Swinging Around the Country with Mary Lou

We did a boat load of graphics and animation for Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band.

It was a tremendous pleasure to work with director Carol Bash and editor Sandra Christie on this project. Amongst the sequences we created are a few based on the paintings or notebooks of Mary Lou Williams herself. Kelsey Rose Stark did her standard brilliant job with those.

Here’s the opening sequence we created. A classier -a jazzier -take on the standard PBS cold open.

ITVS was critical in sponsoring the film. Here’s a listing of broadcasts around the country. If you don’t see your town (or missed the broadcast) contact your local PBS affiliate and tell them you want to see the film. Put the “you” in “Viewers Like You”!

pril 2—Thursday at 2pm on KCSM (San Francisco)
April 4—Saturday at 9pm on KENW (Amarillo, TX)
April 4 to April 5—various times, check local listings on KLVX-JAC (Las Vegas)
April 5—Sunday at 11pm on WNIT (South Bend, IN)
April 6—various times and stations, check local listings (Lexington, KY area)
April 10—Friday at 10pm on Alaska Public Media (Anchorage)
April 10—Friday at 11pm on WEDU (Tampa, Florida)
April 10—Friday at 11pm on WPTD (Dayton, Ohio)
April 10—Friday at 11:30pm on KCTS (Seattle, WA)
April 10—Friday at 11:30pm on KYVE (Yakima, WA)
April 10—Friday at 11pm on WPTD (Dayton, Ohio)
April 12—Sunday at 2pm on TPT (Minneapolis)
April 12—Sunday at 8pm on KUEN (Salt Lake City)
April 12—Sunday at 2pm on TPT (Minneapolis)
April 12—Sunday at 8pm on KUEN, KUED (Salt Lake City)
April 13—Monday at 3am on WNET, WLIW, WNJN (New York City area)
April 15 to April 17—various times, check local listings on WCETDT3 (Cincinnati)
April 17 to April 23—various times, check local listings on WVIZ (Cleveland)
April 17—Friday at 10pm on WVIZ (Cleveland)
April 19—Sunday at 2am on on KUEN, KUED (Salt Lake City)
April 19—Sunday at 1:30pm on WNET (New York City)
April 19—Sunday at 4pm on WGVU (Grand Rapids, Mi.)
April 26—Sunday at 8pm on SCC (Greenville, SC)
April 29—Wednesday at 6am ETV World (Columbia, SC)
April 11—Saturday at 3am on WIPB (Indianapolis, IN)

Keep up with Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band on Facebook for more updates!

Another Screening, Coming Up

Tomorrow (March 25) there’s a preview screening and discussion of David Grubin’s Rx: The Quiet Revolution.

We did the opening sequence and few little bits of animation.

Screening’s at SVA theatre. Drop us a note if you want more details.

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Otherwise tune in next week -Thursday, April 2 -to your PBS station (check local listings).

Cache Cache

Our friends Cache Cache will be presenting another evening of farm to table dinner and locally grown and harvested film this Sunday. (click through the link for tickets -you won’t regret it)

We’re making the opening title film for them.

Here’s a peek at the first scene.

We still have a few more shots to go, but we should have it finished by the dinner bell on Sunday.

Texas Promise Screening Coming Up!

Vanessa Roth’s The Texas Promise makes its New York premiere this Friday, March 20th at Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium. 7:30 PM.

We created several minutes of animation and graphics, designed and directed by Rose Stark who oversaw a slew of talented animators.

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Everyone should attend!

http://www.thetexaspromisemovie.org/

Build America

chalkboard animation

This spot went live last week.

We did it with the good folks at Fly Communications.

Build America Mutual “Blackboard” from Ace & Son MPC, LLC on Vimeo.

We animated the chalkboard stuff IRL (in real life, if you don’t know) capturing into Dragonframe and ultimately having it composited with the kids in AfterEffects.

Kelsey Stark drew everything. We figured the timing out first and had the help of a projector to make some of the trickier scenes less trick. Just like The Sistine Chapel.

Photo Galleries

Last week we had an invitation screening of Elliot Cowan’s feature film, The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead on which we get a producer credit.

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We learned a few things from the show, and with a couple little tweaks here and there we’ll be shopping to sales agents and distributors.

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We had a little reception beforehand.

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And full house for the screening.

Here are some more galleries of beautiful people:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.603484696400379.1073741828.136358083113045&type=1

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.688936871173577.1073741826.209549475778988&type=1

Many thanks to Seze Devres (http://www.sdphotography.net/) for the great photos!

Behind the Curtain

We’ve had the great fortune over the past years to work on a few dozen projects.  Some small, some long, some under-financed, some grossly under-financed.  We haven’t yet been forced into taking on work out of desperation (but if someone calls up with some extra zeros on the start up check, we’ll consider it), and such it’s been a privilege to make contributions on just about everything we’ve been contracted.

Sometimes, though, working on a project -you step back and arc of the work bending towards greater places than you could have imagined.

For the past several months we’ve been working on a series of oral histories chronicling the lives of a family displaced for their homes in Eastern Poland by at the onset of the Second World War.

Kelsey Stark drew this layout.  It became superfluous in the edit and was never animated.
Kelsey Stark drew this layout. It became superfluous in the edit and was never animated.

 

Sarah Kamaras is producing and directing the films about her family.  She made this “behind the scenes” video which is pretty good despite the questionable character of its cast.

A Look Behind the Animation: “The Podkamieners” from Sarah Kamaras on Vimeo.


 

What I Liked About Mike

I would never call Michael Sporn that -“Mike”. Other people did, and he seemed to have no problem with it but to me its like calling a high school teacher by their first name after graduation.

Last month I bought a new guitar tuner. Now, I’m worse at guitar playing than I am at drawing or animation but at least I try to stay in tune. The shop only carried one brand -“The Snark”. “Like the Lewis Carroll poem,” I said, and went into a lecture on doggerel which concluded with “and there’s an absolutely fantastic film of it by Michael Sporn.”
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The next week I showed the film in class at University of the Arts.

It is a magnificent film.

Michael animated it himself and produced it over the course of several years. His cannon is full of excellent work but even amongst them “The Hunting of the Snark” stands out. The artist’s lyricism pervades the film, its lighthearted and whimsical but smart and emotional. It testifies to the power of a singular vision.

From my first encounters with him, I thought he was a cold guy -and I wasn’t crazy about some of the stuff he was doing at the time. We were both working on the same specials for the great Amy Schatz at HBO and I thought our stuff (directed by Maciek Albrecht and Santiago Cohen) was much better. And then I saw some of the work he did with Tissa David -“The Red Shoes”, “The Marzipan Pig” -and discovered that he was one heck of a filmmaker. Then I began to speak with him socially -not just about Letterman and John Hubley but film and literature -and learned that his coldness was shyness and that he was an unusually open and generous person.

He read more than anyone in animation. There’s no doubt in my mind to that. A book a night he once confessed, largely due to insomnia.

He was generous with knowledge.

He gave opportunities to young artists and kept alive the work of those who came before them.

He was tasteful and opinionated and didn’t mind when someone disagreed with him.

He built a legacy of beautiful, intelligent films and encouraged us all to do the same.

His friendship made me feel like I belonged in this world, like I had something to contribute.

I hope to contribute a small fraction of the good he brought to us all.

Christmas Storyboards

I’ve this great notebook for several years. I picked it up in London and have only used it off and on. It’s called the “Bushey” from Charles Roberson & Co. I can’t find a US reseller. While I done crazier thing than order a stack of sketchbooks to be shipped from across the ocean, I’m not sure if I have that store of crazy in me at the moment.

Anyway, I found these rough boards for “Sympathy for the Fish” when I was flipping through recently for blank pages.

It’s interesting for me to see how closely they resemble the end product.

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Kelsey Stark is largely responsible for the animation on this. She always brings a high measure of artistry to my crappy ideas.

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In making this film, we basically went from these drawings to slightly tighter boards cut against my voice track.

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I’m pretty sure I scribbled these boards on the subway -not that that’s any excuse for the lousy drawing.

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It’s a writing/script based film -though I think the images play an important role in working against the narration and adding information that’s not said -so the boards, by and large, stem from the script.

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Because of this, I had figured out the picture for the most part while writing.

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We only wound up cutting one antic with the doctor -in the board he picks up a few items before the wire cutter, ultimately it’s just the one.

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These are some of my rough design concepts which Kelsey turned into something very nice.

We’ll have a new holiday themed film ready in a couple weeks.

Bugs & Mickey Walk Into A Bar

A few years back I did a project with comedy writer Rob Long. Last week I found this book he wrote (long before I met him) about the years between his first job as writer/producer on “Cheers” and the cancellation of his first original series by a fledgling broadcaster a few years later.

It’s a fun glimpse into -what turned out to be -the waning days of the sitcom hegemony.

conversations-with-my-agent_l

Here’s an excerpt that is a great bit on character that discusses animation icons.

Comedy writers have a long-running debate, one that lasts through bottles of wine and into the early-morning hours. It is known as the Mickey Mouse Question, and it goes like this: Mickey Mouse is not a funny character. He neither tells jokes nor does anything funny, and his girlfriend is an uptight bore. Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, is a brilliantly inventive comic genius, sharp-witted, physically agile, a fearless wise guy who thinks nothing of donning a dress, producing an anvil out of thin air, kissing his enemy on the lips, and in the face of death and torture calling out a cheery “What’s Up Doc?” Bugs is much funnier than Mickey, no contest. Why, then, is Mickey the billionaire movie star? People don’t seem to be able to get their fill of that little rat, him with his squeaky voice and gee-whiz attitude. Mickey is completely inoffensive, involved in a long-term, caring relationship, optimistic. Bugs is the opposite: he’s a wild man with a raging carrot-dependency, big with the exploding props and the verbal abuse, and one of these days he’s going to go over the edge. Mickey never will. He and his girlfriend will spend their days in inoffensive, unfunny bliss. But it is Bugs who makes us laugh, and isn’t that, after all, enough?

Creating a television sitcom means choosing between Mickey and Bugs, between a universe of likeable, not-terribly funny people and a universe of vaguely disturbing, very funny people. Networks tend, on the whole, not to like funny characters very much. If they had their choice, every sitcom would be a family or group of Mickeys, with maybe a Bugs living next door. Writers, unfortunately, on the whole prefer a big group of Bugses with a Mickey around to say things like “What’s going on here? Are you all out of your minds?”