Animation by a young film maker

MICHAEL SALKELD WON THE BBC YOUNG FILMMAKER’S COMPETITION LAST YEAR. HE TELLS US HOW HE GOT STARTED THROUGH TO HIS LATEST FILM.

I have been making animated films for six years, though I had been interested in animation all my life. At first I made flick books, generally copying things I had seen on the television or in the cinema.

Naturally I didn’t stay satisfied with flick books for very long, so by the time I got a cine camera for Christmas, also my 11th birthday, I was geared up to make animated films. At first I copied Walt Disney or should I say the style of Walt Disney, which isn’t all that bad considering Disney animation is so good.

My first films were mainly done with cut-outs or drawn on paper, either way I tried to make the animation as smooth and lively as possible. I have never liked all this limited animation which finds it’s way onto the television.

At this time I had very little equipment, or had any idea where to get materials from. I managed to make my own rostrum out of some bits of wood I had, and I still use it today, though it has been improved upon.

Then as now, my films were made with very little planning, and I never used story boards or dope sheets, as the stories I used were very simple, and I concentrated more on the animation.

In 1980 after successive attempts I was a runner up in the BBC young film makers competition, and the year after won the animation section with a film called the Calendar. The film follows the seasons of the year and as each season passes a page of the calendar turns over. I used cell with water colour backgrounds. Chinagraph wax pencil was used to draw on the cel as it gives a more expressive and pencil like look to the outline than ink.

I used poster colour with some soap added to make it take to the cel.

Because it was the first time I had made a film using only cels there isn’t a great deal of action in the film, as I felt I did not want to use too much cel, which is a big mistake.

The music on the sound track was also played by me. I managed with the use of two tape recorders to build the music up by recording from one to the other. I was quite pleased with the result even if the piano which was recorded first ended up sounding like a guitar.

At present I am working on a film about a sheep dog that rescues some sheep from a flooding river. For the first time I actually planned the film before I started, and it does help when you don’t have to stop and think what you are going to do next.

Unlike the CALENDAR there is a lot of action in this film, and thanks to a shepherd that lives fleer by I was able to take some live action film of a couple of working sheepdogs, which was a great help with the animation.

I have made what seems like an endless number of drawings for the film. All of these will have to be traced onto cel so it looks as if I am going to be busy for quite some time.

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 2 (Autumn 1982)

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