I found the top drawing amongst a box of my old papers. I’d guess it was drawn when I was six or seven, and just becoming aware of the nature of space, the planets and and so on. I’d seen some artwork online that parents had done, where they took their kids’ drawings an worked them up, while keeping the outlines the same. (It didn’t say how the kids felt about this!). I thought I’d try it with some old drawings of my own, and it’s an interesting experience. Working on the old drawing, I find, makes me focus on it more and reminds me of how I felt and thought at that age. I expect I was looking forward to being an astronaut at the time.
Last week Trina and I attended attended a one-day workshop in pyrography at the Buckingham Summer School. Pyrography is the art or craft of burning marks into wood or leather using a tool with a hot tip. We got there half an hour late (rush hour traffic from London!) so missed the tutor’s introduction, but it didn’t seem to matter much – it’s simple enough. Just use the tool like a pen, adjust the heat as needed, and be careful not to burn your fingers. A few hours of messing about produced these masterpieces, and a few other scraps. I thought it would be fun sometime to do some animation using designs created by pyrography (unnecessarily labour-intensive animation techniques are always interesting!)
Last week I went along to Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema for a nostalgic evening with an icon from my childhood. For anyone who didn’t grow up in Britain in the 70s, Screen Test was a children’s programme on the BBC that ran for most of that decade, hosted by Michael Rodd. Each week four kids, usually looming a bit awkward in school uniforms or tank tops, would be shown clips from newly released films which they would then be asked questions about. Later series included a young film makers’ competition where viewers were invited to send in their amateur productions. Future Pixar director Jan Pinkava won it one year. When the competition started, when i was abour 11,owning a cine camera was sbout as realistic a prospect to me as owning a car, but the idea took root. I finally got one flur years later and started making sci-fi films with my friend Mark Little. I remembered how one contestant had created the effect of laser fire from spaceship by scratching onto the film, and we used that in our own films. Hearing about this event reminded me how much Screen Test had sparked my own interest in film making and since we were in the area today, my partner Trina and I went along. My photographer friend Jason Thompson had had the idea for the event while working with Michael Rodd on a video project, and I’m delighted he did. Michael Rodd gave us a thoroughly entertaining, nostalgia filled evebing, and my inner eleven-year-old was thrilled to finally be able to answer a Screen Test question from the man himself. (The answer was Michael Powell.).
I’ve been a fan of science fiction since the day I wandered into the living room at the age of six or so, found my dad watching something strange on TV and asked him “why does that man have pointy ears?” It’s always seemed to me though that sci-fi films are tricky to evaluate because people enjoy them for different reasons. To me, a good sci-fi film needs to have a good rationale behind the science element. Ideally it should be plausible. If not, then the sci-fi element should be there to provide a framework for social commentary – it should serve as an allegory or metaphor – in which case the impossible or implausible elements should be kept to a minimum, and work consistently according to their own internal logic. Otherwise, it drifts into fantasy. So you can have films in which the science fiction is poor but the film is still entertaining on its own level, or you can have films that try hard with the science fiction but fail to entertain. The best ones, of course, do both. This is my brief assessment of the first hundred of so films that sprang to mind… or just those that I could fit into the spaces on the graph. Click to enlarge.
Paperback books are often printed on cheap paper, so over tine they are quite susceptible to damage. I wasn’t too pleased to find that a few of my old paperbacks were being eaten by bookworms, but was fascinated to notice that the trails they make as they bore their way through the pages work as a flip-book – one in which the pattern isn’t a creative recreation of life but an analogue record of life itself. It would be amazing to make a whole film from book damage of this type, but I expect it’s hard to find worm-eaten books that haven’t been thrown away! (Click on the image.)