Tagged: d.i.y

1st Feature Script Reading

Over the weekend I finished the 11th draft of my feature script and had some friends around to do a reading of it. They gave heaps of in-depth feedback and solid critique which is what I needed. The outside perspective is really helpful as after days and days of writing you can kind of lose perspective and you miss things that don’t really make sense or aren’t particularly strong.

hamish with script

I’m going to take 6 days off the feature and then I’ll get stuck back into it with fresh eyes. I’m not sure how many drafts it’ll take until I get to the final version but It feels like I’m getting much closer.
I’m really looking forward to finishing it and getting stuck into other pieces of production which will roll out quicker.

wall of pain

Gotta keep pushing on!

– Hamish



SO you’re making your own animated feature or ambitious short film. You’re dedicated and working as hard as you can to make the best film possible, but you still need to eat, pay the rent, get equipment/materials, pay the electricity bill etc. So there comes the big question. How you fund your creative project?

Options really depend on where you’re living/making your film. I live in Australia and there are certain options I can take that might be different from ones where you live, but I’ll try and keep this list as globally relevant as possible.

I’m sure you’re already clued into crowd-funding. But if not, sites like Kickstarter, Pozible and IndieGoGo can help you get funding by giving you a platform to ask people who may want your work to fund it in small donations in return for content. For crowd-funding to work you’ll need to already have produced some content like concept-drawings or trailers to allow possible donors to see and become interested in what you’re offering. I also recommend not asking for too much money as if you don’t reach your target in the allotted time you don’t get the money. Crowd funding seems to work best for creators whose audience has taste inside edges of mainstream. Content such as genre films, pop culture references or sequels to already well known IP is often successfully funded. It probably won’t be very successful if you’re trying to fund you weirdo art film or avant-garde comic book but you might as well give it a go because one of the best things about crowd funding is that you have nothing to lose by trying.

In Australia artists/filmmakers can apply for grants from Screen Australia for film, or Arts Council for more experimental work (art). Getting a grant extremely competitive and you really need to know how to write applications in a certain way. You’ll also need to fulfill and fit neatly in their key criteria depending on the specific grant. It really depends on the project you’re working on whether you’ll even be eligible to apply. It’s not looking like I can apply for funding for my feature at either of these funding bodies due to my unconventional production (solo animated feature), but I’ll keep looking around and maybe I’ll be able to in the future.

UK: The British Film Institute looks like it’s your place to go.
Germany: Check out The German Federal Film Fund.
USA: Unfortunately there’s no federal film funding body in the US. Certain states offer tax credit but it’s unlikely it’ll be useful for D.I.Y or underground filmmakers.
Other Countries: It really depends where you are. Have a look around for federal or state/provincial film funding. Send out some emails to people. It can’t hurt.

This is what I’m doing for my first feature. The idea is that you get a job you work at 2/3 days a week that will pay enough to cover living expenses. The rest of your time you use working on your film. You’ll probably be living below or close to the poverty line but it’ll be worth it in the future when you’ve got films to sell. Just be careful the job & the lure of more money and easier living doesn’t suck you into doing too many days and compromising on your film. I’ve seen it happen. You’ll end up with no film AND a shitty job.

Independent filmmakers have been known to use bank loans or credit cards to fund their feature film productions. It’s pretty a pretty risky move though due to insane interest rates which mean you end up paying much more than you actually borrowed. Filmmakers Susan Buice and Arin Crumley took out a bunch of credit cards to fund their 2005 debut feature Four Eyed Monsters and accrued over $100,000 in debt. I’m not sure if they’ve paid it off yet but I doubt it. Be careful, doing this might help you make your first feature but will cripple you financially enough that you won’t be able to make your second for ages.

Investments: Generally to get a large enough return on any investment you need sufficient capitol invested to begin with. So… probably not the most useful to us as if we had that kind of money we wouldn’t need funding to begin with. Keep an eye out for stuff like bit-coin though, even though it’s high risk (markets could crash and you lose your moneys).

Hook Up With a Rich Person: Long shot here… but you could always hook up with a sugar mummy/sugar daddy. Unethical and kind of immoral… but if you love each other I guess it’d be ok.

Medical Research: Robert Rodriguez did it! Didn’t work for me unfortunately but maybe they’re more willing to use human guinea pigs where you’re from.


If you want to become a better animator/storyteller, one thing you MUST do is watch and study other films. If you aren’t engaging in culture how can you expect to make it? Here is a list of interesting animators and animation directors and a few of their works. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and I’m sure I missed plenty but maybe you can find some stuff in here you haven’t seen before. Also I recommend to not just watch animations but explore all cinema! There are a vast amount of amazing films which you can learn a lot from and enjoy. Dive in!  :0

Solo Feature Animators

M Dot Strange – We Are The Strange, HSM, I AM Nightmare
Lotte Reiniger – Adventures of Prince Achmed
Bill Plympton – Mutant Aliens, Hair High
Hiroshi Harada – Midori
Nina Paley – Sita Sings the Blues
Jimmy ScreamerClauz – Where The Dead Go To Die
Ray NowlandGo to Hell!
Don Hertzfeldt – It’s Such A Beautiful Day

Collaborative Feature Animators/Directors

Hayao Miyazaki – Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Nausicaa
Shinichiro Watanabe – Cowboy Bebop, Animatrix, Macross Plus
Rene Laloux – Les Maitres du Temps, Fantastic Planet
Ralph Bakshi – Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic
Isao Takahata – Grave Of Fireflies, Winter Days
Jiri Barta – The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, The Last Theft
Jan Svankmajer – Alice, Lunacy
Ari Folman – Waltz With Bashir
Katsuhiro Otomo – Akira, Memories
Richard Linklater – Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly
Mamoru Oshii – Angel’s Egg, Ghost In The Shell, Patlabor
Adam Elliot – Mary and Max, Harvey Krumpet
Sylvain Chomet – The Triplets Of Belleville, The Illusionist
Satoshi Kon – Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress
Henry Selick – The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline
Hideaki Anno – Nean Genesis Evangelion
Osamu Tezuka – Cleopatra: Queen Of Sex, Jumping
Kihachiro Kawamoto – The Book of the Dead, Oni
Richard Williams – The Princess And The Cobbler
Yoshiaki Kawajiri – Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust


Peter Chung – Æon Flux
The Brothers Quay – The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, Street Of Crocodiles
Nijole Vladkeviciute – The Tree, Professor Cosmodrome Cricket
Suzan Pitt – Asparagus, Joy Street
Ray Harryhausen – The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Jason And The Argonauts
Phil Mulloy – Intolerance I II & III, Cowboys
Tomek Baginski – Fallen Art, The Cathedral
Anthony Lucas – The Mysterious Geographic Explorations Of Jasper Morello
Run Wrake – Rabbit
Vladimir Todorovic – The Snail On The Slope, Silica-Esc
Chris Landreth – Ryan, Bingo
Marc Craste – JoJo In The Stars, Varmints
Emile Cohl – Fantasmagorie
Berthold Bartosch – L’idee, The Ornament Of The Lovestruck Heart
Caroline Leaf – The Street, The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
Oscar Fischinger – Allegretto, Kreise
PES – KaBoom!, Game Over


Here’s a list of books, textbooks and manual that I have learnt a lot from and found really useful. They range from books on film aesthetics, screenwriting, storytelling, animation and motivation.

The Art of Dramatic Writing  by Lajos Egri
The best guide to writing narrative I’ve read yet. It teaches you how to write solid characters, structures, premise and pacing, and it also shows things to look out for that will make your narrative fail. Just keep in mind that it’s written primarily for writing stageplays and not screenplays so certain things don’t always apply if you’re writing for film. It also doesn’t take into account visual storytelling techniques as it’s written primarily for dialogue based theatrical storytelling.
party thing

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Probably the most well known book of comparative mythology and religion from Joseph Campbell. This book looks in particular at the ‘Hero’s Journey’ which is a form of narrative that permeates the majority of our fiction today and throughout history. Quintessential for writers who want to understand their craft, even if they don’t want to follow the hero’s formula.


Re-Imagining Animation by Paul Wells and Johnny Hardstaff
A really interesting book on contemporary animation and it’s changing culture. Primarily focusing on the changing rolls of animation in the post-digital age. Invaluable for intermediate to advanced animators and animation academics.


Sight Sound Motion by Herbert Zettl
An in depth textbook covering the aesthetics of moving image filmmaking. It looks at the fine details and choices in film-making and their psychological effects on the viewer. The book covers, light, lighting, colour, area, depth and volume, screen volume and effects, time, motion, continuity & complexity editing and sound. It can get a bit dry at times and as a cinema goer you will already know some of the elements in this book, however it’s worth sitting down and reading it entirely.


Film Art by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson
Staple textbook for many cinema courses in film schools & universities. Looks at the aesthetics and mechanics of cinema in slightly broader context than ‘Sight Sound Motion’. Useful as a basis in understanding cinema for creators, academics and critics alike.
If you want this, get the edition before the latest and buy it second-hand as new editions cost a ridiculous amount of money for minimal new content.

B Book by M Dot Strange
A great book from an actual independent feature film animator/director. It looks at motivation, turmoils and the life of a dedicated fringe artist.
“I wrote this book as sort of an artistic pick you upper… a kick in the ass… a slap in the back of your head to get you going creating the awesome work that you should be!” – M Dot Strange


The War Of Art + Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
Really motivational books from author Steven Pressfield. After reading these I worked harder than ever. They talk about the personal need to create and becoming professional in your approach. There’s a couple of parts that talk about Pressfield’s religious connection to creating which didn’t really gel with me as I’m quite secular, but i just ignored these and the other parts were extremely relevant. A good book for when you’re stuck in a rut.


The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
The best textbook I’ve found yet for character animation. Useful regardless of what animation style you use. Written by the director of ‘The Cobbler and the Thief’. The examples given by Williams are quite stylized and cartoony but just tone that down if you want more realism or varying style in your character animation.


In The Blink Of An Eye (2nd ED) by Walter Murch
Insights and rules formulated by master editor Walter Murch. Editing is a hugely important step in film-making so the better you get at it as a D.I.Y or independent filmmaker the better your films will be. Incredibly useful information for filmmakers looking to get better at their craft.51KFHHJJAZL

The Conversations: Walter Murch And The Art Of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje
A five lengthy interviews with aforementioned master editor Walter Murch by the writer of The English Patient. They go through a lot of interesting content throughout their conversations. Worth a read if you read ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’ and want more.


Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez
This book is mostly journal entries from Robert Rodriguez in the early 90’s when he was 23 years old and making his debut film El Miriachi with a $7000 budget. While I’m not particularly into his films, it’s an interesting and motivational look at D.I.Y and independent film-making. Good stuff.


Writing a Comic for the First Time – Pt. 1

I’m a big fan of certain comic and manga artists, like Charles Burns and Junji Ito but I never thought I would end up making one.

File0018I’ve decided to write a comic because It’s a great story telling medium, It has quicker output than animation which allows me to produce more stories + get better at telling stories over time; and it’s still a visual way to tell them.

Coming from an animation background I’ve never written a comic before so I thought I’d detail my home-made process to encourage anyone else out there who wants to create and make interesting and diverse comics/graphic novels/manga. This process works for me but everyone is different so don’t be surprised if your process ends up different.

1. Detailing Ideas and Basic Concepts

My memory is completely shithouse so when I’m thinking of ideas and concepts for stories I’ve got to write them down right away, otherwise they slip into the fog that is my swiss cheese brain.

So to begin with I just write down ideas and visual ideas that I think of, into my journal(to keep it all together). I also write down questions I need to ask myself like “what is the protagonists motivation in this point?” or “what am I trying to say with this comic” or “why is this character even a human?”. Asking myself these questions by writing them down helps me to answer them by forcing me to think, and if I can’t answer them they’re on the paper so i can come back and work them out later.


2. Sequence of Events

The sequence of events is the scaffold where the narrative starts to come together.
On a blank page I write paragraphs that describe what is happening and basic dialogue. I then separate the story beats and breaks with arrows. The SOE is kind of like a story mind-map.

So an example of would be..

       ‘Protagonist wakes up in sewer with no legs. Pushes character b off of her(startled) and talks to him. Character b explains his intentions and background(limited). Protagonist has flashback to falling into sewer.


  Protagonist finds driftwood and shoves them into her leg holes, creating prosthetic shins. Crawls out sewer grate into bare concrete trench. City can be seen in distance.



I find the sequence of events to be particularly useful in establishing early problems and holes within your story which is indispensable.


3. Script

The script is where you start fleshing out your dialogue and the concepts that the characters and their interactions will construct. I’ve found that using the same script format as screenplay scripts works best for me. So under your character names the text will be dialogue, then other lines will be descriptions of actions and what is going on in the scene. You can find a script format tutorials everywhere including here.

Writing and formatting your script in a word processor is a pain in the ass so I’ve found that using a screenwriting program like ‘Final Draft‘ to be much better. After a few hours of use the program becomes second nature and makes writing out a script easy and quick.

I tend to write several drafts of the script over several weeks. I’m new to writing for character so I find convincing and ‘natural’ dialogue particularly challenging. After I write my first draft and wait a few days, I’ll go back and view the work with fresh eyes. I often find much of what i had written previously to be… pretty shit, but that’s ok because you can use previous dialogue and work on it to make it better, more complex and more natural.


4. First Visual Draft

The first visual draft is comprised of a series of small boxes representing pages, and stick figures in the boxes representing characters with primitive surroundings. The idea is that you can quickly sketch out what you visual want each panel to look like and not worry about the quality of your drawings.

This is only meant to be seen by you so don’t be ashamed by the quality of your drawing. As long as you can understand what is depicted then your drawing is good enough. It’s about getting the vision out of your head and onto paper to be worked on later.

I recommend numbering your ‘pages’ as it can get a bit confusing after a while.


5. Second Visual Draft

If I was working by myself I would skip this step and go on to step 6. to save time, but my friend Oscar C is illustrating the final work so I’ve created a second visual draft to convey my ideas to him.

The second visual draft should be a representation of the final work. The comic zine I’m working on will be an A5 sized booklet so all pages in this draft are that size. I draw on both sides of each page so when I bind them it will look like the finished book, and you can flick through and see any weaknesses it might have.

The pages and drawing will take longer than the first draft because you the drawing need to make sense to someone else. In this stage you will also likely change pages and panels because you will realize other things work better. This is good, don’t be afraid to change from your first draft.


When all the pages are complete you can bind them with a bull clip to keep it all together. You now have the entire comic in draft form!



The next 3 parts(final panels, editing + digitization, self publishing) will be in the part 2 of this tutorial.

I just bought a book called ‘Making Comics’ by Scott McCloud. I can’t recommend it because I haven’t read it yet, but it stood out from all the other ‘how to make comics’ books I could find. Instead of teaching you how to imitate the style of other comics etc., it concentrates on how to construct a good story, effective panel layout, what to show and what not to show in those panels and stuff like that, which is exactly what I need. It also seems that master storyteller Neil Gaiman recommends it so it’s definitely worth a look. I’m hoping it will improve my comic writing abilities.


– Hamish S.

Solo Feature Animation – Heart String Marionette by M Dot Strange

M Dot Strange is a solo feature film animator and ‘Uberector’ from San Jose, California. What is a solo feature film animator, or Uberector I hear you ask? Well it’s someone who through wielding a gigantic amount of willpower and determination, has completed a feature length animation, mostly if not completely by themselves. An Uberector is pretty much the embodiment of Auteur theory and D.I.Y or Die mentality. M Dot is such a man and he does it well.

Heart String Marionette is the second feature animation from M Dot Strange, his first being We Are The Strange. Heart String Marionette or HSM is a tale about a samurai, a child and a prostitute who quest to defeat an evil warlord and his minions who are devastating the world. On the surface the narrative of HSM is a relatively simple tale of revenge and Good fighting against evil, but on closer inspection the story is thick with subtext about rampant capitalism and commercialisation, sexual abuse, resisting corrupt governments and corporations, and navigating the current world as a creative, artist and individual.

The art in HSM is mindblowing. M Dot Strange creates a world that is as tangible as it is surreal. The characters and monsters have a childlike simplicity to them, as they all represent puppets and marionettes. The atmosphere of HSM is thick, dark and foreboding.  The score to HSM by composer Endika was heartfelt and amazing, however i feel it was a little overused as it covers the majority of screen time without break. This has the effect of making HSM seem more like an opera than a film. I’m not sure if this is something I liked or detested. I feel that the lack of diegetic and atmospheric sound in HSM took me out of the space that was created and I felt like the world was less of a place I could inhabit and explore, which is something I value in animation. It also made HSM into a sort of weird Noe theatre puppet show which I enjoyed.

The only other criticism I have of HSM is the way females were portrayed, which could be construed as misogynistic. From reading and watching M Dots work(especially the strong anti-misogynist message throughout We Are The Strange) I know this is not the case, however it troubled me non-the-less.

Heart String Marionette is an odd and highly personal work from one of the best and most innovative artists and filmmakers today. I definitely recommend getting a copy and supporting M Dot Strange, just don’t watch it with your mum.

You can buy the digital version of Heart String Marionette HERE for $5 which is totally worth it.

You can read about more M Dot Strange madness on his blog HERE where he talks about being a rad filmmaker.