Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Going Green to help support VFX artists

We're going green in support of VFX Solidarity international, expressing our support for all the vfx artists and animators who helped to make Life of Pi an Oscar-winning success - and got rewarded with a P45.

On Sunday there was a demonstration in LA to help raise awareness of the highly competitive nature of the global visual effects business, and the precarious position of many of the digital artists who make films like Life of Pi possible. Without VFX artists, many films would look like the panel above - nothing more than a green screen.
Life of Pi has grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide, but many of the artists who made it happen have not been paid for the work that they did. Go green in support of your fellow artists!


Monday, February 25, 2013

A Piece of the Pi

Have you noticed a lot of green profile pics on facebook?  If you work in Visual Effects or have a friend who does, you might be seeing a lot of green on your feed.  Most of my readers here work in VFX/Animation, so you should know what I am talking about.

However, I was shocked at some of my own animation student's impression of "what is going on" in the VFX/Animation field they hope to enter as a career... so let me explain.

Life of Pi cost $120 million to make, its current gross is $600 million. Ang Lee and Claudio Miranda won Oscars last night for Best Director and Best Cinematographer.  Above is what their film looked like without the work of the hundreds of VFX artists whom neither man acknowledged or thanked.

THE GREEN BOX:  For all the Non-VFX, rising students and animation folk out there, the green square you are seeing on facebook is to show solidarity for the struggling VFX and animation community.  The snubs felt at the Oscars are the symptom of a very ill industry that is on the brink of imploding.  Without the hard work of VFX facilities and artists on films like the Oscar Winning "Life of Pi", modern films would be nothing but green or blue screens and guys in funny body suits jumping around. I will attempt to explain the complex events that have led up to the current plight of our industry.

THE PROTEST:  There was a VFX protest march at the Oscars yesterday afternoon - February 24th, 2013.  From Yahoo Movies: The protest was spurred on by... 
Scott Ross, who was a top manager of Industrial Light & Magic and a founder at Digital Domain, started the ball rolling with a tweet: "I had a dream, 500 VFX artists near the Dolby (Kodak) theater on Oscar day waving signs that say 'I Want a Piece of the Pi Too.'" Since then, the plan spread online, with protest organizers launching a Facebook page, and some investing in a banner that will be flown by a plane over the theater during the red-carpet ceremonies, reading "box office + bankrupt = visual effects"
Photo permission Jon Tojek 
Artists from VFX and animation carried signs up and down Hollywood and Vine to bring awareness to the issue.  The protest came out of frustration among the artists.  Contrary to what the rest of the world thinks, the artists working on movies are not rich. Artists receive no residuals, royalties or back-end bonuses from the award winning films they work on.  On a union movie set every person working on a film is covered.  They have a residuals, pension, health benefits, but not the post production artists.  Even puppeteers are SAG covered.  Thus, "If the work VFX/Animation/CG artists create is the main reason these movies are blockbusters, why don't they get a piece of the pi?"

Doing it for effects … a placard held by a protester from the visual effects industry at the 2013 Oscars. Photograph: Billy Brooks

PERCEPTION:  Perception is what this protest was all about.  It's not about punishing the VFX facilities, or the movie studios...  it's about letting the rest of the world know what is going on.  The KCRW Interview below reveals the perception of our industry.  The director - Pete Berg sums it up at 19:24 into the show - link below.

VFX Industry in Trouble: Won and Oscar Now What?

Director Pete Berg says, "The Business to be is ILM. (Industrial Light and Magic) That is who is making all the money."

Wowsie wow.  What a bunch of bunk.  This is why the artists protested. To set the record straight here.  More than 583$ million dollars for Life of Pi!  And, the artists who worked on it were let go without pay... huh?  What if I told Samuel L. Jackson he needs to take a serious pay cut to work on a movie?  What if I said, "Sam, we need you to take a 30% pay cut with no benefits, no residuals, and you need to work 16 hour days, move yourself and your family to another country with a higher cost of living and produce double the work your normally do in that time?"  What do you think ole Sam Jackson would say to that?  Would he still work on the movie?  Yet, the box office hits are the movies with more than 50% of the movie created entirely on a computer with animation and VFX.  Getting the picture now?

CULTURE:  Most VFX/Animation studios today are nothing more than sweatshops with hundreds of artists working an average of 12-16 hour days.  To make this crystal clear, the toughest run I worked in my career was 21 days (16 hour days) in a row.  I seriously thought I was going nuts towards the end of that run. I have friends who have worked 9 months without a day off.

It wasn't always like this, though. I have seen the decline in culture at the studios since 2000 as CG and VFX driven movies continued to make more and more money.  You would think if the movies are making more money, the folks involved would be too... right?  Nope, the complete opposite has been happening.  The last show I worked on was in 2011.  I have purposely only accepted work from home because the culture at the studios has become one I do not want to work in.

The schedules presented today are 1/4th of what I saw ten years ago.  A shot you would normally have 4-6 weeks to work on, is now bid at 4-6 days!!  It is insane!  No one leaves their desks.  Everyone is tense, trying to make the impossible, possible.  When I moved to LA in 2000, I was given benefits and sick days, permission to work out at the gym for free on lunch hours, 401k, and the animation facility even paid to move me and all of my belongings up from San Diego.  Today, you will not see that.  Today, your are lucky to have a job. It is a toxic, abusive working atmosphere.  Why would I stay in this field?

THE BUSINESS MODEL:  The VFX/Animation industry has a shaky business foundation on which to build a business model.

- very small profit margins
- no trade organizations to work towards raising those profit margins
- no unions to work on the artist's behalf
- subject to the whims of client, revisions and schedule changes
- no way to cover overhead in between show schedules

ENTER SUBSIDIES:  Government funded movie productions (up to 30% of the budget) pop up in London, Vancouver, India, Singapore, China, Australia and various other places around the world.  These VFX/Animation facilities find a way to pay for the overhead of keeping artists employed and the lights on, in between the schedules of each show, with this extra money in countries with lower costs than the US.

The US studio has no cash flow, everything that comes in goes right back out and now their competition has the upper hand with the extra money to float in between projects and lure cheap talent with the work.  I heard Scott Ross give a great analogy in an interview.  He said owning a VFX/Animation facility is like owning an airline.  You aren't making money unless the planes are in the air.  So, you fill the seats at any price.  He said VFX facilities are run the same.  Get the bid in low, so you can get the cash flow in to keep the place afloat.

Runaway production, overseas competition and government subsidies have forced domestic VFX houses to survive on less than 5% profit margins. Of the many studios I have worked at over the years, five have gone out of business or bankrupt:
Digital Domain,
Asylum FX,
Cinesite: Hollywood ,
Cafe FX,
and now Rhythm and Hues.

The company behind the Life of Pi's stunning visual effects, which made the movie possible, Rhythm & Hues went bankrupt as the film just passed the billion dollar mark in global ticket sales. The CG & VFX (visual effects) facilities that make the Hollywood blockbuster movies possible bid shows at a loss.  The Hollywood production companies walk away with profits.  Artists who dedicate their lives to their craft get the boot.

NOT JUST VFX:  The folks working in CG Animation for studios like Dreamworks, Disney, Pixar, BlueSky, etc. are feeling the push to create more profit too. See the breakdown below of recent closings of VFX and Animation Facilities.

From Reddit:

Digital Domain: September 11th, 2012 Closed Florida facility, laid off 350 employees

Pixomondo: February 24th, 2013 Closing Detroit & London Offices

Electronics Arts: February 21st, 2013 Extensive Layoffs

Rhythm and Hues: Feb. 16th, 2013 Bankruptcy, Layoffs 

Junction Point (Makers of Epic Mickey): Jan. 29th, 2013 Extensive Layoffs

Disney Interactive: Jan. 29th, 2013: 50 employees laid off

Sony: January 28th, 2013 Major layoffs 

Dreamworks:  Feb. 7th, 2013 Several hundred upcoming layoffs

Technicolor: Feb. 21st, 2013 Closing Facility 

THQ Jan. 23rd, 2013 Studio Closure, Massive Layoffs

Eurocom Dec. 23rd, 2012 


TO MY STUDENTS AND NON VFX/ANIM FRIENDS:  If something doesn't give soon, there might not be an industry for you to enter.  At least not one in the US and not one you would like to work in.

Although the green square on facebook makes reference to the behind the scenes of VFX, CG Feature Animation is suffering the same layoffs and outsourcing.  Artists at big studios working on intellectual properties fear losing their job.  Staff positions with benefits and sick days no longer exist.  Newbie animators with little to no experience are being hired and trained only to find a sink or swim attitude. If the newbie doesn't cut it in production, they are let go.  You get three weeks to prove you can work at the same level as a seasoned artist.  The race to the bottom is about to hit rock bottom.  The next few months, will reveal what is in store for the industry as a whole.

I could go on about this topic, but I think this a good time to stop, take a breath and see what happens next.  I will say this.  I love to animate.  I had fun when I first started in the business.  I won't return unless the biz model and culture changes, though.  I am hopeful there will be change.  Artists are not asking for much... live where they already have planted roots and/or own their house and not have to uproot their families to find work every 6 months, work a respectful 8 hour day, fair pay, benefits, health care, and the like.

In the meantime, here are some more articles on the subject.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

VFX Community Planning Protest During Oscars

From Hollywood Reporter:  A small plane with a banner that reads “Box Office + Bankrupt = Visual Effects” is scheduled to fly over the red carpet on Sunday.

The visual-effects community is planning a demonstration during Sunday's Academy Awards to force the film industry to focus on the economic problems threatening Hollywood's visual-effects houses.

Many in that VFX world argue that effects houses are struggling because of a business model that doesn't work, and they point to Rhythm & Hues Studios -- the VFX house behind the CG tiger in Oscar-nominated Life of Pi -- and the fact that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 13 as the latest evidence.

A small plane with a banner that reads "Box Office + Bankrupt = Visual Effects" will fly over the red carpet on Sunday, according to the demonstration's organizers.
PHOTOS: Oscars 2013: 16 Icons Come Together for THR's Oscar Issue

The plane will take off from Compton/Woodley Airport, where VFX pros will be gathered. A second group plans to assemble in the Hollywood & Vine area, near where celebrities and filmmakers will be arriving to walk the red carpet, in order to attract media attention.

Dave Rand, an artist at Rhythm & Hues, said the aim of the effort is “awareness. We are not disrespecting Life of Pi or Rhythm & Hues. We are trying to enlighten the studios that they are taking their racehorse and beating it to death.”

Some of the factors that are currently affecting the industry include intense competitive bidding that leads to companies taking on projects at low, fixed bids; globalization as government incentives and cheap labor abroad have created an uneven playing field; and tight profit margins (often 5 percent or less) that can be endangered if a project is canceled or delayed.

Organizers do not know how many artists will participate on Sunday, but according to Rand, the group will not be limited to those affected by the R&H bankruptcy.

Rhythm & Hues filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week and is aiming to quickly complete a sale of its assets. It has identified several parties who are interested in acquiring the company.

more here...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Disney Producer Don Hahn on How to Break into The Animation Industry

Don Hahn is an animated film Producer whose credits are almost a roll-call of the Second Golden Age of Animation. His films include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Beauty and The Beast, and The Lion King. He is currently producing the much-anticipated Maleficent, due out in 2014.

In an interview with FLIP animation blog he talked about his work as a producer, writer and director. We publish here an excerpt from the interview - his excellent advice to students on how to break into the animation business. 

Don: I meet so many people who want to break into the film business as animators, writer, directors or producers and want to know how. Here's a checklist:

  • Have strong work in your portfolio and clip reel, or strong writing samples.
  • Be yourself, know who you are and what you do best
  • Work harder than anyone else
  • Be relevant, make sure your skills are up to date
  • Send studios with your resume and follow up with a call
  • Find a mentor in the industry
  • Stay flexible, and be willing to move if you get an opportunity.
  • Get into the culture: it is easier to get hired if you live in LA or NYC or London and can intern or get an entry level job at the studio you want. It is hard to get hired if you live in Kansas and don't want to move.
  • Stay positive, stay persistent, stay in contact
  • Don't let the obstacles scare you away. Each studio has firewalls built up in order to keep the hobbyists and fan boys out. As a serious artist, it's part of the rights of passage to get beyond those firewalls with your talent and persistence. If they don't return your call, don't like your reel, can't talk to you unless you have an agent, or don't have anything for you, see these for what they are...obstacles to keep the amateurs out. If you want to be professional, you'll find a way to break past these with time and persistence.
In short: be better, be faster, be smarter, be stronger, work harder, work longer and there will be no stopping you!

3D Doodler Pen


3Doodler, the world's first 3D printing pen that will enable you to draw three-dimensional plastic objects and turn the world into your own canvas. Since the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, the project has raised more than $750,000, easily surpassing its original goal of $30,000. 

The standard $50 package, which includes the 3D pen and a bag of mixed colour plastic, will begin shipping to pre-order customers in September 2013.

Sick Little Monkeys

The story of the making of Ren and Stimpy is one of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.  The irresistible force was John Kricfalusi, a veteran animation artist who was disgusted with the quality of TV animation.  He was determined to push the art and humour closer to the Warner Bros. cartoons he admired, though with a decidedly personal twist.  The immovable object was the TV industry, specifically cable channel Nickelodeon.  Like all channels, it was dedicated to budget restraint, regular air dates, and bland content that wouldn't provoke attacks.  From the start, this relationship was a disaster in the making.  The surprise, though, is that it produced a hit show.

Thad Komorowski's book, Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren and Stimpy Story, exhaustively examines the behind-the-scenes goings on.  He starts with John K's career in Saturday morning cartoon factories and details his relationship with Ralph Bakshi.  Together they made The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, a sort of precursor to Ren and Stimpy.  Even before Ren and Stimpy, Kricfalusi was butting heads with broadcasters, as his experience on the short-lived Beany and Cecil revival shows.

For those not familiar with the history of Ren and Stimpy, it was one of Nickelodon's first three original animated series and the one that attracted the most attention.  There was no question that John K's sensibility was a success with audiences.  However, right from the start, the show developed schedule problems due to a mismatch between what the artists wanted to make and what Nickelodeon was willing to air. John K. was another factor delaying production, as he wasn't willing to approve things until they met his standard.  When the delays continued during the second season, Nickelodeon fired John K. and his studio.  Nickelodon created its own in-house studio to continue production and Ren and Stimpy lasted for another three seasons without John K.

While that might have been the end of the story, John K. was reunited with his characters when another cable channel, Spike TV, revived the series for an adult audience.  Unfortunately, Kricfalusi's insistence on meeting his vision at any cost doomed the revival.  While the order was for just six episodes, only two made their air dates and the last delivered a year late.  Spike lost interest in the show and didn't bother to play three of the episodes.

John K. is a controversial figure who divides artists and fans into those who support him and those who think that he is responsible for his own misfortunes.  Komorowski walks the middle ground, showing that all parties made mistakes and refused to consider the others' point of view, but he does not excuse Kricfalusi's behavior.  Komorowski talked to many artists who worked on the show and quotes many Nickelodeon executives on the problems they faced getting episodes on air.  While I don't doubt that people involved in the production could quibble with Komorowski's version of specific events, it strikes me that the book is even-handed in apportioning credit and blame.

Fans of the show will enjoy comparing their opinion of each episode to the author's and learning of material that was cut and censored.

If you are not a fan of the show, this book is still worth reading for the light it sheds on the workings of the TV animation business.  There is always tension between artists and business people over resources and content.  People working in TV animation and those with ambitions to create shows need to understand the pressures and the pitfalls that shape the business.   Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren and Stimpy Story is a cautionary tale about walking the fine line between artistic ambition and the reality of the marketplace.

iAnimate l Podcasts

If you haven't heard any by now or visited the site, well then head on over to the podcasts portion of the iAnimate site. They have just recently started on this podcast journey and already have a great mix of peeps that they have interviewed, ranging from Film to Games and even Traditional 2D.

So head on over and check it out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cast Off!

After 37 days, my cast (the last of four) is off.  There's a lot of work to do to regain flexibility and strength.  However, life is a little closer to normal now.

Coming soon: Reviews of Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren and Stimpy Story by Thad Komorowski and John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood by Michael D. Sellers.

Maya Taster Day

Our Maya Taster Day is fast approaching.  The idea is that those of you that have never tried Maya or indeed any 3D can get some hands on experience.  We'll have some exciting sessions ready for you, run by Alex and Dave.

We're really looking forward to meeting you and hopefully seeing some of you who've already attended our interviews.

 In the morning there will be a chance to meet Stephen Partridge who runs our Production Department.  He'll be talking about what are colleagues are up to in Film and TV and Audio and Music Production.  These are courses that our students collaborate with.  At the moment, we are working with the TV students on a virtual set to be used to host Watford Football Club post match  interviews (more on that soon!)

From 10.00 - 1.00 Alex and I will be running sessions in Maya to let you experience the type of classes we run and let you try working in Maya.  For some of you who are applying and don't have 3D experience this is a great opportunity to make sure you are going to enjoy the course.

After lunch, we'll be running student's films so you can see some current work.  If you'd like to know more, don't hesitate to contact Alex or myself.

If you would like to book a place, please email alex at


Alex York To Visit Bucks

Architectural Visualisation by Alex York

I've just been on the phone to Alex York who created this amazing architectural visualisation of this luxury home.  Watch the video and see what you think

We are hoping Alex will be coming to meet our students in March.   Alex is one of the top visualisers in London and has worked on some very prestigious jobs. He'll be sharing his view of the industry and giving our students some top tips on how to improve their work.

Our animation course will allow you to develop a really strong CG skill set and design visualisation is one possible area you might work in.  It's also an area that's becoming much more creative and cinematic in its approach. is a very good example of this move to more imaginative presentation.

Joseph Kosinski, is fascinating in the way he brings a knowledge of architecture and 3D visualisation together in his direction of Tron Legacy. Visualisation is indeed an exciting medium to work in.


Tron Legacy

Meet The Pro's - film-maker and animator Zac Ella to visit Bucks on Thursday 21st February

Video work by Zac Ella
Zac Ella, film-maker and animator, is coming to Bucks on Thursday 21st February. He is the guest of Mark Hudson, Course Leader at Bucks in Graphic Arts, who has very kindly offered to make space for some animators to attend the lecture and workshop.

Zac is a film-maker and animator who attended Leeds College of Art and Design "to chase his dreams of drawing naked people". Since then he has pursued a career in film and video.

Lectures like this are a vital way to find out what kind of skills and expertise are needed to carve out a successful and rewarding career in industry.

Anyone who would like to attend, let me or Mark know.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Monsters University

The Animator's Survival Kit meets the iPad

I don't have an iPad, and I don't know what you call a book released for use on it. Is it an iBook? an eBook? An iBook App? An e-iBook? Whatever the name, the iPad seems the perfect platform for a digital version of The Animator's Survival Kit, now the standard industry textbook for aspiring animators.

Dad will be 80 on March 19th, and this new digital update of the ASK, published by Faber and Faber, will be released around then. The app (or whatever it's called) will contain the complete Expanded Edition of the best-selling Survival Kit, optimised for the iPad, along with over 100 animated examples taken from the Survival Kit DVD box set.

Also included will be a previously unreleased 9-minute animation, Circus Drawings, 50 years in the making, plus a bunch of other new material. The animated examples will be viewable frame-by-frame and ‘onion-skinning’ functionality means you can flip it - just like real animation!

I am sure it will be awesome. The original book was wonderful but, being a book - didn't include any actual animation. The DVD boxed set, by contrast, is full of animation but is too expensive for most students, and lacks the ease of reference of a book.

So the iPad must surely be the perfect platform - all the functionality of a book, but with video as well, plus clips to explain the process. What animation student wouldn't want it?  I know I do.

...which means I'll finally have to get myself an iPad.


Friday, February 15, 2013

When I Grow Up


Smoke Seller

...not the best animation I ever saw, but pretty smoke, 
nice char designs and cute story!

Our New Animation Logo!

Many thanks to Bucks student Monika Dzikowicz for our new Animation Logo. We want to showcase the very best work being done here at Bucks. Modelling, Concept Art, Texturing, Lighting, Animation - and Motion Capture. We believe that the very best job security a graduate can have is to develop a wide range of skills that will keep you employed over the course of a long and satisfying career in the digital arts.

You can check out Monika's work at her blog here, which by the way is an excellent example of the kind of blog every student should have - a showcase for your work, creating an online space where you can upload your latest artwork, animation and digital design.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carls Jr. Robot


Open Day on 20th February - Come and Visit!

Don't forget our next open day at Bucks New University is on Wednesday 20 February 2013 from 11am to 4pm, at our High Wycombe campus. Full details here:

Come and meet me, Alex Williams, and the other course tutors - Dave Creighton and Nick Brown. We'll tell you all about the new course here at Bucks and why we're trying to create the best animation and visual effects course in the country.

You can also look around our state-of-the-art media building where we teach not just animation but music, sound design, green screen, live action film-making and dance. We're hoping to add motion capture to that list in the near future.

One of the best things about studying animation at Bucks will be the opportunity to work with other film-makers and artists in different departments. Film-making is a collaborative art form and we want all our students to share their skills and work together as a team - just like in the real world.

Our presentation on the new Animation & VFX Course will be at 2pm

--- Alex

New Rig: Günter

Günter is a brand new rig created by Long Winter Studios. This rig is super Animator Friendly and really appealing! I was able to play around with him and started doing a test...tons of fun! He has simple and clear controls to help you get the best out of your animations. He is being offered directly on the Long Winter Studios site and over on Creative Crash. I've used a facial setup up very similar in feature film and really fell in love with it. While this Facial setup is totally custom, it really brings the quality of the rig to a high level and with only help in animators communicating their ideas clearly and will great appeal. Check out the quick AnimTest and the Facial Demo below.

Gunter Animation Reel from Long Winter Studios on Vimeo.

Gunter Rig Reel from Long Winter Studios on Vimeo.

This rig has more than enough to create anything from the most cartoony animation to the most sobering. I particularly am digging the easy Sliders on the face that help you get your mouth shapes quickly and easily.

 Günter's features include:
-Advanced IK Spine
-Ik/Fk Switching on arms/legs (locational snapping)
-Ik/Fk fingers
-Arm/Leg benders
-Stretchy everything!
-Lip Seal
-Eye Scalers
-Hand/Leg Scalers
-Squash and stretch on all major facial features
-Eye lids follow eyes slider

and tons of other great features!

Have a look and head on over to get it!

some links:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

R&H Hoping for Fast Exit from Bankruptcy

Article from Variety...

The visual effects industry woke up Monday morning to news it had been dreading: One of the biz's most admired companies, Rhythm & Hues, had been forced into bankruptcy. In a single week, R&H's big release for 2012, "Life of Pi," had won four Visual Effects Society Awards, including the org's equivalent of best picture and won the BAFTA for visual effects, while the company was set to file for Chapter 11 reorganization in Los Angeles.

Prime Focus, the India-based visual effects and 3D conversion company, had hoped to buy Rhythm & Hues, and negotiations were under way through last week. However, Prime Focus was unable to assemble the necessary financing, and its proposed deal to acquire R&H fell through. On Sunday, even as the BAFTAs were being handed out in London, R&H began calling its employees and clients to inform them of the move.

Unconfirmed reports of the Chapter 11 filing appeared on the VFX Soldier blog around 10 p.m. Sunday night, and Variety was able to confirm them about 90 minutes later. Company has branches in Vancouver, Taiwan, Malaysia and two in India. The bankruptcy filing will be made in Los Angeles. more

Motion Capture, Animation and Sports

Bucks Motion Capture Animators hard at work
Here at Bucks we're excited by the huge possibilities for animators to work with other departments, such as graphic design, drama, dance and sound design. In short, collaborations with other film-makers, to create truly excellent projects.

One department that makes heavy use of Motion Capture Technology is Sports, who use MoCap to carry out detailed performance analysis on athletes, gathering data on biomechanical motion which can be used to make better players and performers.

According to Sports Lecturer Ed Burt, players recall "30-40%" of what went on in a match. Performance analysis helps to fill in the gaps and give detailed feedback to athletes on where they went right, and also wrong.

There's an obvious tie-in for animators here, not just for personal film projects but also linking in to the work being done in Steve Partridge's department, carrying out live broadcasts for local sports teams, creating graphics, idents and animation.

All animators are film-makers and, like any film-maker, collaborating with other talented people is a great way to raise our game and do better work.


You can also read about our recent visit to Centroid, one of the UK's leading Motion Capture Facilities, here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

USC DADA Student Spotlight - Ashley Armstrong

She only needs 800$ - help a fellow animator out!

Ashley is one of my students at USC - Division of Animation and Digital Arts.  She is working on her undergrad thesis film and is trying to get the cash together to hire some people to help.

About the Project Swan Song is the senior film of Ashley Armstrong, an Animation and Digital Arts Student at the University of Southern California. Ashley has had a passion for animation since she was a child, beginning with the first animated film she ever saw: 101 Dalmatians. As she grew up she recreated those worlds and stories with toys and eventually created her own worlds through collaborative comics with her sister.

Now she attends USC and aims to be a story artist for feature animation. Swan Song is the story of a frustrated composer who is lured by a haunting melody and crosses paths with an injured swan maiden. With her as his muse he finds inspiration to write music again. Contributions to this project with help elevate the quality of art, animation, and music of the film. Several talented artists and animators are all ready working on this magical film.

Contributions to this project will aid in compensating them for their time and efforts. Additionally, with your aid a live orchestra will be hired to perform the film's score for recording. If you can please help support this project. Even if you can not contribute yourself, please help get the word out.

Rocks in My Pockets


Latvian born, Brooklyn based Signe Baumane is a truly independent animator who has extensive experience addressing controversial subjects in her work, from horrors at a dentist's office, to a woman's point of view on sex, to depression, which, according to Signe, is not necessarily  a grim subject.

"Rocks In My Pockets", Signe's first animated feature, is a funny film about depression. The story is based on true events involving the women of her family (including herself) and their surrender to madness. Only Signe lives to tell her tale.

The film combines stop motion backgrounds with hand drawn animated characters and it is scheduled to be completed in April.

Why depression and how can it be funny? 
"I am not immune to depression", Signe says. "But being an animator helps me fend the monsters off with laughter. I see most serious things
as absurd, surreal and funny."

Why Kickstarter? 
"For the last 3 years I have either been working by myself, or with a very small team. There is a sense of isolation, and remoteness. I don't even know if people remember me and my "Teat Beat of Sex" that screened at Sundance 2008, or "Birth" from Berlinale 2009, as well as hundreds of other festivals. I haven't attended festivals since 2010 when we started "Rocks In My Pockets". I haven't even seen many of my friends in the last 3 years. 
With the Kickstarter campaign we are trying to reach two goals: first, to raise funds for sound design, music and post production, and second, to finally get back to life, open the studio doors to visitors, let the light in and make sure everybody comes to see the baby."

What are your plans for distribution? 
"It is not clear to me how a distributor from the outside can take over my very personal film and speak for it. 

Also, the landscape of indie film distribution is changing really fast. Every day something new happens that shakes things up. 

It looks like the DIY model is the way to go for independent filmmakers, to keep some control over where the film will be screened and have a modest income from the shows, be that VOD or screenings in theaters.

This is the time when fundraising and distribution are almost perfectly aligned. Crowd Funding is a new way of establishing a connection between a film and its audience. It not just about funding. It is about relationships.  Kickstarter enables an audience to chose which project to support. Through Facebook and Twitter creators build and engage with their audiences, extending the conversation beyond film screenings. There is a direct line of communication between filmmaker and audience. This is an age of dialogue."

Adam and Dog (2011) - Final Backgrounds

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