ...maybe, work to a pre-planned deadline.
Lately I have  started annotating the cartoon-in-progress with days so I can see how many frames I actually managed in that period. This will be an invaluable aid to planning and resource budgetting  - or possibly invoke despair.


Character, Gender, Comics...and the triumph of hope over expectation.

The debate about sexism in comics/ animation is ongoing but makes fairly depressing reading.
(Im wearing sparkly hot pants because I like them, not so men will look at my arse.. Excellent, good for you. But how do we stop the men in question from assuming you are wearing them so they will look at your arse. Aye, there's the rub. They believe they have a god-given right and a hormonal imperative to look at your arse) Meanwhile, back in what passes for real life, trying to develop believable and empathic characters of unknown or ambiguous gender/ whose key identification is as Gardener, Fantasist or Self-sufficient rather than Man or Woman/ is proving challenging.


Virtual gardening

Soundtrack for The Slow Lane is done, and the finished movie has gone off to some festivals for rejection. Updates completed to the website, to create pages for the most recent movies and , oh yes, re-link every single page to the blog via the OTHER menu. (which I forgot about) Yes, this is why style sheets are a good idea. (ask your Mum)

It's beginning to feel very much like the website is redundant, and that the blog is as much information as anyone would be bothered to read... But for me it's important to close the projects, to reflect, to tidy my virtual desk and get ready for the next idea. Digital projects that are infinitely copiable, tweakable and clone-able can sometimes feel like they are always in flux, that it isn't necessary to commit to a single, finite version and move on. But I believe it is. Let the narrative find its natural ending, its most expressive face and then frame it.

Then, move on to the next project which right now is some "virtual gardening" with added magic realism. It's an idea from the thinking stone, and a tiny bit metanarrative-y, investigating the nature of the animated world, where things can become other things quite easily, seamlessly and without the need for stunt-shrubs.



...finished the last movie. Soundtrack still to come but it feels like a big achievement. The big deal with this one was finding the right ending - needing to show passage of time without resorting to cliches or making it take too long...finally realised the point was that the story was - kind of - cyclic, so the obvious way to end it was by echoing the scenes at the beginning. In fact the narrative changed a lot in the attempt to balance "the story" with the right visuals, images I wanted to show, (just because I liked them) and trying to encapsulate a thought in an image in the most effective way. So it isn't literally cyclic any more; but doesn't need to be. The sense of future and the desirability of repeated events is there...well, I hope so. This particular story presented quite a challenge - but that's why they call it research.


Thinking space

Holiday season...and the power of walking miles staring at mountains, lakes, fields, islands to generate new ideas for films. Emptying your head, disconnecting from the internet, the TV, the press for two whole weeks and listening to the stories floating quietly on the wind. Then coming "home" - to a temporary cottage and drawing them out; making visual notes. Is this a cliche?...It's not about "unwinding" but about creating a space for creative inspiration to happen. Sometimes, your head is full - of anxiety about referendums and governments - of is-that-damp-in-the-living-room-spreading, of friends and family in need of support, of timetables and workloads and oh yeah, of TV. News news news news crap crap distraction .
There are lots of ways that we get "inspiration" - drawing, reading stories, watching other people's animations, outrage and determination to tell the world something, experimenting,(which is just a posh word for playing with ideas)... but my favourite is this, sitting on the thinking stone halfway up the mountain and letting all those things mix and mature until an idea evolves from them.



...has been accepted for the Amy Johnson festival,  http://amyjohnsonfestival.co.uk/ hoorah and whew and oh how pleased my Uni will be that I have something concrete (listable) to show for all the drawings Ive done. So, sometimes, it does pay off making a thing especially for a single festival/output. While colleagues discuss rewriting (dissertations. PhD papers, articles) for specific journals, it hadn't occurred to me that I could re-edit a film for a specific festival or screening...or that this would be a legitimate activity. Meanwhile I have to decide whether I can cope with time-travelling back to my old home in Hull to attend the festival! (of course I can. Too bad everyone I knew there has now moved to either Brighton or Hebden Bridge.)

Meanwhile, the strange tale of "The Slow Lane" continues, appropriately slowly.


in other news

don't get mad...get animating
...people are trying to kill us and other people are writing racist nonsense all over my facebook feed. Hard to concentrate on gentle human comedy when you kind of want to jump around and scream. I could make scathing animations about the EU (Im in by the way) or defiant, solidarity-in-the-face-of-fascist-bigotry cartoons about Colorado...but Im trying to stay sane and, in the words of one of the speakers at the Newcastle vigil, "be the best queer you can be"...which in my case means finish the damn movie.
But now I have typed this, I'm immediately thinking, doesn't it also mean making the animation be mightier than the sword (or the machine gun). It does. Yes, it does.


Just Do It

Thistle Pot Print by Angie Lewin -
shamelessly reproduced from instagram
So, I was looking for inspiration among lino prints, via online communities, instagram, local art galleries and all, looking for ideas about texture and about how to divide an image into just black and white in the most interesting way. Looking at how to adapt this to in - computer drawing. And thinking about some illustrations (still images) I had just agreed to undertake as an experiment, and how I could use the same style.. Then I had a Jean-Paul Sartre moment, and realised that instead of remembering the work I used to make in lino/ collograph, what I needed to be doing was -duh - making new lino prints. Onto actual paper. Cue online shopping for lino and - hopefully - some serious mess. Computers are so clean.


Let Joy be Unconfined...

unlikely fish-person-hero: protagonists don't have to be heroes?
... Finally finished the latest animated short! An attempt to use only black and white  and to use texture without getting horribly visually confused. I made this for a particular film festival, with a theme, and have duly sent it off. & will be sending it further afield...But really of course I made it to see what would happen, to wrestle with the temptation to cut corners or suddenly use red and teal blue, and - as with most narrative work - to find out what would happen to the protagonist in the end.