Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Review of the year: 2009

I'll get around to it sometime early in space year 2010.

Hope you had a good Christmas, and have a Happy New Year in the meantime.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

"Soldier" - Bitter Ruin

So I completed the music video so details can now be revealed. I suppose the main reason for not giving out much information about a project is to svae you from any embarrasing confrontations if the project fails and the interested public continually ask "Whatever happened to the music video idea, it sounded awesome".

I decided to take this further and just not reveal what I was working on, even when I was pretty much finished. This was mainly due to not having the time to blog about it.

So here we go, the complete making of the music video Soldier by Bitter Ruin.

I first met Bitter Ruin back in June at the BirdEatsBaby album launch party. When performing they asked a very casual audience that they were interested in a video and if anyone had any ideas to let themselves known. I had no ideas, however bought there second EP and emailed them a day later to say I was interested in making a video for one of their songs. They happily agreed and that was that, Soldier was made.

At least I wish it was that simple.

Over the next couple of months I worked on ideas thinking of what would work best, and how I was going to make a video. The last full animation (and by full I mean animated short) I made was back in 2005, In Case of Zombies. Chris gave me the idea of doing something Jan Svankmajer-esque from there I remembered the story of The Brave Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson. Now I don't read much so I just presumed any knowledge I have of stories will be common knowledge, not the case. As with John Otway on Jonny the Pessimist I had to remind a whole load of people about the story of a one legged tin soldier who falls in love with a ballerina and has an adventure to get to here only to end up in a fire with here at the end. (Here's a link if you want to read the full story - The Steadfast Tin Solider)

So I storyboarded the video and met up with the band to explain my ideas. All was going smoothly, I gave them my ideas, and they gave me their thoughts. The premise was that "someone" was building a War style diorama so had set out a variety of tool son the table, sewing things, work tools and paints along with the set "they" were building. This was where the soldier saw the ballerina. However rather than just recreating the story I flipped it around so that it's the ballerina trying to reach the Soldier, influence from the Jean Pierre Jeunet film A Very Long Engagement.

I was set to begin. I wanted a lot of actual First World War footage to play in the background of the soldier set. Therefore my plan was to create a lot of the video on the computer using Combustion to alter camera movements and so on. This was to avoid any lighting issues I would have with an actual green screen.

So at the end of July/early August I began work on the preparation side, building the set, designing the ballerina and guttering any props I needed.

Production kind of began towards the end of August when I took photos of the soldier and the set ready for composition in the computer. At the beginning of September I animated the ballerina. This went surprisingly well. I'd planned on having to pull an all-nighter just to get that thing done but found that id didn't quite tae m that long. Maybe watching A Mighty Wind and Hairspray helped. I don't know, but I finished all animation over a couple of days. Now things began to get complicated. In theory I had the majority of the scenes and could begin editing. Which I did to a degree. The soldier scenes couldn't be completed until I had the chosen war footage. The footage was all sourced online from the Internet Archive from the video, America Goes Over. I left this side of the film a while and worked on the ballerina. Most of this was simple, just a case of speeding up the animation. However there is a scene in the middle that in my head was simple but in practice drove me insane.

There is a shot where the ballerina is dancing go the edge of a table but as she is there a wind blows an assortment o f objects off the table. This was fine until I wanted the objects to fall off the table. It's pretty difficult animating with gravity. So I had a lot of importing and exporting, green screen masks and layers and composited the whole thing together. It was not simple however I was finally happy with the result, which unfortunately is only on screen for a few seconds. Did I waste my time? I don't think so, that's kind of the point of animation. Although you may not notice it the film just wouldn't be the same without the scene.

I met up with the band once again to update them on how things were going. They informed me of an idea that they were planning on having a screening launch night. I thought it was a great idea and agreed on the beginning of November. A couple of days later after working on the video some more, I changed the date to early December.

So production moved along until a fateful day in October when I got a job. This is a good thing, but it slowed done production having my days taken away. But still I plugged away. Until another fateful day in October WHEN MY PC BROKE. This caused me no end of stress and general anger. Especially when I had to take if back to PCWorld and couldn't find out what was going no until two weeks later when I got it back. So once again I began work. Until a further fateful day in October when I got a cold. OK so this wasn't so bad, but it was the first weekend I had on the video for a while and was planning on getting a whole chunk completed, and then I got instantly ill. I did as much as my brain could take and then had to focus on getting better. Now I had just over a month the finish the video.

So I spent the next three weeks filming the last remaining scenes, filmed the band and melted the soldier. This was obviously done last in case I needed reshoots. I managed to get the video completed by the last week of November, in time to have my birthday free, and giving me just over a week for any changes, which was needed.

The final cut was fine however there were concerns over the look of the film. I had opted for a black and white video to match the whole silent film feel of the video but it was later agreed that the original colour cut looked more visually appealing. I'm still fond on f the black and white though and it will probably appear online one day.

So it was complete, the last four months had been spent working on the video and it was time for the launch. In that time another video was being completed for the band to share the evening, and annoyingly it only took Mark Withers about two weeks.

Regarding the night, it was excellent. The audience really seemed to enjoy the whole thing. BirdEatsBaby provided support which put a whole full circle end to the story and the videos were screened to a great reception. The two videos are completely different to one another which is good as I was worried that the night would be spent comparing two pieces of work.

I had to provide a short speech, which I'm becoming a dab hand at, sort of. I said something, can't really remember what but it was relevant so all was good.

And without further ado, here's the complted video.




So that was the saga of Soldier from start to finish. Since completing the video I haven't really done anything. It is Christmas after all. That isn't to say that my brain is empty, I'll be spending the New Year writing another feature with Brother Chris (shhh!) and hopefully at some point get a long awaited live action short off the ground.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

We're not worthy...we're not worthy...

Will he ever get live that down? Brother Chris and I went to see ALICE COOPER last night and it was awesome. It made things a lot easier that he was playing at the Brighton Centre so no complicated travel was needed to get there which helped the evening go more smoothly. Also there weren't many annoying drunken louts in the audience. This ones that squeeze themselves in to the non-space in front of you with their overflowing pint cup.

The support came in the shape of Man Raze (yeah, we didn't know either) who consisted of Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and Simon Laffy of Girl (Yeah, we didn't know either). They were ok. There's only three of them which isn't that great on a large stage. As support bands go, they kind of served their purpose and played a few songs to kill time before the main attraction.



And then we waited. We weren't sure why there's still a long wait between bands. Surely the sound check will have been completed before the show. With Alice Cooper I realise there's a lot of stage to set up for the show but still I wonder if it's more of a traditional thing. Anyway, we were standing at the front, once again only a few people back. Pretty much the same position when we saw Devo. Here's the opening fro your pleasure, excuse the terrible sound.



We were standing just to the left of the curtain in front of the microphone at he the far end.

He then continued to play a real mix of tracks from the old to the new, even some I wasn't too familiar with such as Killer and Guilty. It was an awesome stage show this time around. I saw him last year I think, maybe the year before supported by Motorhead and Joan Jett, and although there was a (stage) death, there wasn't much of a link between the songs. However this time, with The Theatre of Death, there were some cool set pieces, including numerous deaths and a nurse grinding sparks off her body.

Once again he didn't fail to impress. He also doesn't seem to have aged since the eighties. It's not all about Alice though, his band were excellent. It's a pity I can never remember who they were, research must be done I think.

So once again Alice Cooper survives, hopefully for a few more years. I look forward to seeing what he pulls out of the bag next time.



As a quick note, there's a lot of stuff that gets thrown into the crowd such as canes, necklaces and Alice Cooper dollars, and on his occasion I was qucik enough to grab a dollar bill out of the air. Unfortunately it is only pretend currency, but still a great souvenir.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Movie time once again...

I've got billions of things to blog about, well four actually, so let's go back one week, a single day after my birthday and a second adventure geeking out in London at Collectormania.

So here's the obligatory opening picture of R2D2. I decided to attend yet another Sci-Fi convention to celebrate my birthday, this time Collectormania. I say this time as though it's a completely different event, however it clearly isn't. So with girlfriend in tow we took the train to old London town. It's the same old story, there are booths selling stuff, celebrities signing and talks, both free and expensive. The mine drive this time around was to see Anthony Michael Hall, he of Breakfast club fame and more recently seen in The Dark Knight. Unfortunately he cancelled. I also got excited about the possibility of meeting Jess Harnell,the voice-over artist of Wakko of the Animaniacs, who also featured in the film Comic Book: The Movie. Unfortunately he also cancelled. So I was left with two main choices, Steve Blum, the voice of Spike Speigal form Cowboy Bebop and most recently Wolverine in game and cartoon forms. I was also interested in meeting Katherine Isabelle, though not widely known she has popped up as a guest star in a variety of US shows, have a brief scene in Uwe Bolls Rampage and was the leading lady in the awesome Ginger Snaps.


So to cut to the chase, the reason I have a strange expression in this photo is due to the fact that I just had a strange experience discussing the film Rampage. I remarked that that was the last film I saw her in at which point she confessed that she hadn't seen it. I then wasn't sure where to go, I explained that I saw it at Phantasmagoria in case she smelled a pirate. It then got weird as I wasn't sure if she was happy with he film, hadn't been shown due to distribution problems, or if it was just considered a job. So i got my autograph, photo and left.

As this was the second convention this year I wasn't feeling as much excitement as before, there were things to take photos of, and people to see. George Takei was one, Billy Dee Williams, Shannen Doherty (looking miserable) and John Rhys Davis were others. Doug Bradley was in attendance but I didn't want to approach him for two reasons, firstly I'd have to mention Chris and Ten Dead Men and hope that he knew what I was on about, and secondly, I didn't want a repeat of last time and have Halloween quotes spat at me. So I left him alone.

We later attended a talk by Steve Blum. This was cool, not many people turned up so the atmosphere was very casual. Unfortunately this meant he went straight to questions. I managed to think of one, asking which medium he preferred to work in, anime, western animation or video games (he said he enjoys them all so which he's working on that day is his favourite). I did have another question regarding a point made in Comic Book the Movie about how, with all this voice over talent, major studios still feel they have to cast "stars" as the voices in their animated films. There was no way I'd be able to say all that, and the face that the question had become more specialised and fan related, I kept quiet.



And that as more or less it for the convention. Trains were all messed up so I was pretty stressed at we then had to make it to the south bank to experience the Movieum., the most hated word in the English made up language.

This was a strange place. It's straight-forward, being a museum of film props, but I tries to educate in the process on the making of a film, but doesn't succeed. Also a lot of the items in the corridors were just not labelled so I had no idea what some things were. I realise this was Batman, but what is if for, Is it just a decoration piece or did it serve some design purpose. Answer on a postcard please. So there were a lot of cool things in the museum. Costumes from Harry Potter and a lots of James Bond stuff. I got quite excited when I saw the Glaive from Krull.


The coolest part of the museum though was a temporary exhibition/shop of animation cells. They were hidden in a small room, where a lady offered us some sweets and told use to ask if we needed help. Which all seemed fair enough until we realised that all the cells were for sale. I wasn't sure if she expected us to buy anything. There was a lot of Batman stuff in there which was really cool to see. One day I hope to buy something like that as I really like animation cells. At the moment I cannot justify spending that much (£200+). I got a bit worried when flicking through a folder when I came across a sketch of Charlie Brown selling for £3000. There were so many expensive pieces that the public could just look through. So we left to continue the journey.

So we had a great time visiting the nations capital. We would've stayed longer but the heavens opened, pouring down on use. It was a cool, self indulgent, film geek day.

Some more photo's from the Movieum









Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Boris Karloff narrates my work.


Ok, so that title is only part true. Being part of the week long Boris Karlof Blogathon, celebrating Mr Karloff's birthday on 23rd November, I'm given a chance to drag out a film I made during the first year of my animation degree. Before I get into it, please remember to take some time to check out all the contributing blogger's posts, a full list can be found on Frankensteinia's blog. There are some great additions on there honouring a great man.

So back to my animation degree and the year 2002. The task was to complete a short narrative piece, an animatic to be precise (An animatic is basically a filmed storyboard)to teach us how to tell a story with pictures. After thinking long and hard I decided to base mine on the story 'An Appointment in Samara" Not only is it a cool little story but I could also get Boris Karloff to narrate my film. Obviously as this was a project and I made no money from it (copyright notice covered there) I lifted said narration from the Peter Bogdanovich film "Targets" in which Karloff, as Byron Orlok, recites the story.

So I edited down the narration, created the storyboard and presented my work. Unfortunately it was under appreciated as the lecturers felt I was relying too much on the the narration rather than the visuals. In hindsight, they may have been right, but who cares. With Boris Karloff telling the story, you're guaranteed to end up focusing more on him than my rough sketches.

so for your pleasure, and if you can bear through a couple of my early works, you can watch the animatic I created for "An appointment in Samara"



And below is the scene from which the narration was taken, from the Peter Bogdanovich film Targets.



To finish off with here's a clip from The Bride of Frankenstein. It is the end so hopefully you've already seen the film. It's just a really cool moment in film and one of my favourites



On that pleasant note go and check out Brother Chris blog and, the rest of the participants, to share the love for a movie legend at Frankensteinia's blog.

Happy Birthday Mr. Karloff.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Busy-ness as usual...

So I’m busy, but only for the time being as the music video work is coming to a close. It’s been a while since I’ve made a complete short film and I’ve had to get used to the amount of work needed, not just in the actual animating but also with the planning, and just now, the actual time needed to render the video out. So far I’ve had to split the video into 6 parts, and each subsequent part into two when the effects were added. This is mainly due to both file size, and programs crashing after too long.

Anyway, when I have a little more time I’ll write up a complete review with pictures and links included as a making of style report.

At the beginning of the month at the Halloween inspired Son of Moviebar, my film In Case of Zombies was screened. It went down really well which was cool to experience, however the Q & A this time around was more me mumbling and not really giving any amount of decent information out such as how the film predated the Zombie boom and other factoids. Instead I umm’d and err’d a bit then sat down. Fortunately the rest of the Q&A’s were just as brie so I don’t think the audience minded much.
Since then I’ve kind of been well busy animation and editing.

Running out o things to talk about I’ll just mention the complete mess that was Channel Fours 3D week. Not so much a week than an evening as the same programs were repeated all week. On Monday I decided to miss The Queen in 3D, not the Helen Mirren film, but some old footage of her coronation converted to 3D (for some reason) So my 3D adventure began with Derren Brown presenting some pointless magic in 3D. It was pointless. The next 3D experience I had was on Friday, due to contradicting screening times I missed Flesh for Frankenstein.

Friday was Friday the 13th Part III. Awesome. This has my second favourite 3D moment (the first being the random man with paddle board in House of Wax) where a man puts his washing out. Great stuff. Having never seen it in 3D before I was not disappointed.
The film is still good. In 2d it manages to keep you entertained, however only in 3 dimensions do the Yoyo, juggling and popcorn scenes really make sense (to a degree).

On Saturday we watched The Greatest 3d Moments. Channel Four returned to their favourite top ten format to reavel ten 3d moments, however all of these were more interesting than the rest of the 3d programs to be shown on Sunday (JLS and Hanna Montana). However, only small clips were shown but not before a massive introduction by an assortment of “comedians” who watched the clips the night before, and then even when the clips stated we were interrupted by another talking head to explain the clip were were trying to watch.

Basically the whole week was a dissappointing mess. It could have been cool if they manged to get hold of as many 3D films as they could, or they should have just planed a single day as most of the programs were repeated this weekend. Also I got very annoyed as it came across that everyone thought it was 80’s kitsch, rather than 50s when it all started. So it was all a bit of a mess and was all kind of a waste of time.

Still, I saw a man putting his washing out. Excellent.

Next week is the Karloff blogathon. I shall return.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Busy busy busy.

Too busy ot blog properly. PC broke, then was ill, finally back to editing music video and there's quite a bit to do to get it perfect. Just wanted to mention that I'll be taking part in the Boris Karloff blogathon in November.

Check out details of the Boris Karloff Blogathon here. Or at Brother Chris blog here.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

It's KEVIN SMITH!!!!

So last night I went to see Kevin SMith live at the O2 in London. But I'm jumping the gun a little here, this story is a long and annoying one, however I shall condense it for you.

It is true that I was to see Kevin Smith, but the world being how it is at the moment, and its current dislike for all things me didn't want to make it easy, so it closed the Jubilee line, the only tube that gets you anywhere near the O2/Millennium Dome. So I spent the monring stressing out trying to find out how the hell anyone gets to this giant dome on the outskirts of civilized London. There were no bridges near so I couldn't just get to a close station and walk. I was originally planning on going to a smaller station but we found out that was at least 40 minutes away. It's not the getting there that's the problem though, it's the getting home as trains cease to exist after 1:00am. Anyway after much searching I decided the easiest way was to get a boat. Yes in this day and age the best way across London was a bloody boat. As Brother Chris pointed out it was a bit like King Kong going to some mysterious island and he advised to look out for dinosaurs. Unfortunately there where none.

So I head out to London town, nearly missing the first train I had to run a little, and those who know me know how much I hate to run for trains, or anything. So I pass stage 1. I went to London Bridge which you'd think I'd be familiar with after the E4 awards and the Paparbag filming, however I get a little lost, but eventually leave via the right exit and head to the river, pay the ferry man and get the boat. This would be quite cool if not for the fact that it still has to stop every few yards so there is no old timey magic about it. Then we approach the millennium bodge. Why was this thing even built? It really is just a massive space in the middle of nowhere that's a bugger to get to. Anyway, it was a bit like the Bond film, The World is Not Enough, if he'd paid to get to the millennium dome. So after all this mental planning i find that I'm now two hours early.

So I wander the halls of the O2. Inside there was a random security gate that seemed like an optional choise. I, despite having a bag and being prepard to be searched, chose to ignore the gate and just walked in with no hassle. Strange. Inside it's a bizarre place. There are loads of restarants and a cinema and the main O2 arena. Kevin Smith was in the smaller Indigo2 arena off to one side. After walking as far as I could I reutnred to wait with the rest of the early birds.

And wait I did. Then bouncers appeared and a queue was formed, however as I'd paid a little extra I was sent to an alternate entrance for the King's Row VIP area where I hoped to see some famous folk. In the meantime I had an awkward fandom converstaion with randoms, who will feature later into the story. Eventually the doors opened and I was told to go in, take a left and use the lift. At which point I wondered whether I should wait until more people got in the lift but then decided to go up alone.

So I got in, found my seat and wathced as the place took ages to fill up. Knowing that time was precious when leaving I became concerned when I found out he wouldn't be on until 8pm. The tickets all said 7pm so I got a little panicked but there was nothing I could do. More people came in, people sat next to me. There were no famous folk on my row, although some did look slightly familiar. However on the row behind me was sitting Noel Clarke from Dr Who. He has done other things, and directed films, however I like to take him down a peg or two.

And then the show began. Kevin Smith came out and began.

The night was excellent. Questions were asked, answers where given, both long and short. Stories of Bruce Willis were told, the teachings of Wayne Gretzky, the hatred for Jonathon Ross (with applause from the audience) and interview with a pre op transexual (who I was talking to in the queue before the show)

Towards the end people started to take advantage of the niceness of Kevin, and a lot of hugs/photos where requested which slowed down proceedings, but the night ended well enough with an explanation of how he met Malcolm Ingram, a regular on his SModcast.

Then he left. At which point I legged it to the boat as I had just enough time to make the last boat and trains home. I managed to get them all and arrive safely, however the boat is possible the slowest way to travel when full, made worse by the guy checking or selling tickets to everyone. When you have a train to catch this becomes inconvenient as you just think "Why can't he just let everyone go for free?". But it is London after all. I made all my connections, and got home safely.

On an interesting side note on the train from London Bridge I did overhear a conversation by four formal dressed party goers praising Zack and Miri make a Porno. Which was nice to hear, as it kind of showed how widely Kevin Smith's films are seen, not just by the devoted fans who pay £40 to see the man talk for three hours.

And that's it for the fun for a while.

Have a week.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I gave a Q&A.

This is just a quick update whilst I finish burning some cds. The other night Jonny the Pessimist was shown at Son of Movie bar and I had to do a Q&A. Me, of all people had to get up and speak publicly. And I did, and it went rather well I think. It didn't actually help that it's been five years since I made the film so I can't remember most of the details but it was cool to see it in front of an audience. There were a few questions asked about how long it took, how John Otway got involved and why the London Halloween films festival (where it was shown) is held in January. I just hope I came across well and not like a blithering idiot as I've got to do it again next month with In case of Zombies. I'm looking forward to this on as although it was shown at the Halloween festival, I couldn't make it down so I've never seen an audience reaction. Hopefully it will go down well.

Until next time.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

John Otway...Awesome!

So last night was the second night of eccentric entertainment that I attended. Yes following form the success of Kinky Friedman I went to see Otway and Barrett. To those to in the know, that's John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, together once again after, well only about a year, but I didn't have chance to catch their last tour. Before then though they haven't played together since the early eighties, as far as I know.

It was great to see what was, in essence, the original line up and to hear some Otway classics as they were originally performed back in the day before I even existed.




There was no real weirdness about this gig as I had company so nothing to report on that front. However, not wanting to let the night go by smoothly Brother Chris convinced me to go over and say hello. This was mainly due, for those who don't know or can't remember, to the fact that John Otway recorded the voice-over track to my graduate film Jonny The Pessimist. So an awkward conversation was had, made stranger by the fact that my PC blew up in the morning so I started moaning about that. At this point we wished him well and returned to our seats. Anyway, he did remember making the film and from what I could tell did seem to enjoy it which is nice. He mentioned how he'd been forwarding people to it via the John Otway forum and would link to it when his new site is up and running. Which is all great stuff.



So the gig continued, there were a few songs I'd never heard live before which was great. A highlight being The Highwayman, which was a definite influence on Jonny The Pessimist and if I remember correctly, the first Otway song I heard.



So once again another awesome night. Wild Willy Barret was excellent,a great straight man to Otway's eccentricities and a master musician. There were also some excellent and surprising destruction of guitars and a pair of Chekhov's bagpipes that it seemed would go unused until the finale.

So that's it for a few weeks, back to the day to day monotony of life, and the trials and tribulations a sucky, blowed up PC.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Kinky Friedman

I saw Kinky Friedman last night and a strange experience it was. If you don't know who he is I wouldn't blame you. I only know of him through my Dad who was a fan of his stories collected in The Kinky Friedman Crime Club which all feature Kinky as a "wise-cracking, cigar-smoking, cat-loving reluctant hero-detective and are based in New York" - says Amazon. Anyway, hes been trying to get me to read these for ages and I think it's about time I did. The reason I was so reluctant before was mainly due to the fact that I only read a work during my lunch break and the book was a big 'un, to big to carry in my bag. The other reason I know of him is through the song, "They ain't making Jews like Jesus anymore" which featured on one of Dad's tapes he used to play in the car.



So when I found out he was playing in Brighton, I must say I was interested but reluctant due to my current situation of money, however after Dad pointed out that I paid a hell of a lot more to see Kevin Smith (coming up on 10/10/09) I thought what the hell. And I'm glad I did.

At first it was a little strange as I had gone by myself I had a lot of hanging around to do. There's only so many times you can read the flyers on the table. That an the fact that the place is like a cabaret club it was a little off putting. But I stuck with it. The problem is whenever you find you have time to wait anywhere, and if conversation is running dry (or none at all in last nights case) you start to people watch. you try and figure out who's there because they're fans and who's there for a simple night out. You also start to judge people a lot depending on the way they're acting. Not in an evil way I might add. To give an example there was a group who throughout the night were collecting more people and hugging and laughing and by the end begin quite annoying with their talking, but I gathered they were on some kind of work-based retreat and were there for the sake of it. On another table were an older couple who from what I could tell were obsessives as they lit up when Kinky came out before the show to sign some books and they rushed over in excitement. And then there was me, strange guy on his own staring at flyers and practising origami.

This wasn't as bad as a rock gig where there's always a point when you see someone who's really annoying and then they forever turn up and seem to hang around you. But I digress.

Once the show started all was fine. Kinky sang, with piano accompaniment of Little Jewford (of the original line up Kinky Friendman and hte Texas Jewboys) Then there was a brief Q&A about his political career (he's running for Governor of Texas), an excerpt from his book and a final set of songs with a double encore. And just to state this wasn't a run out the back and wait for a couple of minutes encore, this was a go off the front of the stage and then decide to play a couple more songs encore. I'm not saying it wasn't planned but, I think, depending on audience reaction, he could have refused.

In a strange, coincidental note, for the final song of the night he played the folk song Pretty Boy Floyd originally by Woody Guthrie. This was strange due to the fact that only a week before I bought I CD of American Murder Ballads for that song. Bizarre.

Anyway, it was a great night after the initial weirdness. I then went over, shook the man's hand and left.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Here there be moaning.

The fifteen E4 estings have been announced and are currently on the website. I hav eto be careful what I say now as not to be simply brushed of as jealous ramblings becuase I didn't get in this time. With that said I will answer the burning question, are any of them actually any good?

No.

Ok there are a couple that look pretty, and couple have nice ideas, however the majority are just far too simple to be interesting. This year I had noticed how many featured similar ideas. There were a lot of video game influenced entries and a coupl made it into the final. However a bad couple, this first, similar to mine, takes a level of a video game but is just bad. At least mine looked like is was a real game. The other shows a series of Nintendo Game & Watch style games but has a really erratic edit style and really looks a mess.

I also want to mention a live action entry with a girl wearing a shredded E4 on her face blowing in the wind for the ten seconds. It made the final. I just don't know what's wrong with the world these days.

If I enter again next year I'll remember that all is needed is some pointless crap moving whilst the e4 logo moves around. Very little is needed beyond that.

So my bias got the best of me by the end, I just hope that my friend wins becaues of what I've seen, at least I know he'll be able to come up with somethign good for the treatment/storyboard section of the competition.


In a random note, just seen this on Youtube. Can't quite work out if its good to see Matthew Broderick or just depressing due to still trading on Ferris Beuller lines.



Side note, even though its old, Obama needs to find a better cameraman/editer.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

No mini-crumble for me then.

I thought I'd best update as not to look like a fool. I'm guessing that I haven't made the final of this years esting competition as a friend has just informed the world, via facebook, that the sting he contributed on has made it. Therefore, as I have received no email I can only fear the worse.

I am happy for the guy but a little disappointed. It would have been nice to finalise once again, especially with my current feeling about the competitiveness, and not to mention CG-ness, of the current animation industry. It will be interesting to see what the quality is like this time. There were a few dud ideas last year, some that even won.

So back to that drawing board I go.

For a final time, this is what the world was missing out on.





Bugger.

My memory sucks.

So I'm trying to remember how this years Esting competition is going to work. I know from the 800 entries there will be only 15 finalists (whether this changes due to the amount of entries) and then those 15 get sent on a secret mission of sorts. I just can't remember when. I know it was supposed to be sometime in September, 15th I think, but I can't be sure.

Anyway, no point worrying about that when there's more on the cards. Today I finished principal photography on the music video. I say that but there's still a bit to do, but most of it now takes place on the computer, which failed to turn on for the last two days. Seems fine now though. So that's coming along until the next hiccup.

Alongside the music video I'm doing some editing for OpenBook having filmed their London event a couple of weeks ago. I need to edit this into a 2/3 minute trailer for future events.

Having edited making of footage before, I don't feel this will be that challenging, however I've never really filmed events before so I'm not sure what the coverage will be like. I did film a live dvd a few years back but this involved a roaming camera and a base camera. I manned the base camera. Anyway, here's hoping all is well. However I've never used a Mac before nor Final Cut pro, and I had a whole checking my options in life moment this weekend.

This was mainly due to above fact and the following. There's more and more students graduating each year, and each year technology improves. If the universities have the money they'll get the new kit. Compared to me, who not begin the richest person in the world can't afford new and interesting programs let alone a Mac, so continues to use the programs I was trained on, setting me back about five years. If you want to compete, like everything, it seems you need money.

But as I realise, I don't think I ever really wanted to be an animator. I just got the skills is all.

Anyway, so I'm up to date on the music video, I'm doing some extra experience work, I just need to find a job and things will be...not on track. Things will be at a level where I cam earn a little money, enough to live, and then start thinking about quiting my job in order to follow a career in something interesting. That is unless the job I miraculously find is interesting.

Beyond that I pick up the scraps left by Brother Chris to develop my writing.

So we're all up to date. In more pleasant news I saw 500 Days of Summer t'other day and was well impressed. It's a different (and far superior) take on run of the mill romantic comedies. Starring the always excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was wasted in G I Joe, and Zooey Deschanel, who also always gives a good performance, it revolves around Gordon-Levitt character falling in and out of love with Deschanel. With a back and forth storytelling style, and some neat visual styles, it does not fail to impress and gives you a good feeling on the way home. Plus it had a cool soundtrack.



It reminded me a lot of In Search of a Midnight Kiss which I saw a couple of days before. This is a lot closer to Woody Allen's Manhattan, but in Los Angeles. it centres around a lonely guy not wanting to spend New Year's eve alone and sets up and ad looking for anyone to kiss at midnight, hence the title. It's an independent film from Alex Holdridge and is very similar to the films of Richard Linklater. I realise I'm just saying what other films it's like but my blog mind has come to an end. If you like any of the films mentioned then you should check it out.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

It's all over with.

That's it. The end of the E4 Esting competition. Well, not really. Today was the closing date for entries, and a mixed bag they are too. There are some good ones, both idea wise and technically, and some terrible ones, again ideas and technically. This year however the contest isn't just a popularity contest. The 200 odd videos will be judged and whittled down to a minuscule 15, then a second stage to the competition is started where each finalist is tasked to create a treatment or storyboard. These are then judged to reveal the final winner.

This implies that technical achievement is not necessarily needed for your video and a good idea can get you through to stage 2.

Fingers crossed then. I need another task to keep my already overflowing brain busy.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A second weekend of AWESOME-NESS. Day Three

Day Three. The final day of the festival and check out day at Dark Water hotel. I'd survived.


There was a winding down feeling on this day and not so many Q&A's for the films. Also the schedule was catching up with me so I was tired. I'd also only had an ice cream for my dinner the night before.

We checked out of the hotel but Deckard must have got Jens as she was nowhere. Instead was a woman, who I'm sure didn't actually work there, especially as she asked us for a rating of our stay, maybe she knew about the Dark Water stains. Anyway, under pressure we gave a good rating. She didn't make a note of this, maybe she was just interested. Maybe she knew something we didn't. We handed over the key and left the Dark Water room to take its next victim.

Breakfast time once again. No one joined us today so we took the time to fill out the feedback questionnaires. First on the bill was Dogs of Chinatown. This film had some of the same people in from Contour, which was shown at last years festival. The fights were good, but it suffered from the criminal element. It's hard to feel sympathy for criminals. also there was a good visual style at the beginning, which returned at the end, but was lost in the middle. Still, it entertained with fighting.

Following this was The Assessment. A horror film, similar to Severance. It also starred the awesomely named Keith Blaser. Anyway, it was a bit dragged out, with a lot of moaning of what to do in the middle by the characters. There was a good lake death towards the end, but it's nothing special.

The Bodyguard: A New Beginning was up next, a film by Chee Keong Cheung. Filmed in both Hong Kong and London, once again it had good fights, especially a good chase scene through a shopping mall. It does suffer from the sympathetic criminal though. Rival triad bosses going after each others daughters for revenge of some kind. I didn't quite follow the reasoning behind it, but you stopped caring. Action was good though, and the Hong Kong setting gave the film a higher visual dynamic. Chee gave a Q&A after the film with actor/fighter Mark Strange which was interesting, especially the stories surrounding Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

We then said our goodbyes before attending the final film, Underground, again by Chee Keong Cheung. This is basically a tournament film. And that's it. A string of fights, good fights but towards the end you didn't really care. And that's about it. It stars Danny John-Jules as a shady businessman type and Mark Strange as a homeless fighter. It could have done with a more developed storyline between the fighters, but the choreography was good.

And then we ran away in order to get our train home. So we began the long drawn out wait for trains. Sunday travel is never good. But eventually we made out connections and arrived safe and sound, back in reality of day to day life.

In summary it really was an awesome weekend. Great films and cool Q&As. It was disappointing that the attendance wasn't larger. I'm not sure why the turnout wasn't greater, you;d think the guest speakers would have got some attention. I just can't help thinking that Swindon isn't the best place for a film festival. However, I'm glad I attended, as I said at the beginning of this three post adventure I doubt it will be topped in the near future.

Now I really should get back to making music videos and stuff.

Monday, 17 August 2009

A second weekend of AWESOME-NESS. Day Two

Day Two -

After watching a bizarre kids program (in which one character gave another a moustache as a present) whilst we woke and got ready, we set off for breakfast at the festival. We sat and ate when who should come over and join us but Uwe Boll. Awesome.

We talked about films and the state of the world, and the state of films in the world, until it was time for the first screening of the day, Side Effx. This film has problems. It was followed with a Q&A by the director, who was brought on to edit the film into something watchable after the first director was let go. He was aware of the problems with the film, mainly due to the pacing. It was a good try, but did suffer from random corridor wanderings. Good fights though, and wire work.

This was followed by The Disappeared. Described as an urban ghost story it didn't fail to deliver. There were a couple of creepy moments but towards the end it fell into run of the mill story telling, getting a little predictable. Still, I felt it was well shot and acted.

After this was the Star Hyke series preview and cast Q&A. Star Hyke is an independent comedy, drama, sci-fi series with obvious comparisons to Red Dwarf and Hyperdrive. It kind of stands on its own, the CGI is well done and Jeremy Bulloch (of Boba Fett fame) is awesome as the ships doctor, providing most of the laughs. However, we were shown episodes 4 & 5 so it was a little hard to follow having missed half of the series. Brother Chris has seen the whole series and did say that it's best to see the first three in one block in order to grasp the concept. I'd still watch it when it airs on TV though, and think it would probably get better as the series goes on. The Q&A afterwards was cool, with cast keeping things lighthearted, and of course the awesome Jeremy Bulloch.

Then was the "dinner break" a long gap between films in order to get something to eat, so of course we just ended up chatting with friends. It was good to hear some industry speak and see how easy/difficult it is to get films released these days. So no food was had. Whoops.

The penultimate screening of Saturday was The Passage, directed by Mark Heller and written by and starring Neil Jackson, who attended the screening for the following Q&A. This film surprised me. It does have a slow build up as you get to know the characters, but does deliver towards the end. When it was introduced, Neil Jackson explained it was based on true events, so I thought it would just be him wandering around Morocco. Which does happen to a degree, but let's just say, if all of it was true, he wouldn't have been able to introduce the film. Neil then held a Q&A which was awesome, especially as I asked a decent, Creative Screenwriting style question about treatments and such. If you didn't know, Neil has been in a bunch of stuff including the Blade TV series and more recently Push and this was his first produced screenplay. He seemed to love writing and said in a way he used that to get into acting in the first place. Anyway, it was really interesting talk and he's a nice guy.

I then attended the final screening of the day, Mark of the Devil., directed by Michael Armstrong, who also attended for the Q&A. This is a film from 1970, starring Udo Kier and Herbert Lom about witch-finders. As with Witchfinder General, it's not really a horror but I feel always comes across more like an educational video but just a little bit nastier. It was also described as an early example of "torture-porn", a concept taken to extremes with the likes of Hostel and the umpteen thousand Saw sequels. Mark of the Devil is ok. Not a brilliant film but it still made me squirm in places, plus it was good to see something from a different era on the bill. The following Q&A was excellent. Again, Michael Armstrong is a director form a completely different time of filmmaking and due to this questions were few. He was a friendly guy and did have a passion for films, even if he was a little tipsy at the time. He also mentioned the original Haunting as one of the scariest films made, a point I definitely agreed with.

It was time to leave and find Brother Chris, who had left to seek his fortune. I said my goodbyes to friends and to Neil and Michael and left. Meeting up with Chris in a shouty Italian restaurant we left for the hotel. Once there we took pleasure in the Ice Cream vending machine once again, I'd yet to have any dinner so a mint magnum would have to do. Excellent.

-Today I also bought a book called "I Am Batman" which was awesome. I'll give a little excerpt:
My name is Bruce Wayne.
My home is Gotham City.
I live in a big apartment.
I own a boat and a plane.

I have nice clothes.
I have a fast car.
And I have lots of other fancy toys and gadgets.
...

The Joker is a tricky foe.
His jokes are never funny.
Sometimes they hurt people.
...

Fighting crime is not easy.
But my gear and gadgets help make it all possible.
I am not just Bruce Wayne.
I am Batman!

Awesome!

A second weekend of AWESOME-NESS. Day One

These days it's getting pretty hard to beat the awesome-ness of past events. This past weekend is so high up on the scale I doubt it will ever be knocked off the list.

Last weekend Brother Chris and I attended the Phantasmagoria Film Festival held in Swindon. A great showcase of independent genre films from horror to martial arts. For us this was just the beginning.

Day One -

We took a train. So far so good, then found our lodgings in the form of the Travelodge. Then the weirdness began. I'm convinced that the girl checking us in was called Jens. Which just conjures up images of Blade Runner-esqe androids. So we took our key, gave warning to keep away from any Harrison Ford looking types, and made out way up to the room. Brother Chris settled in easy enough. I on the other hand was disturbed by the freaky Dark Water-esqe drip stains on the wall, just above my bed. I did not want to be dragged away in the middle of the night by a long haired Japanese ghost girl.

For the time being I managed to suppress my fear and we left for the festival. Well, sort of. We left on the hunt for dinner, where we passed a pub. At which point we stopped as Uwe Boll was inside with two people. We decided to go in, find something to eat and stare at him. Instead, we went in, Chris recognised one of the people so we went over and joined them. Having a drink with Uwe Boll. Awesome.

We later left for the Arts Centre for the first film of the first day, Gnaw. A good horror film. It was a little predictable at times but the effects and acting were good enough. After a brief Q&A with director Gregory Mandry. We had a time for a quick drink before the last film of the evening. In this time I was introduced to Julian Richards, director of The Last Horror Movie and Darklands as he'd met Brother Chris before. We then went in to see Uwe Boll's film Rampage. It's a brilliant film. Well shot and edited. Uwe Boll comes under a lot of bad press because of his video game movies, which aren't that great but as he pointed out, still sell a hell of a lot more than his regular films, which are always better. Rampage should definitely be checked out though, and Brendan Fletcher is quite convincing as the young guy whose is tipped over the edge to go on the titular rampage.

So a great first day. Now we really needed to get some food, and head back to the Dark Water room. After an encounter with take away food we got excited by the Ice Cream machine in the travelodge, with the the futuristic method in which fridge opened and suckers gripped the ice cream to dispense out of the front of the machine. We were still in Blade Runner territory. Thanks to that machine, and watching the end of The Howling, I could ignore the evil water stains and went to sleep, ready for the next full day of films.

Friday, 14 August 2009

I do not regret the things I have done, but those I did not do.

So I'm off to Phantasmagoria this weekend. Well, in about an hour to be exact. There's stuff going on there, some films, some guest a bunch of stuff. You can check the website out here. It should be a good weekend.

As I said I'm just killing time before I go. I've not got the time to do any music video work and I've already packed so I'm just killing time.

Speaking of the music video. I made the first set. Sort of. It exists so in theory I can start filming. It is however not yet painted and really needs another few layers of paper to strengthen it up but it looks good.

What else is there...oh yeah the estings competition ends in the next couple of weeks. If you haven't seen my entry this year check it out here. It's not a popularity contest this time around however give it a "Yay" if you like it, there's no harm in that.

And that's about all there is today. And I've got to go.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A whole bunch of junk...

Just a random update today. Last weekend, as mentioned briefly on Brother Chris' blog we had friends over and took part in an almighty film night. See the poster below.


The night began in the early evening with Clifford. Now this film was a bit pants. The bizarre concept basically didn't hold us interested for the whole film. It is quite bizarre, due to the main fact, as mentioned before, that Clifford is played by Martin Short who at the time of filming was 40 years old. YES THAT'S A 40 YEAR OLD MAN PLAYING A 10 YEAR OLD BOY. This and the fact that it's only available on Region 1 DVD or Xbox Live Marketplace adds the bizarre nature of the film. So what began well, became tiresome.

We followed this with Collision Course. This is the super team-up of former Tonight Show host Jay Leno and Mr Myagi himself, Pat Morita. Why this was thought to be a good idea, at any stage I don't know. It was pretty hard to understand either actor with Pat Morita's few English words, and Jay Leno's squeaky accented voice didn't help matters. However things blew up, towards the end there were some collisions and it all peaked with a deadly serious ending with some Karate from Mr Myagi. So things were building quite well for the real headliner, SHAKMA.

Shakma is not without its faults, but was everything I expected it to be. There was a crazy baboon going mental at doors, and a lot of death. There was way too much walking around empty corridors, and as the building was empty, and they spent a lot of time in stair wells, you couldn't help but wonder why they didn't just leave. Anyway, they didn't so they died. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Basically that's all I have to say. The trailer delivered.

Finally, as a wind down film we watched Skinned Deep. This was strange. On the one hand it was terrible. Acting was bad, film quality was bad and the plot wasn't that great either. On the other hand though it did have a good consistent design to it. The bad guys/creatures were all cool and there was enough to hold our interest. The highlight was definitely Warwick Davis as Plates. A guy who throws plates at people. He even had a random monologue half way through as to why he enjoyed his past-time. Bizarre indeed.

So a pretty successful event was had. Whether we'll be able to hold another film night in the future is debatable, our credibility may have been seriously reduced.

In other happenings, I'm slowly building up to filming the music video. I'm collecting stuff to make the "set" and I need to work on one of the characters a little more to get that Tenniel look. I hope to start filming next week.

Finally as I thought I had nothing to blog about I saw this video for the game WET on Xbox 360 and PS3. I've posted the trailer below. I think it looks pretty cool I like the pseudo Grind house style. I think it could be a fun game to play. That's if I ever get through the long pile of existing game I already have.

WET Game trailer



Finally completed Half Life 2 Episodes 1 and 2. I can't decide which one I preferred. I liked the extension element of Ep1, where as Ep2 is more like a new game. Once again it ends with a cliff hanger building up the Half Life story and world. I am looking forward to Ep3, if it even exists, which I'm sure it must.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A bunch of stuff.

I've started to post but realised I don't have much to report. We're slowly approaching the weekend, which brings with it the most ultimate of film nights ever to be witnessed. Brother Chris and I are keeping a veil of mystery over proceedings and have yet to reveal the full list to those attending. That is apart from Shakma.



As the headlining act, Shakma is the keystone in the whole lineup. However the remaining films are headliners in their own right. It's going to be awesome.

In animatia based news work on the music video is progressing well. I'm planning on getting started sometime next week, with only a few things left to develop over the next few days. Once I get started however I know things are going to change when I come across unforeseen problems, but I'm embracing this fact as I don't think anything is set in stone just yet. So yeah, I'm meeting with the band next week and from there it starts.

Saying this, I haven't got much time for any long term room disruption due to the fact that I'm attending the Phantasmagoria film festival in Swindon. You can check the website here. They have a great line up of films and a few special guests, it's looking to be a very interesting weekend.

Finally, I've just updated he Congo Review site once again. It's been a good few months since last time, a few films have been added. I'll try to keep it more regular from now on but I can't promise anything. Check it out here.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Why can't things just work out first time.

So I storyboarded the music video. It all looked pretty much OK. Then I listened to the song again and realised that what I'd 'boarded may be a little too fast for the song. I think when animating I should be able to sort this out and everything will look cool once again. However, I have also realised that there's not enough story to fit the song, especially if I want certain frames at certain moments in the song.

So I thought I'd made major headway into this video but it looks like there's a lot of re-jigging to go before I can begin animating. There's no doubt this will bring it's own problems due to the fact that I don't have the correct equipment to do this properly. This project could all end up in a big mess. However I could always scrap the Svankmajer idea and go back to a traditional method that I'm more in tune with.

I'm also struggling wiht an assortment of differing file types that Premiere refuses to recognise. A problem when trying to combine the storyboard with video samples.

Anyway, despite what I've just said it is kind of going well and I hope to get this stage complete by the weeks end.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Better than I remembered.

So I did just watch Big Top Pee Wee, and as stated above it was better then I remembered. It is in no way equal to Pee Wee's Big Adventure, but it still has a few laughs. I think I could never grasp why Pee Wee now owned a farm in a small town where everyone seemed to hate him, whereas before he was in the city where everyone loved him. Even Amazing Larry.

A couple of key points to add. Big Top Pee Wee, I only notice today, stars Benecio del Toro as Duke the Dog faced boy, in his first feature role. One can't help but wonder if Joe Johnston was watching this film when casting for his remake of The Wolfman.

This was also a stand out moment of the film, the best line in the film. When Gina tells Montana that she loves Pee Wee because he is funny he says, "If you wanted funny, you could have gone out with Snowball" She then replies "Snowball's a clown Mace, clown's aren't funny."

So Big Top Pee Wee has gone up a few levels in my book.

I was originally going to blog about some other stuff. Basically the music video project I've been working on. Basically finally got around to storyboarding it today. Not sure how it's going to work though. I've planned a lot of close shots and as I'm planning a Svankmajer visual look I don't think the camera I was going to use will have a decent enough focus level. Also I thought there was a lot going on but maybe not enough for the 3 minute song. Before I present it to the band I'm going to create a rough animatic just so I know it's roughly in the right place. Despite that, I've also got a few green screeny tests to do first, just so I don't promise anything I can't actually do.

I could be watching Big Top Pee Wee.

In fact I think I will.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

London Film and Comic Con

Today I attended, as if you couldn't guess, the London Film and Comic Con. That's Con as in convention to those not in the know. It's one of many UK based conventions trying to create something on the scale of the San Diego or New York Comi Cons in the USA. They don't quite succeed, but I still enjoy them. Ask if I was having fun whilst I was there and I'd be thinking long and hard, but now I'm safely home I think all the queuing was worth it.

Before I go any further I want to set a few things straight. I'm not a full on geek, in the sense that I know every episode to Stargate. Nor do I dress up to look like a Jedi or other such Sci Fi characters. I dabble. That's all I can say. I enjoy Star Wars as readers of this blog will know, I watched a few episodes of Star Trek, not religiously though. And I've seen episodes of Stargate, but I'm not really a fan (this may disappoint one of my readers. Sorry) Anyway, I do have an inner geek, I know more about comics and films than the average joe, and that's where my interest lies. I still get annoyed when I see charity figures dressed as Batman hanging out with Spiderman. (Side note it was funny today seeing a Star Trek Captain discussing the finer points of phaser handling with a Stormtrooper) So my inner geek needs feeding once in a while, which is why I like this kind of convention. Completely from a fans perspective. There are people there that frankly scare me. Each to his own I've always said, but it is a little strange. But if they leave me alone, I'm not going to bother them.

Anyway, let's continue with point 2. Point 2 is the notion of celebrity. I've discussed many time with Brother Chris, who attended a couple of these events with me in the past. Who decides what will be charged for autographs? It is made clear that if you want something signed you have to pay a fee, which is clearly stated is for the signature not the photograph, which are considered free. (By this reasoning I could get a one of each photo available and just the one signed, but I'm sure if this was tried someone would stop me. Maybe next year) For example, today Mr Scott Bakula was charging £25 for his autograph. Fair enough, I can't afford that but I'll go to his talk, not a free talk though so I queue to get a ticket. Another £20 for this talk. Obviously I make my excuses and left sharpish, keeping hold of my monies. So who set this up. To whom is this cash going to. Not everyone was on my wavelength and forked out the cash, so he must be raking it in. But who decides? Where does it go? All good questions to which I have no answers. So I did pay a couple of £15 for signatures. Which brings me onto point 2B. You pay your money, you get a brief chat (very brief in my case 'cause I'm kind of rubbish at it) and you get a signature. When you think about it, it really means nothing. I could scribble an indecipherable name onto a photo and joe public wouldn't know the difference, or even care. So why is it a good thing? I guess it's an idol/hero thing. I guess if I said more you could say you shared a moment with someone you admired. Or you could just say it's so you can have a brief gloating moment the next time said person appears in something. I don't know for sure but, as I said. I do enjoy it. It brings the famous a little closer, even if it's in a forced transaction based environment. Anyway, I still think I'm a little different to the masses of attendees, a little more grounded, but hey, wouldn't it be cool if I started hanging out with Chris Sarandon.

So here we go. This is just the beginning.

To set the scene, as Brother Chris has a lot of work on at the moment he couldn't spare the time to join me this year. The last time we both went was about two years ago, failing to get Nathan Fillion's autograph and tiring of the day we went for a mercy greet and meet with Alan Tudyk, who had no queue. Then we left. Due to these circumstances, we both agreed that it was a little rubbish and weird and vowed (maybe) never to return. That was until I moved down to Brighton. With the convention now more or less on my doorstep I decided to go. And go I did. Alone.


So I braved London on a Saturday, not the easiest of things, especially with Tube delays, but I successfully arrived at Earls Court and entered Queue 1 to get in. This is where first photos were taken solely for this blog. Here there were Stormtroopers hanging around. I contemplated asking about their state of New Zealand-ness but instead just took the photo. There were also Clone Troopers wandering around. The same musings were thought about but I left them alone, chuckling at the fat Cylons I'd just seen. Not to mention the smallish Jack Sparrow. So I'm inside and I queue for some talks. Having missed the Red Dwarf talk I opted for the Doctor Who (Yeah, I know I don't like Dr Who) as I'd heard that Tom Baker was in attendance (see that's why) I also wished to attend the Danny Trejo talk and the Stargate talk (Again, I know I'm not a fan) which will be explained later on. This is when I literally discovered the price I had to pay to see Scott Bakula talk. No go. I then moved onto the signing alley or whatever they call it, to see who was there, and whether to get any autographs later on. Many faces were seen as illustrated with my assorted photographs.

A lonely Sean Maguire


A bad photo of Chloe Annett. Bonus points - her father directed the film The Beast Must Die as mentioned in Brother Chris' blog here

Interesting fact: the most costumes today were of Paul Foote - a character from The Beast Must Die. Which one was the werewolf though?

It's David Prowse. He was Darth Vader.

It's Bruce Boxleitner. He looks bored.

This is kind of mean. This is a funny picture of Jake Lloyd - he played young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. He looks the same.

The stars of Heroes - Jimmy Jean Louis (The Hatian) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Suresh)

So I took the ticket of Scott Bakula. Number 969. The place had only been open to the general public for 40 minutes and already his tickets were up to 969. No way was I going to see him today. I got a quick glimpse of him through the queues, and that was all. Knowing it was never meant to be I took the tickets of Michael Ironside, to discover once and for all how many arms he actually had, and a ticket for Jewel Staite, star of the excellent Firefly and Serenity, and more recently Stargate: Atlantis (hence attending the Stargate talk), which I'd probably have seen if Channel 5 hadn't stopped showing it. I'd always been a fan of her character, Kayleigh, in Firefly so was happy to fork out the cash. But I'd gotton pretty high numbered tickets so I had time to kill. A lot of time.

So I wandered the hall, looking at stalls, wondering if the DVDs were legal, but generally just waiting for the first talk. Despite me spending money on autographs, I still didn't have much to spend. I can no longer buy any random thing, so I was just looking to see if any cool stuff existed. Plus the novelty has kind of worn off since the invention of the internet shop.

With still hours to kill I decided to get a present for my friend who had just passed a life changing exam in accounting, and he won't mind me saying that it isn't any more interesting than how I made it sound. As I haven't given it to him yet I'm blanking it out as a spoiler. You can still highlight it to read it, but if you're reading this Mr. Martin, just stop and wait patiently. (Click the tiny picture for a massive reveal. So as he'd passed this exam I decided to get an autograph for him from a Red Dwarfer. So after a curious text of who he like best, The Cat, Kochanski or Female Holly, and receiving confirmation that it was indeed The Cat, I entered Danny John Jules' queue. I was determined to get it super personalised, with some kind of well done, but it was hard enough getting the name across that I settled for that alone. Basically his name is Anthony and because we're all lazy we now just call him Antnee. Explaining this for an autograph is one of the most difficult things I've had to do, ending up with me just saying something along the lines of "Just spell it A. N. T. N. E. E. He'll get it, it's a nick name" Still unsure, Danny wrote it. I then got a photo to prove it's real and so I'd get something out of the transaction.)

Finally it was time for the Dr Who talk. I made my way to the talk area and joined Queue 2. For a while I wasn't quite sure what the queue was for, but it lead me into the strangest talk I've attended. Present were Alexandra Moen (from new Dr Who I guess), Philip Madoc, Bernard Horsfall (I guess) and the legend that is Tom Baker. Tom was awesome, not quite sure if he is a comic genius, or actually senile.

There were jokes and slightly detailed description of which actor he'd like to "bed" when asked in an interview for the radio (Johnny Depp by the way, and he went into some detail to do with pirates.) Very strange, very weird but excellent. An annoying follow up to this talk, a group of fans took the opportunity to ask Tom for a photograph. I was with them, however I ended up taking their photo for them, then in the time it took to return their camera, Tom was off with someone else and we were being moved on. So close.
Straight after this was the Danny Trejo talk. Not as weird as the previous talk but very entertaining. Two highlights. First off, when asked about when the film Machete was going to be made he took out his mobile and rang someone, then asked us to shout "Hurry up and Make Machete" I'm guessing, like so many others, that he called Robert Rodriguez. So in theory I'd just spoken to Robert Rodriguez. Cool. The secodn highlight was an answer to the question "Which of your films do you consider the worst?" He simply answered, "None of them. I'm in them" Awesome. He also wouldn't stop when he was supposed to and continued taking questions. Well, it's Danny Trejo, would you go and stop him. So we over ran into expensive Scott Bakula's talk. So there.

Now I had time to kill, time to collect on some autographing. So I headed for Michael Ironside. Closed it said. No reason stated, just closed. Had he left in an angry storp when someone questioned the number of arms he owned? Who knows? I had to move on.

My next port of call was Jewel Staite, who now had an open queue. Now a quick side note - when I get things signed I always like them to sign things to Pete, this is so it's a little more personal than my full name. However, it always seems to confuse everybody, and they repeat it back as though I've given them the strangest name in history. Anyway, back to Jewel. I was thinking after the bizarre interaction with Danny John Jules I'd be better at the whole experience. Not so. Foiled by the lack of interaction with the single (or dual) armed Ironside I reverted back to my good, polite, quiet self and handed over the photograph. It was still cool, and she was very nice, but I failed to get a photograph. This was mainly due to the fact that I was abiding by the "No posed photograph" sign, rather than the fact that there was no queue behind me. Bugger.


So now I felt that I should see someone else. Then I remembered Chris Sarandon. Still not too sure, I approached his stand behind what I thought was a small queue. I took this opportunity to peruse his photographs while deciding if it was the right decision. Then the queue vanished, and I was left on my own in front of Chris Sarandon. Now I had no chance to create any rapport and awkwardly began the transaction for his signature. During this I noticed a photo from Child's Play, the problem on discovering this was all I could think of saying was, "I forgot you were in Child's Play" which would further the awkwardness. Silent I stayed. But I did get a photo, so a small victory on my part. Now I'm just a little fed up that I didn't get the Jewel photo seeing as I did with every other autograph. Anyway, what's done is done.




All this didn't take as long as expected so I wandered the hall once again before joining the Stargate talk queue. Weirdness ensued when I played a couple of tracks of Guitar Hero World Tour. First off, Rebel Yell by Billy Idol. I was reduced to bass on this track, which isn't that interesting, and I began to slip up when I got a little bored. I decided to move on, but when no one took the guitar of me when offered, I stayed for one more. This was well weird due to the fact that the girl next to me wanted to sing. This is fair enough, and good on her to sing in the middle of the exhibition hall. It's not like anyone more than a couple of metres away would hear, but I don't even sing on the game at home, so I was impressed. Luckily she was good singer on What I've Done by Linkin Park. This time I was on guitar so more fun was had.


I then left but had forfit a good place in the Stargate queue. Also after the small victory of extending the Danny Trejo talk, Scott Bakula overran. Eventually we began to move and in I went. No I began to feel like an outsider. As mentioned before, I wasn't really a fan of Stargate, only there for the star of Firefly. The audience was clearly made up of fanactics who knew every episode title and synopsis, as proved when asking and answering questions. The talk was fun, even for a stranger like myself. Firefly was mentioned so I was happy.




And that was it. With no more talks to keep me there I took one last tour of the hall in case I was going to miss some free stuff or something. This is when I found out that Michael Ironside had now returned. Still, it clearly wasn't meant to be, forever wondering how many arms he has. It was time to leave. And leave I did.

So now I reflect on the day's events. As mentioned at the begining somewhere, the London Film and Comic Con still has a long way to go to rivial San Diego. There's just not enough quality really. It's heart is in the right place, but there's a lot of open space, and various stalls just look thrown together. This year the Cos-Players were out in force and there was a CosPlay contest. There was also a lot of support for the two anime voice over actors which was suprising. With a little work it could be as big as San Diego. Overall I still find these events special. Despite all the weird and strange people there is an overall sense of community. I don't think attending is a bad thing, and shouldn't be seen as so. As I said, I'm not the biggest fan in the world, but the chance to see people I admire is a chance I don't what to pass up on. I just wish you didn't have to pay for the chance. I think the stars attending realise what they are a part of. Although at times people can seem a little crazy and a little strange, they're basically keeping their fanbase alive by appearing at such events showing that they care for their fans. They're giving something back. So what if it's at a price, as they say, nothing in life is free.

As a final note, if you're interest in anything I've just said you should check out two films. The first is a short documentary directed by Bruce Campbell entitled Fanalysis, in which he examines the world of fan conventions and what makes a fan into a fanatic. The other is sort of mockumentary called Comic Book: The Movie directed by Mark Hamill. I say mockumentray but this is only half true. It stars Mark Hamill as Donald Swan, a comic collector making a documentary about the new movie based on his favourtie comic Commander Courage. All fictional, but in it he interviews a variety of personalities who, when taking about the Commander, are clearly taking about some real life experiences they've had within the industry. Alongside this he documents his journey to the San Diego Comic Con. I've tried to explain it too much but it basically explores the whole convention culture.

So in a Jerry Springer's Final Thought moment, I say fandom shouldn't be looked down upon, whatever the level of your involvement. I mean, there are thousands of people who dress up in costumes each week in support of their idols. It's just that their conventions are called football grounds.