Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Accident Claims

Liked this, from The Dawson Brothers (who did that great Harry Potter animation a while back).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dog Farts, Creates World

She Farted And Created The World from Scott Coello on Vimeo.

"She Farted And Created The World is an animation about a dog who farts and creates a world... and follow a sort-of evolution cycle within it.

The whole thing is made entirely from recycled papers. Bank statements, bills, scraps found on the street, pointless spam mail, paper the graphic kids throw out (they waste so much paper)... whatever I could get my mitts on!

I dedicate this animation to the worlds greatest dog, Maggie, who lost her lady bits last summer. Hope this'll cheer her up."

Brought to my attention by the lovely PP. Thanks PP!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Calling all pre-school animation writers...

I'm doing a workshop on Wednesday Tuesday (oops) about script layout, and was looking for a few variations on the standard Final Draft look. I've got a Shaun the Sheep script, which is useful, as it lays out a full animation script in a way that doesn't require dialogue, but all my old animation scripts for Bob The Builder and the like (which are laid out more like radio drama scripts) were wiped three hard drive crashes ago.

Anyone got any old (or new, I guess) animation scripts as pdfs they wouldn't mind me using?


Okay, here's an early draft of friend-of-the-blog Todd Allcott's ANTZ

Also Toy Story

Still looking for television animation though...

NEW UPDATE: aha, we have a lead! Should be able to put the script up here after the lecture, thanks Ori.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I'll be teaching a workshop on story structure in a couple of weeks...

...something which always fills me with trepidation, as like a lot of writers, I enjoy typing up dialogue, and bits where things explode, or fall over, but find all that other stuff about 'acts' and 'beats' and all that just a bit too much like, you know... actual work.

Not that structure isn't important to storytelling in the mediums of film and television, because of course it is, desperately. But every time I think I've grasped the basic of, say, how the whole three act thing works, it slips away from me once more, and I'm left thinking 'okay, there's a beginning, and a middle, and... what's the other one again?'

My defence against this sort of thing instantly disqualifying me from holding any sort of teaching role in the matter is that at least I know where the students are coming from when they stare at blankly and mutter things like 'But can't you just have a story without conflict, where everyone gets on?' and 'hey, your hair looks great today'. Sometimes I get a massive cob on about structure, with dark suspicions during the night that the whole concept is just a way to keep script editors in work, and that one day all writers will throw their copies of 'Story' out the window, write whatever they feel like, and British telly will be great again.

It won't, of course, as without proper structure, a story can only wobble along for so long without its legs falling off, albeit in potentially quite an entertaining way (and even though to be completely honest, part of me thinks 'Hmm, you never hear anyone say "Cor, that thing that was on telly last night, the characters in it didn't behave like real people, the stuff they said was totally unbelievable, the direction was flat, and the music was incredibly annoying, but my god it was well-structured!", do you?').

And yet, although I do sometimes think structure is a teensy tiny bit overrated, particularly in British telly, often at the expense of fun stuff like dialogue, and character, I do have to admit it is important. I need really good script editors, probably more so than most writers, because you can only coast on charm for so long. Script editors are there to help you/prolong the viewer's agony, by gently pointing out which holes you're about to dig yourself further in to. The bad ones will hand you a road map, and point to a number of X's they've marked on the road. The really good ones will point in a new direction so subtly you barely even notice it, then saunter off, whistling and letting you think you did all the work.

Anyway, clearly this post has no structure at all, but that's fine, because I'm still recovering from houmous-based food-poisoning. So I'll just point you in the direction of a top ace new scriptwriting blog I have found, by Antz writer Todd Allcott, in which he regularly talks about story structure, and doesn't ever make you feel like an idiot. He also, in this post, uses a kids' picture book to explain, in ways more elegant and eloquent than I could ever manage, the three act structure. It's a lovely story, involving an owl and a glow-worm, so go and read it even if you don't care about all the technical stuff.

And I asked Todd if I could use his post in my workshop (giving him full credit), and he said yes, making Todd not only a fine writer of animated movies, but also, to boot, a gent.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

"What makes you think smarter are limitations"

Fascinating interview with Andrew Stanton, director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo, on the success of Pixar, telling a good story, why people try and put animation in a box and many many other things. Thirty seven minutes long, and if you're interested in any of the above topics, absolutely worth your time.

Most interesting for me, how Pixar are working on that staying in that sweet spot between discipline and creativity, brilliantly explained thusly:

"We came up with the most egalitarian system we could, within a set-up that basically needs a dictator"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Atheist bus slogan generator

Woo hoo!

I wanted to have "And Dangermouse Was His Prophet", but there wasn't room, which was probably for the best.

ALSO: the Department of New (or re-branded) Blogs.

Ori gets caught in the snow.
Matt G's first post.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Songs with 'Annie' in the title, or reasonably prominent in the lyrics.

And they have to be reasonably well-known. My research has got me these:

Annie Get Your Gun - Squeeze
Annie, Let's Not Wait - Guillemots
Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy - Kid Creole and the Coconuts

... but there must be more, surely? Any help gratefully received.

UPDATE: crikey, that was more successful than I could reasonably have expected. Thank you blog people and Twitter chums.

UPDATE 2: this is also turning into quite a good 'misheard lyrics' thing as well.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Then three Messiahs come along at once.

I can't find any verification for this, but apparently, one of the few charming responses to the whole 'There's probably no God' atheist bus slogan thing is a poster outside a church in Hammersmith, with a sign reading:

"There's probably no bus, so why not come inside and get warm"

Which is terribly sweet. Rather pleasing to be reminded that a sizeable proportion of religious people are perfectly pleasant, and actually rather funny.

My grandad used to have regular debates with the Bishop of Truro (ooh get me and my name-dropping) over whether he was a unconvinced Christian, or a lapsed atheist. I think by the end of it, my grandad had decided he probably did believe in some kind of divine being, but the Bishop had handed in his notice, and was running a small humanist centre in St. Agnes.*

All of which weak whimsy just goes to prove I'm not really doing anything at the moment, other than idly arsing about between meetings.

*Not actual truth.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Not London

Yes, well, my determination to push on up to London has been made slightly more difficult by there not being any actual trains. I've emailed everyone I was supposed to be meeting (most of whom I suspect are in the same situation), to say I won't be coming up now, but I'm putting a post up here just in case.

I hope everyone is having fun in the snow. It isn't actually snowing in Cornwall, so I'll just sort of potter round as normal, vaguely worried the whole thing's an elaborate practical joke.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

BBC comedy budgets

Right, I'm off to London for a few days, but I thought this was an interesting piece from Michael Jacob on the BBC Writers' Room blog:

"The BBC currently has three comedy tariffs. The most expensive is £250,000 to £300,000 per half hour. Mid-range is £170,000 to £250,000, and the lowest tariff is £50,000 to £170,000.

Low cost, therefore, equates to a maximum of £170,000, and while it can just be possible to make an audience sitcom for the top end of that range, low cost effectively means single camera.

In essence, money buys time, people and facilities. Audience sitcom works on a weekly schedule in a pattern which hasn't changed for over 50 years. The production week begins by reading the episode, continues with rehearsals in a rehearsal room over three days, then moves to the studio for camera and dress rehearsals, culminating in the show being recorded in front of the audience. Very occasionally British sitcom operates on the American model in which a studio is booked for the entire run, and rehearsals take place in the sets, but that's the very top end.

It's a pattern which allows time for actors to learn the lines, and a director to block the actors' movements, develop their performances and visualise his shots. It's difficult to see how things might work differently, given that acting, moving and capturing are all essential, as are the people who do necessary jobs in a studio.

Also, and most important, it allows a writer to hear a script and amend it over the week to make it funnier, better for the actors, and the right length.

But if you're planning a low cost audience show, my advice would be to have a core cast of no more than five, contain it to three sets and don't expect star names.

Equally, if it's a low cost single camera project, the same applies - a contained environment, a core cast of no more than five, and a straightforward narrative style.

By a contained environment, I don't mean a single set, thought that's feasible if possibly claustrophobic. I mean two or at the most three regular and recurring sets or locations, which doesn't rule out going elsewhere occasionally, but going elsewhere has to be significant.

Since single camera shooting is like making a film. A contained approach makes it possible to shoot all the scenes which take place in one location or set, and then move on to another.

The two things which take up most time on location shoots are first moving from location to location, involving de-rigging, packing up, driving, and setting up; and second, lighting the new location. So the more that can be done in one place, the more effective the use of time.

A core cast of no more than five should offer enough permutations for story-telling and attitude. That's not to say there would be five leads - that could be a bit unwieldy. Many successful shows have been based on two leads, surrounded by subsidiary characters. In Two Pints, until Ralf Little left, the show was based on two pairs with one additional main character in Louise. My Family was based on two parents and three children when it began. Father Ted was effectively a pair, with two subsidiary 'main' characters, as was Fawlty Towers. So five as a maximum number, with odd guest parts, feels manageable and sensible in sitcom, and many sketch slash entertainment shows have been based on duos - Mitchell and Webb, Armstrong and Miller, Harry and Paul, Vic and Bob, the Boosh, and so on.

And finally, straightforward story-telling is important. By straightforward I mean no flashbacks and no montages. Both flashbacks and montages call for set-ups separate to the main narrative, needing costume, make-up and lighting changes. They add to time and thus to cost. Achieving cheapness means telling a story moving forward."