Thursday, October 02, 2008

Of bunnies, blogs and monsters

Once again, I'll let the tireless John K do my blogging for me:

JohnK Archives

Ran across this in a completely unrelated search looking for facts and info on the Ether Bunny after my buddy Prammaven just posted his newly completed film about him. Seemed like a weird coincidence, and I don't know why all these particular posts are lumped together on one page, but there's a lot of good stuff there, much of it about writing and story for cartoons. And of course, you can find more by clicking on the tags at the bottom of any post.

I feel like my quest for Poetic Form is at an end, at least for the time being. I have a handle on what it is... at least the particular strain of poetic form described in Martin Esslin's book Theatre of the Absurd. And the main point of that whole quest was to free myself from the restrictions of Narrative Form that have been hammered into my head all my life by Hollywood. Until discovering the nature of Poetic Form (as described in the About Me box on the right... convenient place for it right here at the top o the old blog, where I'll see it again and again and try to get it hammered in instead) I couldn't imagine any way to make a short stopmotion film other than by telling a story. The funny thing is, I've seen lots of short films that don't follow Narrative Form at all and that work brilliantly! Many of them don't follow what I understand as Poetic Form either.

Of course you have simple short gag films, where the joke is the thing. But somewhere in that long and rambling list of blog posts I linked to above, John K discusses a different approach. He has always maintained that a cartoon is, first and foremost, funny drawings. And that, essentially, all they really have to do is keep the audience entertained. He did a post on structure that I like, which is pretty freeing. If I can absorb that into my head (it seems to take a while for things to really soak in there, but once they do they're in for good) then I should be able to just start making films without worrying too much about structure and form.

Also, he stresses the importance of learning the basics of animation and drawing before trying to create full films. This confirms my long-held belief that the way to learn stopmotion is by making a couple of puppets, and doing a lot of shots with them. Just little single-take episodes, working out how to make them move in interesting ways, how to use space, and incidentals like lighting, staging etc. I think a lot of these will get you most of your basics, even if you don't know the names of the principles you're learning. Then you start linking a series of shots together creating scenes. After that, it's just a matter of figuring out how to start and finish a film.

This is the approach I was using, until I got caught up in the StopMoShorts thing and the emphasis was on making finished films right from the start. And then I got myself into this Radke project, which is a massively huge undertaking in terms of fabrication before I can even start animating. I'm bogged down on it completely, hit the wall, stuck in a rut, uninspired. Burnt out being the technical term. Tooo many puppets, too many bottles, tiny little labels etc. Makes my brain hurt thinking about it!

And suddenly here's Monster Month upon us!!! Jeffrey is launching himself into it, and Sven might be contributing as well. I think it's time to put this bar flick on hold and do something creative and fun for a little while.


Shelley Noble said...

I can't express how much I love this advice of yours, Mike:

"This confirms my long-held belief that the way to learn stopmotion is by making a couple of puppets, and doing a lot of shots with them. Just little single-take episodes, working out how to make them move in interesting ways, how to use space, and incidentals like lighting, staging etc."

That is as wise as is possible.

I'm in an overly burdened fabrication project to say the least, I'm aware of that. But in this one case, I'm trudging on because even after I gain ability in animation, I'll still want this story, this way.

I'm doing things greatly out of order in that regard, but I'm willing to accept the failings the film will have in order to get it in. I'm hoping that afterwards I'll be in a better position to play in the field you describe.

By the way, making tiny labels is a speciality of mine and I'd be so happy to make and send you some to use on your great bottles, if it wouldn't compromise what you're doing.

UbaTuber said...

Well gah, lets not have you hurtin' your brainpan! :::) Hurray for creative and fun!

Thats one of the reasons I'm doing a series of clips for Monster Month, too...mostly I just wanted to do something to break me away from Unearthed for a little while, I've been working on that film for over a year now,, I hadn't made a new puppet in ages and was itching to.....Killer pumpkins, Mossman and more Tree Beast, coming up :::)

I've still got that dried carved apple sitting around waiting to be turned into a pup too....

Happy October!!

jriggity said...

Do whatever you gots ta do man!

just Make Art....and have fun doing it!


Sven Bonnichsen said...

Yep, I'm doing Monster Month again this year, too.

Posts are already appearing at:

I'm scaling back this year. Probably a M-W-Fr schedule, rather than 7 days a week. ...Man, was that a killer!

Darkmatters said...

Shelly, I don't think what you're doing is wrong at all... it's pretty much what I was starting out to do with the Ahab film. At least you're doing a story that comes from your own heart, and you're free to do it however you want. That makes all the difference in the world.

Jeffrey... has it been a year already on Unearthed??!! Wow, time has flown! And Sven... I definitely hear ya.... that was quite an undertaking you did last year this time (You too Jeff!).... but look at the incredible book you got out of it!!

Thanks everybody!!! Much appreciated!!

Darkmatters said...

Oh, and Shells, I appreciate the offer!!! But I suspect after the creative blowout of Monster Month I'l be ready to get back to it with a vengeance. If not, then I"ll get in touch. ;)

Anonymous said...

Killer Pumpkins? Reminds me of a little film I saw, back in the early days of Stopmoshorts!
I see Monster Month has spread from Prof Ichbonnsen to the bayous as a series of illustrations, are there animated clips breeding in them there swamps as well? And are we now going to see what lurks in those trees behind the darkstrider's mansion?
I've also got a few projects that have hung around for so long the flavour's gone right out of them, so I understand. But i do hope, having seen it come this far, something will emerge from the Radke bar before you move on forever. And I will add my offer of help in small ways if it makes a difference.

Edwound Wisent said...

(^heh. I dropped a statement deep deep in the monsrer month wHOle of last year on tHINKgs that generate wonders, and the terror of comming across one unawares.
endjoy. beginbegat.
(^ or just let peter cook tell you
some interestin'facts

Edwound Wisent said...

(^ knOWE: one last important deal:
Penn and Teller - Why Magic Works

(^ ok. was THAT clear enough?
(^ true magic comes from manipulating minds.

(^ both your own AND those who watch.

(^ but it's far more important to PRETEND to manipulate your own.
to ACTUALLY make the magic work on OTHERS.

(^ end rant.
(^ use THIS piece to lip sync.
(^ as monsters. passing as human.

(^ shysters. very tricky nasty creapies can they be....

Edwound Wisent said...

(^ for those that wish to wander into where monsters COME from: the ones left out cold in the darkness.

(^those incapable of being helped sometimes become the best helpers of all.

Darkmatters said...

Hey Ed, you might be a bit tightly WOUND, but you're definitely a WISE old ENT. Love the built-in ambiguity of certain words seen only in print.... lead, tear, wound etc. Could mean entirely different things depending on context.

There was a guy in my art class who made a wire sculpture... a guy crawling with arm extended as if toward water in a desert. I suggested he name it WOUND and let the multiple meanings multiply.

Ok, so on to your linked clips.

I take the meaning of the first to be.... facts are boring? Funnily enough, the facts guy was funny and entertaining while the usually fascinating Cleese was dull as a flatiron. But that's not the point I think. Subtext only.

Mental manipulation - magic - is fun. Calculated misdirection. Create levels of meaning and lead them with the surface level while tricking them underneath. Got it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out, bud.

I really like the concept of the 10-Second Club. An animator is given 10 seconds of audio, and he or she has to make a scene to it.

I only started making little films because there was so much demand for it- some people hate tests and wanted to see a finished thing. When I look at most stop motion demo reels though, I see mostly a black background with pegboard and one or two puppets. The animation itself is incredible, though!