February 2007

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Sorry we’ve not posted here lately but here’s the latest update …in reverse order!

Just to let you know that we’ll be off to….

Brussels Film festival, Belgium (16-25 Feb)
Lleida film festival, Spain
(1-4 March)
Lectures in National Film School in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland
(13-14 March)

Well we’re already in February! A good start to the year although most new years resolutions have already gone out of the window. The year started well with finding out we’d got shortlisted for the Oscars and nominated for a BAFTA….but alas we got no further than the shortlist for the Oscars and got no further than the nomination for the BAFTA! Boo.

Here is a link to some articles that have appeared recently about Family Ties…… http://mag.awn.com/index.php?ltype=pageone&article_no=3151

This is what we’ve been up to so far this year, in reverse order

Goteborg Film Festival, Sweden ( 28-2 Feb)
I was invited to the festival as the Animator in Focus and had a retrospective of my work and gave a masterclass in which I was interviewed by the wonderful Clare Kitson (ex channel 4 commissioning editor and author of Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator’s Journey). Great audiences and wonderful response. It was my first time in Sweden and now I want to be Swedish. Thanks to Ajan and all the festival organisers for such a lovely time.

Sundance Film Festival (24-28 Jan)
Family ties was screened along side T.O.M by Tom Brown and Daniel Gray, ex Newport students. It was an amazing experience and Park City is beautiful. It was great to see Don Hertzfeldt win best short film (including all the live action shorts) with his film Everything will be OK. It was doubly thrilling to meet Don because he is distributing our film in the US as part of the Animation Show (http://www.animationshow.com). Even though I had a great time I was glad to get back to reality and if I hear the word ‘AWESOME’ one more time I may be forced to kill someone.

WAG meeting (15 Jan)
The Welsh Animation Group has been reborne and is meeting every 2 months in Demsey’s pub opposite Cardiff Castle. Les and I gave a talk about the way we work together and how ‘Dreams and Desires- Family Ties’ was made. It was a great turn out with lots of interesting questions. Thanks to Jon, Ben and Merida of creativexulu for the super organisation and projection. The next meeting will be in March so check their website and try and get there if you can. (http://www.creativexulu.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=0&Itemid=49)

NEW YORK Diary (13-17 Dec)
First trip to the Big Apple for a few years – Joanna’s in Post Prod finishing a Charmin Ad. Les and daughter Paloma aged 11, are drinking in the vibes and reliving past excitements when Les last lived in NY.

Highlights – visiting Bill Plympton’s studio midtown, and seeing his great set up – he’s such an inspirational power house for everybody, including us, and his new feature’s going to be brilliant – back to his roots, we think, really dense drawings and brilliant viewpoints. Anybody who sits around waiting for production handouts should forget it and just use Bill as their model – no messing about, he just goes for it bigtime with such energy and of course wonderful ideas and draftsmanship – wow if only we were all like this!!

Joanna went up to a very changed Harlem with Jimmy Picker, Micheal Sporn, Bill Plympton and Signe Baumane for an “animation soiree” hosted by Carolyn and Andy London and had a good time speculating about the pre Oscar nommos and enjoying the heated toilet seat.
It was a long way from my [Les] last visit to Harlem though, in 1971, when we crept up there one day guided by my friend Jo’s girlfriend visiting her Mom there. “ .. Great Jesus!…honkees come to Harlem…” was her Mom’s response on seeing the pale, cowed figures crouching nervously outside her apartment door. The fantastic collar greens and corn bread soon calmed things down though.

While Joanna was in Post Prod, Paloma and I spent a whole day drifting around Manhattan reminiscing about my past adventures in the Big A, boring the pants off Paloma with such anecdotes as:
“… That’s where I knocked over Shelly Winters on W89th street….she was wearing a patchwork quilted skirt which billowed up over her head…”
“… look, that’s the Salvation Disco where I checked in coats … Faye Dunaway owned it and the doorman was Richard Roundtree…… you name them I checked in their coats – Monty Rock 111
, The Who ….. go on, name somebody….”
Paloma’s blank expression said it all “…. Can we have a Dominos pizza and go to see the horses in Central Park, Papi??”. Ah well……

Paloma did, however, agree to digicam me standing in front of my old loft at Broadway and Spring – my god I only paid $180.00 a month for it then. I remembered the camphor smell drifting up through the floorboards from the crazy feather merchant who worked below us … what was his name ….Frank Matzoh, I think. Some nights he’d come in completely smashed on some weird booze and spend about 30 minutes trying to break into our loft with an axe, only to calm down and become incredibly polite on hearing our frantic shouts…“It’s OK Frank – it’s us, your neighbours…..d’you wanna cuppa tea?” Afterwards he used to say, “I dunno what came over me – old Matzoh balls..” I think it was the mixture of Boon’s Apple wine and the smell of camphor which flipped him. I never saw a roach in our loft though, I think they were all liquidated by the camphor or they were too stoned to get out of the garbage cans to check in to the Roach Motels.

Fanelli’s bar though, an anti climax now – gentrified and moodless …. the ghosts of the Fanelli brothers swirling briefly past….. fantastic – The brothers must have been aged about a 100 then, thin as rakes, slicked back, jet black macassared hair, long white aprons, so polite and cool.. and those meatball heros…ohhh.

The Welsh Angle
One day Paloma and I strolled through Grand Central station to the Chrysler building where we’d been told there was an outfit there called ‘International Business Wales’. Sure enough on the 21st floor was a whole suite of offices complete with, conference rooms, computer suites, displays, reception – the works –it was amazing. When I said, “I’ve never heard of you guys”, the response was – “.. we’ve never heard of you either (Beryl Productions)!”, so I spent a few minutes telling them who we were and that we’d been making ads for the States for the last 12 years, that 95% of our output was for the US and Mexico and if that if they strolled over to Times Square a few blocks away, they could check out an amazing spread of Charmin Ads, artwork, graphics, etc all produced in Cardiff, a live dance show and a free pee in one of 18 toilets put there courtesy of the Charmin Bear!!
They had, however, heard of Joanna and it transpired that they knew my best friend, New York based Welsh artist and photographer Mac Adams,* who’s lived and worked in New York for the last 40 years, and another good friend, LA based film director Christopher Monger.**
Mac and I were in Art College together in Wales and Rutgers University, and Chris and I started out together trying to make low budget movies in Chapter film workshop in Wales, way back. Chris’s indelible comment on my first real filmic effort – a documentary made in German called “Lager Eleven”
***, was really encouraging – “Well it’s not a duff film Les”.

* http://www.uturn.org/Macadams/
**Last movie “ Special Thanks to Roy London” http://www.specialthankstoroylondon.com/index.aspx
***no relation to “Oceans 11” and would have featured my first bit of drawn animation – but I chickened out.

Tony Nicholi another ex Rutgers artist friend showed up from the past – we met in SoHo… “Jesus Les you mother, you’re exactly the same..” was a sentiment echoed by me to him. We bullshitted over coffee for about 30mins and he offered us a gig in his College in May, which, if we get into Tribeca, will be great. After 34 years he’s still a lovely guy. John Czerkowicz, who runs the MFA programme at Montclair State College, turned up at our hotel. Over some Jack Daniels and, in between his great jokes, we recalled our first gig with our rock band The Artweisers at the Billy Apple gallery. Despite the fact that I’d only bought my drum kit 3 hours before the gig and only knew one Bo Diddley drum riff, it was cool. Some looney filmed the gig on super 8 which ended up briefly in MOMA and some say that The Artweisers have achieved cult status ever since.

Last day in Manhattan
In my best Spanish I order our last slice of Sicilian in Rosa’s Pizza bar on W27th, – “I’m from Egypt, sir ..” the waiter says.