Jun 29, 2010

Creature Comforts

Created by Aardman Animation, the same studio that popularized Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts is a brilliant stop-motion/claymation short that plays off the idea that animals have a lot to say - specifically those in the close quarters of a zoo. While there have been several spin-offs and sequels to this idea, this is the original 1989 short that won Nick Park the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1990.

I've always been a huge fan of stop motion and took a few cracks at it myself back in high school and film school. Aardman is one of the best claymation studios out there (and Nick Park is an incredibly talented animator) so I guess if there was ever a good place to look for inspiration this was it. Have a look for yourself.

Jun 28, 2010

Whatever Works

It's now been just over two years since my university career came to a close. Tail between my legs I packed up my life in the dorms after 6 years to move back home to Alberta and into my folks' basement. The real low was feeling like it was all for nothing. Broke, no job leads, and a strong sense that I had failed those who had looked at me with such promise when I said I was off to film school, I was without question in a state of deep self loathing.

I don't know that I would be where I am now, in fact I think things would've been extremely different, had I not been forced to pull myself out of that low. Returning home forced me to re-evaluate. Basement living wasn't the best, but it certainly helped me attack my student loans head on and over the course of these last two years has allowed me to sling shot into a fairly enviable position.

The timing of this post is certainly no coincidence.

This month marks the end of my post-university transition - a term that's seen a lot of wear on this blog - I'm moving out, I've repaid substantial portions of my student debt, I have two unique film/media jobs that are creatively rewarding, and for the first time in my life I can say that I'm able to completely support myself and my ambitions without borrowing.

Still, it wasn't easy, there were a lot of questions and a lot of thinking that I needed to do to get myself out of my slump. I needed to figure out how I could approach film and video in a smaller city and find a way to connect myself to the right people. Using a connection that I made at the Medicine Hat Film Festival I got an interview, and eventually a job with Stream Media Inc. as a videographer and editor working in corporate video. This was a dream come true working on videos for so many diverse clients - and me, just a kid right out of university actually being assigned complete projects to act as sole editor on.

As the economy cooled in early 2009 I was forced to find more work and took a job as a copywriter for Weddingstar Inc. Working for this wedding website retailer actually became a blessing in disguise as the company saw the potential in my promotional videos. Over the course of my first 6 months I ended up establishing and running the in-house photography and video department for the website. This meant buying cameras, lighting equipment, a new edit suite, etc. and to talk about growth potential, the company has doubled its office space (building a new addition and warehouse) in the single year that I've been there. My position also officially changed at the start of 2010 from creative copywriter to web media producer.

I now balance my full time work at Weddingstar with my contract work at Stream Media. Both present unique challenges, and both positions didn't exist until I started working for each company. It just goes to show that sometimes we have more impact than we give ourselves credit for. There are also perks that become available when doing a job you love really well (sorry, couldn't help myself).

The lesson I've learned is to scavenge for opportunities that actually relate to what you really want to be doing - even when it may seem far fetched given your current location. Start small by just getting in touch with people who are in the field you want to be in. Reach out and ask questions. Search out growth potential by adopting new tasks in your current job. What has amazed me is how willing people have been to give me creative control because I asked for it - and then was able to prove myself. Passionate people appreciate other passionate people.

With everything that's come to pass in these last two years I can see how hard I've worked and just how lucky I've been. Don't kid yourself, to be successful and happy you have to learn to roll with things. I've learned to adapt, to step up, to be assertive and confident; I've learned to do whatever works. And with what university provided and then ultimately lacked, I've started a fresh chapter, a bit wiser than before.

Jun 24, 2010

Happy Up Here - Royksopp

A good music video, in my opinion, is more than just shots of a band or artist with quick jump cuts. What I love about the genre in general is how music videos make it acceptable to merge experimental art with mainstream audiences. You can focus on bold textures, colours, patterns, and imagery in ways that contribute to an overall emotion or visual theme - versus a traditional plot arch.

Happy Up Here is eye candy to me. Flashing lights, smooth computer transitions, and dated facades help to create an urban carnival/living arcade game with punchy logos and pop art thrown in for good measure. The depth and hand held ambiance of this chaotic environment creates a powerful framework for an otherwise 'open' musical arrangement. Strong stylistic choices really make the song for me - yet one more example of how a great music video has just as much influence as a great song.