Nick finds it much harder to make a commercial than Creature Comforts because he is answerable to a client. “They always want more in thirty seconds than I believe will work,” remarked Nick. “If we let the client dictate too much then I know he will get a bad commercial.” However, Nick was fortunate to have an understanding client on the Electricity commercials and they ended up with a winning formula.
Joanna Quinn’s film Body Beautiful is another episode in the life of Beryl, who first appeared in Girls Night Out in 1986 (see Animator issue No. 21). This time Beryl takes up body building to get her revenge on a narcissistic shop floor manager.
“I wanted to make the characters more three-dimensional,” said Joanna. “I became quite close to the characters when I was making the first film so I wanted to go further with them. There are some more adventures on the way. The reason for making films about Beryl, the lead character, is I want to create a normal character who everybody thinks is a normal housewife, but I want her to be strong and do things that perhaps you would not expect her to do.”
In 1990 Joanna set up the “Home Movies” Company in Cardiff together with three other animators. At the time of the festival she was working on two other projects: one is a five-minute film about British imperialism, the other project is called Fred that she is directing for TVC. Fred is a half-hour film from a book of the same name written by Posy Simmons.
The scripts for the Beryl films were co-written with Les Mills. “We get the idea and write a rough script,” explained Joanna. “For Body Beautiful we took ages auditioning the people. We gave them a rough script and they adlibbed a bit; they came up with a lot of the best lines.”
The animatics had already been created at this stage. It was a filmed version of the storyboard with all the images and sequences. “I read all the voices and it worked quite well,” said Joanna. “It ran for six-minutes; we had it all mapped out and it looked good, but because the actors were adlibbing the film grew. I could not let go of some of the things they said. Suddenly it was double the time and that was a problem. On my next film I am determined to be a lot more specific and keep to the original script.”
Mark Baker’s film The Hill Farm shows that a farmer’s life is one of routine: until the water pump dries up, tourists disturb a large bear and hunters invade the area. The film won the British Academy Award in 1988, the Grand Prix d’Annecy in 1989 and many other prizes around the world.
Mark made The Hill Farm at the National Film and Television School, the same college that Nick Park went to. “It is true that the budgets are good for the actual materials of the films but they are not good enough to pay for help,” said Mark. “I made this film single handed until the end stages. One of the good things about making films there is that as it is also a live-action college, there are students specialising in sound, music and sound effects. As animators we really benefit with working with these people during the final stages.”
Since leaving college in 1988 he has been trying to work on his own projects. However, he has made his living by animating commercials and title sequences. He has written two scripts; one was commissioned by TVC and the other by Channel 4. The TVC project is a half-hour film about the rain forests in Brazil. The script was completed over a year ago and TVC was still trying to get funding for it. He was working on the script for a ten-minute film commissioned by Channel 4. They had agreed to pay about three-quarters of the amount budget. Mark was looking for the rest of the money before he could start on the film.
Mark takes quite a time to come up with the final script and often the script will change as he is making the film. “As I am animating it I see possibilities for shots. The overall structure stays much the same as the initial script. I think the two processes are very different. When you are script writing you see the whole film almost as if you are viewing it. When you get to animate it you are attending to many tiny details. I resist the temptation to change things too much. You can get bored with the original idea because you have spent a long time with it. You have to hang on to the original concept and make the film you planned.”
The sound track was recorded with the help of two students who specialised in the fields of sound and music. “I like doing the sound because it is almost like doing animation but much faster,” stated Mark. “You can create sounds using all sorts of strange materials and things. You can make the whole thing seem convincing and give weight to heavy characters and make light characters seem very light through their footsteps and so on. It is a very enjoyable process. It makes the whole thing come alive. After spending a long time drawing and seeing the thing mute it is a very exciting moment when suddenly it has sound. Suddenly it is a living thing rather than just a drawing.”
Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein’s film Balance has five characters on a floating platform. Every move causes the platform to tip one way or another. They must work as a team to keep it stable. All is well until a mysterious box appears on the scene. The film won an Oscar for best short animated film in 1990.
The Lauenstein brothers are twins and were born in 1962 in Hildesheim, Germany. They have been enthusiastic about puppet animation since the age of thirteen but both went separate ways to complete their studies; between 1984 and 1990 Christoph studied animation at Kassel whilst Wolfgang studied the same subject at Hamburg.
However, they met frequently enough to make Balance. “The film was made when we were students,” explained Christoph. “We did not have very much money to make the film so we had to improvise. The platform seen in the film was half of a table tennis table.”
“We have now opened our own studio. This is something we could not have done without winning an Academy Award last year because the risk would have been too high.”
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Printed in Animator Issue 29 (Spring 1992)