DISTRIBUTION AND EXHIBITION
TESTING ASPECT RATIOS
A reader messaged in and reminded me of this great video of Terry Gilliam in his younger days, showing how to make a cut-out animation. His enthusiasm is really contagious. What a dude!
Continuing from Part 1.
You’ll likely face derision, disapproval, opposition or even disbelief when you tell people you plan to create a feature animation by yourself. I guess a key question to ask yourself when facing this kind of response is, “Why is this their response? What is going on with them to form these opinions?”.
There are many reason that the regular person might disapprove of you or what you’re doing. Perhaps they don’t value the arts, or maybe they’re a family member who thinks your time is better spent becoming a breeder or earning money for your family. There are many many reasons why someone who doesn’t have similar values may disapprove and you’ll learn pretty quickly to ignore or reject these opinions as they don’t really have firm basis. They can’t know really know anything about your goals/ambitions, what you really want to achieve or how you want to live your life. As you’ve probably already found out the best bet is to ignore them, live your life how you want to and do it for yourself.
Disapproval from regular people is understandable as it’s expected and could be from a long list of reasons, but why would another animator or ‘creative’ try and dissuade you from trying your hardest and fulfilling your dreams as a filmmaker? One reason is that not all animators or ‘creatives’ are the same, or have even remotely the same values. To be an ‘animator’ you need to animate, that is all. It’s a term that covers from people who work for a company whose sole job making hair move in commercials, to people who want to craft their own films and stories with synthetic moving image. I use animation to create films and narratives that resonate with me, another animator might be perfectly content working as a cog in a studio system modelling rocks. We both do very different things even if we use similar tools. You shouldn’t expect other animators to really understand just because they’re an animator. Perhaps something I should consider is not labeling myself as an animator, even though I do animate. Perhaps filmmaker would be a better description of me even though I am a fan and addict of good animation.
Another thing that will really help you on your journey as a filmmaker is to take advice with a grain of salt unless the person giving it is where you want to be. After all how could your brother know the first thing achieving your goals as a filmmaker if he never did? How could a friend know the best way to become a great filmmaker if all they’ve ever done is motion-graphics for advertising? The only answer is that they can’t really know and their advice is likely more harm than good. Perhaps they are genuinely trying to help you or perhaps they are subconsciously trying to sabotage you, their intentions don’t matter either way if the advice they give comes from a bad source. I’m not saying you should dismiss all advice altogether unless it comes from your favorite filmmaker, but be hypercritical of it if it’s from someone who probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
You’ll have to take a lot of shit from people if you follow your dreams, especially if your goals are ambitious or push boundaries. That’s ok! You can’t appease these people and you wouldn’t want to. One thing I find really useful is to channel people’s challenges, doubts and disapproval of me into motivation. If someone says “I don’t think your film will be any good. One person can’t do all that!”, I’ll use it to feed the fire in my belly and think “Just you wait motherfucker! I’m going to make a great film!” and it’ll allow me to work even harder. Don’t let the haters make you doubt yourself, and don’t let people (even if they have good intentions) sway you from your path. You’ve got a fire in your belly making you push forward, don’t let them put a dampener on it.
M Dot Strange is one of the foremost advocates for creating your own animated feature. After making 3 solo feature animations he’s got a wealth of knowledge on how to do it, and he’s also got really valuable ideas on personal auteur cinema and storytelling.
M Dot has a new feature ‘I am Nightmare’ that has just been released and he’s selling it here for real cheap. I’ll be reviewing it as soon as I’ve got the money to get a copy.
For now though check out this 30min presentation where he talks about how to create your own CGI feature and goes through his production pipeline. It’s a really interesting watch and invaluable if you want to follow a similar path.
I made a multiplane camera overview/tutorial for anyone interested in handmade 2D cell/cutout animation.
Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere with my art. Actually I feel this way pretty often, even when I’m working hard at it.
I think I feel this way for a couple of reasons. One being that I constantly see other people’s good work being recognized, and I guess it looks like they do it easily if you’re on the outside looking in. Even though I really know they put in the super hard work to get there, I can’t help but think “why haven’t I done something as good as that yet?” or “i should have made twice as many works as I have by now”.
I also know that IF and when I do start getting more recognition or attention for things I do, it’ll still feel the same way. It’s just an illusion… one of the many headfucks that comes with taking your creativity seriously. It’s like everyone is looking at everyone else and saying “fuck, these dudes really have their shit together”.
In saying that, I have slowly learnt a few lessons on how to produce better work, and more of it.
Two Different Types of Work and How You Should Prioritise Them
When people tell me I work hard, I really know that I could be working twice as hard and still enjoying it. Sure, I’m starting to put in the hours. I try to work at least 8 hours a day or more on my art If I can, with one day off a week. But am I utilizing these hours to the full extent? Fuck no!
One big realisation I’ve come to recently is that when it comes to your art, there are broadly TWO types of work you must do. The first is your primary work which consists of creating NEW projects, artworks and pushing your artwork forward. The second is the auxiliary work, or the support work. This includes stuff like writing emails to people, networking, documenting your work, or even writing posts on your personal blog like I’m doing now.
I used to not see the distinction between the two different types of work and treat their priority equally, so they’d all end up in a jumble on my daily ‘to do’ list. But now I realize to make great work you have to actually spend all the time you were spending on everything and use it on your PRIMARY work. Then you’ve got to put in extra hours for the auxiliary stuff because that needs to get done too.
So this means that when I do 8 hours of work in a day, I do 8 hours on my most important primary tasks. Then once I’ve finished that in a day, I can go to the secondary stuff and complete that too before I finish. It seems really simple but somehow it’s something I’ve never realized :s
Here’s an example of my ‘to do’ list for today. The primary tasks are grouped up top and the auxiliary down the bottom. I also find it helps to number the priority of each primary task so you do all the important ones first and don’t leave them til last.
Figure Out Your Sleep/Work Pattern that Suits You
Everyone is different and everyone works better at different time of the day. I used to stay up heaps late under the excuse of ‘getting work done’ but I’d just end up watching movies or hanging with friends. Back when i was a teenager, working late seemed to really work for me and I’d get lots done in the shed in the early hours of the morning. But now I find that living in a sharehouse in the inner city there are too many distractions late at night so the chances of not finishing my work became greater.
I’ve recently figured out that if I get up at 9am and start work at 10am I get much more done and am less distracted by things going on around me, therefore much more likely to get work done. Now I tend to finish work at around 6-8pm and can keep going if I’m having a good time, or just finish for the day and watch a movie or spend some time being social.
Now this pattern is not for everyone. For instance I know M Dot Strange stays up working all night and sleeps during the day and that guy is a machine!
Once you figure out a good routine that works for you you will be able to be more disciplined and get sooo much more work done + become a badass like snake plissken!
This last week I’ve been creating the scenes and characters for this cut-out stop-motion animation I’m working on. While it’s fun working on a handmade project, I can’t wait to get back into CGI and digital animation, so I’m really pushing to finish this within the next 6 weeks.
The main material I’ve been using to create these cut-out scenes and characters, is this black matte foil called ‘black wrap’ which is used to block out set lights or make gobos with. You can get it from most lighting stores but it’s not that cheap, so i’ve really been trying to use every last scrap to keep costs down.
The reason I’m using this instead of paper is that it’s more durable, heavier and gives cleaner lines then paper. I originally wanted to get some sort of soft black metal like Lotte Reiniger does in this video, but I couldn’t get my hands on the black lead she used… and i’m not sure how safe it is to use anyway. In my opinion, your health is one of the few things as important as your art so I might stay away from the lead.
I tend cut out the scenes the characters are in first so I don’t mess up the scale too much (like having a giant person in a small car etc.). I sketch out the characters in my journal and figure out their seperate parts, and what layer of glass they will go on on the multiplane bench, so I know what layers overlap other layers in a joint. Then I draw the characters onto the black wrap which takes pencil pretty well, and then I cut out the seperate parts with an x-acto knife. I’ve been told that small sharp nails scissors might be better for this though.
I think I’m just going to use small dots of blue-tack to keep the joints together, however I haven’t tested this to see if it works as well as I hope so that might change.
I’m also not sure how I’m going to paint the cut-outs, or if I even will. This animation was originally meant to be a silhouette animation but I’m drifting more and more away from that into coloured cut-out with maybe a couple of silhouettes.
And here’s my 3 legged cat giving me animation support.
There’ll be more to come soon!