On November 9th, Hector and I were honoured to attend the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, hosted by RDG and the DesignThinkers conference in Toronto. We were even more honoured when Hector picked up an ADAA for Innovation in Motion and Video in Education. “Typesetter Blues” is not educational in the traditional sense for an animated short. It is not didactic in nature. It is not written especially for children, so it doesn’t have any ‘Dora the Explorer’ or ‘Blue’s Clue’s” prompts for a child to respond to. It is, however, a teaching tool that Hector uses in his Animated Illustration classes at OCAD U, to demonstrate what is possible with textural illustration and animation using Adobe CS6.
Although we were stupidly busy leading up to the Awards night, Hector still managed to attend the conference, catching Stefan Sagmeister’s and AdamsMorioka’s keynote speeches. We were also thrilled to talk to the amazing title designer, Susan Bradley, who has probably designed some of your favourite movie titles.
You get a motivated high when you’re in a room of incredible designers and creators. It is similar to what I feel in a room of writers and authors. You feel in your element, surrounded by people who speak the same “language” as you, and simultaneously challenged to create better, more powerful, and more meaningful work.
The gallery of ADAA nominees was especially impressive, with student work from around the world displaying high levels of commitment to craft, originality, and talent. Do yourself a favour and check out 2012’s ADAA gallery online. The projects are diverse in format, style, and outlook and they will amaze you. We were inspired to see so many finalists using their skills for art and culture. Here are a few selections we were excited to discover:
Next year’s DesignThinker’s conference is already slated for November 6th and 7th, 2013. We hope to see you there!
For our first short, Typesetter Blues, we were thrilled to work with the esteemed Canadian actor, Gordon Pinsent.
If Pinsent himself is not familiar to you from his years on stage or screen, then his voice may be familiar to you from his ongoing voice-work on the animated series, Babar and the Adventures of Badou, or as the voice of the elder Stephen Leacock in the recent CBC production of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. His recent screen and stage work ranges from Sarah Polley’s Away From Her, to his poetic-musical collaboration, Down and Out in Upalong, with Travis Good (of The Sadies) and Greg Keelor (of Blue Rodeo),
But this is an inspiration blog, so what was so inspiring about working with Pinsent?
For one, his openness and enthusiasm. Despite not knowing us, he liked the script and designs we sent, and he was willing to take a chance. He was gracious enough to work with our schedule, even though he had only recently returned from shooting Flight of the Butterflies in Mexico.
We did our best to answer his questions via his agent. No, Typesetter Blues wasn’t a series, it wasn’t for television, it wasn’t quite for children, it wasn’t educational in the conventional sense*. With his credentials, Pinsent could’ve arrived and ‘phoned it in’ with his incredible voice and left with a cheque. Instead, he was lovely and jovial, and, of course, professional and talented – so talented that he makes his work look easy. He was open to our voice director’s suggestions and game to try various takes and line deliveries even for such a short poem.
Perhaps the most inspirational aspect of working with him was that he appeared to still enjoy his life’s work. He made it seem possible, with persistence and luck, to not only make a career out of one’s creative pursuit, but to continue acting or writing or collaborating into one’s 80s with talent and heart.
In October he released his new memoir, Next, published by McLelland and Stewart. Coming from a man whose range extends from award-winning drama to his hilarious reading of Justin Bieber lyrics, it is a perfect book for soon to be snowy days – unfortunately not yet available as an audio book read by Gordon Pinsent.
It is always inspiring to see how profound a piece of animation can be and how deeply it can move you. The image above is from the short animated film, Skhizein, by Parisian director/illustrator Jérémy Clapin. It is a beautiful piece rendered in somber tones that can be easily interpreted as a metaphor for mental illness, specifically depression. Hector describes this piece as a “sweeter, gentler companion piece” to Melancholia, by Lars Von Trier.
In this short, a 150 000 ton meteorite hits earth and knocks the main character, Henri, “beside himself”. He is split (hence the title, from the Greek root “to split”) precisely 91cm away from himself, suddenly existing in an unbearably divided state. No treatment seems to help and his coping strategies isolate him from his family and colleagues.
We work near CAMH, so the presence of mental illness is never very far from our thoughts. Sometimes the metaphors offered in films, art, literature, and theatre, are the only ways to express states of being that can be so indescribable. To learn more about depression from a personal point of view, check out this 1998 article by Andrew Solomon, Anatomy of Melancholy. He later expanded on his experience and research into the book, The Noonday Demon. Simple, but research-based answers about depression and treatment can also be found at Depression Hurts.
The weekend before last we took a short, but much needed, day trip. We had been indoors in front of monitors for long stretches at a time, and while we love the city, we needed to see some trees. We needed to feel that particular smoosh of earth and pine needle under our boots. We headed up to the Kortright Centre for Conservation, and delighted in a world gone yellow. There was a soup/cider/pie station out near the sugar shack, and we sat and chatted with an elderly woman over vegetable soup. (She told us that to really enjoy winter in Canada as we age, we would need to learn to ski.)
The water table was low so there were no turtles at the marsh. The red-winged blackbirds had probably started (if not finished) their migration, but we did see a chipmunk and some garter snakes in the woods. It was good to be outside. It was inspirational too, because conservation is important to us, and something that we do want to address via animation. Of course, then we remembered our friend Prash‘s piece: In Memory of the Northern Red Oak (which Hector did the post-production for). Inspiration found in endings, in vivid brilliant autumn, even now as the rain beats the leaves down. Inspiration lining cozy caves, eating meals with friends, and getting ready for winter.
Hector and his long-time collaborator and friend, Nick Sewell, will be speaking at this year’s Documentary Summit as part of a panel on animation and music in documentary filmmaking. The panel is at 9:30am on November 4th, so buy your tickets here and bring the fellows some coffee, won’t you?