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New issue of IMAGINE animation magazine

Hi world

Here’s a look at the striking cover for the new issue of IMAGINE magazine which will be out in the next week or so.

For this issue I’ve written two pieces: a profile of the legendary animator Lotte Reiniger and also a piece about sound and animation which includes some rather nice contributions from animation tutor Neil Hadfield, animator/writer team the Brothers McLeod and animation studio Aardman Animation. Thanks to them all.

Dream well!

JC

Movie Movements…a book for film students.

Movie Movements: Films That Changed The World of Cinema

Hello world

Back in January of this year, Kamera Books (www.kamerabooks.com) published my latest book: Movie Movements: Films That Changed The World of Cinema.

With the autumn now up and running and with some of you heading out the door for university to study Film I thought I’d flag up here why the book might be useful in your work.

The modest hope for the book is that it might serve as something of a primer; as a quick way to remind yourself of (only) some of the key ideas that you may encounter as an undergrad sitting there at your desk ploughing through those first essays. Having taught Film at degree level I think I can see how a little book of this kind might be a useful resource.

In writing the book I also saw an opportunity to include several animated films in the discussion and this was an attempt to go some way in making the point that animation is a movie-form as legitimate as live action. Actually, come to think of it: is there anything more legitimately cinematic than animation ?  Mickey Mouse only lives in moving images. Unless you live in Toontown, you’ll never see him crossing the street. 

Here’s an image the book’s cover:

Dream well.

JC

Coming Soon

Hello world

Back to the ‘trad-tumblr’ approach today. 

Just to remind one and all that in the next week I’ll be able to announce here the date for the first two of our series of short films about the work of Charles Dickens to go online. Certainly, they’ll be available before this month is out. As I think I’ve explained previously, each month between now and February of 2012 will see two films being uploaded. One film will be novel-specific and the other film will offer a little more of an overview of a particular bigger-picture thought when it comes to Mr Dickens. 

Shifting gear: if you’re an animation fan, please do check out the forthcoming edition of IMAGINE magazine for which I’ve written two pieces for the September edition. One is a look back at the work of a near-iconic animator. The other piece is a look at the relationship between sound and animation. 

A little later this autumn there’ll be a new, and short piece, I’ve written for access online so more on that soon.

Finally, stay up to date with @ChasingCotards and @buttonupPR regarding the life and times of the short film Chasing Cotards which is screening soon at the Edmonton Film Festival in Canada.

Enjoy the day.

JC

Hello world

Well, this is just a test case, really, and may have zero interest to the world. It’s an attempt to see if there’s any value in providing project updates using a video diary format which can add to whatever I tweet about.

Let me know! 

By the way: I won’t mind if everyone thinks it’s just another bad idea in the long history of bad ideas.

Enjoy the day.

JC

Autumn Projects

Hello world

With summer rapidly retreating I’m looking ahead now to the autumn’s run of projects and , thankfully, there’s a range of work to be done. 

As you may be aware, the next project to look out for that I’ve written and produced are the series of short films about Charles Dickens. These will start playing online as of the end of this month, with two new shorts being uploaded in the subsequent months through until February 2012 which marks the big man’s 200th birthday. 

There’s another film project in development also. This piece is ‘socially’ orientated and will probably shoot this autumn with a view to releasing online next spring/early summer. 

Aside from these filmmaking endeavours, I’m also hoping that people will enjoy a feature article I have being published next week in 3D World magazine. The piece is about the work that’s gone into producing season 4 of Lucasfilm’s Clone Wars series.In putting the article together I had the welcome opportunity to interview three of the principal creatives on the series to build a picture of the challenges and opportunities to be found in making a weekly adventure show. For those of you who like to know the minutiae, the cover image for the issue (number 148) has been especially rendered by the folks at Lucasfilm Animation. I guess that makes this issue a one-off, never before seen item. So, look out for 3D World on newsagent shelves in the UK on September 14th. It’s out in North America in mid-October. 

Here’s a copy of the cover:

After 3D World hits the shelves there’s the new edition of Imagine animation magazine to be had. This issue features two pieces that I’ve written, both of which take a look back at somewhat legendary animators. One of these pieces, though, also incorporates comment from Aardman Animation and the Brothers McLeod. Look out for this around the third week of September. (www.imagineanimation.net)

Then, finally, there’s work to continue with on several book projects.

Right now I am finishing up work on a book about the film Brokeback Mountain, which, if you are studying A level Film or equivalent, could be especially useful for you. I’m not  sure of the publication date yet but it’ll be with Auteur (www.auteur.co.uk) who specialise in film and media studies content.

And somewhere in all this there’s time that needs to be made to work on a screenplay and a novel. 

Dream well. 

JC

Bridgnorth Arts and Music Festival 2011

Hello world

A brief update today after some necessary , and very welcome, time out. 

On August 27th I shall be speaking at the Majestic Cinema in Bridgnorth as a contributor to the programme of events around animation being presented as part of the town’s Arts and Music Festival. My thanks to the festival for inviting me into the fold.

I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of the festival and I’ll be be speaking about aspects of animation that, I hope, will widen the view of what the form can achieve and why it holds such allure for so many of us.

If you’re with us for the session please do come and say hello.

Dream well.

JC

Rick McCallum on Red Tails

Hi world

Back in September of 2007 I was able to conduct a telephone interview with film producer, Rick McCallum. The interview was conducted for the no-longer with us (as far as I know) website Fractal Matter.

With the trailer for Red Tails out today I thought I’d repost an excerpt from the interview content that I gathered in my conversation with Rick.

Here it is: 

Rick on Redtails

 

Q: How are things developing with the new Lucasfilm feature, Redtails ?

 

A: “I’ve got a number of things going on right now. We have a wonderful writer (named John Ridley, announced as Redtails writer in August 2007), writing Redtails. I take off in October to scout locations so I’m setting that up to shoot in Europe.

 

Q: Rick, what is it that appeals to you about the Redtails movie ?

A: It’s an incredible little slice of American history. I wasn’t involved (with its development) when it started because I was doing Indiana Jones (tv series) but one of the things that always attracted us was there’s this huge scope. It certainly has the potential to be a truly epic movie. As the drafts came through there were so many conflicting ideas and viewpoints (from the the writer and director at that time) and then HBO tried to do a tv version and that was not successful at all as a story or as a film. But the core of it is a group of unbelievably talented African American kids, 19 and 20 years old and they got their shot finally being able to perform in the war and what they did , they did it so brilliantly and admirably and that’s really what we’re concentrating on. What was it really like ? How do we create what it was like to fly ? We’re trying to push the effects to a whole new level of photorealism so that people can experience what it would be like to be in a small, little plane and go through that and be nineteen years old.

 

Q: Does the Redtails movie story take us through recruitment and training of the aviators ?

 

A: It’s more of an adventure story. It’s a much more uplifting film than it could have been. The thing that makes the story for us is it’s just an incredible story of the best and the brightest and they just happen to be black. This is totally photorealistic and a low budget picture by our standards. The challenge is not so much the shooting , it’s the story, the characters. 

Q: Rick, what’s the audience for Redtails ?

A: It’s for everybody. It goes through a long tradition – there’s always been something about fighter pilots in our imagination, they’ve always had the right stuff.We’re really after kids: everything’s a video game now. (Kids) have so much at their fingertips; they have an utterly digital life. Most of the adventures they take on now are virtual, anyway. There’s just something really appealing, if we do it right, of showing was it was like to be nineteen years old and up in a plane. 

JC

Charles Dickens Films

Hi world

In a week from now we will have completed work on phase one of our series of short films about the work of Charles Dickens.

As you may know 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of this iconic writer. For me, I’ve come ‘full circle’ in the sense that one of the first books I have such a clear memory of reading as a child was a copy of A Christmas Carol that my dad bought me one night on his way from work in London. The Arthur Rackham images in that edition only added to the magic of the text. 

What we’re aiming for with our series of short films is to create a composite of portraits that give viewers a real sense of why certain characters have resonated and endured over the decades. Some of the characters we’ll explore are masterclasses in how to create a villain, others are some of the finest examples of the hero that you’ll ever come across. I can’t wait to get these films out to viewers. Writing the scripts for these projects has been a fascinating process and back in May we paid a preliminary visit to the fascinating Dickens Museum in London as part of our research. 

We’ll be filming in London and we have several terrific experts on Dickens contributing to the project.

As I’ve indicated on my Twitter feed, the plan is to release, online, one short film each month , starting in September of this year, and running through until next February which marks the 200th anniversary of Mr Dickens.

I’ll post more here about the project soon.

To close, a quote from Dickens:  ”An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself. ”

Dream well.

James

Old words…new project ?

Hello world

Ten summers ago, the first book I was ever commissioned to write was published. Entitled THE POCKET ESSENTIALS: STEVEN SPIELBERG it was designed as an accessible introduction to some of the stylistic and thematic areas of interest in the films that he had directed as of 2001. At the time, the masterful AI: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE hadn’t yet been released and so the book was already ‘out of date’. A second edition was published in summer 2004 but again rapidly went out of date by the time THE TERMINAL was released. 

At the moment there is no third edition due to happen anytime soon in its existing format. However, I am considering a new edition and presentation of the material, completely updated, and overhauled, as a self publishing venture. Good idea ? 

I won’t be attending to this idea quite just yet but I think there’s mileage in it. There’s plenty I’d like to say about the work the director’s made since 2004. So, maybe this is an idea which will be realised in the fullness of time. 

In the meantime I have a few other film-themed book projects to bring to fruition.

Dream well.

JC

Some notes on nature in cinema

Hello world

I wrote this a while back and thought I’d  put it here.

WILD CINEMA: HOW MOVIES IMAGINE WILDERNESS

“Come spirit. Help us sing the story of our land.” (The New World, 2005)

Introduction:

Growing up in Wimbledon in the 1970s and early 1980s didn’t easily lend itself to a taste of the tangle and shadow of the natural world.

With one, modest, but powerful, exception.

 Wimbledon Common.

 As I think back on that time from the vantage point of 2010 I realise how potent the combination of walks in the woods combined with a high intensity fascination with film was. A memory of childhood has become bound up in a memory of enjoying the woods and being mesmerised by movies.

Images find motion and e-motion in cinema, telling stories about how we embrace and escape nature. In his monograph on Terrence Malick’s war movie and nature meditation The Thin Red Line, Michel Chion observes that “When we grow up, something happens that adults don’t talk about or don’t remember: the world gets smaller…Cinema returns objects to a larger scale.” Cinema screens do for us something comparable to the most immense of trees and mountains. 

Writing about the work of painter John Constable, art critic David Sylvester makes an observation that fits well with our responses to films focused around nature subjects: “ Constable’s landscapes, then, often present a contrast between a terrestrial nature that is benign and ordered and on a human scale and a celestial nature that is ungovernable and hostile as well as vast….endowing landscape painting with the moral significance and weight which were traditionally the prerogative of history painting.” (p.42, The Penuin Book of Art Writing, edited by Martin Gayford and Karen Wright, Penguin, 1998)

Henry David Thoreau wrote that a town on a river could be considered to have wings, such that they could fly the townspeople. This morphing of reality, this reaching for an interpretation of nature in relation to human feeling finds rich expression in cinema. Whilst I don’t for one moment think that Thoreau would consider cinema that much of a boon he might have had a quiet interest in seeing how film (photography) pictured the relationship between humans and nature. Filmmakers have made frequent and powerful use of nature images, and imagery, to explore the comfort and the strangeness we find in the wild.

All I want to do here, then, is offer some notes about several readily available films that get to the heart of the matter with clarity of thought and some high-entertainment value. Like a trail through a wood these films take us back to something of our primal fascination and fears towards nature.

Apocalypse Now

A first reference for us, then, could be Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) in which the paintings of Henri Rousseau and Paul Gaugin find movie movement and meaning: the soldiers becoming increasingly lost , socially and spiritually. Beyond the realm of the popular American film, the filmmaker Werner Herzog engages dynamically with wilderness and frontiers in films such as Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre Wrath of God and his recent documentary Into the Wild Blue Yonder and he is now at work on a documentary about the cavepaintings of France.

Duel

In his television film Duel, Steven Spielberg pits a suburban, ordinary man against the threat of a menacing truck. The desert setting intensifies the conflict, the expanse of dust and sand emphasising the absence of any tangibly stable signs of the conscious forces of ‘civilisation’. This is a story about the terror we can experience amidst the unconscious forces of the natural world. As such, it’s a companion piece to the Peter Weir film noted below.

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

Akira Kurosawa, known for films such as Seven Samurai and Ikiru, to name just two of his diverse film output, produced, very late in his filmography, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, a feature length portmanteau movie comprised of short films, each offering some image of nature and human relations to it. Village of the Watermills and Mount Fuji in Red (Akira Kurosawa, 1990) provide two contrasting examples, seeing nature as a source of peace and nature as a source of terror. Kurosawa had established himself as a key figure in post World War Two Japanese cinema, charting the tensions of ancient and modern. Where Mount Fuji in Red is horrific (describing the moment when a nuclear power plant becomes an inferno throwing out deadly chemicals and fireballs from behind Mount Fuji.), Village of the Watermills is a serene and placid ‘prayer’  to the act of living in harmony with nature and its rhythms.

The New World

One of the films widely considered an achievement of recent popular American film has been The New World, written and directed by Terrence Malick.

Malick’s handful of films explore ways of picturing nature and connecting it to human behaviour. The New World explores this in a particularly overt way.  Indeed, Malick’s mode connects his work, I think, to the American literary and visual movement of Transcendentalism. His is popular filmmaking that works towards fracturing the narrative expectations of what we’re so familiar with. In Malick’s war film The Thin Red Line (1998) the opening words that we hear are  “What’s this war at the heart of nature ?” It’s a direct effort to use the concreteness of film to get at the more gossamer aspects of our emotional lives. 

Picnic At Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock is considered an Australian classic, exploring the tensions between what we might consider ‘real’ Australia and an imported European tradition of genteel ‘civilisation’. Nature becomes a place to be feared, totally bound up in mystery and a sense of dream. The film’s opening images are static, showing views of the Australian wilderness and specifically of Hanging Rock. The first ‘moving image’ we see is of tall grass in the foreground from which the camera tilts up to reveal a European- looking mansion. On the soundtrack lines from Edgar Allan Poe are spoken “ What we see and what we seem are a dream.” Picnic is the most delicately realised horror film you can imagine. As one of the film’s character says of the titular location: “I never thought it would be so nasty or I wouldn’t have come.”

Endnote

I haven’t walked the woods of Wimbledon Common in a while but I still make sure to visit the woods near where I now live. In these walks, the sunlight flickers through the trees just as light flickers through film whipping across a projector’s lens.

END

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