kenshi's Animation Adventures

An online diary of kenshi's foray into the animated arts.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bishop As You've Never Seen Him Before

I hadn't envisioned Bishop for his new co-starring role as anything other than the E.T.-looking alien he is, which is no particular race, but it suddenly struck me that instead of coming up with yet another shade of pale I could delve into some more interesting hues (after I gave him proper ears).

He could be black, he could be India-Indian, he could be from Trinidad, he could be from anywhere. It doesn't matter. I just like that he's not white and that his race has absolutely nothing to do with his character or role.

There needs to be more of that in the media: roles that transcend race, no matter how unostentatious they may be. In fact, the more unostentatious, the better.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New Storyboards!

These boards probably won't make sense until you see the current pass of the film with the storyboards inserted, since what you're seeing here doesn't all happen in sequence. But I wanted to show them all together, so you can get an idea of how my boarding skills have been developing.

I must admit that having a set, even though it's a temporary set, and poseable character rigs makes things a lot easier. Firmly planting yourself in space when you have no visual references to ground you can make drawing very, very difficult. Because for me, if your boards don't reflect spatial relationships at least semi-accurately, or if your drawings are too off-model, you're not getting a clear picture of what you're going to end up with, and the closer you can get to what is going to end up on the screen from the get go, the better.

Matthew Russell, my previous mentor, made me very aware of shot direction and where on screen characters should be placed to make things clear to the viewer. So this go around I feel I did a much better job at thinking ahead and thinking through that kind of stuff.

I really like story art. There's an immediacy to it that is satisfying and it is a joy to work with the pencil. Maybe all that means is that I would rather be a traditional animator than a computer animator, but right now I feel far from proficient at either. I think it's a synergistic thing though - the better I can draw emotions and strong poses, the more organic my computer animation will be. And the more I get good at manipulating the character in 3D space, the more I can think spatially and draw dimensionally. It was fun drawing these though, even though it took a while to muster up the courage to put the pencil down on the blank index cards for some reason... I felt like I was a traditional animator that only had to do one or two keys per action, just to get the core of the storytelling point. If only it were that's the rest of it that's a kick in the pants.

I wonder how close I will be able to follow these boards without drastically reworking things, as I am wont to do. We shall see, we shall see.

You will have noticed that I added two new characters. They will be Otto's co-workers. The tall skinny guy is Murdock and the round-headed fellow is Bishop. Now,
I know I'm making more work for myself by adding two new characters, but a story should never be dictated by what's cheapest and easiest to do. My conscience will not allow me to sacrifice the soul of the story for the sake of economy. At least not while I am calling the shots.

And my story was begging me to raise the stakes. To create more empathy for the main character, because as it stood before, I was asking to audience to feel for someone that couldn't reach something high because he was too short, with the emotional touchpoint being, "oh, I've been unable to reach something before. This applies to me..." But the problem with that is that there isn't much of an emotional pull to such a predicament. Unless there's some kind of backstory involved that makes the current situation especially problematic to the character. But in a short film of under two minutes, you don't have time for that kind of backstory. So you have to tell it as part of the story for it to make any kind of sense. Hence the mocking, the teasing, the making fun of someone behind their back and getting caught. THAT people can relate to in a very personal way. And that is the backbone my story needed. That's the throughline that connects the sales clerk, Otto, to the customer, Ace. They both are being judged for who they are, and both unfairly, but only one is being a hypocrite about it, which is where the character arc happens.

It's nice to see the story start to fall in place a little better. It feels much more cohesive now and my new mentor, Bret Parker (a Pixar animator) really likes my ideas and additions. I think I will learn a lot from her. I have to, because this could very well be the last regular mentoring I will have from a professional animator with years and years of experience and a sharp eye.

I have a few mentoring relationships that I hope will continue on past my AnimationMentor studies, but I've got a long road ahead of me, and I'm seeing that what is going to make the biggest difference is not what kind of mentoring I have, but what kind of time and work and focus and dedication I bring to my craft on a consistent basis. That's what's going to decide whether I piddle around in the pool of mediocrity or rise above and take to the sky.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

I finally went and saw the movie The Devil Wears Prada starring the amazing Meryl Streep. I had listened to the audiobook a year or two ago so I was interested to see what Ms. Streep would do with the role. I had heard some comments from friends before it came out, wondering if she was perhaps too old for the part, but I knew she would be stellar. And I was right.

I don't think I have ever seen her misstep. Her performances are always so genuine, so honest, so fresh, even if the level of the filmmaking isn't up to the level of her acting. She truly is an inspiration and I can safely say she is my most favorite actor to watch.

Anyhow, I get these fashion emails every week or so from The New York Times called "New York Style" which showcases the latest and greatest - and this week there was a slideshow from London Fashion Week featuring the lovely getup you see in my drawing, designed by Giles Deacon. Piano fringe and feathered hat, says the caption.

The image just struck me, especially since in the photograph, as you can see, the face of the model is totally covered (I decided she needed a face - at least part of one). The flow of the fringe, the legs that go on forever, but mostly the shapes that were being created. A towering triangular mass of feathers atop chopsticks. And the silhouette was really amazing. I had to draw it.

I also recently watched 101 Dalmations, one of my favorites, and this image was reminiscent of some of the beginning scenes in that movie where Pongo is checking out all of the ladies and their pooches, looking for a mate for his "pet", Roger. The all walked with purpose and attitude - some fancy, some stuffy. Maybe I should add a pooch to go along with her other accessories...

So yeah, I'm trying to do more drawing. If I ever hope to be a traditional animator, I need to get a few hundred thousand more drawings under my belt. Besides, since high heels feature so prominently in my short film, it pays to pay attention to how they are worn and how the body moves (or is made to move) when wearing them.

Hope you like the sketch.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Broken Links

So I'm still not sure what the problem is, but my site is still down, and all but one of the animation file links were on that site, so please forgive me. I'm looking into the matter and hope to have it resolved soon. Just wanted to let you know why so little was available.

- The Management

Monday, September 11, 2006

Leave of Absence

Okay, not really. I haven't gone fishin', but I have decided to take a leave of absence from AnimationMentor for the last two weeks of Class 6, the final class, and then come back full force for another 3 months in order to finish my film properly.

There are big sections of the film that need some re-working, and if i'm going to do something, i want to do it right, so even though the prospects are a little scary, it feels like the right thing to do.

The school has been very generous and supportive in helping us to finish our films, so I'm very happy about that. And they are planning lots of services and programs for the graduates in order to maximize our job opportunities. It's pretty amazing how far above and beyond they are going for us, but if you knew the founders of the school and the staff that works there, you wouldn't be surprised at all. They are the most giving and dedicated bunch I have seen.

So in the meantime, I have several things planned. Going to finish a grant proposal for my film, going to clean my studio so I can start painting again, going to do a few freelance projects so I have money to eat with, going to finalize some story points in my film to present to my new mentor when I get back...

Lots to do, and little time to do it, but it's nice to have a little bit of a breather before the hurricane slams again. The 12 hour days were starting to get to me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Musical Score

I almost forgot to mention another exciting bit of news! You will probably notice that the music in my film has changed. Well, I got back in touch with a good friend of mine, Michael Brennan, and learned that he was wanting to get into film scoring. So when I told him I was working on a short film myself, he wanted to try his hand at scoring my piece. I am very happy with the work he did and would highly recommend him to anyone looking for a talented composer that's just a pleasure to work with - very open to feedback, works very fast, and very creative.

I was also impressed with how well he understood the story and wrote music to support what was going on onscreen. It's just such a pleasure collaborating with another artist that really knows what he is doing and adds such quality to the work. The creative banter is also very fulfilling and inspiring, my images sparking ideas in him, and his music sparking further ideas in me.

This kind of thing reaffirms why I want to be a director.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Short Film Polish: Pass 1

Click HERE to download the rough cut of the film after two rounds of blocking and into the polish pass on the first two-thirds (to download, just click the "free" button towards the bottom of the page - you'll be required to wait a minute or so, enter the password, and you'll be able to download. Sorry about the hassle, but my website host is down at the moment.)

Things are starting to shape up a little bit, but honestly, what I have now is what my SECOND pass of blocking should have looked like. I'm not exactly sure why I got so stuck. It probably had something to do with being depressed after I moved back to Utah, and something to do with it being so long since I had actually animated after no animation assignments during Class 5 (Story Development) and getting scared of the animation process a little bit.

I've been reading David Mamet's book On Directing Film and it has really helped me solidify in my mind how to analyze and strengthen my film as a whole, how to approach the creative decisions involved in making a film - "do I need this?", "what's missing here?", "what is the purpose of this shot?", "what happens if I take this shot out?", etc.

They are questions I've already been asking, but not on this level. The more I work at the film, the more it tells me what it needs.

It's the classic artist struggle - how do I get what's in my head out there on the screen?

I've had several breakthroughs in my animation recently and i'm finally applying a lot of the principles and coming up with a workflow that seems to work for me, which is exciting. I have never been more challenged and have never grown as much. I've also never worked as hard, though that has happened in fits and spurts. Despite the rockiness of being part of the first class to go through, I do not regret my decision to learn at AnimationMentor.

I am currently considering retaking the short film class to give me more time to finish my film.