Note: Jean has a busy couple of months ahead so next month’s newsletter will be a quick round up without the blog post, which will be back in October.
Animation Workshop (Community projects)
I’ve always enjoyed running 2D stop frame animation workshops as it’s such an accessible form of animation. It also allows those who love to draw an opportunity to develop characters or you can use silhouettes. The animation of Lotte Reinger (1899-1981) is the creator of the oldest surviving feature animation and has always been an inspiration. My favourite film of Reigner’s is Thumbelina.
I have run many workshops over the years in schools and community settings, including shopping centres, and with fellow artist peers as a professional development opportunity. The thing I love most about it, is that often you work the story out as you animate which enables you to be spontaneous and work collaboratively with other workshop participants.
Of course, it’s good to go in with a story in mind (when I say story, it’s often a short visual idea).
My recent project with Freshly Grated reminded me of a series of workshops I ran in Essex for a Social Enterprise start up run by 4MySchools, called Triagora. I planned a series of workshops that included exploring animation. The thing I loved most about this project was that we worked collectively with children in the Nurture group, their parents and their teachers. In this way, we were able to use animation as a tool to bring those three groups closer together to work on a joint project. Here is one of the films I made documenting the project process:
My arts practice became known as Visual Poems when I applied for Arts Council England’s Develop Your Creative Practice (DYCP) grant and was successful. My aim was to explore photography and narrative that combined materiality, time, memory, and emotion.
I studied Fine Art & Related Arts at Chichester University (called Bishop Otter College in the 1990s) which included textiles and printmaking, and then went on to focus on painting. I found it to be a space where I could process my feelings. Working abstractly, mainly with acrylics, I painted interior spaces in which I had projected 35mm photographic slides. I wanted to paint light and look at how that can become a form in itself.
For Related Arts, I studied modules in Dance, Music, and English. This was where I started to experiment with filmmaking within a performance setting and I collaborated with dance student Maria Figgins (Pictured). For our final dissertation we used performance and video projection for a piece called Shots by the Light of the Full Moon Parents Dead.
The title came from a postcard my father had sent me of a woman sitting in a cafe at a train station with a paper laying on the table with this as the headline. In the postcard a man sits on another table watching her. She held such a mysterious and bold look. We used this as a starting point for the performance where we looked at reality and the imagination of the characters.
It was the first time I had worked with video, performance and sound and we made an original soundtrack sampling old movie soundtracks such as It’s a Wonderful Life. I was writing an essay on voyeurism within the film Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock at this time, so this definitely influenced the performance. It was also the first time I worked with actors.
After university I continued to paint for five years, exhibiting and selling small canvases at Spitalfields market, East London. But I didn’t like the financial side of selling work and soon film took over, and I was working within TV Drama.
During the pandemic I returned to my fine arts practice when I started to work with Polaroid and projection. It was strange, or maybe a bit of a lightbulb moment for me, how my working process echoes the work I produced in the 90s.
Visual Poems started in a much loved domestic setting of my mother’s home which was my home as a young adult. Mum’s home was always a place of refuge, a beautiful tranquil space and garden. During the pandemic my husband Sean, dog Junebug, and I often sat on the doorstep to chat with mum and later sat socially distanced with her in the garden.
Later I used my home as a setting for my photography, drawing, and making. The beauty of the Develop Your Creative Practice grant is that you get to experiment with no fixed goals, and that was a remarkable year for me with my work developing in directions I wasn’t expecting.
I have always considered myself a filmmaker, a writer director, who doesn’t write in a conventional way. Calling myself an artist again has allowed me the freedom to experiment without all the structures that are in place in narrative filmmaking and docs.
During my year of experimentation I started to draw again. Mostly working from the installation work such as dresses with projection hanging above a bed, or making quick drawings from the digitised moving image Polaroids. Drawing allows me to further investigate the space within the frame and presents another language from film and photography - a language I am enjoying exploring again.
How is the concept working so far…
The workshopping process has given me ideas to develop, expand certain storylines, and get rid of others. It has been interesting to edit the scenes for my Patreon early-access films. Although my Patreon following is currently small, it does give me a structure to work with. I find it much easier when I have deadlines and so making these short films about my working process has been really productive and so far, it has forced me to consider the footage in different ways.
Late Splitters is wrapped up in the documentary, Identical, which I started originally as a research project. Today I was editing the footage of both Identical and Late Splitters together as I had always intended to film reenactments for part of the doc. So it’s been exciting to see it come together.
This month I have also been reaching out to producers and agents. I would love to meet a producer to work with, but so far this has eluded me and it’s not been due to not trying. I think I’ve just got used to doing everything myself which isn’t always such a good thing. I have struggled to make the leap (and it feels like a big leap) to features. I started developing Late Splitters ten years ago and, because I wanted to write the script myself, it has taken a long time. I am meeting with my co-writer Vittoria Benedetti in August so that we can review the script. I do have to remind myself it is developing and I am achieving a lot, it will just take time.
I started doing Transcendental Meditation™ back in September 2020 and it allows me twenty minutes of deep relaxation twice a day. I often will ‘wake’ from the meditation with ideas for Late Splitters. I also find my mind works out story elements when I swim. I have started capturing these ideas as audio clips as it is more immediate for me than trying to write out my ideas.
So what if the rehearsal footage I am shooting for Late Splitters is not a rehearsal but the film itself?
Throughout the past six months, I have also been one of six artists on the Rest & Digest Programme which I spoke about in my blog last month. During this time we have had supervision sessions with a clinical psychologist where we have drawn, painted, or made a piece of work. It has introduced me further to the idea of art therapy as an area that has always interested me both through my own work and the community projects I have made. With so many of the community workshops I ran, it was always about the process or the ‘soft outcomes’ if you like, e.g. seeing a young person make new friends, and gain confidence and skills through making a film. In a way that is what we are all doing, whether it’s a community project or a big budget production. Although I realise there is a financial pressure with big budget productions.
We are preparing to shoot the next footage for the documentary and Late Splitters in a couple of weeks time. We will be out and about this month in Great Yarmouth which always causes a lot more work. I will be shooting some of the re-enactment scenes for Identical and a scene from Late Splitters. The day will be a bit of an experiment but this is the way the project is developing and I feel extremely grateful to have a team of creative collaborators who trust my judgement and we always have fun shooting.
I have always been interested in the line between fiction and documentary. I have enjoyed interviewing twins over the past six years but I’ve always wanted to go further. So by recreating real scenes that happened, and interviewing the actors afterwards to see how it felt, I hope to allow an audience to experience more deeply how the cliches around twins feel and the impact they have on someone’s identity.