‘OwnerBuilt’ by Lawrence Andrews

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the people of New Orleans slowly began to rebuild homes and lives while trying to process what their community had endured. Lawrence Andrews presents the theatrical retellings of related events by a local man referred to as ‘Noel’. The retelling of his memories are further influenced by the tragic police shooting of unarmed civilians who were crossing the Danziger Bridge six days after the hurricane. This incident left two people dead and four seriously injured. Noel draws upon his personal archive of sound recordings and photographs to prompt a performance of his own narrative, interwoven with those of his community and the bridge victims.

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Initially produced in 2008 as an audio essay, ‘OwnerBuilt’ was redeveloped and released this year as an ‘Animated Performance Documentary’. Andrews appears as a character throughout the 49-minute sequence; narrating, contributing editorial notes and analysing the authenticity of Noel’s accounts. Andrews’ dialogue with Noel becomes integral, his presence noticeably influencing the process of documentation. A misunderstanding concerning Noel’s neighbours sparks an account of their plight along with a strange instance where Andrews witnesses Noel talking about him to the neighbour.

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Andrews is overtly self-aware as a filmmaker. He anchors the film in the context of a post-documentary age. The audience is handed frequent reminders that we are watching a set of illusions. For instance Andrews declares that Noel’s son is responsible for the sound of a cello being practiced. “Well actually it’s my son, his played sax,” the director declares immediately afterwards.

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Sound seems much more integral to this film than visuals. Not only is the sequence entirely dependent on spoken word, the sound design is speckled with effects and textures which construct images in the absence of visual stimuli.  While most animated documentaries attempt to augment a narration by visualising the subject matter, Andrews renders himself and Noel on a darkened stage with harsh spotlights.

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In step with the film’s non-linear structure, surreal aesthetic and confronting subject matter, the characters move with an uncanny jitter. While the lip-synching is often so slight it is barely noticeable, the speakers ceaselessly gesticulate. Their shifting bodies and stiff waving hands swing more vigorously than implied by tone of voice while maintaining rough correlation with emphasis. Lawrence Andrews seems to revel in the artificiality of the medium he has chosen. On occasion characters walk through each other, merging their digital flesh.  While describing the approach of the storm a flock of audience seats spin and float in the auditorium like particles in a snow globe.

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Noel’s speeches are almost lyrical; to me this implies an extraordinary aptitude for improvised speech or the possibility of rehearsal or scripting. Andrews addresses the theatrical nature of Noel’s performance in the blurb provided with the Vimeo link: “Presenting the work in what may be deemed a theatrical form has the potential to de-legitimize and thwart its claims for documentary status, but this is a tension I hope the project explores.”

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Lawrence Andrews’ Vimeo notes offer good insight; despite using the barely digestible rhetoric of academic arts, the associate professor of film and digital media at The University of California, Santa Cruz, explains thoroughly his intentions, raises questions for further exploration and indicates the contextual framework for his practice.

Samantha Moore brought this film to our attention. Moore is a director of animated documentaries whose work has been discussed a number of times on this blog.

‘Rock Stories as told by Matt Pinfield: Arresting Nirvana’ by Jess Iglehart

Jess Iglehart evokes the saturated vibrancy and graphic language of early nineties television to aid in the illustration of this rock and roll anecdote.

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Matt Pinfield, the MTV host, recalls an encounter with a sheriff of Aberdeen, a small town in Washington State. Pinfield recounts the cop explaining a claim to fame by digging out a mug shot of two of the members of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, who were arrested in the town as teenagers for doing graffiti.

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Pinfield’s resonant voice and enthusiasm for music mythology is infectious. This story, despite appearing a little frivolous, holds great currency in the sphere of popular culture. Most significantly we are offered a glimpse into Kurt Cobain’s youth, nine years before the tragic figure ended his own life. Pinfield and Iglehart expose a more naïve time for the bandmates; a time of boyish misdemeanours and rude illustrations.

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Jess Iglehart echoes the counter culture tone of Nirvana’s music with a playful mocking of the authority figures in the story; throbbing donuts are depicted behind the sheriff as he talks, and Iglehart implies that the cops had nothing better to do in the small town than paint their nails. While I am sure Iglehart had no intention for this film to be recognised as an objective document, there are clear prejudices in the material. Although these comments on the police are valuable for their humour, they are also transparent in their exaggeration and distort the viewer’s experience of Pinfield’s account.

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The animation’s colour palette creates a great sense of nostalgia. This is further augmented by the simulated effect of a VHS tape being fast-forwarded and Iglehart’s decision to adopt the font used in the band’s logo for the place names on the map of Washington State.

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Commissioned by MTV, this short is one of a series based on Matt Pinfield’s Rock Stories.  Jess Iglehart is a Los Angeles based animator & illustrator currently in his fourth year at Cal Arts in the Experimental Animation programme.

‘The History of Typography’ by Ben Barrett-Forrest

Ben Barrett-Forrest has constructed a charming introduction to the field of typography. This topic, which over the years has enthralled a certain type of graphic designer, has also left the rest of us puzzled as to what all the fuss was about.

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Forrest’s short educational film provides a carefully measured level of insight; not so much detail that a newcomer to the field feels overwhelmed but enough substance to make them appreciate they are learning something.

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As Ben is the only name credited in the film it is fairly safe to assume this was a solo experience. Whilst the cut out paper technique employed is engaging in its simplicity, the addition of pixillated hands certainly must have complicated the production process. The result being the film exists just beyond what one could imagine achieving single-handed.

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‘The History of Typography’ has functioned as a promotional tool for Forrest Media, Ben Barrett-Forrest’s graphic design practice. The animation has received over 500 000 views on Youtube and a further 74 000 on Vimeo, as well as being featured on mainstream North American online media. It is rewarding to see how independent animation can function as a vehicle to generate business in this way.

Call for applications to DOK Leipzig’s Net Lab

“An inspirational conference lab on the current trends of new media providing access to new information, intense networking and individual support for transmedia projects linked to documentary or animation.

Friday & Saturday, 1 & 2 November 2013

The DOK Leipzig Net Lab 2013 is a two part conference lab open for transmedia creatives, thinkers and makers. It offers intense individual support for your cross-media project, with an in-depth look at interactive storytelling and media architecture.

Film-makers, media professionals and transmedia creatives are invited to apply with their multi-platform projects linked to documentary and/or animated film. Up to eight projects will be selected from all applications and the head producer and two team members are invited to participate.

Deadline for project entries: AUGUST 18, 2013

Filmmakers, media professionals and transmedia enthusiasts without a project are also welcome to attend. Please apply till: SEPTEMBER 18, 2013.

We offer participants with and without projects new insights and inspirations on transmedia storytelling and production and provide a platform to exchange, network and join forces with experienced colleagues and media professionals.

Costs:
Participation fee with project (day 1 and 2): 250 € per project incl. 7% VAT and one festival accreditation amounting to 80 €.

Participantion fee without project (day 1): 120 € per person incl. 7% VAT and one festival accreditation amounting to 80 €.”

More info at: http://www.dok-leipzig.de/industry-training/training/dok-leipzig-net-lab

‘Animated Documentary’ – a book by Annabelle Honess Roe

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The long awaited book on animated documentary by Bella Honess Roe is now available to buy!  We have our copies on order and will post a review in the future.

You can get a copy in the UK from this site http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=581517 and if you visit Bella’s blog you can get a code for a 50% discount!

http://bellahonessroe.wordpress.com/

“Animated documentary …. there’s no such thing!” by Scotti Rothschild

When writing about a subject such as animated documentary it is a rare treat to come across a film that advocates, exemplifies and examines your field so directly. nst1

Set to the rhythm of beat poetry, Scotti Rothschild has written and directed a short film studies class, designed to counter an assertion proposed by a stranger. This animated short is dedicated to ‘…THAT live-action filmmaker who said that there was no such thing as animated documentary.’

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Reference is made to ‘Nanook of the North’, considered to be the first feature length documentary. The director of this 1922 film, Robert J. Flaherty, received criticism for staging several sequences. Despite this the documentary’s influence is internationally and historically recognised.  Rothschild argues the illusions of cinema are present in all on screen representations. It is therefore meaningless to disregard the more obvious methods of representation found in animation when comparing them to the hidden techniques used in live action documentary. In the words of the narrator: ‘Truth isn’t guaranteed by style or expression…. what matters is content and reasoning.’

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I am a great fan of meta-film making; this is where the processes of production are addressed so disrupting the illusion of cinema. Such work often evokes a sense of circular logic and metaphoric symmetry. In this case we are watching a documentary about methods of making documentaries. In order to hammer home her point, Rothschild states triumphantly before the credits that  ‘You have been watching a documentary’.

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I was puzzled that the Vimeo title includes the phrase ‘work in progress’ as the film appears finished. My whimsical mind hopes this statement references the growing field of animated documentary, implying that it is a fertile ground for filmic exploration. However it is more likely the video file may soon be updated with a few minor changes.

This is a student film, produced at the National Film School, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology in County Dublin.

‘Dole Animators’ Trailer

Dole Animators is a group of benefit claimants based in the UK who are working together to make an animated documentary about the reality of the impact of the governments recent welfare reform.

The final film will use a mixture of stopmotion and collage animation.

Animateddocumentary.com’s Ellie Land is working with the group in partnership with Ruth Patrick, a researcher from Leeds University.

The final film will be released in Autumn 2013, you can watch the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fTsXDVHYOBw

‘BBC Knowledge Explainer DNA’ by Territory Studio

BBC Knowledge & Learning commissioned Territory Studio to create an animated explanation of the structures, processes and purposes of DNA.  The result is an exquisitely mesmeric graphic exploration of the mysterious structure.

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With only three minutes to work with, and an incredibly rich topic to explore, the challenge for this film was to gage the appropriate level of information to cram in. A less well-crafted film could have resulted in the sequence becoming indecipherably dense, or worse not informative enough to have any value. The producer, Sam Hart, and creative director, David Sheldon-Hicks have overseen a project that is meticulous in its development and final outcome.

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For many of us the structure of DNA inspires memories of stale classrooms, stuffy teachers and lifeless textbook graphics. However the ‘Explainer DNA’ does not suffer from such negative associations. Rather than trying desperately to modernise this documentary Will Samuel, the art and animation director, develops the aesthetics of schoolbook biological imagery, revelling in its nostalgic triggers while snapping the sequence sharply into the 21st Century. When the pre digital print texture and colour pallet is applied to pristine motion and 3D modelling a retro feel is crafted.

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The attention to detail is extraordinary. When the human set of chromosomes are spread out in sequence each of them wave subtly as if held against a gentle current.  Details like this when combined with Room 24’s down played sound design make for a sumptuous audio-visual experience.

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Andrew S Walsh’s script, created in collaboration with the molecular biologist Dr. Matthew Adams, is impressive. When covering aspects of the topic that are common knowledge the subject still feels fresh. I feel this may be due to the authority with which the information is imparted. It was pleasing to see the gaps in our knowledge concerning Junk DNA and genetic modification being explored diligently. I must say however the ending is slightly abrupt.

Review of ‘The Congress’ trailer – a new film by Ari Folman, from Screenrant

Well, I was very pleased this morning to find this review, and eager to watch the brand new trailer for the latest animated feature from the director of award winning animated documentary – Waltz with Bashir – Ari Folman.

However the trailer has already been removed for copyright reasons! So if anyone out there knows of a link to the trailer still online, please do let us know. Otherwise we will re-blog when the trailer is re – released!

In the meantime here is a short review to whet your appetite:

http://screenrant.com/the-congress-trailer-2013-movie/

‘Acts of Terror’ by Fred Grace

Acts of Terror’ portrays the U.K Police force as an intimidating manifestation of growing state control. The 2005 Terrorism Act comes under scrutiny in this real life account of one woman’s careful navigation of the murky waters of police regulation and the U.K. legal system.

The film is commendable for the incredibly clear construction of its narrative. We are led through what must have been a complex set of legal procedures with a crisp sense of simplistic clarity. The animation follows, possibly less successfully, a similarly minimal motif. On occasion one is left with the feeling that a few extra frames were needed or wondering if the thuggery of police officers may have been better expressed than by giving them homogenised slanting closed eyes. However the court battle, where the style of an early 90’s close combat game is adopted, is where the writing, animation and sound design most successfully harmonise. This simple witty metaphor illustrates the ultimately futile struggle the protagonist felt in seeking justice.

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‘Acts of Terror’ is an engaging campaign-based animated documentary that is charming and informative. It left me with the great hope that if, one day I found myself in the specific circumstances of the protagonist armed with the knowledge this film imparts, thus allowing me to personally triumph over a police officer when exercising my civil right to film them.  I will just need to make sure there is no way they can suspect me of terrorism.

I first watched this film at the London Animation Club where the organiser, Martin Pickles, proudly stated the club’s role in connecting the film’s makers. Gemma Atkinson, Adam Ay and Fred Grace of Fat Rat Films gave a presentation at LAC proposing that an animator come on board. Following this they met Una Marzorati, who animated the entire film, and Tom Lowe who designed the soundtrack. Collaboration forums are exciting environments to observe and participate in. We wish the film-makers the best of success in spreading their message and hope for many more years of networking at the London Animation Club.