Category Archives: Films

Roger Ballen’s Theatre of Apparitions Trailer

Directed by Emma Calder Ged Haney 5mins animation Black & White

Roger Ballen commissioned Emma Calder and Ged Haney from Pearly Oyster Productions to animate and direct Roger Ballen’s Theatre of Apparitions. The film is based on a large series of photographic drawings made in collaboration with Marguerite Rossouw which feature in his forthcoming book The Theatre of Apparitions to be published 29th September 2016 by Thames & Hudson.

Short Synopsis of the film

Roger Ballen’s famous photographic work has been concerned with the interior architecture of standing structures, playing on the metaphor of the mind as a house of secrets and buried narratives. He has created a series of images inspired by the drawings and marks which people make on their environment that link his unique aesthetic to theatrical performance. Emma Calder and Ged Haney have used 2d computer animation and a brilliant music score by composer John Webb to turn these images into a film reminiscent of an old music hall or circus. In the theatre dismembered people, beasts and ghosts, dance, tumble, make love and tear themselves apart, plunging the audience into the nightmarish world of Roger Ballen’s subconscious.

 

Pearly Oyster premiere Roger Ballen’s Theatre of Apparitions at Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) 2016

Roger Ballen watches the show

Roger Ballen in The Theatre of Apparitions

Pearly Oyster premiere Roger Ballen’s Theatre of Apparitions at Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) 2016 ‘The McLaren Award: New British Animation 2’, Thursday 23 June 16:15 Filmhouse 1

EIFF-laurel-11

The 70th EIFF will take place from 15 to 26 June 2016. Full program can be found here.

Emma Calder and Ged Haney have created the new short animated film: Roger Ballen’s Theatre of Apparitions using images from the renown art-photographer Roger Ballen, that plunge the audience deep into his mind. An animated theatre of dismembered people, beasts and ghosts, dance, tumble, make love and tear themselves apart, a nightmarish subconscious world, in black and white.

Emma Calder and Ged Haney have used 2d computer animation and a brilliant music score by composer John Webb to turn these images into a film reminiscent of an old music hall or circus.

Dog eating man's head

Act 2

The film coincides with the publication of Roger Ballen’s new book A Theatre of Apparitions on September 29th by Thames & Hudson.

Emma Calder Workshop and Exhibition Cakovec

I have just returned from running an animation workshop with Zsusanna Szabo at the School of Animation in Cakovec (SAF).

Emma Calder Exhibition Poster

Emma Calder Exhibition Poster

The workshop this year was part of the 40th anniversary celebrations. So I was honored to have been invited. Even better I was asked if I wanted to have a small exhibition at the near by Cultural Centre.

Emmas Exhibition

Emma in Cultural Centre

See below a quick snap shot of the private view,

The Workshop runs all year round for children between 8 and 15 years old. It’s current leaders are Edo Lukman who founded SAF in 1975 and Jasminka Bijelić Ljubić. Jasminka joined SAF in 1998. More info on SAF can be found on their website.

The high light of the trip was the closing night ceremony, where we were treated to some of SAF’s vintage films and their latest 40 min film from 2015. SAF is unique in the world, the quality and the volume of children’s animation, over 250 films and 150 workshops produced over the years. I would love it if someone could set up something in the UK like this, but with the state of current funding, there doesn’t seem much hope of that.

cut out spider

Linda’s Laughing Spider age 11

We showed our workshop film at the ceremony. Our film was created by each child picking two different words from a Hat and creating a tiny film from that. The kids got stuff like Laughing Spider, Winged Carrot, Party Baby etc…It was quite ambitious for the time allowed, but still showed what can be done in a short space of time, with talented and keen participants.

SAF teens filming

SAF workshop children, filming the title sequence in Cakovec Castle

We also got the children to do some pixelation on the first day, as a fun way to get to know each other. The children came from the UK, USA, Romania and Croatia.

“Everyone is waiting for something to happen ” – Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival will be screening the World Premiere of Emma Calder’s new film “Everyone is waiting for something to happen “.

Emma’s facebook friend Richard had an annoying social media persona. Then he vanished.

The Film was commissioned as part of a competition “Reellives” to make a film exclusively based on a chosen person’s social media data. It is part of a EPSRC UK research project being delivered by The University of Birmingham, The Open University andThe University of Edinburgh Informatics.

The film will be part of the Mclaren Award: New British Animation Section screening 2 and will be shown on the 24th June, 16:00 at Filmhouse 1.

It’s great to have a film in this festival again. The last time was in 1993 when our film “The Kings of Siam “. Won the Mclaren Award.

Madame Potatoe Cookbook

It’s 32 years since I finished my film Madame Potatoe, made at the Royal College of Art 1983, whilst a student of Graphic Design.

Emma Calder standing by Royal College oOf Art wall

Emma Calder, Royal College Of Art 1983

I have been trying to collate all the materials relating to this large piece of work. Which included a film, a post modernist piece of fiction, room with wall paper, life sized Madame Potatoe sculpture, t-shirts, greetings cards and a cookery book.

 

The Madame Potatoe Cookbook was made after I finished the film. I designed it in less than a week and hated it. The printer gave me the plates and artwork back, which I binned before the show. The R.C.A only printed 100 and sadly they sold out the day of the MA show. So people had to go away disappointed.

The most popular recipe was for Poteen. (Irish potato brandy). Which was a bit worrying, as I couldn’t find any recipes to base mine on, so I just made it up!

Sad that I didn’t like it, but I am quite fond of it now, in the scheme of things.

 

More on Madame Potatoe to follow.

Reel Lives, Social Media Film Competition

Everyone Is Waiting For Something To Happen.

A few months ago, I read an ad for a competition called ReelLives. They were asking for film makers to compete for six awards to make mini biographical documentaries based on a chosen persons social media image. The film had to be cut exclusively from the subjects social media data, although you were allowed to make an original soundtrack as long as it related to the social media content.

Being a great lover of collage, I liked the idea of the challenge and decided to enter with fellow animator Richard Wright my facebook pal, as my subject.

cake mixing

Richard Wright is baking

I left it until the deadline to apply but had a good chat on the phone with the funders and Richard before writing a treatment, which I did in break neck speed. Luckily I got the money.

Synopsis: 

Prior to being diagnosed with bowel cancer Richard Wright, an artist/animator, had a social media persona that was characterised by annoying and anarchic humour. After initially feeling unable to communicate at all, his general healing process became entwined with the resurrection of his social media presence, helped by an obsessive regime of cooking and baking.

The film uses character and abstract animation, created from collages of Richards photos and quotes posted on social media including a fifty two page blog which he wrote for a bowel cancer forum and interviews with Richard talking about his posts.

The result is a humorous and visually stimulating film that explores one creative individuals strategy for coping with a life threatening illness and how he was able to share this with his social media community.

The Film is part of a EPSRC UK research project being delivered by The University of Birmingham, The Open University and The University of Edinburgh Informatics.

 

 

 

Random Person Has A Day Out

I have been having a lot of moans from people waiting for the next series of Random Person films. I promise that they will be coming soon. The reason for the delay after finishing Boudica, was the necessity of pitching for paid work and promoting my last film Boudica A Norfolk Story.

Luckily both efforts turned out well and Boudica is just beginning her festival career. The film will be presented next month in competition at Zagreb. I am going, thanks to a travel grant from the British Council.

After three pitches the third was a success and I have just won a competition to make a new film, it is a mini bio pic doc. More news coming soon.

I was pretty close with the first pitch too and got shortlisted down to five out of one hundred and fifty people, this would have been a lovely job, I planned to make an animated film inspired by Kelmscot Mannor and William Morris. I still want to make this film so if any one knows, anyone who could fund it, please let me know.

Here is Random person trying to star in a film about Walthamstow, unfortunately this particular pitch was unsuccessful!

walthamstow market

Random Person in Walthamstow Market, buying trimmings

 

Random Person outside the Pie and Mash cafe in Walthamstow Market

Random Person outside the Pie and Mash cafe in Walthamstow Market

 

 

Remembering The Queen’s Monastery (Part 3)

Back to Part 2. S4C The Welsh Broadcaster, invited me to enter a competition for animators, to create film ideas for an animation, set to and inspired by a piece of out of copyright classical music.

First ideas for trumpeters

Early design idea for The Queen’s Monastery. First ideas for trumpeters

I had always been interested in the relationship between sound and visual ideas and all my previous work had strong original music which I had sound scripted. This was a new challenge as I was not a classical music expert and had no experience with working with a pre-composed piece of music.

I went to the library and borrowed dozens of LP’s yet, they all seemed too popular and overly romantic, I simply wasn’t inspired. Then in the pile, was a then relatively unknown Czech composer, called Leoš Janáček, the music was The Sinfonietta. I was blown away. Just like Haruki Murakami was to be later, when he used the piece as central to his plot for his 2009 trilogy 1Q84.

Immediately I listened to the music, very clear images entered my head. I started to see the relationship between the film I had already been thinking about, the style of the dribbly watercolours I had been developing and the narrative ideas within the musical composition. I knew nothing about Janáček, the story behind the music, the name of the section that I wanted to use, all my ideas were derived purely from listening to this highly emotional, patriotic and passionate score.

Fanfares of the Sinfonietta Janáček's autographed score.

Fanfares of the Sinfonietta Janáček’s autographed score. (Taken from Wikipedia)

I started to write down images that the instrumentation conjured up. Military bands, with soldiers, a town square, a woman looking out of a window with blowing curtains in a Monastery, staircases, running and more. Then piccolo sounds, like monkey noises made me think of an acrobat and there in front of me was the outline story. Which I wrote in a morning.

Emma's notes response to music

Emma’s notes response to music

Original Acrobat Pyramid Design

Original Acrobat Pyramid Design rough for The Queen’s Monastery

I borrowed or bought every recording and chose what I considered to be the best. Sir Charles Mackerras/Vienna Philharmonic: London 410138-2. Sir Charles was the worlds leading Janáček expert although I had no idea at the time.

Then I started to research Janáček’s life and The Sinfonietta. My findings were remarkable. The title of the movement I had chosen to script. Was in fact The Queen’s Monastery, Janáček had grown up in a monastery in Brno. All my other ideas fitted too. Janáček had been commissioned at the end of the first world war, to write the music for a festival of gymnastics, to be held in Brno town square. The work was dedicated to the Czech armed forces and was a tribute to the town of Brno, now free from the yoke of German authority. Janáček’s best music was written in the last twenty years of his life after he fell obsessively in Love with a Kamila Stösslová 40 years his junior, whom it appears did not succumb to his passions. He also wrote the music while sitting with her in Brno Town Square and used monkey noises for inspiration for some elements of his very complex composition. Which was played by a 101 piece orchestra.

The combination of Janáček’s obsessive fantasies and my central characters own fantasies. The fact that my imaginings of all the locations were so accurate in relationship to the music, helped me develop my story even further. It was so exciting to have been able to see so clearly what Janáček had in his mind when writing the music and how it had led to my own story’s creation.

I used dribly watercolours of soldiers and acrobats to present the design ideas. Developed the themes about love and war. Researched Czechoslovakia’s involvement in the first world war, went to the Imperial War Museum to study footage of soldiers etc.

 rough designs for the arobat from The Queen's Monastery

Original rough designs for the acrobat from The Queen’s Monastery

Finally in 1996, I got the money from London Production fund, BBC Bristol and The National Lottery but, not from S4C as at one point because of the change in copy right laws the music had gone back into copyright, but then it came back out again so I was able to use it. But by that time it was to late for S4C.

Read part 4

Remembering The Queen’s Monastery (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

Around 1992, I was helping Ged Haney, my former business partner finish off his film The Kings of Siam. We were at the artwork stage and I was in charge of mixing all the inks and supervising a team of painters to colour in Ged’s drawings. His was a very neat style, I was getting bored doing it and dying for the film to be finished, we had been working on it seven years! Around the same time our producer Lee Stork had given us a big pile of old unused sketch books from the 1950′s, they were very dusty and yellow with old fashioned covers. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.

Very First page

Very First page from my Favorite Sketch Book

Emma Calder's Favorite Sketch Book

Emma Calder’s Favorite Sketch Book

Emma Calder's Favorite Sketch Book

Emma Calder’s Favorite Sketch Book

One evening when all our staff had gone home, I was alone sorting out inks and work for the next day, when I suddenly had an idea. Opening one of the little watercolour pads I started cleaning the dirty paint brushes out on the pages, I continued until I had filled the whole book. Then I took a pencil and turned the blobs into characters and there in front of me was a brand new style. Over the next few weeks I continued with the blobs added splashes and dribbles but, I had no idea where it was going, I was also working on ideas for a film about infidelity and loving two men and then an opportunity to use both turned up.

Favourite Sketch Books

Favourite Sketch Books, given by Lee Stork

Emma 1992

Watercolour of Emma by Emma in 1992

To be continued…

Remembering The Queen’s Monastery (Part 1)

Eighteen years ago. I was in Labour with my daughter Coco. It lasted around twenty four hours and ended with a hospital caesarean, under general anaesthetic. The birth had been planned at home and to take my mind off things, I continued doing design roughs for my film The Queen’s Monastery, which was contracted to begin that very day.

Here are two of my labour drawings. Very wobbly and completely off character as you can see.

Queen's labour watercolour

Watercolour drawn whilst in labour

Queens labour watercolour2

Watercolour drawn whilst in labour

The Queen’s Monastery was a dream project a once in a life time opportunity and everything about it fitted neatly into place.

But it’s a long story, which I will continue in my next blog.