I was born young. I learned to walk, played Batman in the playground, and started building Airfix kits. I watched Rhubarb and Custard, and The Amazing Adventures of Morph. Life was never the same again.
After I annoyed my parents by drawing flick pictures in the margins of Pride and Prejudice, they bought me a third-hand silent Super-8 cine camera, which came incomplete with no instructions. By trial, error, and stout British pluck, I made my first film, A Quiet day on the Game Reserve, which, as its title suggests, was about a giant half-robot gazelle that went around smashing up buildings and derailing trains. I mixed media without inhibition, in the way which amateurs are allowed to do. My thirteen-year-old self succeeded in doing things which I would not try now, because now I know how difficult they are.
The plot congeals
After my first film, I made my second, which had more explosions in it. I followed this with my third, which mixed live action with animation done with bits of card, and a state-of-the-art Commadore PET computer. I then saved up £7.50, and with this made Prax Warrior, my fourth film, made when I was fourteen. Like the others, it was shot in order and edited in-camera, since I had no splicer. Unlike the others, it won first prize in the BBC Young Film Makers' Competition, a fact which, alas, seems to cut no ice at all. Nevertheless, this in National Award Number One. So distracting was all this, that I only got eleven O levels.
The dark ages
I was sent down for a stretch at a boarding school in Dorset, which had strict no-animation rules, after this I went to university to read a sensible academic topic. I rebelled slightly by picking archaeology, in which I got an upper second honours degree (in the days when that was reasonably difficult). Two years later, I heard the sirens of the Isle of Films calling me, and I started writing scripts and developing film ideas. On the strength of my portfolio, I passed the entrance exam for the Royal College of Arts film course.
I was taken on as an in-betweener for a Christmas classical (cel) animation film called Peter's Christmas Present. Before I knew it (no one had told me), I was devising and directing two sequences, with a small team working under me. I worked on everything from rotascoping to rostrum camera. This work won a special award from the Royal Television Society, National Award Number Two. After this, I landed a trainee position at Stonehills Studios in Gateshead, where for two years I worked alongside professionals, on a variety of projects: pilots, advertisements, day-time television inserts, pop videos - along the way learning many useful skills, such as lighting, camerawork, editing on film, video, and Avid computers, researching, and scheduling. Several times my versatile voice was used for voice-overs.
Here is a clip from Peter' Christmas Present. It shows you the part of the film I did the most on. Not all of this is my work. I did the shots of food, some all myself (punch bowl, plucking goose, toasting crumpets, pepper pot), and some I designed and then delegated to my team (slicing cake, chopping board). I also did the sequence where bottles turn into drummers.
I now eke out what existence I can writing scripts, such as The Adventures of Stoke Mandeville, Astronaut and Gentleman, making models, taking lots of still photographs, working on local productions, and scavenging from bins in the street. I am waiting for the day when a good, bold animation company run by people, well, more gods than people, will once again call me to the light tables and clay, to take up arms in the crusade that is ANIMATION.
I did the animations on this page in the week starting 12th June 2000, using rather simple (but free) animation software. The slinger is my latest go with this package, and is, I think, far and away the best of the three. Drawing with a mouse isn't easy, and neither is drawing animation frames separately, without reference to the frames before and after. Heigh ho.
Do you have the feeling that you have been reading someone's thinly-disguised CV?