With the next Ecstatic Truth symposium coming up on Saturday, this seems like a good time to revisit last year’s event and share the recordings of the jam-packed schedule of speakers, workshops and networking.
Video documentation of all the speakers who presented at the 2016 symposium, including keynotes from Paul Ward, Abigail Addison and Brigitta Iványi-Bitter, as well as our own Carla MacKinnon, is available here on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/channels/documentaryanimation
Helen Mason, founder of Animation Therapy, has been running Animation on Prescription conferences biannually at Encounters Festival since 2010. This year she organised a free public screening and a workshop for medical, dental and veterinary professionals designed to help them confront their own compassion fatigue. Helen explained that compassion fatigue was brought sharply to her attention when an occupational therapist colleague committed suicide. Further research revealed that both the dental and veterinary industries had very high suicide rates. Mason suggested that the same must be true for medical professionals, though the National Health Service here in the UK (NHS) does not keep records of staff suicides. She pointed out the irony that NHS staff absences due to illness or fatigue, are documented rigorously.
Lord Stone of Blackheath, an active political advocate for issues relating to mental health, started the morning session by sharing his personal perspective on compassion fatigue. He also discussed the awareness campaign he’s helping Helen Mason to launch.
Unfortunately I missed Lord Stone’s group discussion, but waiting for the next natural interval afforded me time to sketch the beautiful workshop setting. Floating Harbour Films is a Dutch barge moored to the Welshback stretch of the river Avon in the centre of Bristol. This venue, along with the workshop facilitators, donated their time and resources without charging in order to raise money for the Bluebell Charity fund. Bluebell supports people struggling with pre and post-natal depression and anxiety.
After some brief introductions the group began the first set of exercises. The majority of participants were occupational therapists (O.T.’s) looking to learn Helen’s techniques to use in their own practice. Each participant was given a few sheets of uniformly sized card and instructed to draw in landscape format. The first image could be whatever we liked, presumably to warm us up. For the second we were asked to express the concept of compassion (see example drawing above).
Maria Hopkinson-Hassell, the animation facilitator, encouraged us to place our drawings carefully within the defined brackets on a well-lit board. One by one we photographed our images, importing them straight onto a laptop which was running stop-motion software. When looped, the end result was a chaotic flickering montage, held together visually by the consistent paper size and positioning.
Our next task was to recall a moment of resilience from the past, a time when we had to keep going despite fatigue or distress. We were asked to express these feelings on a piece of paper, cut to the shape of our hand. An unexpected intimate moment was subtly orchestrated by Helen as she encouraged each participant to have their hand traced by someone else from the class.
This activity resulted in an explosion of colour. A herd of occupational therapists gathered around the art supplies table, gradually spreading them in disarray across the workshop. Time restraints prohibited us from attempting an animation with our kaleidoscopic hands; instead Helen insisted we write our names diligently on the back with the promise that they’d be animated in our absence and safely posted back to us.
After drawing Simon Critchley colouring in his paper-hand, we had a quick chat. In a few words he articulated why animation seems to lend itself so well to art therapy: for a lot of his clients, control is not something they have experienced much in their recent history: animation offers a chance to play with extraordinary levels of control, if only for the duration of these short improvised productions.
Nigel Smith, a retired-doctor-turned-animation-workshop-leader, volunteered his face to co-star in the next pixillation exercise. A rostrum-mounted camera photographed his expressions from above as a second workshop participant moved figures, cut from magazines, across a glass table which intersected the photographic field. This method sparked a conversation about Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer music video, produced in 1986 by Bristol- based Aardman Animation.
Following a sunny lunch on the deck of the barge, Helen gathered us in a circle to facilitate a group discussion about compassion fatigue.
Helen (above, identifiable by the black dress) concluded the group discussion by asking us to write a postcard to our future selves. In two weeks this will be sent back to us, along with our illustrated hands. We all wrote supportive advice that should remind us how to be kind to ourselves and help us prioritise our well-being.
The final animation activity was facilitated by Tim Webb, Royal College of Art, and the director of ‘A is for Autism’ (1992), a seminal animated documentary which emerged from a collaboration with several young people with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
Each workshop participant was instructed to make a miniature version of themselves out of colourful lumps of Newplast Modelling Material. The 11 tiny figures shared the limelight in a claymation ensemble within the short film which gradually emerged. In between frames we participants huddled around the set, incrementally adjusting our respective putty avatars.
At 3pm we dispersed across Bristol city centre, congregating a few hours later at the Watershed, Encounters Festival base camp. Helen presented two programmes of films; the first consisted of animations created in collaboration with service users. The aforementioned ‘A is for Autism’, kicked off the programme as an example of best practice.
The screening also included films produced by Animation Therapy such as ‘The Haldon’, a film made by staff and service uses at a ward for people struggling with eating disorders in Exeter.
The second programme included films by professional animators, many of whom are well known for their animated documentary work. Helen emphasised the value of collaborative work with animators when exploring therapeutic topics. Andy Glynne’s production company, Mosaic Films, featured heavily; several shorts from their British Animation Award winning series ‘Animated Minds: Stories of Post Natal Depression’ were included. ‘Mike’s Story‘ stood out to me, as particularly touching.
Follow this link if you wish to donate to the Bluebell Charity fund for people struggling with pre and post-natal depression and anxiety. We look forward to many more years of Helen Mason hosting Animation on Prescription events at Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival.
AnimatedDocumentary.com is getting ready to cover the Encounters Short film and Animation Festival. The festival runs from the 20th to 25th September across a number of Bristol’s cultural venues. Friday 23rd September looks to be an exciting day for Documentary Animation fans:
At 12 noon the 5th Animation programme, A Look Inside, will be screened at the Watershed, focusing on the aspects of medicine, emotional and psychological conditions. The programme explores topics like memory, ageing and perception. It features recent films from Samantha Moore and George Sander-Jackson, familiar names in UK the UK ahi-doc scene.
On the same day Animation Therapy will also be running a workshop from 10am-4pm under the ‘Animation on Prescription’ banner. The workshop is focused on the theme of compassion and is aimed at health professionals, dentists and vets. Documentary animation directors, Tim Webb and Em Cooper, will be teaching along side the occupational therapist and director of Animation Therapy, Helen Mason.
Later that day at 4.30pm there will be an Animation on Prescription screening and networking event featuring examples of films created in a therapeutic context. Great Ormond Street Hospital, Aardman Animations and TPO Uganda are just some of the institutions featured.
Alex Widdowson from the blog team here at AnimatedDocumentary.com will be attending the entire festival looking for other ani-doc snippets. Click on the event links for details about booking tickets.
“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.
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 exciting new animadoc events! Deadline 14th April.
‘AniDox Lab is the first ever workshop dedicated exclusively to the animated documentary genre.
‘Run by The Animation Workshop, Anidox Lab will offer talented documentary and animation filmmakers the opportunity to engage and combine their two worlds. It will tackle both a time-based cinematic approach, as well as digital platforms that allow for multiple story and timelines. The coaching seminars and collaborative workshops will be designed to progress from fine-tuning an initial idea, through narrative development, to a pitching session.
‘During a year and a half, over four seminars in Denmark and Croatia, the participants will be guided by experts in the fields of animation and documentary, with whom they will work together towards creating a solid basis for an animated documentary project.
Teaching language: English Application deadline: March 15th 2013
Fee: 500 EUR, not including accommodation or living scholarship’
I was lucky enough to sneak my way on to Dennis’ two day workshop at the Royal College of Art in London, last week.
An Australian director with extensive experience in making both live action and animated documentary films, Dennis provided the MA Animation students with an insight into his work. He screened ‘The Darra Dogs’ and ‘His Mother’s Voice’, as well as recent film ‘Chainsaw’, which blends fact with fiction by using a range of documentary sources to create a narrative story.
Some drawings of the workshop from my notebook…
In the practical session, across two days, Dennis shared his approach to developing a film: pinning down all the details in the script and storyboard before going into production. He prompted us to develop and explore our own film ideas, and gave us some very useful feedback! The students did a great job of rising to the challenge, even attempting to pick up the gauntlet Dennis threw down of developing an animadoc film idea with no voices or voice-over.