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A wonderfully varied Oscars year

What a great Oscars year. Here at nofreelist, we're too lazy to check the statistics to see whether this has happened before, but it was awesome to see a different film win each of the six major categories:

Okay, so Crash was, as far as I'm concerned, an upset in many senses of the word, but it was extremely refreshing to see such a varied list of winners (compare with last year, where Million Dollar Baby (2004) won four of these main six).

by pearly on Tue 7 Mar 2006 at 10:11 AM — permalink / add a comment

Interview with Scott Ryan

Scott Ryan's debut feature film, The Magician (2005), is currently screening at a number of Australian cinemas, and has been gathering momentum over the last couple of months. It's a mock documentary which follows a hit man around on his daily business, and is directed, written by, and stars Ryan. The nofreelist gang threw a couple of questions Ryan's way via email, and this is what he had to say.

Screenshot from The Magician nofreelist: To begin with, give us a bit of background. What got you to the stage of making your debut film?
Scott: I had made a few shorts and decided it was time to make a feature.

What was your inspiration for The Magician? Why did you want to make this particular film?
I read a biography called Contract Killer years ago.

What was the timeline behind the production of the film? Was the project well planned, or more fly by the seat of your pants?
4.5 years.

How did you come to collaborate with the others involved in the film?
They were all fellow classmates at RMIT.

You had relatively few people working on the film... did that make things more difficult, or do you think it helped avoid having too many cooks?
Easier in some ways, more difficult in others.

Your character in The Magician is one scary fella. Is that a bit of yourself coming out? Or are you actually a big ol' cuddly teddy bear?
There is a bit of Ray in me but there is also a lot of him that isn't in me.

Funding for this film has obviously become a talking point. The figures being bandied about are that the film was made for $3,000. How the hell did you manage this?
3,000 is the shooting budget only. I didn't pay anybody up front, we shot on video, there was no crew.

What would be the first thing you'd have done differently if you'd had access to a bigger budget?
I would have remade Gone with the Wind (1939) instead.

What did you learn from putting together an independent film, and what recommendations would you have for others trying to break into the Australian film industry?

What are your thoughts on the local response to The Magician? Are you pleased with how it's going?
I guess.

How did you manage to juggle all of your duties for the film? Would you want to direct, write, and star in another film, or did you find it to be a bit much?
With great difficulty but I'd do it all again.

Who or what are your influences? Are you a fan of Hong Kong triad films, and do you think Australians should consider these sorts of styles when creating films?
I hate Hong Kong films. I like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese.

You got to say a little about the Australian film industry on your recent appearance on Insight. Is there anything you'd like to add about your thoughts on the way the industry is going?
Things seem to be changing for the better... let's see.

What's next for Scott Ryan?
A zombie film about an ex SAS soldier called Who cares who wins.

Anything else you think we should know about you?
I like to dance naked in my bedroom while listening to Britney Spears CDs.

by pearly on Wed 26 Oct 2005 at 16:34 PM — permalink / add a comment

2005 Australian awards season begins

It's Australian film awards season, and the announcements for nominations in the two main Australian film awards are now out.

The nominations for the Lexus IF Awards were released a couple of days ago, with the awards ceremony to be held on the 23rd of November at Luna Park in Sydney, with a live broadcast on SBS.

The nominations for the Australian Film Institute Awards are hot off the presses, and their awards ceremony will be held on the 25th and 26th of November (craft awards on the 25th at Waterfront City Pavilion, and the "real thing" on the 26th at Melbourne Central City Studios). The show will be broadcast on the 26th on Channel Nine, and is hosted by Russell Crowe, which should prove interesting, one way or another.

In the Feature Film categories, both bodies recognised Little Fish (2005), Look Both Ways (2005), and The Proposition (2005), with the AFIs chucking in an extra shout out to Oyster Farmer (2004). None of these are really a huge surprise, but this year, unlike last year, they're a little spoiled for choice, as there has actually been some great Aussie film action over the last year.

For the full list of nominations, check out IF's list and the AFI's list, and make sure you pencil those dates into your calendar so you can cheer along our local heroes, and laugh at whatever Susie Elelman wears.

by pearly on Fri 21 Oct 2005 at 15:36 PM — permalink / add a comment

So long and thanks for all the Heffalumps

Wow, what a sad few days for those lovers of children's animation amongst us. Paul Winchell, voice of Tigger in many of the Winnie the Pooh movies (he was replaced as Tigger by Jim Cummings, who also voices Pooh himself, a few years ago) died on Friday; then John Fiedler, the one and only voice of Piglet, passes away the very next day. Winchell was also the voice of Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races, Gargamel from The Smurfs, and the one and only Fleegle from The Banana Splits.

Boo for that!

by mino on Tue 28 Jun 2005 at 10:04 AM — permalink / add a comment

Interview with Van Sowerwine

The nofreelist gang love a good animated film, as evidenced by the animation genre's high overall statistical ranking on the site. And one that we've loved of late is Van Sowerwine's short stop motion animation film entitled Clara (2005). We had a bit of a chat with Van herself about her journey making Clara.

Screenshot from Clara nofreelist: What led up to this film? What's been your creative journey? And what inspired you to make this film?
Van: I've always been fascinated by dolls, and have amassed quite a collection of them. I would often find that I'd discover a doll and think about a story for her. I studied Media Arts at RMIT where I made a few animations using both stop motion and drawn techniques, and developed an affinity for stop-motion animation - working with real objects and creating life out of objects has an inherent fascination for me.

I then moved into sculpting my own dolls, and having metal armatures of skeletons built for them so that I could make them move in a more human-like way. I wanted people watching to think of the characters as real people rather than dolls.

Clara was originally part of a larger script, which told 3 stories of girls just reaching adolescence and having to cope with difficult circumstances and events. I realised quickly that making 3 separate stop motion animations would be very difficult, and picked Clara as my favourite story to focus on.

A lot of my work is drawn in part from autobiographical emotions and events, and I'm particularly interested in childhood and early adolescence. For me, this is a period where things are incredibly new and vivid, and emotions are so strong and powerful.

Why did you choose to make a stop motion animation film as opposed to a different type of animation, or, for that matter, a film with actors? What do you see as the benefits of stop motion, and what drew you to it?
I think this is because of my attraction to dolls. I love the look of stop-motion animation. It has an imperfection about it that I love. I also enjoy working with real objects as opposed to sitting in front of a screen. I've also made drawn animations, but for me it doesn't have quite the same magic.

What was your technique in making the film? Did you carefully storyboard each scene, or did you have more of a take-it-as-it-comes approach?
I found it quite stressful because we had to storyboard very carefully, since all the models and sets would be built based on the storyboard. Building miniature sets is very time-consuming, and I was getting Scott Ebdon to do it all before we started filming, so to a certain extent everything was very carefully planned. I also had to create a very strict shooting schedule to help us avoid having to set up scenes more than once. But of course once we started filming it became a bit more organic, and we did have room to move.

How long did production take on the film? What made up each portion of that time?
Production took 8 months - 4 months pre-production, creating sets and characters and sourcing equipment, then we had a 10 week shoot, then about 2 months post-production - editing, sound, and basic visual FX such as keying out blue screen. Isobel Knowles also animated all the ants in post-production - we weren't planning to do this, but found it impossible to do otherwise.

Screenshot from Clara You must have worked pretty closely with Isobel Knowles as animator on the film. Besides doing animation, she's also a graphic designer, and a musician (in Architecture in Helsinki). What's she like to work with?
Isobel is amazing - we've worked together on 4 projects now. Our sensibilities match perfectly - we bounce ideas off each other and complement each other. When we work together it's very intense - for the shoot it was 10 weeks, 6 days a week and 15 hour days. I can't exactly explain it, but we have an incredible working relationship.

How did you organise funding for the film, and what's it like to make this type of film in Australia?
We worked incredibly hard on the funding application, and only got it from the second organisation we approached (Film Victoria). The application was incredibly detailed, and we got a lot of generous advice from other successful filmmakers and animators, often people we didn't know but just called up. A friend of mine who is an artist recently said that the only funding she's ever gotten has been when she's worked her arse off, which is also true for me. But there's also an element of chance, of being in the right place at the right time and of having people assessing the funding application that might have seen your work before.

What was the Cannes experience like? Who were the most impressive people you met or saw from afar?
Cannes was amazing but crazy - it feels so surreal and I've been back for less than a month. I saw a few stars from a distance which was completely weird - they're not meant to be real people! I really liked some of the other short film makers who were in competition, and they were the people I most enjoyed meeting.

Where can people see this film?
On the Clara website there's info on upcoming festival screenings as well as a trailer. We're also negotiating to show the film on Australian TV, and hopefully a DVD will be available at some stage.

What would be your advice for wannabe animators, or for other Australian film makers?
Keep making work, and explore different avenues. I also show stop-motion animation as installation in galleries, which I feel also helped in getting funding. Most of the time it's persistence that gets you somewhere rather than just the quality of your work. Also find great people to work with, and establish meaningful relationships with them.

Screenshot from Clara What do you see is the future of hand-made stop motion animation? Lots of animation is heading toward CG nowadays, but where do you see this style of animation fitting in? What's next for Van Sowerwine? Do you think you will stick with animation, or has this film been enough for you?
I'd like to make more stop-motion animation - I'm thinking about another short film or maybe a short TV series. It's difficult with stop-motion animation because it's so expensive to make. I hope there will always be a future for it - I imagine it will continue to live alongside CG work - the two are still quite different. I know that I'll still be making it even if no one else is.

Anything else you think we should know about you?

by pearly on Mon 27 Jun 2005 at 22:31 PM — permalink / add a comment

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