Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everything you wanted to learn and more about animation

You might not know him, but it's nearly certain you've seen his work. Ren & Stimpy creator, John K., is a man to admire.

I recently found his blog and nearly two weeks into my discovery, I'm finding myself spending at least an hour a day going back through his archives and reading through the wealth of knowledge that he's shared with the world and am trying to absorb it all like a sponge.

The guy's a living legend, and it's easily apparent from his blog that he's a life-long learner and loves to share his most recent observations with anyone patient enough to read.

As I said in my previous post, I'm preparing to make a cel-animated piece called "Waltz with Tinsel" so the timing of finding his blog couldn't have been more perfect. Just skimming through his posts has been an awesome crash course on everything animated. From techniques and tips to handling the business side of things, to the whole mess of history that goes along with that beautiful art form-- he covers it all.

I think even the most savvy film geeks who might not even necessarily be into animation could get a lot out of it as well. Check him out here!

EDIT: Also forgot to mention his entirely separate blog just for students wanting to learn and practice animation, go here!

Biting Off Just A Little More Than You Can Chew

It's been a few months since I've written anything in here. It seems like the end of summer and start of fall is when I'm at my busiest; my creative juices start flowing and I really start cranking out work. And this year, it's happening in spades.

As most of you know, this blog was started for two things; to follow the course of my productions and to work on my personal thesis. Well, I'm quickly learning how difficult it is to be proactive in both these ventures AND remain objective in documenting them.

Over this hiatus, we completed production, and are in the middle of post production of Your Milkman. It was a two-night shoot that went incredibly well due to the dedication and talents of the cast and crew involved and was a fantastic learning experience for all of us. Currently, the rough cut is being polished up, and we're gearing up for sound design, composing and color correction.

On the side, I also began writing my thesis. About 70 pages in and just starting to get into the meat of things, I'm coming to grips that this is probably going to become a book, rather than just a lowly little thesis. And even if no one finds this stuff interesting but me, I'll at least have a documented copy that I can reference and sort of treat as my rulebook for making my own projects. It's really helped me articulate my thoughts on this stuff and discover just how grandiose the scope of the concept is to grasp. I've literally got a stack of books and research I need to sift through before I can even begin writing again.

And as of last week, we have figured out our next project: a cel animation. "Waltz with Tinsel" is the working title of it, and deals with the passion of filmmaking as a craft in a fun whimsical way. A large chunk of the thesis hails from the enchantment of animation, and is something I've always wanted to explore. It seemed like the logical next step.

Part of the challenge for me with these thesis-centric short films is finding the right balance between applying the practices of the thesis and the story. What I've learned from Your Milkman is now being applied to this animated piece. If Your Milkman was a near-literal translation of pieces of the thesis, Waltz with Tinsel is the opposition to that. It's subtler in the concepts, and lets the story take the front seat and tell itself.

With any of these projects, I'm forcing myself to bite off just a little more than I can chew. Your Milkman I intended to do as by-the-books as I could, and with that came assembling a crew of people who have never worked together, doing rewrites, raising capital, finding the right locations, casting, rehearsing, balancing budgets, worrying about all of the details that come along with doing a period piece, and to top it all off, coordinating everyone's schedule so that we could all meet at the same location for two consecutive evenings to shoot the film and put our months of planning into action. We lost crew, lost locations, equipment fell through, dates were changed around; it was a daunting year-long process that hasn't even finished yet.

With this thesis, I knew the scope was large and would take some time to research and formulate theories for each facet, and the more that I dive into it, the wider that scope seems.

And now with this animation, I'm delving into a frontier I've never explored before and only have a basic framework of understanding on it.

But there's something to be said for trial-by-fire situations. Sure you're going to make mistakes, but you'll have an enriched knowledge in a multitude of topics so that when the next project comes along, you can challenge yourself further. It's uncomfortable at times and a little reckless, but I'm learning lessons that I couldn't have otherwise if I played it safe and made something I was comfortable with doing. I'm learning to adapt and see things through, even if it means finding a new way to do it. And when a project is over and done with, I'm moving right on to the next one. It's helping me grow as a filmmaker, and it's rewarding to say the least.

So we're currently assembling a team of animators for Waltz with Tinsel. If you're interested, or know of someone who might be, I'd love to discuss that a little further. E-mail me at