Monday, April 27, 2009

Zero Gravity

Seems sort of appropriate for the current times. Not that Astro Andy knows that.

He just wanted a picnic.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Because I have nothing better to do

People have a habit of asking for things they don't need. Often under the guise that someone else who doesn't need it, needs it.

They don't. Need it, I mean.

This has happened all through my career. Animation tests when it is blindingly obvious from my showreel what the level of my ability is, ridiculous amounts of expected pitch material to win a ten second ad that won't pay a week's wages and then all kinds of lunacy to help clients 'visualise' because their imaginations died that one Christmas night when they saw who was actually putting the presents under the tree.

For a project I was looking at recently, it was suggested to me that I create animated storyboards for the entire project. All one and a half hours of it. You know, just knock them up. Because, like, that's just the way we do things. A couple of sketches and a good night's sleep and, next morning, BAM, a whole animatic. Don't worry that the script isn't even in first draft stage because, when we finalise it, we can do them all over again.

People just ask for things they don't need.

Why is that? Do they just like having stuff? Things they didn't have the day before? Do they feel they need for a constant stream of arbitrary requests to justify their salary?

I honestly don't know.

But it occurred to me while thinking of that that I have survived in my career precisely by not doing things I don't have to. I get things done on time and on budget by making sure none of my time is taken up doing things that won't ever matter. When I'm more heavily involved in a project, I try to make sure that every penny of the production makes it on to the screen. And I do that by not pissing it away doing things people will never see and will not make a damn bit of difference to the end product.

Maybe I should be applying this way of thinking to my own life. My own recession budgeting. What do I actually need? What will actually make a difference up there on to the screen that is my whole life?

Perhaps that's something I need to think about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New career path

Yeah, I'm just boasting. I know, I know, I should be humble. But, hey, someone enjoyed my caption for the contest over at the excellent Brian Sibley's blog. It was a picture of a horse, see?

You know what's odd? When I looked at the other winning entries, many of which are great, it made so much sense to me that I should have made a transport connection - a horse and a bicycle. Transport.

I didn't see that. I'm not sure if I even noticed the bicycle.
I just saw - horse stuck to stuff.

So, yeah, I did well in the caption contest but I'm really beginning to question my observation skills. I'm an animator. And a writer. And other things that all require observation to do well. A horse stuck to stuff. That's all I saw. So maybe I should forget my current path and get into captioning. I hear it will be big for 2010.

Monday, April 20, 2009

This is a good meeting

You don't even want to know what a bad meeting looks like.

There's something that's been bugging me. It bugs just about every creative at some point but I don't know exactly how bad things are in different countries. But here, if you want to get anything off the ground, be it a show, film, whatever, you will be expected to sign away all rights to a producer. All rights, according to contracts, across the entire universe and for all forms 'yet to be invented'.

You will likely get paid cack all for that. Like, taking feature films as an example, a feature writer or director or writer/director simply could not live on the amount of money they would make. It can't happen. The only reason to make a film is the challenge or for it to be a labour of love. And that's why there are so many first-time directors. Almost nobody can actually make a career out of it. Those who do have to move to Hollywood and get a gig remaking a film that shouldn't ever be touched.

And yet a producer can buy the rights to an entire film and all of its exploitation for pretty much nothing. I was offered an option agreement recently for five hundred Euros. Five hundred. Oh, and another five hundred if it got into production.

That is not all that unusual. At least, over here.

But you have to consider the old Golden Rule cliche - those with the gold make the rules. But here's the hilarious thing. Producers over this end of the world (it's different in the US) raise most of their finance by filling in forms to access public money. They aren't bringing their own gold. The only difference between them and anyone else is simply that their name is at the end of an application. They aren't bringing their own money to the table.

So the natural thought process is, shouldn't the director or writer access those funds themselves? Well, yes. BUT... there are two considerations here. Firstly, being a creative and being a producer are two very different things. Producers do actually do a hell of a lot. It would be wrong to think they don't. Do they do enough to warrant total ownership of a project? No. Not even bloody close. But they do enough that can often be incompatible with the goals of directing, creating, to make it really difficult to do both jobs well.

There are reasons they are two separate jobs, as I found when I produced one of my own short films many years ago.

But the second consideration is something I don't quite get exactly. On just about all public funds and applications over this end of the world, it is stipulated in the conditions that the director/creative and producer must NOT be the same person. Because they are two different jobs like I said? I don't know the reason. But as all applications must go through the producer, it puts all of the power into their hands.

Because they are capable of filling out forms.

Or hiring a solicitor to fill those forms for them.

Creatives are being complete and utterly shafted. There is something really wrong with this system. It's not working. It's just not working. And I'm thinking, there must be an easy way around the system. In fact, there are easy ways around the system, technically, but because this way of doing things is so ingrained over here it is just accepted that this is the way things are done.

And that's bullshit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Survival of plain ol' me

Where I am, as I've mentioned, this recession has hit pretty hard. Many friends are now out of work. When I say many friends, I actually have very few friends but many people I know or know of are now out of work. The centre of town is like a wasteland.

Scary times.

And I realised recently that I spend more than I earn.

There's nothing like a full-on media-driven panic-fuelled recession to make you rethink your priorities. I've gone very quickly from 'I want to have loads of money to buy this and that' to 'I'll be happy if I can survive another year'. And, right now with things being what they are, simple survival isn't as easy as it once was.

So there would have to be the money talk. The sitting down, going through budgets and getting real about that.
We haven't yet done that. But, when it happens, I'm sure the end result will be that I can buy nothing.
Not a thing.

So, in anticipation of not being able to spend what I want when I want to, I have ordered a whole rake of stuff online. If it was bought before the meeting, it doesn't count. Man, I can't wait for the post man to arrive.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Red Dwarf

Red Dwarf, the UK sci-fi comedy, finally had new episodes shown over Easter weekend. After being off the air for ten years and being turned down by the BBC for a new series, the satellite channel, Dave, put the money up for a three-part special called 'Back To Earth'.
The series had ended on a cliffhanger. How did they resolve it?

They didn't.

In fact, it was a bit of a rewind in spite of all that time passing with Rimmer, once a hologram who became human again, being a hologram once more. Why? Nobody knows.

But, hey, continuity isn't the most important thing in a comedy and this is sci-fi so anything can happen. The important thing is whether it was funny or not. And it was. For some of it anyway. Once the work of a writing partnership, Red Dwarf changed when one of the partners, Rob Grant, left. The remaining writer, Doug Naylor, could bring the drama and, sometimes, funny scenarios but seemed to lack the snappy gags. The quick throwaways that keep the laughter flowing. The same was true for much of this three-part special.

Most of the jokes seemed to be concentrated into the second part, with the guy in the sci-fi shop being a highlight. But the Blade Runner parody didn't gel in any shape or form with the real world stuff and commited the ultimate crime of bad parody - simply recreated scenes without actually doing anything to make them funny, as if the presence of the show's characters should be enough. It wasn't back when French and Saunders used to do it all those years ago and it's not now either.
But the actors were on top form and all delivered. The lack of a Holly hit pretty hard but the main gang still felt like the chemistry was there.

It wasn't bad.
But it wasn't great either. And, after ten years, I would have thought there could be a fresh take on it. I would have thought the writer would have matured and developed so the writing in these specials could actually out-shine the original show. Unfortunately, it didn't. And, given that this could potentially be the last we see of Red Dwarf, it seems like a wasted opportunity not to write an end.

A real end.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Ah, that spiritual feeling of having a tummy full of chocolate eggs. It's not really in the spirit of the whole resurrection thing, is it? Unless you eat enough of them that you then resurrect your lunch, and the chocolate, all over the floor.

If there's one lesson we can all take from Easter it's this - children don't know when to stop.

That's a fact. If you're feeding your child and you're thinking, they'll let me know when they're full, think back to your childhood. Think back to Easter. And think back to forcing that chocolate down even though you're going to vom any second. Children don't know. Or they don't care. Either way, they'll keep on eating and next thing you know your child will be on one of those ten ton toddler morning television specials.

And nobody wants that.

That's an important Easter lesson. But then, I shouldn't judge. I'll eat myself silly until I feel ill and then still find room for desert. cream. I should get some ice cream now. It's early but, hey, it's Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Survival of the fittest

These are tough times. It's not really survival of the fittest though, is it? Survival of the most adaptable perhaps. Or survival of those lucky enough not to have been figured out by a machine yet.

I saw a bunch of people using those self-service check-outs the other day in a supermarket and it brought me back to my thoughts on why the future will fail. As it is, there just isn't enough for us all to do in terms of actual chargable work. Some of the crazy dumbass businesses people set up and call work don't survive a recession. Sure, they can often make people's lives easier or, more usually, make other businesses more efficient or stronger or, alternatively, less accountable for their actions simply by creating more links in that chain.

But, when things get tight, many of those not-really-businesses get dumped.

And, as this is going on, there are a lot of people out there whose business it is to try to find ways of putting other people out of it. Like the people who invented the self-service check-out machines.

But what future does that lead to?

A future where, eventually, most people are replaced by machines, computers, efficient systems. Those people are waste. They will be piled upon more waste until whole cities will become ghettos. Maybe all cities, except for small areas of London, Tokyo and a large chunk of New York. And it's not like those people are going to have fantastic lives either. Yes, they'll have lovely houses in the Hamptons. Caviar, assuming all fish aren't extinct. They'll have power, something not guaranteed to the waste class when the fuel sources run out. And, with a good deal of fertility treatment, perhaps a child. Even two.

But they'll live in fear.

Fear that the waste class, the filth, will get so angry one day and have so little to lose that they'll just snap. And they'll take the world back.

That's the future.

What happened to those futuristic dreams of living in a nirvana? Silver cities in the sky? Well, those were built on a premise that turned out to be false. The idea that, when we are replaced by a computer or machine, that we then get to live in paradise, exploring art, music, philosophy together. But, as it happens, when a person is replaced, he is dumped on that scrap heap. Someone at the top rubs his hands, having just got that little bit richer. He smiles, not seeing that dark future hurtling towards him. And, quite honestly, if he does see it, he doesn't give a fuck.

He'll die rich. Let the rest of the world fend for itself.

Who cares about the future?

Monday, April 6, 2009


I must apologise for what turned out to be the longest gap between posts there has ever been since I began this blog.

Since finishing my last project early in March, I have shut myself away from the world metally, though moving about it physically. Things have happened around me. Mostly, that meant bills went unpaid and people sent me letters and emails looking for money. Not to worry. I'll sort all that out in the next few days.

I have been writing. Sephim gave the advice, "just write", so I did. And it turned out I couldn't stop. It wasn't all easy. There were times I just had to walk and walk, playing out scenes in my head until they made sense. But, last night, for the first time, I had a beginning, a middle and an end. Rough and possibly crap, but a script nonetheless.

Other things I have been doing include drinking coffee, eating one apple, listening to 'Woman In Chains', reading books and playing GTA: Chinatown Wars on the DS. Oh, and realising that I spend more than I earn and, given the way things are right now, that's going to have to change. Especially as any future earnings are under threat. I'll know more in the next few weeks about what work I have and for how long.

We live in interesting times.

One of the most important things during all this is that I have been well.

I tend to crash after long projects. I can sink quite low. Not this time for some reason. Sure, I'm tired. I'm always tired. It's my default state of being. But I have been well.

Who knows where it will all go from here?