First up, a Masterclass with the creative Oscar nominated American illustrator Bill Plympton. Bill’s Masterclass was an insightful session for those trying to break in to the business and for people (like me) who are just interested in the sector. Bill has three key elements for making successful illustration/animation projects:
Keep it short
- 5 minutes or less.
- Bill sits on the Oscar panel and they grumble when they see a piece nominated that is 20 minutes long.
- Commercials don’t want anything longer.
Make your film cheap
- £500 per minute. Don’t use expensive voice/ music
- Build a storyboard! This seems to be key for Bill. Can put all your music/voice/motion on storyboard and see if it works rather than wasting money/time testing items during creation.
Make your film funny
- Too much pain and suffering – people want to laugh
- Makes it more sell-able
Then we were privileged to see Winsor McCay’s 1921 ‘The Flying House’ which Plympton and team have recently caused controversy in the states as they ‘cleaned’ the original version of scratches, etc. This was a highlight for me as seeing the film and knowing it was created in a time before we explored space, but yet Winsor created an almost perfect rendition of what it’s like today. Bill also discussed scratches, a technique of lines being on film ‘in the olden days’. This was something Ed Rushcha picked up on our next generation not going to know what scratches are. It seems the artists that use film recognize this issue but not sure if anyone is actually doing anything to help preserve it.
After the Masterclass we went to his talk. Now you’d think it would have been boring to attend two events with the same person, but oh no. Bill is a veteran speaker and ensured clips and discussions from the Materclass were not repeated in the talk (which saw a most of the same people and many many more).
For examples, in the talk he discussed the best festivals to attend for illustrators and animators and the importance of attending them even if you haven’t completed your project.
It’s about getting your name out there and making contacts/networks. You can NOT be shy.
One of the most intriguing things I learned is that you can nominate yourself for an Oscar, the only stipulation is that it has to be seen in LA for 3 days. Doesn’t mean it’s going to win but at least you can get nominated.
We also left with an autograph postcard and drawing of a cow (Michael got Guard Dog). Prior to the MasterClass starting, Michael asked him to sign his book – he went one better and did Michael’s caricature in the book!
Next event was Cosgrove Hall talk. Danger Mouse, Wind in the Willow amongst other projects. This talk was one of those events were you just knew you were listening to legends. Both Michael and Brian are laid back and relaxed speakers but the conversation was eased with the help of Marc Silk, voice actor who’s work includes Roary the Racing Car, Fifi and the Flowertots and Chicken Run.
It was a wonderful balance between a ‘in conversation with’ and show and tell with the clips shown. We were fortunate to see a few behind the scene pieces which were then built on via conversations, with Cosgrove and Hall discussing the time and process they used to create the final projects.
For example, with Wind in the Willows, the set took over 4 months to build but they had a very tight budget so Mark Hall’s brother helped create the ‘water’ that was used’ it was more like a wallpaper paste’. Also talked about how Badger had to have articulate fingers for the movements he was required to do.
Mark Hall actually started off with marionette puppets – something that was of course very interesting for Michael. He then met up with Brian Cosgrove who was already working on a project and it just went from there.
During Q & A Michael asked where the puppets and other artefacts are that he saw on two separate occasions in the past 15 years. Mark, very sadly and almost with regret, said they’re all gone. The biggest regret they have is they didn’t have an archivist to help them (Michael mentioned he was archivist for British Model and Puppet Theatre Guild).
Afterwards, they very kindly signed books and allowed for photos to be taken.
Did I mention they said they are coming out of retirement?
Flip Animation Festival always has an impressive line-up of events and Big names people in for the festival which should mean sold out events and crowds every where but sadly that isn’t the case. I do get frustrated with the lack of social media usage. They *did* have a password for WiFi access and set up a hashtag but they didn’t use it themselves throughout the events. I hope next year they invest time in engaging on social media to help generate bigger and more deserving crowds.