Thursday, May 22, 2008

One Big Happy Blogosphere

The Lonely Artist pre-blog-discovery

When I got back into animation two years ago, after 4 years as an "Artist" (ugh), I quickly discovered the world of animation blogs.  There are all kinds of blogs: production blogs, blogs focused on fan-boy ranting, I-just-made-a-drawing-and-here-it-is blogs, analysis and criticism blogs, and blogs for sharing cartoon-miscellany.  Anyone with a computer and internet access can create a blog or post comments, which has created an incredible flood of content (not all of it worth your time).  Thankfully, this also means there is a lot of quality information and commentary out there to read and a thriving community that makes the physical isolation of being an independent animator less palpable.

The blogs I follow might be described this way: my friends' blogs (it's good to know what they're up to), blogs that provide valuable information and insight (Animondays), blogs that have a strong critical viewpoint I appreciate (The Splog), and blogs that expose me to things I would otherwise miss (CartoonBrew).

My biggest reservation about blogging is the inevitable nasty side of many posts and comments.  The blogosphere is like a large, crowded room and when someone in that room provides rude "criticism" things can get awkward fast.  Where exactly is the line between rude and reasonable criticism?

One of the most important functions of this "crowded room" is to provide support to the little guys: the students, the frustrated artists, the independents.  While it's reasonable to make thoughtful criticisms of a studio product, at what point is an artist's ego fragile enough that we should avoid going out of our way to provide negative feedback?  You wouldn't walk up to a three year old working with crayons on his kitchen table and poo-poo his choice of color.  I believe the same kind of "protective zone" should be extended to non-professionals or professionals doing personal projects: respect their desire to create and provide negative criticism only when it is asked for and can be constructively received.  Leave the wrestling-match of serious criticism to work that has entered the wider world in a more public way; but please keep in mind that individual artists have been involved and resist the urge to slam, insult or generally denigrate their contributions.  If someone's heart was in it (and even schlock can be made with dedication) tearing them down does no good.  Why not congratulate their effort, make your point, and encourage them to improve?  I'm looking forward to the "future of animation", and it won't come from base negativity.

Here's to a supportive, positive, and, yes, sometimes critical blogosphere: may it make us all better artists and, more importantly, happier people.  Keep your elbows sharp and your skin thick but don't forget to smile and say hello.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


concept still from The Park Bench

I've just finished my first film (ever) and received a stronger response from it than I might have originally expected.  Now what?

I'm beginning to discover the frightening gap that comes between the completion of films.  Mike and I began "Germans in the Woods" almost a year ago (June '07) and its first public screening came less than two weeks ago.  While there are more "documentary" shorts in the works here at Rauch Brothers, I would like to use the time I have right now to put a four-year project to bed: The Park Bench (see these posts: 1, 2).  Five of the final six minutes have been animated to pencil test and are ready to be inked, painted and composited.  This will be three or four times the effort required to complete "Germans", but at least there seems to be an end in sight.

This project began when a professor told me to take a nap one exhausted morning: "What are you gonna come up with in an hour, anyways?"  Well, I rather stupidly got myself into a big mess in that one hour.  The little story I sketched out was of a man waiting on a bench while bizarre dramas unfold around him.  This thing has been through several evolutionary stages.  In fact, there is an earlier version which was nearly completed... until I realized it was utterly boring to watch.  The whole thing took place over 6 minutes with up to six characters on the screen at a time and the camera NEVER MOVED.  I guess this was some kind of clever, art school challenge I made for myself.  It fit right in with another film I did at the time where a man makes a phone call (no discernible dialogue can be heard, only vague phrases like "Pretty good... you?") and the camera never moves for the whole three minutes.  What's clever about that?  The way he scratches himself?  The way he looks into his empty water glass at the end of the film?  Yuck.  Funny thing about clever personal challenges is they may not interest anyone other than you.

With that in mind, The Park Bench has been redesigned with a constantly twisting, turning, zooming and cutting camera.  The colors are bright and the backgrounds are full of repetition.  The image at the top of the post and those below should give you some idea of what the final look will be.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Our First Award

Dave Levy looks on as Mike and I accept

Mike and I were honored to receive an award at the premiere of our very first film. Many thanks to ASIFA-East for awarding "Germans in the Woods" 2nd place in Independent Animation!  Mike and I had a blast watching our film with a theater-full of people, especially our friends who seemed to come from all over to support us tonight.  As always, Linda Beck, Jen Oxley, Dave Levy and the rest of the ASIFA board put on a great event.  Special thanks also to Candy Kugel, who does a great deal for the festival itself as well as giving ASIFA-East a home at her studio for our monthly meetings (I'm a member, of course).  Cartoon Network and Michael Grover sponsored the wonderful after-party. 

The festival is voted on by the entire ASIFA-East membership and to be put second only to Bill Plympton in our category was an honor Mike and I would not have imagined a year ago.  The big winner of the night was Arthur Metcalf's "Fantasie in Bubble Wrap", which seems to be a huge favorite wherever it goes.  The audience laughed from one joke to the next with barely a breath in between.  Besides being brilliantly funny, Arthur's a friendly, enthusiastic guy and to see him take the top prize was fantastic.

One point of criticism for the festival: I was a bit disappointed a few of the films awarded in the Student category weren't included in the screening.  Would have been nice to see what these filmmakers had done to receive their honors...  Still, a great event, and we were happy to be a part of it.

A big thank you is due to StoryCorps, our partners on the film.  Mike Garofalo did a superb job editing the audio for the film: there is really no slack in the sound and it's an incredibly riveting two minutes.  The theater was so absolutely silent while it played that we could hear the occasional faint gasps coming from around the room. A big thanks to Mike G, Dave Isay, Kathrina Proscia, Sarah Kramer and Lisa Janicki for their faith and support. My brother and I are honored to have had the chance to help share Joseph Robertson's story.

As Mike and I have been promising, our next film will make you laugh.  It's about the relationship between a mother and her son... more on that later.

concept art from the next Rauch Brothers film

For more about the 39th Annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival, see the following blogs: