Returning from Paris, Caroline continued freelancing but became more and more attached to Pizazz. After some seven years she is now a director.
Three After-Thoughts Caroline’s ‘personal’ film did not start out as such. It began as part of a proposed series ‘Animators. in Concert’ for S4C (Wales) designed to attract a wider audience for classical music. Their idea involved allowing animators to choose a piece of classical music to interpret through the medium of their animation, choosing different animators to represent differing styles of musical form. Unfortunately, they were not able to obtain the necessary backing for the project but, by that time, Caroline had already completed a quarter of the animation to accompany a specially recorded track of a little known piece by Eric Sartie, which roughly translated means ‘Three After-Thoughts’. Four other animators who had been commissioned to work on the series were disappointed when the project was cancelled. Fortunately for Caroline, Pizazz were very happy to let her continue to work on it during down-time in order to finish it.
“It was shown at Cardiff,” she told me, “and I am hoping someone will take it up. The style I adopted is a simple one, meant to be reminiscent of children’s drawings. I like things to be character- led, in simple form I can get more expression into my animation. I used wax crayons on cels and backgrounds, although the lines may boil on occasion because of the loose rendering there is the built-in control of the musical time base, which makes it acceptable. Peter Lawson was the instrumentalist, he is known as a Sartie interpreter. I deliberately chose an unfamiliar piece of music in order to avoid any preconceived ideas.
The new boy at Pizazz is Derek Hayes, former director with the late Phil Austin of Animation City. The two men teamed up while they were attending Sheffield Art School to make a 20-minute film titled Custard. This won them entry to the National Film School where they made Max Beeza and The City in the Sky as a grand finale to their stay. They met the future Pizazz gang for the first time when they went to work for Richard Williams. Derek recalls:
“We worked on The Thief – hasn’t everyone? – as well as the more usual work. I remember Caroline was Ken Harris’ assistant and she was working on millions of moving cogs. Freelance, I made a five-minute short for BBC Bristol in the ‘Animated Conversation’ series, and at the end of the year I was contacted by an ex-NFS friend, Julian Temple, who had been asked to complete the direction of the Sex Pistols feature The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. He wanted animation – could we do it? It was on the strength of that commission Phil and I formed Animation City, and it kept us busy for a year.
“Raising capital was difficult until Channel 4 approached us, then we made Sky Whales, The Victor, and Binky Boo, together with the usual commercials and titles. But sadly, Phil died in 1989. Two years ago I got a half-hour film off the ground called Prince Cinders, followed by one of the films in the Channel 4 MOMI series, a children’s half- hour film, and for the Illuminated Film Co. we made The Hungry Caterpillar directed by Andy Goff. Eventually the recession got too much for us and I closed Animation City last Christmas.”
“Pizazz very kindly offered me space in which to work on Elijah, part of a series of bible stories. In future, Pizazz will represent me for commercials and other work.”
Before leaving I asked Mario for his view of the current state of British animation: “While Walt Disney was still involved there was not a great deal happening elsewhere,” he said,” After his death, London became the focus of attention.. It was the key place to be for animation because of advertising demands which tended to attract a great many people into the capital.
“I think that emphasis is shifting back to Los Angeles because of the current activity in feature production. As a result of the recession in this country, things are not as lively as they used to be. It has left a very fragmented animation industry with individuals doing a lot of quirky, idiosyncratic things. We have just made a very quirky commercial for the Post Office.
“The advertising agencies tend to look for something new which they can use, so that ‘novelty is all’. One agency man actually described himself as ‘the director of rip-offs’, that is the tendency to pick- up an individual’s style and exploit his or her expertise. There is the constant search for ‘the flavour of the month’, one month Oscar Grillo, the next a newly emerged graduate from a Film School. This happened to a friend of mine, Oliver, who made a very nice typography film and was instantly ripped-off. He literally had a gun held to his head when they approached him with their commission. When he protested, their terse reply was, ‘Well, if you don’t make it, someone else will!’ You see, there is no copyright on ideas.
“The other thing to happen in this country – and it almost makes up for the decline in advertising – is that Channel 4 has shouldered the major burden of promoting and producing animation, and now BBC 2 and S4C are demonstrating active interest. British TV broadcasters’ involvement is dependent on the network’s willingness to commission or buy animation. At present, ITV tends to favour 26 x 30-minute series. No British studio could produce series of that length on spec., only by commission. The ‘Cartoon’ section of MEDIA is a useful defence against such a buying policy, they actively encourage the production of 26-episode programmes but they cannot provide 100% of the capital, you have to have the additional support of a TV company to ensure total success. Realistically, buying-in-the-can all the time limits the field to American imports – and that is a depressing thought!
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Printed in Animator Issue 32 (Spring 1995)