Thursday, September 23, 2010

Etc. Magazine - Spring 2010

Continuing my adventures in journalism I worked for Etc. Magazine in the spring of 2010 as Chief Copy Editor. While I didn't write for the issue I was responsible for working with authors, checking facts, making sure I caught every typo, punctuation and spelling error I came across. The editorial staff was great and I think we put together another great issue. The dual covers was my suggestion!

You can pick up your copy for free at any CCSF campus in San Francisco. To view the magazine online follow the link:

Etc. Magazine - Fall 2009

During the Fall of 2009 I joined CCSF's student run publication Etc. Magazine.

I wrote for the magazine and I helped out as a staff editor. It's true, I salivate over whether to use a hyphen or a colon. I am a nerd, what else can I say.

Mari Collins, who worked tirelessly on the layout and presentation of the beautiful issue has created a downloadable .pdf at here. You can now view the magazine here:

Published In: ASIFA-SF NEWSLETTER January 2010

To view an archive of the newsletter and my contribution go here: ASIFA-SF January 2010

Or, read the full story below.


Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a story by Roald Dahl, has been described as a comeback after the critical disasters that were The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic.

Though most animated films adhere to a particular studio’s look and tone – think Pixar or DreamWorks Animation – Mr. Fox has no such limitations or backing. His stop-motion film captures the look of the book’s illustrations as well as Anderson’s directorial style. A strong effort has been made to portray the stiff two-dimensional quality of a picture book. Shots are often divided into flat planes. During action scenes, such as when Mr. Fox and the other animal characters must dig tunnels to flee their pursuers, the frame is filled with a two dimensional cross section of the world above ground and the many layers of dirt beneath.

Anderson’s live action films are often characterized by dry wit and the deadpan delivery of emotionally charged lines. Mr. Fox is no exception. Anderson approached animation, as he would have any live action film.

During a Charlie Rose interview on PBS Anderson speaks less about the techniques of animation and more about his ignorance, “I didn’t really know that much about the process (directing animation). I just knew I liked the way it looked in movies.” He also said about the making of the film, “This one has actually been great, I really enjoyed this one.”

The play between the possibilities of stop-motion and the experience of directing live action films is what makes Mr. Fox unusual and fresh. The film has, along with Coraline and Mary and Max, reminded audiences this year that stop-motion is just as viable commercially as computer-generated fare and costs a lot less to make. Anderson’s budget was around $40 million.

Though Anderson is primarily a live action director, or perhaps because of it, Mr. Fox was directed as a live action film. The movie is dialogue driven and shot as any other film of Anderson’s might be. With Mr. Fox, Anderson has demonstrated that it’s possible for any live action director to helm a successful animated feature with a small budget. This raises the possibility that other live action directors could produce innovative and stylized animated features. It is possible that a director with an even more pronounced one, such as Quentin Tarantino, could direct in animation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Published In: ASIFA-SF NEWSLETTER November 2009

I wrote an article for ASIFA-SF's newsletter, the November 2009 issue. To see an archive of the whole newsletter go here: ASIFA-SF 11/2009

Or read below for my contribution.

3-D: LESS IS MORE by Raen Payne

With many young animators clamoring for jobs it is no wonder that Henry Selick received a round of applause from the audience when he announced that he has in fact moved back to the Bay Area at the special 3-D screening of Coraline, October 11th at the Metreon.

A fan of Neil Gaiman, Selick received the manuscript for Coraline in 2000, 18 months before its publication, “Out of the blue he sent me the manuscript for Coraline…and [Neil Gaiman] couldn’t get a publisher…it’s too scary for children and not scary enough for an older audience.” Laika was willing to produce it using the RealD projection system. Coraline was the first stop-motion film planned to be shot in 3-D.

Selick thinks 3-D is often over used in films. He didn’t want to use it all the time as a kind of gimmick. Instead he “looked to the story to guide the 3-D. We used 3-D to make the other world seem more inviting.” In the beginning, the real world looks sort of dull, and flat, whereas the other world seems a bit more colorful, more inviting. The real world was filmed using long lenses, creating a shorter depth of field, whereas wide-angle lenses were used for the other world. In addition, two versions of the sets were built. The real world sets had a physically shorter depth, while the other world uses an exaggerated depth.

Live action films are shot with coverage, but with animation, “you have to edit the movie before you make it,” said Selick. Though a lot of editing may take place before production they only “storyboarded a quarter of Nightmare. Disney storyboards the whole thing.” Preferring the imperfections of stop-motion, Selick tends to board loosely because as the film is being made a lot will change and “it all has to stay alive. I’ve gone from trying to do everything perfectly and it’s not so important anymore…leave some of the bumps in, let it breathe.”

Yet Selick also wanted to push the animation of Coraline, “We wanted to go farther than we had. You don’t get the opportunity to do that many stop-motion films.” In wanting to push the film as far as possible they chose not to use CG where it may have been a blessing to many other directors. For the circus scene, with the many mice and the auditorium full of dogs, Selick said they “were urged to make the mice and dogs all CG. If we did that, they wouldn’t be special.” Selick believes that with 3D, “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” It has to serve the story.