Today is an exciting day for the skeptical community for today is the day that the Storm Movie is publicly released. Even more exciting is that we at the Mad Art Lab were given the opportunity to interview the three key players: Tracy King, DC Turner and Tim Minchin.
Storm is a nine minute beat poem by Tim Minchin. (For those not familiar with Mr. Minchin, go fix that!) The Storm Movie is a nine minute animated short that parallels the poem. It was created by the KerShoot Animation Studio in cooperation with Tim Minchin and is being released to the public for free. That’s right, they’re giving it away. Not for shameless self promotion, but because they think it’s an important piece of poetry that the world needs to see. More on that in the interviews.
Without further ado, here is the long anticipated storm movie.
Share and enjoy.
Our first interview is with Tracy King. Tracy is the Producer at Kershoot and is primarily responsible for the inception of the Storm Movie Project. She was kind enough to not only give us an interview, but to coordinate interviews with DC Turner and Tim Minchin as well.
What inspired you to start this project in the first place?
I saw Tim perform Storm live at an event called Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People in 2008, and thought it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. I’d never even heard of Tim at that point. After I got home I was thinking a lot about Storm and how I thought it was important that everyone in the world get to hear it. The best way to get people to listen is to get them to look, so it seemed natural to approach Tim with an animation project. Fortunately he said yes. We’re yet to see if everyone in the world gets to hear Storm though!
What impact do you hope this will have?
Well at the very least I hope it has some educational benefit for people who aren’t necessarily aware of some of the issues that skeptics deal with. It’s the least dry, most fun way of saying “hey did you know homeopathy, etc, is nonsense?” without patronising people or scaring them off with hard data up front. I’d like to see it as an entry to critical thinking, as indeed I think much of Tim’s other material is. If you can entertain people whilst presenting ideas that may be new to them, they’ll be engaged and hopefully go off and do some Googling. Equally I’d love it to be a starting point for debate. Storm covers so many subjects, not everyone will agree with every sentiment in it, and that’s a good thing. Let’s talk about it!
Have you come across any roadblocks or challenges in the production?
Ha, just the few million! The film is coming out at least six months later than we originally planned, partly because there are entry rules for various things (such as BAFTA, for which we were longlisted in the Best Animated Short category, zomg!) which meant we had to delay release, and partly because we wanted to make sure the film was as perfect as we could get it. We could have rushed it out and been unhappy with little bits forever, or taken our time and released the film we wanted. As it’s a self-funded project that’ll be shown for free on YouTube, we decided that, frustrating as it is, we would rather wait and have the most polished movie possible. There are extraordinary technical challenges in making even a ten-minute animation that aren’t predictable. At one point we had ten people working on it to meet the deadline for the premiere, and of course with a team that large, things go wrong. Huge things like entire scenes being replaced, or small things like the sound effect of Storm’s footsteps coming across like metal-tipped heels when of course she’s wearing hippy cork sandals!
Have you encountered any negative reactions to the project?
If art isn’t subjective, nothing is. It’s fine to dislike the animation style or the script or the performance, and if enough people see it then presumably a lot of pro-psychic or pro-alt med types will be quick to tell us what jerks we are, but that’s fine. Like I say, the debate is welcome. I don’t read negative reviews as a rule though. No point – we made the film out of our own pockets and gave it away for free, so in that respect it’s pretty good value for the public. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s OK with me. I probably don’t like their taste in couches. Put it this way: we already made the film, we can’t UNMAKE it!
Storm has already been seen at a few film and animation festivals, how was it received?
Incredibly well so far, we’ve been approached by some major studios on the back of the showings in late 2010 which is very exciting for future projects. The great thing about putting it on YouTube is that anyone can see and share it for free but it is very different seeing it on a big screen.
Are there any projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?
DC Turner and I have an animation studio, KerShoot, and we produce our own projects like Storm as well as working on the commercial stuff to fund them. At present we’re doing cutscenes for a major game title that’s out in November, and we’re currently reviewing the script for our next YouTube animation, which hopefully will be as well-received as Storm! I’ll keep you posted when I can say more 🙂
Next is DC Turner, the Director and Lead Animator for the Storm Movie talking to us about the artistic joys and challenges involved in making Storm.
How did you choose the style of animation used in Storm?
The piece is +10 mins long, so the art style was born out of simplicity. We needed to be able to draw lots of poses, very fast – this lead to a blocky, almost silhouetted style (borrowing from Beat-era imagery, Saul Bass, Constructivism etc). We tried to reduce everything to simple, jagged shapes, but retained a disproportionate amount of facial detail – as we still needed the characters to be fun and expressive. It was very much a battle to find the right mix of form and function. The other main concern was finding the right mix of animated typography – too much and the audience gets tired, and we lose focus on the characters – too little and it makes the overall tone of the film unbalanced. We decided to use typography for a few key statements – mainly to enforce Tim’s key arguments \ retorts.
How hard was it to nail down the character designs?
The two main characters were very tough to design, but for very different reasons. Tim needed to be recognisable, not just a caricature though. After all, he is playing a character, so we merely needed to evoke Tim rather than present his stage persona in animated form. This explains why our Tim model does not have blue eyes, or bare feet. Storm presented a very different set of challenges, the main one of course being her general appearance. Tim is very detailed in his descriptions of Storm, but there is still an enormous amount of room for interpretation – this was never more evident than when we asked our blog readers what they thought Storm looked like. I recall scanning through the 100+ comments, marveling at their differences and justifications, and thinking to myself “I wonder what she’ll look like. I wouldn’t like to be the person that has to decide…”, then it dawned on me.
Has the vision of the film changed over the past couple of years?
Aesthetically, no. The only real challenge in that respect was the drive for visual consistency. I didn’t want any shifts in technique and artistic preference to be too evident in the film (even though they are inevitable over such a long span of time). We decided on a style in the beginning and I was determined to stop things from slipping too much. In terms of its purpose, the vision of the film underwent an interesting change – In the beginning, the film was going to be a simpler affair, a simple fun interpretation of the poem. However, once word spread that we were making Storm, a lot of talented people came forward and offered to help – this warped the project into something with much higher aspirations – we realised that we had the means to make something more substantial and polished.
What effect did having established and unalterable pacing and script have on artistic direction?
Working to the poem was a joy – it’s a wonderful bit of writing, bursting with imagery and fun ideas. Once we had recorded a new Take of Tim’s narration, and a live Jazz soundtrack, the project really picked up speed and began to speak for itself. Having (sensibly)
decided not to lip-sync the film, we still had a great deal of flexibility, so I never felt too restricted or rushed. To be honest, the main problem that the script presented was merely interpretation: being desperate to find the best possible symbolism for each key
scene. The script served as a wonderful catalyst: urging me to produce my best work – but at the same time it was a terrifying prospect; trying desperately to do the poem justice and live up to the weight of expectation.
Now that Storm is finished and out, is there anything you wished you could have had changed?
Finally, we come to Tim Minchin. He is the poet, musician and visionary that created Storm. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us and cruel enough to punish me for my imprecise use of the English language (See question one).
How does it feel to be an animated character?
You’d have to ask animated-me. I can only imagine one would feel keenly the absence of 33% of one’s dimensions.
Did you have to sacrifice or compromise at all on your vision of Storm when you allowed other artists to interpret and present it?
I’d never really thought beyond its existence as a live performance piece, so when Tracy and Dan came to me with this idea, I had no preconceptions. I love the idea of my ideas outgrowing me. The initial stylistic choices they made made absolute sense to me, and I was happy to give them a free reign from that point. I’ve been involved on and off throughout, but never had occasion to stick my nose in, except that one time when I told them that I thought the “me” character should be better-looking. Why let reality get in the way of a handsome jaw-line?
Do you have any other songs or poems that you’d like to see get a similar treatment? Mitsubishi Colt or Ten Foot Cock and a Few hundred Virgins for example?
I’d love to make a music video of a song I wrote called, “Come On, My Faith”. It’s a Christian R&B number and it’s really cool. Not sure about animation though. The beat poems definitely seem to scream out for it, but I can’t imagine them done in any other style but Dan’s “Storm” vibe. One of my sentimentally ones might be nice. “Not Perfect”?
You have quite a number of videos in the public domain, including a Youtube channel. Do you have any concerns about people using your material for their own ends? For example how would you feel if I were to make a fan-video for If You Really Loved Me in Lego or remixed White Wine in the Sun to the tune of Mo Money Mo Problems.
I’m very happy indeed for people to fiddle with my work! The only time I ever restrict my material being freely shared is when I’m still touring, because in comedy, if everyone has seen the songs, the impact is halved. I also try to stop people from uploading whole DVDs to youtube because I want to make money. But once my stuff is in the public domain, the more people engage / play / fuck with it, the better.
Thank you so much Tim, DC and Tracy, not only for taking the time to talk to us but for giving us Storm. You are so fucking rock.