from insecurities to a buddhist monk

This should be week one of animation for the final project, but things aren’t looking great for me at the moment. And here I am, writing away a whinny post instead of putting my head down and work.

So here goes a big post in the hopes it’ll help me think this project through.
At the moment I have just finished working on my freelance jobs and will be able to focus solely on the film. This is quite scary/daunting because it basically eliminates any excuses I have not to work on the project while also giving me shit loads of anxiety about my tendency to procrastinate hard. At the moment my brain is not in work mode and this needs to change fast.

I am doubting everything, my animatic is not finished yet, and I have no idea where I am going with the story. I feel like I am losing focus on the stuff I wanted to do/include in the film, and now that I’m constantly reminding myself of all the things that are missing I have started to question the whole story structure I have already developed. I am getting insecure and I’m not trusting the quality of the stuff I am doing. This is terribly counterproductive because if I doubt the idea then I can’t really develop it with joy, playfulness and freedom. Add to it being seriously behind and I just feel powerless about it all. Around me, everyone is on track and has started animating and here I am: clueless and frustrated with life – forever insecure about my qualities.

I’m sure I’m being my biggest enemy with all these negative thoughts but at the moment it’s almost like it’s good enough that I have stopped feeling constantly sick about being super delayed. The problem is even without the feeling that I’m about to throw up at any time and without the stomach cramps, work still needs to get done and my brain is simply not cooperating.

I am getting entangled in a negativity spiral and it’s hard to get out, like when someone tells you not to think about pink elephants

To conclude in a more practical way, I am not sure that doing the animatic straight ahead is helping me so I might just try and spend the rest of today storyboarding in post-its.

I want to mention in the film the things that bother me the most at the moment, and I’ve already managed to refer plastic in the oceans and feminism, but I am missing veganism, (anti-)capitalism, and now that I’ve started this ‘journey’ the feeling of never being good enough has returned so I really really want to mention it: never running fast enough, bending enough or having enough strength in yoga, drawing good enough, being appreciated enough at work/what I do.. it’s a monster feeling that freezes me and doesn’t let me do anything right/enjoy the process. I think I need to criticise/ridicule this behaviour in me as a way to (at least try to) set me free from it.

In a very skewed way, I recently watched an episode of chef’s table about Jeong Kwan – a Korean Buddhist monk and she said something that rang very close and true for me.

“Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle.You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.”

you can see the episode here

I have also had a meeting with Margaux and when she saw my animatic she mentioned I should have more positive points in regards to my character’s life because otherwise the story might just be interpreted as the depiction of a depressed person’s life. And although I feel she might be right, I’ve started to think that this is not quite the case for me. I live my life with a thousand worries 24/7 and I simply cannot stop my brain from thinking like this – it is a f*cking burden, but I have slowly learnt to grow resilient and live a peacefully-ish life with the constant feeling that the world as we know it is going to end and there is nothing I can do to affect the change I want to see happening. I have learnt to live with my insignificance and this powerlessness feeling, so maybe I need to rethink this thing about happy thoughts/moments of the film. I don’t think that’s what I want to talk about.

Video Jam x Basquiat

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Barbican to see the ‘closing ceremony‘ for Basquiat’s exhibition. It was a (roughly) 2-hour show comprising 7 new short films commissioned for the occasion. Along with the films, musicians were selected to play live. Each film had a different score, played by a different set of musicians.

A while ago I went to see Kim Noce’s performance at the ICA, and in a way, this show reminded me of it. If for nothing else, the use of live music to accompany a film, and the experimental feeling of both film and audio in all of the 7 collaborations, alluded to the same feeling I had when watching Kim’s performance.

This time though the films were mainly live action, although there were 2 of them animated (I’ll get there soon). The abstraction and the seemingly scriptless films converged into discourses of race, freedom and in some cases gender.

Overall it was great to go and to see such varied approaches to celebrate Basquiat. I found myself sometimes questioning what would’ve he thought of the whole show, only to come to conclude that it cannot be offensive to inspire other artists to build upon our practice. I felt the energy of the room was really supportive and positive and that was quite nice too.

It’s been a while since I have seen the show and that, although not ideal when reviewing something, put the distance for me to think about the films and/or musical performances that have really put a mark on me.

So to begin with let’s talk about the first animated film that was screened: Fishbowl by Gabrielle Ledet and Jack Wedge. To be honest, i thought that the animation in itself was quite clunky and naive looking, but it matched quite well with the visuals and, above all, the music by this London band called Ibidio Sound Machine was the perfect proof that sound makes the greatest difference in a film. With such a colourful and gleeful looking animation, the band just heightened the whole thing with a very very happy and catchy song filled with an African heat that just made it so fun to watch I was actually a bit sad when it finished.

Music wise, apart from Ibidio Sound Machine I was also really impressed with Seaming To. For me, on these two occasions, it was the music/sound that pulled the film and made it (more) impactful.

Then there were two very very strong films that had the luck to have an amazing score to play along. It so happened that they were the last two films.

I was completely mesmerised with ’88 by ruffmercy. Firstly, I had no idea of the existence of this person and I felt my life had been incomplete. The maximalism in the film was overwhelming in a good way, and the animation worked amazingly in the context. He used loads of elements from Basquiat’s work and mixed them all together with a good amount of morphing and always a great screen composition – and by that I mean the background was constantly frantically changing, the colours flashed into different ones and everything was so busy and intense! ah, I loved it!

I immediately googled him when I got out of the room, but I do have to say I think his work becomes way more interesting in a showroom more than on my phone. His work felt all very similar once I watched a couple of video clips..

But after all this time, I think the most powerful film of that evening, for me, was Fetish by Topher Campbell. He filmed himself walking naked in the streets of New York, and it came across as a very strong commentary on race and our culture. The music by Young Fathers accompanied the film so flawlessly, it was really a strong piece.

monstrous news – monstra festival!

2018 is definitely starting off on the right foot!

A little while ago I got this email:

At first, I thought it was a prank because I had just been talking to my parents and my brother about this festival and how I really wanted to get in.. But no! It was actually legit!

So… this means my first film ever is going to play in like the best cinema room I know – and it’s soooooo freaking massive!!!

I am both elated and terrified!

one piece, 350 episodes in

Just before we finished our group project, I’ve started watching one piece from the very very beginning.

One piece is an animated series that’s originated from a manga collection written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. It launched in 1997 and aired as an anime series in 1999. It seems it’s been a huge success ever since – the manga is still being written and the anime is still airing!

This means I have 19 years of episodes to catch up on… and I am loving it!

The plot is developed around Monkey D Luffy – a guy that wants to be the Pirate King –  and his awesome crew. The story starts with Luffy alone and trying to find ‘nakama‘ to form a(/read: the best) pirate crew. Episode after episode, the plot gradually grows in complexity and the crew expands to their ‘ideal’ set-up, which consists of:

a captain – Luffy, a crazy happy dude that has eaten a devil fruit which made his body gain rubber properties. He’s a loyal friend and, despite being a pirate, his moral compass is pointing towards the right direction.

a swordsman – Zoro – his dream is to become the best swordsman in the world, so nothing better than to join forces with the man that wants to rule the Pirates. In order to be considered the best swordsman in the world, Zoro can’t eat a devil fruit, which makes him one of the strongest human players in the game. His biggest weakness is his sense of orientation – which is exploited throughout the series and provides us with loads of laughable scenes.

a kindhearted liar/handyman/sniper – Usopp. Where to even begin?! Usopp is a lively character that has no special powers apart from his accurate aim. He loves to exaggerate facts and is a coward/very realistic person at his core.

a navigator – Nami. If there wasn’t a captain already Nami would probably be up there as a contender. She’s super skilled and can sense all the atmospherical changes around her. Her dream is to draw a complete map of the world, and she’s great at bossing all the guys around!

a cook – Sanji! His dream is to find the all Blue sea, a sea that has the fishes from all the different oceans in the world – a cook’s ultimate dream! Sanji is a great cook and fights only with his legs in order not to ruin his working hands. He is also a big pervert and has a strict moral code that doesn’t allow him to hit women.

a doctor – Chopper, a reindeer that ate a devil fruit that gave him human characteristic. Chopper can mutate into different shapes, and because he was a reindeer he can understand/talk to animals. He’s super gullible and believes in everything he’s told – which provides a lot of funny moments – but most of all he’s a super talented doctor.

an archaeologist – Robin is the only living person that knows how to read the poneglyphs, which are these massive stone cubes that have writings about legendary weapons on them (I think there’s still a lot to develop in this thread of the story). The poneglyphs are considered dangerous and illegal to the world government, but most of them still exist hidden away by their communities. Her dream is to be able to restore the historical period that the world governement erased – and that is related to the poneglyphs. She has eaten a devil fruit that gave her the power to grow any part of her body on any surface.

a mechanic – Franky, a cyborg that was trained as a shipwright by the man that built the previous Pirate King’s ship. He’s powered by coca-cola and his dream is to build the best pirate ship ever – one that can navigate all the seas.

and finally a musician! His name is Brooke, I have just met him in this story arc – I am still getting acquainted with him.. But from what I can tell so far he is an exquisite swordsman and his story is connected to the beginnings of the crew’s adventure in the Grand Line.

Which takes me to my comments about the series so far…

Knowing the length of the series, this could only be possible with a complex storyline. The greatest thing that I have noticed so far is that none of the story arcs are forgotten once they’re through. Characters from previous adventures keep popping up along the way, giving the plot an enriched feeling that, not only the characters we follow but also the rest of their world keeps evolving.

Not only this, but the absurd amount of episodes also helps with the development of the crew’s characters and personalities. And it’s been great to tag along!

I have learnt some new vocabulary like story arcs and fillers due to the series.. But mainly I think one piece is about being true to yourself and never shying away from standing up for what you believe. It is about friendship and loyalty, adventures, perseverance, kindness and honesty. It definitely transpires the idea that we should never give up on our dreams, and that’s a pretty sweet message.

Watching this is turning me into a massive anime enthusiast, hopefully it’ll inspire me somehow on my future work!

the journey of the journey

and so it is over! what a crazy couple of months we’ve had!

I’m not sure if I am ready to reflect on this project, but I got a bit of free time so let’s see what comes out..

Firstly I have already written an essay about how this project went, so not sure if I want to repeat myself. But to some up, I was lucky to work with Jodi as the director. Our team consisted of Jodi, Iris, Boom and myself.

I learnt a lot working with other people, and it was good to work with Jodi since she has such a playful attitude with the way she presents her scenes – from camera angles to the masterful use of negative space. It was inspiring and hopefully, it will transpire into my animation practice as well!

In this film, I have focused on the special effects – like all the smokes, and the flames etc, etc – more than on character animation. This was great to explore an area that I find really interesting, but to be honest I miss animating a character. I have worked on the crowds of miners that appear in the film, but animating crowds is a tough, tough challenge!

here’s some of the SFX I’ve worked on:

all in all it was a good experience, even having too much work outside uni I tried my best to help!

slight detour to Hong Kong

Joshua Wong, one of the unexpected leaders of the Umbrella Movement

After ENO’s selection of directors, I chose to work for Jodi. I really love her style, and I’m really happy to be working with such a talented lady!

However, things didn’t initially go as planned..

When we presented the storyboard to Chris and Natasha, their review was quite negative and filled with criticism. Their suggestion: go back and rethink the whole thing.

This came as a shock to us since we had no idea what were the reasons they picked the film proposals they did. But after that meeting, it became pretty obvious that they had chosen Jodi for her lovely visual style – not for her story.

We had to go back to the drawing board and help Jodi developing a new storyline that would please Chris and Natasha..

So we had a brainstorm, developed 2 different storylines and sent them for feedback(/Chris and Natasha to pick their favourite). The first version was a very literal narrative about Gandhi’s life and the second version wanted to draw a parallelism between Gandhi’s movement and subsequent civil disobedience movements, like the Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution. This second option was particularly interesting since Jodi is a Hong Kong citizen and is watching her state lose the democratic rights it had while it was colonised by the British.

Personally, I find the idea of recounting a story that has been told so many times (read Gandhi’s story) – and that focuses on something that happened years and years ago – to be as boring as it is conservative.

I understand that maybe the youth doesn’t know Gandhi’s story that well (if that is even the target audience we’re doing these films for..), and I also understand the importance of looking into the past to act for the future. However, it feels to me that looking into the present and referring to the past as an inspiration, would serve as a much inspirational piece for social action on whatever issue we need/should be working on. Especially in the umbrella revolution situation, where its leaders are in jail – just like Gandhi was in jail. This storyline could’ve provided a little beam of hope to the Hong Kong situation, since Gandhi’s perseverance – as much as Joshua Wong’s – produced the needed social changes.

As expected, this was Chris and Natasha’s least preferred version so we ploughed through with Gandhi’s story for the animation. Nevertheless, I did some research on the Hong Kong Situation which I had no idea it was this bad.

I find the UK’s ‘loving’ political behaviour towards China shameful, considering the world knows they are not following the agreement to preserve HK’s democracy. Anyway… Here’s some of the articles I read and a really nice doc (available on netflix) about Joshua Wong.

‘out of truth (and love)’ – pitch

Here’s my (very much) failed proposal for the ENO project:

The music excerpt I have chosen refers to an Indian mythological story about a prince called Arjuna. Arjuna is getting ready for a battle when he discovers some of his relatives and friends are getting ready to fight for the opposite side. This makes Arjuna doubt himself and not want to fight. Krishna, his chariot driver – and also ironically the god of compassion and love – makes him understand that sometimes we need to devote ourselves to causes that might reveal hard to endure personally but will benefit the greater good.

moral of this story? think globally not individually, for a better way to live.

I’d like to focus on an uncomfortable truth, that should be making us all question our current lifestyle. It’s an urgent matter that needs to be put in the forefront of our concerns and we need to quickly start acting seriously on it!

My film opens with an image of planet earth, that quickly zooms out to show it was a reflection on the eyes of a human. This human then falls back into a dark background, a sea maybe. A metaphor to falling into a sea of truth.

When she disappears in the water what comes up is a starving polar bear, struggling to keep afloat and swimming to the smallest block of ice. The image then zooms out to show a vast ocean, depleted of ice. The polar bear is doomed.

From this opening sequence on, the film will slowly but surely increase its rhythm always synchronized to the music – in the style of a video clip – showing an array of imagery illustrating our economic system as the main driver for climate change.

The featured imagery will be decided by the people working on this film but I can give you a list of never-ending examples, such as: the bleaching of the coral reefs, all types of natural catastrophes, the mass production of animals, the proliferation of plastics – especially in the oceans, deforestation and its effect on the adjacent fauna, bombs, oil, etc, etc, etc..

The animation will use the loopy nature of Glass’s work to build its complexity and frenzy into an unbearable level – then there will be again a big zoom out to show that all of these images form out planet. We start and we end with planet earth, but if in the beginning we saw our planet with its natural colours of green and blue, in the end we see it in toxic/unnatural hues of orange purple and pink.

stop the war

This month Sacha posted on our facebook page that Anna Ginsburg was looking for help to finish a short animation for Stop the war coalition – they needed material to show during their Bestival speech.

I was pretty stoked to help, and it was such a great experience overall. Anna was super nice and gave me all the freedom to do whatever I wanted within the style. It was also really good to get to learn how quick animation can be produced, we had a very tight deadline to turn it around so, in the end, a team of 3 managed to produce a 45-second animation in 4 days!

Here’s the final result: