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Archive for October, 2005:


Posted by ianmackinnon at 19:48, October 27th, 2005

Oh! Scriptwriting is so hard. My fixed-width font turned out to be nothing but a FRAGILE CRUTCH. Only two meagre pages of tap-tap-tapping revealed that I need to GET MY STORY STRAIGHT. Now where is my PAPER and HB PENCIL?


Posted by ianmackinnon at 13:59, October 27th, 2005

I am about to begin writing the SCREENPLAY for my main graduation film, ADJUSTMENT. Script writing is easy; all you have to do is select a FIXED-WIDTH SERIF FONT and start typing all important nouns in capital letters. It'll be a breeze. I'm going to begin straight away. Right after publishing THIS MESSAGE, it's the next thing I'll do. Well, after LUNCH, but directly after LUNCH. Preparations this morning included installing and configuring SCRIPT-WRITING MACROS for my WORD PROCESSOR and making the forty-minute round trip to UNIVERSITY in order to be first to sign up for script surgery tutorials on the EIGHTH OF NOVEMBER. See? I have ENTHUSIASM and a DEADLINE. I am practically professional.

Supper at Emmaus

Posted by ianmackinnon at 18:01, October 19th, 2005

Dinner at Emmaus

Dinner at Emmaus

Transatlantic Doo-Wap-O-Mation

Posted by ianmackinnon at 12:52, October 14th, 2005

I received a mysterious package in the post yesterday. Smelling the unmistakable musk of foreign promise, I tore into it and discovered a CD from The Diskettes, a three piece bossa nova/doo-wap band from across the pond. I saw them back in May when they played a couple of gigs in Shoreditch and, being a sucker for close harmonies and lo-fi production, I was instantly hooked, and had to go and pester them about making a video for one of their songs. Now it’s all systems go!

The song they’ve suggested I work on is called Do What You Need To Do and is a slow, melancholy bossa nova reverie. At first it doesn’t sound like an obvious choice for an animated video, but thirty seconds in it bursts into a mad percussion frenzy that positively begs for some chopped up frame-by-frame accompaniment.

I’m keen to use this project to try out some mechanical animation devices before I start using them in my two other graduation films, so I started looking around for a suitable contraption that I can hijack to play my frames. Yesterday afternoon I found one: A casino card shuffler. My thinking is that if I have no control over which order my frames occur, I don’t have to think about editing any more. Apparently it can shuffle six decks in just five seconds. I’ll soon dampen its enthusiasm though; I’m going to cripple the little blighter somehow until it’s PAL-compliant.

The structure of the song is repeated twice, and the lyrics are fairly open to interpretation, so my plan is to tell two versions of a story, one posititive and one negative, using the same frames. First I’ll tell the happy version by shooting the frames in the right order, then I’ll use the card shuffler to mangle them up into a heart-wrenching tragic version where everything happens out of sequence.


Posted by ianmackinnon at 11:54, October 5th, 2005

Proposal deadline day! Time to add a little flesh to the fragile frame of my initial ideas…

Film 1 – Adjustment:

It is Sokurov’s Russian Ark crossed with a Sesame Street trip to a frankfurter factory. It is one quarter of Mike Figgis’s Timecode meets that bit in Baraka where they burn the beaks off hundreds of battery chickens.

We follow our live-action protagonist on a short, everyday trip through many different locations in one unedited handycam shot. As their journey progresses they relate a story, perhaps to a friend who walks with them, perhaps over a telephone call, perhaps something else. The tale involves a very close friend of theirs, who has done something terrible, and our narrator is now mulling over whether they should try to forgive the perpetrator, or permanently severe all ties with them.

As the film unravels, various common objects in the periphery of the frame occasionally spring into motion, unseen by the protagonist. Their movements are initially inconsequential, but soon they become a platform for short, crude animations by using the techniques of early mechanical animation devices; a hanging item of jewellery becomes a thaumatrope; a rolodex becomes a mutoscope (a revolving flipbook); out in the street a speeding car’s hubcap becomes a praxinoscope. As these cartoons get more sophisticated, it becomes apparent that they have been carefully placed by the subject of the protagonist’s tale as a way to tell their side of the story and save the friendship.

The underlying themes of the piece are the awkwardness of human communication, even between close friends, and the pressures of a modern, mechanised society. Towards the end of the film, the unseen friend’s contraptions become impossibly large, complex and prescient, adding a surreal element to the film and suggesting that the root cause of the friends’ altercation is the effect of metropolitan alienation taken to a fantastic extreme.

Film 2 – Destra e Sinistra

The frame shows two clenched fists, side by side, knuckles down on a wooden top. The hands open; the right hand draws a simple cartoon character on the left hand palm, and vice versa. The hands snap closed and open again and the palms are magically blanked for the characters to be drawn once more. This process continues, constantly speeding up until the characters are moving at 25 frames per second and the movements of the hands are a frenetic blur. With the open palms as a canvas a conventional cartoon story unfolds.

The story will be in the style of a dark and hoary folk tale, heavy with metaphor, stereotype and ethical zeal. It involves two siblings, one restricted to the right hand and the other to the left and respectively representing absolute moral right and wrong.

The narration will be earnest and intimate, being spoken by the owner of the hands. All sound effects and music will be made by the hands’ actions (the wooden tabletop will turn out to be the lid of a piano), and the story will also feature a selection of appropriate props that will be brought into shot by one or other of the hands. The movements of the hands will be continuous as if filmed in one sitting, though the film will be aggressively edited to create an uncomfortable feverish atmosphere.

Alpha and Oh, Meghana!

Posted by ianmackinnon at 15:50, October 3rd, 2005

This is the historic first post of my graduation film production diary. When historians of the future finally e-unearth it they will point their slender cyber-fingers and exclaim excitedly, “Here! Here is where it all started to go wrong.” And then they will say, “Oooh, look! There’s a bit about us.”

So. The state of play: New year. New folks. New desks. No film!

Today my colleagues and I were joyously reunited after the summer holidays. To my cruel delight, I find that several of them are as clueless as I am about what to spend their time doing this year. In two days’ time we’re to submit a proposal for our magnum opus graduation film, which must be brilliant, original, uplifting, funny, innovative, tragic and informative, and may not include either monkeys or large-chested warrior women with robotic guns for arms. Unfortunately, this last caveat doubly ruled out my best idea so far.

I’ve been mulling over two separate concepts this summer in the brief periods between work and sleep. Briefly they are:

1) A one-shot live action journey featuring mechanical animation contraptions. A live-action character tells a story on camera whilst in the background, unseen by the protagonist, various whirring gizmos try to communicate an alternative reading of the tale.

2) A cartoon film drawn in biro entirely on parts of my own body. Don’t make that face, I’ll only draw on the nice bits.

Tomorrow I’ll begin to sculpt (read: cobble) these ideas into more solid treatments, and post again with clear, precise and unfilmable proposals.

In other news, following the unimaginable joy of producing our two previous films for MTV, Meg has suggested that we attempt to make them into a trilogy. I explained to her that this involved producing another film, though this did little to quash her infections optimism. Will it happen? Will it be a hellish anim-nightmare of sleep deprivation and junk food? Only the silver-foil-clad historians of the future have the answer.

Commission x10

Posted by ianmackinnon at 0:00, October 1st, 2005

This post is a repository for bad pun-based TV show ideas. With luck, some cretin from Channel 5 will offer me an obnoxious sum of money to produce one of them, allowing me to indulge once more in my true vocation, which I call “Ten-Ming-Vase Bowling”.

Please add shows of your own invention as comments below. Bonus points will be awarded for theming your idea around some social taboo, provided it’s not so ridiculous that it ceases to be offensive.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the trailblazing work of some of Britain’s finest: Lee & Herring, who unashamedly milked such gems as Bent Coppers and On the Rag; Charlie Brooker, who, in giving an example of what not to submit to TV Go Home, gave us the exquisite Changing Wombs; and most importantly, Geoff Atkinson, for the greatest TV pun ever conceived, let alone realised.