Panel discussion: Autobiography

We’re super-excited to share details of our upcoming panel discussion with three film-makers working with autobiography, in partnership with Animate Projects and British Council:

Our next Animation Salon is programmed by Alys Scott-Hawkins and Ellie Land from Animated Documentary, is on 4 November. It’s our second in partnership with Animate Projects. The animated documentary genre continues to grow, featuring in a variety of formats: shorts and feature films, explainer videos, interactive documentary; and showcasing an array of techniques such as the autoethnographic film, the investigative film, the call-to-action and reconstruction films, to name just a few. Animators Mary Martins (UK), John Summerson (USA), and Signe Baumane (Latvia/USA) will share their insights and experiences with us, alongside some clips of their work.

Animation Salon/Accelerate Sessions
Animated Documentary
18:00 (UK time), Wednesday 4 November
Zoom
More information here.
Free. Register here.
Spaces are limited – please join early to make sure you get in. Supported by Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund.
Still: My Love Affair With Marriage, Signe Baumane, 2021

Next Accelerate session coming up…

12 November
Animation and VR
With Tom Higham (York Mediale), Liz Rosenthal (Venice Film Festival), Juergen Hagler (Ars Electronica), Helen Starr (Mechatronic Library), and Ulrich Schrauth (London Film Festival Expanded).  More details soon. 



‘Loving Vincent’ and ‘I’m OK’: two approaches to documenting the life of an artist

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Image: ‘Im OK’  by Elizabeth Hobbs

 

While still in production, there was a lot of talk among art lovers about the 2017 animated documentary Loving Vincent. ‘It is completely hand-painted’, ‘an army of artists has been employed for its production’, ‘it will look like a moving painting’ (see Frizzell, 2017; Mottram, 2017; Vollenbroek, 2017)… I was in suspense for its release and fascinated by all the hype surrounding it. When I finally got to watch the film, I could not help but feel a bit let down. Yet, I could not understand the reasons behind this disenchantment. The imagery imitated van Gogh’s style flawlessly, the storyline dealing with the circumstances of the artist’s death was interesting enough, and as far as I could tell, the acting was good. What was it then? Why was I feeling like I wanted to see more? 

Part of me felt that my art education was to blame, an education that was perhaps wrongly distinguishing and discriminating between art and craft. I could not see the point behind this repetitive exercise of recreating an art style whose value lay in being different, in being original and unique. The recreation seemed like a copy, an imitation and therefore to me, of less value. It seemed no further away from art than a printed reproduction of the original painting. It seemed almost futile, unnecessary, a bit kitschy. The story could hold its weight without the hand-painted stylization, and the stylization might have had a stronger effect without a storyline. However, I remembered how art students and apprentices used to study images and still do to some extent by copying the masters. This film employed over one hundred artists who worked painstakingly to recreate the footage in Van Gogh’s style. Keeping in mind this tradition of learning art, it seems like Loving Vincent acted as an apprenticeship for them. An homage to the technique of this master of modernism. To me, it is a performance that pays tribute to this great artist, not so much in its completed form, the final film, as by the painstaking process of its production. And that change in perspective elevates a rather good film to a masterpiece.

Loving Vincent. Dir. Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman.

In her short film I’m OK, Elizabeth Hobbs (2018), took a completely different approach in depicting the life and work of the Austrian Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka. Despite some loose references to his work here and there, Hobbs did not try to emulate Kokoschka’s style, nor did she have a script and employ actors and rotoscoping. Using expressive, playful lines and bright colours on paper, the animator highlights aspects of Kokoschka’s life. She specifically focuses on the time when the artist volunteered for service during WWI, after being rejected by a lover. Although Hobbs communicates well the message of heartbreak, war and pain, unless a viewer is already familiar with the life and work of Kokoschka, it is unlikely that they would gain an education of the artist merely by watching the film. This, however, does not seem to be the priority of the short. Instead, it acts as a loose interpretation of the life of an artist.

I’m OK Dir. Elizabeth Hobbs (U.K. and Canada)

These two examples are very different approaches to document the life of an artist through animation. Both films take advantage of the medium to simulate an aspect of creation that van Gogh and Kokoschka were using. Loving Vincent partially employs rotoscoping in the form of hand-painted live action footage but remains confined within the indexical qualities of the recording. It takes advantage of van Gogh’s painterly aesthetics and simultaneously maintains a strong relation to ‘reality’. I’m OK, on the other hand, does not involve the tracing over live-footage and without this strong and recorded initial connection to the world, it recreates Hobbs’ own version of it from scratch. I’m OK applies an expressive approach with emotive brushstrokes, music, use of colour and symbolism to tell a story while highlighting the animator’s unique perspective and is without any pretence of presenting ‘the real’. Hobbs refers to Kokoschka’s style not by directly emulating his art, but by adopting a similarly expressive aesthetic while maintaining her artistic voice. Hobbs’s film is not only an homage to an artist. It is much more than that, as it is, at least in my humble opinion, a work of art in its own right.

References

Frizzell, N., 2017. 65,000 Portraits Of The Artist: How Van Gogh’s Life Became The World’s First Fully Painted Film. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/13/loving-vincent-van-gogh-painted-animation-dorota-kobiela-hugh-welchman [Accessed 9 March 2020].

I’m OK. 2020. [DVD] Directed by E. Hobbs. United Kingdom and Canada: Animate Projects Limited and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

Loving Vincent. 2017. [DVD] Directed by D. Kobiela and H. Welchman. Poland and United Kingdom: BreakThru Productions and Trademark Films.

Mottram, J., 2017. Loving Vincent: How The First Fully-Painted Feature Film Took Six Years. [online] The Independent. Available at: <https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/loving-vincent-van-gogh-douglas-booth-armand-roulin-hugh-welchman-dorota-kobiela-a7994186.html [Accessed 9 March 2020]

Vollenbroek, T., 2017. ‘Loving Vincent’: 6 Facts About The First Oil Painted Animated Feature. [online] Cartoon Brew. Available at: <https://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/loving-vincent-6-facts-first-oil-painted-animated-feature-150443.html [Accessed 9 March 2020]

 

‘The Stereoscopic Society’ by Kate Sullivan

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The final film in the ‘Untold Tales’ series

Please put on your 3D glasses because I’d like to give you an immersive tour of a place I love.

Welcome to The Stereoscopic Society. We’re a bunch of 3D enthusiasts who meet once a month in a church hall in Euston. We share tips tricks and our latest 3D photos.

58 seconds probably isn’t enough time to experience how I feel when submerging for the usual full 3 hours at the club, but I hope you enjoy your quick cup of tea, meeting my friends and watching a digital slide show with us.

https://vimeo.com/296861425

https://www.instagram.com/kate_sullivan01

 

 

‘A Place to Think’ by Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara

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A film in the ‘Untold Tales’ series

A Place to Think is a meditative film, inspired by the architecture and natural environment found at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. The monastery welcomes all faiths and backgrounds, and gives people the space to reflect on their lives and the outside world which can at times seem overwhelming.

https://vimeo.com/296899375

https://www.instagram.com/nushy_peas

‘144 Units’ by Ian Gouldstone

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From the ‘Untold series’

A ficus, a cup, a gate, a buzzer to let people in, a wiener dog, a roll of toilet paper, an apartment, a television, a spare key, a smoke detector, renters, a fridge freezer, mop, a mouse, a communal clothes washer, an apartment, a bowl, a computer, an armchair, an apartment, a small kitchen, a lift, a human, a room, a door, a spare key, a mess, pillows.

An algorithmic film about my tower block inspired by the activity of its inhabitants.

https://vimeo.com/296910820/

https://www.instagram.com/iwgouldstone

‘Sir John Lubbock’s Pet Wasp’ – Osbert Parker and Laurie Hill

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The next installment from the Untold Tales series

‘Strange but true stories’ have always been a rich source of inspiration for Parker and Hill, especially those taken from turn of the century Victorian tabloids. Sir John Lubbock’s story and his scientific writings on Ants, Bees & Wasps stood out as contemporary for the directors who worked in collaboration on the film. Themes of environmental concern, cultural displacement, and empathy were found in their interpretation of Lubbock’s story still relevant to today. A diverse range of techniques from stop motion, 2D cut-outs, and digital animation is combined to tell a bizarre and beautiful love story with a sting in its tale.

https://vimeo.com/297121305

https://www.instagram.com/animatedplayground

‘The Foundling’ by Leo Crane

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The second film to be released as part of the Untold Tales series.

J— dreams of a family where wild birds are his brothers and sisters and he can escape the urban chaos of London. He lives with his adopted dads in a loving home, but can’t forget his past and the violent emotions he feels towards the young mother who abandoned him. In times of anger and sadness, he turns to the piano and the music that allows his dreams to flourish.

https://vimeo.com/296881122

https://www.instagram.com/leocrane77

‘Hold Tight’ by Jessica Ashman

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The first of the six Untold Tales films.

Hold Tight explores the importance of Carnival across the UK and how its celebrations provide an important lifeline to heritage and identity for younger generations of the Black Caribbean diaspora in Britain. It is a journey into the feeling of belonging, through the rituals of Carnival attendance and the power of bass.

https://www.instagram.com/jessiola

You can watch the film here:

Hold Tight – https://vimeo.com/297039237

 

‘Untold tales’ by Animate Projects and Anim18

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Seven renowned animators have been selected to create a series of micro-shorts, commissioned by Animate Projects and Anim18, as part of the Anim18 programme – a UK-wide celebration of British animation taking place until December 2018.

Working in collaboration with other creative talents and a range of subjects, the animators reflect on the collective and individual experiences of people living in the UK today. They are playful, joyful, and eye-catching gems, designed to be discovered in the viewer’s Instagram feed, that they will want to share, repost, like, and comment on.

Together the films present an exciting and vibrant collection of stories exploring cultural heritage, historic curiosities, devoted communities, and ways individuals navigate modern life: Leo Crane’s film offers a platform to an adopted child to share his fantastical and hopeful dreams; Ian Gouldstone takes inspiration from the inhabitants of the tower block he resides in; and Osbert Parker and Laurie Hill consider the curious tale of a wasp brought into Victorian society and cultured, and how her treatment reflects on contemporary life today.

Several of the films center on the cultural communities that the animators belong to: Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara reflects on the motivations of visitors to a Buddhist Monastery that she frequents; Kate Sullivan invites us into a meeting of the 3D enthusiasts club she takes part in; and Jessica Ashman’s film celebrates the importance of participating in Carnival culture for herself and her peers.

Abigail Addison at Animate Projects explains: “The animators were approached to pitch ideas for this project, and we were delighted with the range of ideas and techniques that were proposed. These diminutive films attest to the considerable talent and craft of the makers; they are so innovative, lively, thought provoking, and entertaining. It is a joy to be able to work with such great animation talent.”

The films will be launched on Instagram and Vimeo throughout November, beginning with Hold Tight by Jessica Ashman on Tuesday 6 November.

You can find the films on their release date at the following links:

https://www.instagram.com/anim18uk

https://www.instagram.com/animateprojectsuk

https://vimeo.com/animateprojects

 

‘Document Differently’ curated by AnimatedDocumentary.com for ‘Move It’ by Animate Projects

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Still copyright Marie Margaux Sakiri-Scanatovits

Animate Projects invited AnimatedDocumentary.com to curate one of the four programmes of the Move It tour, which screened across the UK in 2016. Document Differently is a programme of animated documentary shorts that showcase and highlight independent Directors approaches to factual storytelling in animation.

Venues included the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne, and others in Edinburgh, Dundee, Leicester, Hull and Exeter.

https://animateprojects.org/portfolio/move-it/