Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Myself and visual artist Becca Rose decided it would be nice to make an animated film to send out to friends an colleagues as an alternative Christmas card. I'd been away from animation for a while so it was great fun to make another short. The film is low-fi, playful and silly and very Christmassy (it even has snow). Click on the still below to watch the film.

We wanted to make something immediate and simple and I saw the project almost as an extension of my 2007 short Showdown at Yohoko Valley. I started by sketching out a really quick storyboard illustrating the main beats of the story. I then scanned these in and made a rough animatic to work out timing but I didn't want to let this dictate the shoot too much as there are always new options presented whilst animating.

We sourced and borrowed the toys from various people and made the set really quickly from cardboard, fabric and paper. We shot the film in one day in Becca's studio using basic posable lamps and shot on my Canon 60d with the brilliant Dragonframe. Here are some photos of the process:

Becca Rose cutting out tiny letter for the credits

Me animating the sheep

The set up

Making the star appear above the shepherd on some very stable string rigging..

Teeny weeny words

Working with Dragonframe

Animating the credits

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Death and Treason

We have just finished Death and Treason Rhyme and Reason a theatrical gig at Bristol Old Vic. The show, led by my wonderful collaborator Elizabeth Westcott, looked at the origins and historical contexts of nursery rhymes. After playing to enchanted audiences, the gang had a lot of great feedback. I think there are exciting possibilities in store for the future.

I worked on the show as Set and Costume Designer and created a dusty sprawling installation on top of Madeline Girling's excellent set for Hey Diddle Diddle. I also made a series of paintings which accompanied the different sets of songs in the show. We spent lots of development time talking through historical and thematic influences on nursery rhymes and I created the paintings based on that research as well as listening to the amazing music the performers created.

Sketching initial thoughts whilst hearing the music

Sharing design ideas in the rehearsal room

Working on more final imagery. Photo: Flavio Perez

Working out the feeling and scenography

Rehearsing one of the songs from the show

The show was created by and performed by:
Elizabeth Westcott (violin/voice)
Hannah Martin (violin/viola/voice)
Jessica Macdonald (cello/voice)
Robbie Burgess (percussion/voice)
Nuala Honan (voice)

I had a great time working with this bunch and bringing together illustration, visual theatre and design to . Check out the Venue review and the Bristol Post review.

Production shots by Daniel Narayanan:

And here are some of the paintings I created which appeared in the show:

Thursday, 15 November 2012

'Yesterday' for Theatre Uncut

Rehearsals for The Life After - the full version on the main stage at Bristol Old Vic with over 100 young people - are underway. As an antidote to working with that many people I decided to direct a short show with two characters for Theatre Uncut Festival in Bristol. Uncut is a political theatre festival where writers from around the world write brand new scripts about current and relevant issues and theatre makers put on the shows in venues internationally. This article explains more about Theatre Uncut Bristol.

I read through the various scripts and chose a piece called Yesterday by Spanish writer Helena Tornero. The piece is a deceptively simple two-hander about a woman who sees her lover, a Spanish Police Officer, dressed as a civilian instigating violence at the 2011 Barcelona riots so the Police can take a harsher line with protestors. The script is based on actual events and the economic yet passionate dialogue presented some interesting theatrical options.

Visual research

I started research by reading articles about the riots and, as with most projects, gathered visual reference to inform my thinking. I got really into the imagery I found, police vs protestors, blood, sand, anger, confusion. I pulled together a bunch of images that felt relevant to the world of the show and hit on the concept of staging the lover's tense confrontation as a bull fight.

Jessica Macdonald and Russell Hancock, two really brilliant Bristol-based performers, agreed to perform in the piece and rehearsals took place in the form of three short sessions in the week leading up to the show. We did various physical exercises in these sessions, some to explore the characters, some to physicalise the tension of the lovers and we looked at videos of bull fighting to inform the choreography of the piece.

Jessica and Russell explore the lovers' underlying tension

Yesterday, along with a few other Uncut pieces, played at The Parlour Showrooms which is a great pop up venue in the centre of Bristol to a packed audience. It was great to make something short and quick and tackle a more naturalistic text in a playful way.

Audience at The Parlour Showrooms

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Nursery Rhyme Project

I'm working on about eight projects at the moment. One of them is called Death and Treason, Rhyme and Reason and is an adult nursery rhyme musical show performing at Bristol Old Vic in December. The music is sounding gorgeous, you can keep up to date with the project on their Facebook page. I am making a series of large scale paintings for the show and doing some design work. You can book tickets here.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Dream Press Launch

I can now announce a project I have been working on with Bristol Old Vic's artistic director Tom Morris and Handspring Puppet Company, a brand new adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The press launch took place on Monday evening in the newly refurbished BOV theatre and I helped Basil and Adrian from Handspring improvise some puppetry with breeze blocks and stones (the puppetry in the show takes many forms).

Tom, Handspring and designer Vicki Mortimer have been researching and developing the project intermittently over the past year through a series of workshops I've had the pleasure of being involved in. The project is set to be a unique mix of puppetry and live performance, rehearsals begin in January, previews end of February and it goes up in March. I'll be working on the puppetry in the show and also helping to deliver the outreach programme once the show's up and running. Can't say much more than that at the moment but it's very exciting to be involved. You can book tickets for the show here and here are some pictures from the press launch.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

BAFTA Ceremony

Big gold face

I attended the BAFTA Cymru awards ceremony last night which was a sparkling affair. My graduation film The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling had been nominated for the Short Form and Animation Award. It didn't win but it was an honour to simply be nominated and attend the ceremony at the Wales Millenium Centre. I managed to catch up with staff from the Skillset Media Academy Wales as well as animator Joanna Quinn. You can watch the awards in their entirety online below which features a clip from Falling.

BAFTA Cymru Programme

Monday, 1 October 2012

Graduation Film in Print

My graduation film The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling was selected to be included in a new book called The Art of Short Films. The publication, edited by Morten Enevoldsen, is a feast of artwork from animated films from around the world. Falling has a chapter dedicated to it featuring concept art, behind the scenes photos as well as musings on the process that I wrote specifically for the book. There are some fantastic films also in the book from professional productions to other student shorts from Les Gobelins in France and also Patakiskola by my friend Péter Vácz.

Cover designed by my ASF classmate Nicole Gallagher

About the book:
Authored by Mr. Morten Seung Enevoldsen, illustrated by Ms. Nicole Gallagher, preface by Mr. Kaj Pindal.
This book was written to share concept art from short films that have won acclaim and praise from both the industry and public. "The art of Short films" contains artwork and personal interviews with each of the film creators. In their own words they share their experiences on what to do, and not to do, to make a great film. All profit goes to fund more independent films like these through a film fund. Visit for more information.
An early colour script for The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling
that features in the book

The book can be ordered online from the Amazon division CreateSpace. The book also has a website and a Facebook page.

Friday, 21 September 2012

BAFTA nomination

I am very excited to announce that my graduation film from Newport Film School The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling has been nominated for a Bafta Cymru. It's up for the 'Short Form and Animation' award. I've written a bit more about it on the Falling blog.

I'm delighted about the nomination, as well as being massively encouraging it's also wonderful recognition for the film and the talented crew with whom I made the film. The awards ceremony will take place on 30th September at the Wales Millennium Centre, full details of the 2012 nominations here.

BOV Summer School 2012

After finishing co-directing The Life After I went straight into running the summer school at Bristol Old Vic. The summer school is a course that happens every year and invites young people to come and work with the Outreach team to create a new piece of theatre in two weeks. There are places for technical team as well as performers and the course is a lively introduction to the world of theatre-making and performance. BOV says this about the course on their website.
Come and spend two weeks of your summer holidays working with a team of vibrant and professional young artists, creating and devising your own production which will take place in Bristol Old Vic's Studio. Open to all abilities and with the option of working either behind the scenes or taking centre stage, Summer School promises to be an exciting, fun packed fortnight.

My aim with summer school is always to get to know the ensemble and find out what they're interested in through training, games and workshops and allow them to form the piece of work and lead the research and development. The 2012 group were a political bunch and we created a piece about climate change featuring an imagined future exploring the effects of global warming. We spent five days learning skills and training together as an ensemble and then made the show in the last five days.

The story begins with a great flood and follows various stranded and disperate characters and their stories; a blind man on an island of rubbish, a scientist on a raft, a family torn apart by the waves. As  flawed and struggling government officials try to keep control, characters are reunited and begin to rebuild their lives. The piece was told using ensemble movement and visual storytelling aided by larger than life characters and choral speech. Alistair Debling, who has made music for much of my theatre work, created an evocative score reminiscent of eastern music and performed using a loop pedal and various instruments. The eclectic design and costumes were created by Ruby Spencer and Harriet Hill-Payne and the show was beautifully lit by the young technical team.

Production photography by Paul Blakemore.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Music and Nietzsche

Back in May I created album artwork for regular collaborator Kit Wilson. Kit and I have known each other since school and used to make little animations together on the kitchen table. We both had the Aardman Book of 3D Animation and would spend hours making models and shooting little films. I remember one about a volcano, one about a dinosaur attacking a city and one attempt at lip-sync that went horribly wrong. Now based in London after studying at Trinity College of Music, Kit works as a composer, musician and sound designer for film and theatre and also tutors music students. Kit's music is not quite like anything else and is massively diverse whilst retaining a unique voice. The music is not necessarily conventionally cinematic or filmic in it's sensibilities and this is one of the reasons I love it. There's something about the feel and tone of the music which compliments the visuals perfectly.

The collaborations between Kit and I have taken various forms and adopted different methodologies. When we made Curiouser and Curiouser in 2007 I gave Kit sketches, concept art, storyboards and diagrams and the music was written before shooting had completed. Essentially when I came to cut the film together Kit had created the music and I composed the footage to the music. The Scientist and the Omnipotence of Dream (2008) was the complete opposite where I gave Kit very little direction but simply handed him the final cut of the film and let him respond musically to the images. There's something magic about that stage in the process where a piece can become more than the sum of it's parts and the various elements gel together to form something new. In The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling(2011) there was a lot of bouncing material back-and-forth in terms of story and visuals as well as music. I gave Kit a handful of titles to compose musical sketches around; 'the anticipation of falling' and 'Ivor's plants'. These tracks created the basis of the tone and feel of the film's music. I think there's a creative affinity that comes from working together over and over and a language that evolves from loving and growing up with the same stuff.

Music always plays a large part in my work whether it be live-action film, animation or theatre. Much of the animation work I make doesn't include voice and the music tends to act as a dialogue of sorts; conveying a sense of characters or telling the narrative musically. Elizabeth Westcott's visceral music and soundscapes for my live-action dance film Swarm (2010) does exactly this and really tells the story as much as the visuals. The soaring strings and plucked violins create a diverse texture which the images then sit upon. Most of the composers I work with will be remote and there are a few valuable meetings plotting ideas and sharing thoughts on the music before the real work is done in isolation. I remember sitting with composer Theo Jamieson discussing the music for The Life And Death of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2009) and Theo suggesting the music should somehow embody the industrial revolution, in the end he titled the track The Factory and the rhythm and energy of the music helps drive the narrative of the film and give a sense of Brunel's prolific working life. In We Weren't The First Ones Here (2010) Jack Vaughan's score was evocative and hugely characteristic. The challenge here was to avoid detracting from the recorded voices of the actors whilst tying the fragmented episodes together. The music embodies the characters and their relationship to the house.

I made the artwork for Kit's last album This is All They Left in 2009 which can be seen here. The new album deals with themes of memory, reality, dream and insanity. I listened to snippets of work in progress and had lots of ideas and notes from Kit. The album is nearly finished and the artwork is below.

And here's a little video of the artwork being put together in Photoshop (I've always wanted to do one!).

About Kit Wilson
Kit Wilson Kit is a writer and musician and has composed for film and theatre. Kit studied music at the University of York and Trinity College of Music in London. His works incorporate song writing and large-scale electro-acoustic structures and often explore the relationship between organic and electronic elements. Joseph and Kit have been making films together since their childhood and through numerous collaborations have developed a unique creative affinity and a natural working methodology.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Life After Prelude Performance

The Life After performed at the Bristol Old Vic Studio from 2 - 4 August to a sold out house. The show had originally been scheduled to play in BOV's theatre royal but due to delays in the restoration work the main stage wasn't ready so the 'prelude performance' took place on the same dates in the studio and the main house version which will feature a cast of over a hundered young people will take place in February.

The 50-strong cast supported by the rest of the Bristol Old Vic Young Company did a fine job and the hard work of the creative team paid off. Below is what I wrote for the programme.
This show has always been epic in subject matter and ambition. We began with the question ‘where do we go when we die?’ and the responses from Young Company members aged 6-25 were varied and moving. From that point, through research and development, our weekly sessions with 300 young people from around Bristol, regular rehearsals and a rather rainy fundraiser showing, we’ve come a long way to present you with the prelude performance. 
When Miranda and I first started work on the project, our aim was to make something that celebrated the Young Company as well as this gorgeous theatre. Both have been here for a long time and both are ever changing and evolving. The team of professionals who work with the Young Company expect a great deal from these new theatre makers and they have risen to the challenge in devising and producing a piece of work that they own and of which we are all proud. 
Of course this isn’t quite the end of our journey and in February, joined by nearly a hundred more performers, we will present The Life After in the Theatre in its final incarnation. I hope you enjoy the show.
Joseph Wallace - Director

We recieved an 8/10 review in the Bristol Post, here are a couple of quotes:
"somewhere between the films of Tim Burton and a stage production of Oliver"
"There's a humour and boisterousness to The Life After that's easy to like... hugely promising, certainly not something to be missed come February."
You can book tickets for February's full production of The Life After here. Production photography by Chris Collier.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Rehearsing The Life After

I'm currently directing a show with the Bristol Old Vic Young Company which will go up at the Bristol Old Vic theatre in the first week of August 2012. It's called The Life After and is a devised show I'm directing with Miranda Cromwell, the Young Company director. The show's musical directors are Elizabeth Westcott and Peter Reynolds, dramaturg Adam Peck and the designer is Liesel Corp.

We've been rehearsing for around seven weeks now and have just performed some material from the devising process at a fundraising event over the weekend and are pulling together the story and finding some wonderful characters. The show will have a cast of over 100 young people aged 10 to 24 and will be the first full show to perform on the newly refurbished Bristol Old Vic theatre's stage.

I've posted some photos from the rehearsal process and you can find out more on our stand-alone blog for The Life After which can be found here:

Buy tickets here.

Working with puppets in the research and development week

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre Club kindly donated £1000 to the show's budget

One of my initial character sketches

Devising a scene in a lake