Showreel 2015

Showreel 2015
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Friday, 1 January 2016

Inside SprOut


Lost months

An overwhelming sense of panic set in when December rolled around.

Despite making efforts to boost my job prospects, career progress was stifled by making wrong decisions, sending me into a depressive spiral. Some choices I made didn't bring the success I had hoped for. You could argue that's progress, or part of it.

What struck me hardest was the recent passing of my Uncle. He lost his fight with cancer at 52.

He was a risk-taker, incredibly nurturing and living the dream. He lived further up north but connected with me on Facebook and supported me in everything I did. He'd say move on and never look back, whenever I was questioning my abilities. It's horrible living another day without him.

Since then it has rained seemingly non-stop.

Another family member is terminally ill but fighting it.

Dad's friend had also lost a cancer battle.

My mother's friend's mother died from a stroke on Christmas Eve.

It makes you think you only have one shot at things because life is very short.

Heaven Sent

Among the things that kept me buoyant was Doctor Who Series 9 – it's a classic! Relevant, crosses genres, powerful, exceeded my hopes, and tickled me in all the right places. But, as ultimately heart-warming and satisfying the 3-part finale was... boy did it hit too close to home at times...


Every creative person should watch Heaven Sent. It's a beautiful and terrifying revelation that haunted me for days and weeks after its original airing. I don't know if younger audiences reacted to it the same way, but every beat, every frame, every line is bang on. Uncomfortably so. Even the flies – we dealt with a maggot/flying ant invasion in the kitchen this past summer. I had vivid, unpleasant dreams about it afterwards: there was one where I was lost at a train station then coming home to find my bedroom destroyed, and shouting at my sister to explain why; and another one where I'm waiting in a red carpet pen for 10 hours.

On the second viewing, these words especially cut deep:

One day you will linger in the same place too long. You will sit too still or sleep too deep –
and when, too late, you rise to go, you will notice a second shadow next to yours. Your life will then be over.

Sproutboy

Back in June I had briefly sketched an idea for Christmas-themed TV idents for the BBC, but set it aside as I was expected to do something else and couldn't flesh it out any further than a crossover and the 'Enjoy' bumpers. It was going to be animated, but I couldn't figure out the story, 'heart' or the 'hook'. It never occurred to me to do more research into which agency or studio the Beeb commissions for ad campaigns.

And yet for a while there had been this similar non-Christmas-related idea that has been rolling in my brain for yonks. It's a movie that plays every night to help me sleep, in which I'm a tiny creature, far from home, wandering into a barn for shelter. There's a giant sleeping in the shadows; he is ancient, wise and friendly. Not once did it cross my mind that it was something I could have brought to the table.

How insanely cool would it have been to pitch and be involved in a project that appealed to my sensibilities; been qualified to lend a hand in; working with a team, and then presenting it to a million viewers who'd watch it every year?

It's possible I missed that window at the BAFTA Cymru screening. Planets aligned, favourite people in attendance, front row seat...but after the screening, I winged it during/after the panel. I was certain I'd win the Mission Dalek competition, and by extension that would've segued into getting involved in the design/production of the ident. It could've taken care of us for life.

Now that ship has sailed.

It wasn't until the week that Heaven Sent and Sproutboy aired that I realised that much of the last quarter of 2015 was in vain, due to my attempts at being a salesperson and searching for ad hoc projects to collaborate on. But you underestimate these things. Yet it was slapping me in the face the whole time. For several months. Since 27th May.

I saw galaxies and stars within that green amber stone. "That's a nice ring, Peter," I complimented. He told me it was the Doctor's special ring.

Granted, Oscar nominees and top industry pros are employed for these lauded, cinematic commercials – the ones Mum constantly puts me on the spot about and enquires, “can you do this?” "Isn't that what you should be doing?"

Through the prism of a viewer, I adore everything about Sproutboy. As an animator, I admire it for its tone and style, and narration - it has all my favourite ingredients. As a struggling artist, I'm glad it's a thing that exists.

The pressure is now on to make amends.

Just let me in...

I decided to take a trip to Cardiff. Breaking from the tradition of staying overnight at Nana's (the bathroom was being redecorated); nevertheless it was a magical day. It was raining when I arrived; having lunch in Eddie's Dinner kept me dry. Later I caught the sunset over the Bay. Then headed to Studio 4...



The group and the guides dug my birthday video and the Shoot for the Moon story.

An incredibly fruitful journey home followed. Saw The Force Awakens the next day. Right from the start I was wide-eyed and completely absorbed into that world. And there's yet another fictional character I can relate to.

I look at these marvellous creations, they have insanely talented teams behind them. I just think, what am I doing with my life? It's too late to join the party.

It's going to take a while for these wounds to heal.

Retrospective

Earlier this year I made the following points from the Animated Women UK Communication workshop:

-Believe I'm the person I want to be
-Practice talent/passion first thing in the morning
-Be my own brand manager
-Make life easier for me and everyone
-Demonstrate USP

I must have broke 3 of these promises. I understand it takes a bit of time for startups to fully figure themselves out.

It shouldn't be that hard to get a foot further in the door, yet I now struggle to see where I would move on to next.

Circumstances that prevent me from those sought-after dream projects:

-lack of mobility
-shyness
-saving up for marketing and travel
-over-planning
-under-planning
-compromising quality to meet deadlines
-art block
-laying pressure on myself to be good at everything
-distractions, i.e. worrying about errors
-market saturated with highly-skilled FX artists with excellent communication skills

Freelancing can be slow and lonely. I fear what's going to be happen whilst I wait for that email/phone call. There's always an internal voice drowning out productivity whispering “someone else'll do it, not you, go back to bed!” Other people vying for graphic design/digital jobs seem to have a better chance. They have proper websites.

Then a voice said, come join us!

I'm now a writer/illustrator/contributor for Blogtor Who. The fan site has relaunched under new management, merging with DT Forum and Peter-Capaldi-News.com.

My dream animation job waved at me as it zoomed past, but this'll make up for that. It's lovely to start the year knowing where I'm heading next.

New Year's Resolutions:

DON'T fall for any self-help seminar that promises money and fortune within a week.

DON'T hide or downplay my talent.

DON'T wait or worry.

DO follow the signs to success.

DO the things I love.

DO surround myself with people and accomplish great things.

DO keep the momentum going.

DO remember the simplest solution is right in front of me.

DO.

DO be kinder to myself.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Good Doctor


Worlds collide...

UPDATE: fresh from a viewing of the latest episode. Holy Capaldi. I recently had the chance to remind him of his transcendent speech in The Zygon Inversion. We high fived. After Heaven Sent I'm showering him with the equivalent of a knighthood. As well as among Steven Moffat's best episodes, credit also goes to Stuart Biddlecombe, Rachel Talalay, Michael Pickwoad, MFX et al for giving us so much glorious, frightening imagery, whether it was underwater, in the corridors, atop the castle, or the Veil creeping in negative space. Every layer of the Doctor is shredded in this nightmare palace within 55 tear/sweat/squirm/chill-inducing minutes. Simply jaw-dropping.

***

A month after the Cineworld screening, receiving the last of the summer's sun in Cardiff two days back-to-back was therapeutic, and magical especially as Russell T Davies was down the Bay producing a new version A Midsummer Night's Dream. Eight years since our last meeting, here we were, fangirling about Peter, authorising the coinage 'Twelfies', discussing the viability of certain formats – animation would require higher budget/insurance, and a live episode would look like video – and the upcoming Doctor Who Festival at ExCeL. The following day, I succeeded(???) at staging an impressionable method of networking...

Imagine me on this bridge, handing the writer my business card

That was followed by a walk to the studio entrance when we reminisced our first exposure to Who, the 'Shoot for the Moon' story, and TV scheduling issues. Seriously, Series 9 is exceptional, ballsy television, but for youngsters and over-worked mothers it's on TOO DAMN LATE.

I'm still awkward at communication, but the conversation flowed seamlessly from one subject to the next and gave me a bit of perspective on proposals and setting budgets.

On the eve of the Festival, I found my hotel after a lovely afternoon with Lindsay (AWUK) and a failed attempt at getting into a recording of The Graham Norton Show near Waterloo. Not even the Prime Minister of India could get priority tickets to see such an incredible lineup of guests. I mean, Peter Capaldi sharing the couch with Tom Hanks, David Walliams and Duran Duran? Prior to that, Johnny Depp AND Benedict Cumberbatch. What a time to be alive.

The BBC Children in Need benefit concert (with Rob Brydon and Tom Jones) gave me a pang of homesickness. But I knew the Festival would in a way bring me back to Wales. I would be reunited with friends and make new ones to celebrate a show that's carrying us through tough sheep.

Opposite the hotel was a roundabout – Frobisher Road

Here we go again. This is where I queued for Benedict last April
The weekend was reported to be much busier than Friday, which was a relief. Three sets, exhibits, two talk stages and the Shopping Village which took up most of the space. Main panels took place in a separate theatre hall.

My first cosplay; Christel Dee praised the idea – Clara cosplaying as Classic Twelve  as highly original
Defending TARDIS from a Dalek; finally saw Real SFX show as I missed it at Sherlocked

There was a selection of props/costumes from recent episodes including the red velvet coat and guitar. I even bumped into Bernadette chatting to costume design legend Ray Colman, who liked my Mission Dalek. The Millennium FX exhibit (and the panel) was a treasure trove of creativity. After the monster-filled panel I ended up in Level 0 and stumbled upon the 50th Anniversary couch; up ahead was Mark Gatiss talking about Robin Hood movies with a dude. At Production Village I asked Michael Pickwoad about becoming a storyboard artist; he explained pretty much what I had done last month.

Talking of small worlds...



As he greeted me Peter looked surprised to see me again. “Lucy! It's so good to see you again! I like your coat!” I told him about my cosplay; he said Jenna was due to appear over the weekend, which made me feel deeply sad.

The motivation behind my cosplay was that Clara is making/made herself more Doctor-y. All it consists of are my normal clothes and hairstyle.

Before the photoshoots, the co-creators of Sherlock discussed how the idea of 'Immortal Woman' was pitched with Catherine Treganna. The video below is a tiny portion of the Cast panel. Michelle Gomez and Ingrid Oliver summed up how they cope with the pressure of delivering great performances, while Peter demystified the gap between the Twelfth Doctor's regeneration and his first adventure:


After another fantastic, brilliant, cool, good, and uplifting day in the world of Who, I was brought down by the godawful news of the attacks in Paris. Mum and Dad were more than relieved I was safe home.

The Doctor's anti-war speech in The Zygon Inversion couldn't be more relevant.

I returned to London a week later, to attend another Disney/Pixar advance screening/panel at BFI.


The Good Dinosaur is one of those films that not only pleases the dino-loving child in me, but, like Series 9, also has some deeply affecting moments. I related to Arlo overcoming his fears as he journeyed through the wilderness, figuring out his role in society. Full of inventiveness, tenderness and (digital) scenery porn, it's like a Miyazaki film.

Director Peter Sohn explained how The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out and all the movies express stories in which challenges are thrown at the characters:

Story-making at Pixar is a very therapeutic one. The process of it is digging into every pore of what it is to experience being human on this planet, from birth to childhood to death to being a parent. And so these ideas, this film in particular, we really try to create haiku moments, poetry in the film that do echo certain things for sure but at Pixar there really is behind every film the same crew of people that have been working there for 25 years. What's so interesting about that place is that you can feel the storytellers in each one of those films and it really depends on what that storyteller is doing – they're amazing film-lovers and amazing parents and amazing people and artists there that put their hearts into the work. And so, life is injected in there...”

Pixar goodies from the BFI advance screening

Lindsay recommended me Dude, Where's My Career? a book aimed at lonely graduates facing the uphill battle of pinning down a job.

For a while between Oct-Nov I was consumed by anxiety, doubt and the belief that I was unemployable. The fact that death creeps closer towards two members of my family made it worse/making it worse.

But as GBBO 2015 winner Nadiya says,

I'm never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I'm never gonna say I can't do it. I'm never gonna say 'maybe'. I'm never gonna say 'I don't think I can'. I can and I will.”

I'm no good as a salesperson in business. I aspire to be like the aforementioned storytellers.

In the face of overwhelming odds I'm left with only one option: I'm going have to art the shit out of this!

Friday, 18 September 2015

I Lava Who

With Mission Dalek, filmmakers and visual artists were prompted to create their own Doctor Who story. Those* who demonstrated creativity, inventiveness and technical accomplishment the strongest would win a trip to Roath Lock Studios.



I kept having flashbacks to uni while working on my entry. Despite certain limitations I was able to tell a story, assembling all the scenes and title cards together into a neat 90 second package. I managed to fit all four clues into the piece, the main one being "Technical Transformation".


The process of designing the character/prop assets and animation in Toon Boom Harmony took 12 days. My lucky number. Much of the "budget" i.e. time was spent on story development and keeping the eyebrows/fluffy hair on model. Compositing and editing were done in Motion.

Whether or not it's a hit with the judges, it was a lesson in decision-making and time-keeping. During this purely experimental exercise, I found I was able to get back into animation production. It felt tremendous. It has motivated me to make more little shorts with fuller character animation, without going overboard with story ideas that require more time and hands.

I am deeply thankful for the BBC for launching this. Maybe they'll call me to do an animated spin-off series of the Twelfth Doctor's adventures?

The project was finished in time for the deadline; what a relief it was to head down to Wales for a break. Mum could not have timed it better.


At Cardiff Cineworld, myself and pals attended the Series 9 Launch, watched two brand-new episodes back to back, reserved "for the Welsh".

The chilling two-parter is both everything you love about and would not expect to see in Doctor Who. It's like Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight. The Magician's Apprentice grabs you and never lets go. Producer Brian Minchin told me afterwards that because of the reception of Dark Water/Death in Heaven, we'd get more two-parters, and viewers would have to wait for The Witch's Familiar. Preparing popcorn for the reaction.

Steven Moffat and the Crystal Gems

The Q and A session followed. Jason Mohammad was once again a great host. Questions from the audience and answers from the panel were entertaining as always, while spoilery details were kept close to the chest. Everyone was all in favour of David Bowie or Keith Richards making guest appearances, so what could go wrong with a full-on musical episode? "Anything is possible," said Steven Moffat. Folks were divided, though.

The panel, also including Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, thanked me for praising their performances and the episodes. But the night belonged to George Buckland, aka Mini Matt Smith. His moment that closed the panel was THE highlight.

The Matt the Myth the Legend (left). Plus bonus Michael Pickwoad photobomb

The group picture was another lovely surprise. At this point I'm so used to rubbing shoulders with famous people that I forgot where I was and who I was standing next to.

#We thank the Moff, Beeb, the Welsh we thank too...#

Already feeling generous and Doctor-like from picking the best seats for some fellow Whovians (one of them's an animator!) I directed Peter to peeps wanting to greet him before he shook my hand. I then asked him to sign a Gallifrey postcard dedicated to a friend back in Leicester.

The Doctor remembered me when I told him he made my birthday. "Oh! Delighted to see you again!"

Could I keep the momentum going with a trip into the TARDIS in two weeks?

Alas that trip wasn't to be.

Good thing The Doctor's Meditation was released. This is the prequel that was shot at Caerphilly Castle, and oddly enough had been screened exclusively in U.S. cinemas. It's 6 minutes of comic brilliance. There's a Waiting for Godot vibe about it. I'm hoping Bors is the new companion.

Now where was I...

The winning Mission Dalek entries ranged from excellent presentation, atmosphere, clever twists, to WHAT are they cereal. "Step Forward" was inspired by a true story. It was one that lent itself to the animation medium. Losing sleep and summer walks, I climbed a mountain with this one.


In the latest Radio Times, Peter taps into the positives of failure:

“All actors go through ups and downs and walk in the deep shadow of failure. I like to talk about it, unlike most who think it means you’re not successful. My failures taught me more than any success and made me wise. [...] There are lots of high priests, Aztecs, in this business, who profess to have the answers. When you realise they don’t, it’s a remarkable feeling.”**

It's basically "failing better", as Benedict Cumberbatch once told me. And I also have to remember one thing - Peter Capaldi said my art is fantastic. And that transported me to Comic Con. Thanks to these cats, among others, I will continue to become a better communicator. Written, verbal, visual. I just have to keep it simple. I'm still only a baby.

*The competition was aimed at UK residents


**Source: Who's Looking at Who? page 17, Radio Times 19-25 Sept 2015

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Life in Toon Boom Motion


From the House of Lords to the House of Blues, I've been around the world - sort of - while slowly getting back into the swing of things. Storyboarding is underway as the script for Scampi Catches a Drift is reviewed. Removing one certain detail from the story only slightly changes the denouement. It doesn't always have to be the focal point.

I had applied to join Animate Projects' DRIVE programme. Quite a sought-after one as they received over 60 proposals; only five artists would be supported. I'm not one of them unfortunately. Generally the reasons were that animators working in conventional areas of their field weren't accepted, and some applicants didn't fully explain their contribution.

24th June
I was once again invited to the Rethinkyourmind prize presentation, the second since the project's inception. I met some new and familiar folks - some were winners of the national competition - while enjoying the catering's excellent snacks, overlooking the Thames. Prior to arriving in Westminster, I couldn't pass on the opportunity to see John Byrne's A Matter of Life & Death exhibition at the Fine Art Society. Everything that day was so perfectly timed (except rebooking the coach). I did not expect it to end on such a high note. Before heading home I stumbled upon and joined a crowd to watch a performance outside BBC Broadcasting House. Mika was a guest on The One Show, promoting his new album No Place in Heaven.


My sister was ecstatic.

27th June
It was Postgraduate Careers Day at Heritge House. Along with another freelancer I was requested to talk about the trials and successes of setting up a business. In front of a class. If I can hold a conversation with Smaug, this talk would be a breeze. Although it overran it was very well-received.

8-11th July
Doctor Who fan art lit up the House of Blues in San Diego. My watercolour was among the selection, after submitting it to BBC America's call for entries on Tumblr. I've been to enough conventions/festivals to get a sense of SDCC's immensity. But to think there was piece of me floating around... I was there in spirit, as we all got to see world exclusives.

Thanks to MJB Stallmeyer for capturing the slide (main image, bottom left). It's ironic - we met at the Caerphilly filming, on the day of the Comic Con announcement.

18th July
BFi hosted a preview of Lava and Inside Out. It is a such a beautiful, warm, funny and heartbreaking film. Haven't cried that much since The Imitation Game. It was followed by Q&A with the legendary Pete Docter, Jonas and Amy Poehler. GASP! I asked them:

Q: This film on a technical and emotional level, seems to be a culmination of all of [Pixar's] films. Congratulations! I've noticed that all or most of the films run parallel to an audience of a certain generation. […] Is the Braintrust this generation's Headquarters?* 

Pete: “[The Braintrust] are not working on our films, they're in a better position to see it, and give us opinions on what works and what doesn't […] it does end up being a very helpful thing because you get very close to things, as you're drawing or writing anything for any length of time you start getting so absorbed into small little details that nobody can really see or the wrong things... This process of showing it to people about every 3 months, though we hate it at the time because it all feels like 'WELL IT'S NOT DONE YET!' You're sort of forced to do it. But in the long run it ends up being a very good thing.”

Jonas: “Pixar is a place built for filmmakers so there's no real executives other than John Lasseter...he's the creative executive, he's a film director. So everybody comes to the table... my boss Jim Morris is a general manager as a filmmaker, so you get in that room and all you're basically doing is channeling a really smart audience of people that want to go to movies, and we never thought of these movies as anything other than movies. People often say, 'oh you know Animation's a great genre, you guys are great in that genre.' We've got to back up with that, we never thought of it as a genre. Western's a genre. Horror movie's a genre. Animation is a medium. And we've always approached it as a medium and we don't start from a point in trying to make films for kids. Although we do, we make films for families. We really make films for us, and I suppose we're like kids, but the truth is these are films we want to make. We never thought 'should this be simpler or more accessible for kids or what's in the market, should we'... we sort of four-wall ourselves up there, for better or worse, and we make what we want to make. It's not perfect there but it's a great support for creativity and I think we're all proud of the way the stuff comes out of that way.”

Amy: “It's like 'Women in Comedy'...'Animated Film'.


*I spun that query on the spot. To be clear, Ratatouille was released when I was a fresher at university. Toy Story 3 was released when I graduated. The respective films are about chasing your dreams and moving forward. Inside Out touches on looking at cherished memories differently, holding on to childhood innocence and coping with change.

20th July
My Dad flew a plane over Leicester 2500ft above ground at 100mph. It was one of his 60th birthday gifts. We all felt proud of life.

Finally...

Is there a full scale statue of this?

Also, how sweet does The Good Dinosaur look/feel? November's gonna be good!