Paul McConnochie (PaulVortex) interview

1. You have produced live action videos, so what is the draw of stopmotion animation?

I originally trained as an animator, so stop-motion (and animation in
general)has always been very exciting for me. There are several reasons why stop-motion is a big draw…

A : On a project, which must have an other-worldly look (be it fantasy, science-fiction or even simply a quirky contemporary story) I think there is only one type of animation that can really make that work in a fantastically believable way… stop-motion animation.

B : Stop-Motion is film-making personified… The use of photographic
equipment and techniques to produce moving images. Computer animation and drawn animation can all be accomplished now-a-days without even looking at a camera… But stop-motion cannot be done *without* photographic processes. So, if you are a film-maker in the truest sense, then surely your first stop for animated projects (and creature effects in your non-animated projects) should be stop-motion animation. It certainly isn’t the *easiest* option… But nothing
truly Great is ever easy to accomplish!

C : As stop-motion is essentially the movement of objects frame by
frame in front of a lens, it is also potentially limitless in the range of possibilities available to the film-maker. From the intricate 2D cut-out animations of Yuri Norstien, to the beautiful sand-on-glass animations of Caroline Leaf, and from the ground-breaking replacement puppet animations of George Pal, to Ron’s similarly ground-breaking cable-controlled puppet animations…stop-motion is limitless in it’s potential for the creation of striking moving images. You can make a thousand stop-motion films and each one could easily look totally
different from the others.

D : Stop motion is perfomance. Computer and drawn animation are
iterative
processes… You can go back to one shot a thousand times and tweak the life out of it. With stop-motion (as with film and live-theatre) there is a performance, it is captured on film (or hard-disk), and then it is gone forever. If you want to change it, you have to re-shoot it… So, in essence when you are performing stop-motion animation you are an actor playing the character(s) in your
film…It is the perfect way for those of us who might not like to go in front of the lens directly, to have our chance to act and perform in a very true sense.

E : Stop-motion is difficult and intricate… and that makes it a
highly enjoyable pursuit with rich rewards when you watch the results of your efforts.

There are other resons why stop-motion is such a draw… but I’ve
harped on about it long enough for now. ;o)

> 2. Can you give us an update on Fidget the Witch and all those tiny
shingles?

At the moment Fidget the Witch has taken a back-seat to the project I’m working on with Ron and Nick. We are producing a short stop-motion project where-in each of us animates a separate character… These characters will all be interacting in shots together, despite the fact that I work in Europe, Nick works in Australia and Ron works in North America and we have never met each other in real life… In fact, we have never even spoken on the phone, and our only communication on the project is through email. It’s an exciting experiment.

Inter-continental animation has been done before by the big studios…
However, they will have had people flying back and forth co-ordinating the different aspects of the production and they will have used video chat and other devices to keep things on track… So, I believe what we are doing is pretty unique. It’s certainly a new experience for me.

As for Fidget the Witch it has NOT been abandoned… I will be getting
back to it again, and the blog will go into action again too. I’m looking forward to making more shingles!

> 3. What is it like to be a director and producer of a live film crew?

I think it’s the same as being a producer or director of a stop-motion
production only It’s fast and frenetic and sometimes frantic… But
always a lot of fun. It’s like stop-motion at break-neck speeds.

But you have to remember not to prod and poke and pose the actors…
they don’t like that much. They prefer if you ask them to do something through the use of speech and language.

Live-Action is great for those very reasons. There is something to be
said for pulling together a group of people (crew and cast) and carefully planning the shoot together… Then you go to it, and a week later you can have hours and hours of finished footage to work with (which is why I love working digitally as well), and before you know it you are in the edit bay!

> 4. What is your biggest weakness in this craft and how do you deal
with it?

Inexperience… and thankfully that is a relatively easy to overcome!

When you undertake to create a stop-motion film on your own (ie : without a crew), the sheer range of skills required to do that can seem daunting. Not knowing how to do a certain task can stump you for ages if you don’t realise that the only way to learn how to do something is to actually try it… and if you fail it isn’t really a failure, it is simply a step forward on learning that skill and therefore should be seen as a triumph in itself.

There really is only one process for dealing with inexperience… READ
BOOKS (or *websites*) and then do what it says in those books (or websites) or at least take a cue from what they say.

If you are really stumped then asking people questions sometimes helps
too. This site (SMA) has been a real treasure-trove of information… I find that any question I might have, generally has already been asked on the boards (and in most cases has also been answered too… very often by Nick, Mike or LIO actually!).

> 5. How do you think films differ that originate in Scotland as
compared to say
the United States?

There are less of them. ;o)

Well… If we are talking about *Scottish Feature Films* in particular
(rather than film’s which have been made in Scotland by other countries) it tends to be social-realist drama or comedy because that appears to be the safe horse to bet on when it comes to the public-funding of what might be termed as “local cinema”.

What I will say is that those films tend to be *beautifully* made
because we have a seriously deep talent pool in Scotland (check out the films of Lynne Ramsay!). Sylvain Chomet moved his studio to Edinburgh employing some 200 animators as he knew this to be true. There is also an explosive short-film scene here and I know that there are tonnes of small scale film-makers out there and literally *tens* of them are really good! So there is a lot of creativity here. The range of short films being made here is incredible… some of them are
totally *bizarre*!

I’m not sure why, but even with this diverse short film scene, you
don’t see many out-there feature films coming from Scotland. I am talking about fantasy and science-fiction etc… I think the authorities might think it’s too risky to get behind that kind of feature film and so they back the social-realist drama or comedy or dramedy. I think that is a big mistake, they are missing a trick,
and I intend to prove my point.

> 6. What is your biggest goal in stopmotion?

To bring stop-motion back to creature-effects in Live-Action film / tv.

There are also several very large scale stop-motion-only projects I
wish to produce… But I won’t talk about those yet!

> 7. What is the toughest thing about working with clients?

Producing projects (be it a film, website or other new-media
production) for clients is really enjoyable for me. I like learning about them and what they do,and I like using my skills to help them in their business. I’ve been generally very lucky when it comes to the clients I have had as they all tend to appreciate the efforts I put in for them.

So far, I’ve enjoyed working on business projects just as much as I
enjoy working on my own projects. I can’t see that changing any time soon.

> 8. What is your greatest skill in this artform?

Probably adaptability.

Adaptability makes a good bed-fellow for Inexperience. The adaptability is what helps me turn Inexperience into Experience and eventually into expertise.

> 9. Talk about the direction of films, and animations and where we are headed.

I think the Internet is revolutionising film. I don’t think the big
Hollywood studios will ever go away (they are really good at what they do despite the relatively small profit margins in that game). However, I do believe that the Internet is going to provide a gateway for independent Producers to get their work out to the buying public without the need of Distributors, Television networks or even retailers.

When broadband hits the speeds where HD video can be streamed at HD-DVD quality,and people can easily access the internet from their television set, then the revolution will truly kick in… That will allow Producers to stream pay-per-view (or subscription based, or even free advertisment-funded) content directly onto the visitor’s home cinema system.

Instead of television channels (which will probably still exist in some form)every person in a house will have their own webpage filled with links to their favourite programs… They will be able to watch whatever they want, whenever they want.

That direct access to the consumer will transform film and television
production. Profit margins will rise, because the route to market is so much cheaper, and that will allow more projects to go into production. Each Producer’s website will become like a mini-channel containing their own productions.

I think Cinema is still going to exist… but it is going to look a LOT different to what we are seeing now (and I’m not just talking about 3D).

> 10. Write and answer your own last question…

Question : Okay, Why do you write such interminably long answers?

Answer : I don’t know, maybe it’s becau…. Hang on… I’m falling into that trap!

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