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Review: Women in Puppetry & Puppet Animation

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‘Don’t Think of a Pink Elephant’: Directed by Suraya Raja

This year the Bristol Festival of Puppetry is honoring women who are working in key production roles within live action puppetry and in stop motion animation. By raising the profile of all the talented women who are already working with puppets, we can encourage other women to follow their dreams and expect equality in wages and opportunities.

The ‘Women in Puppetry and Puppet Animation’ screening during Bristol Festival of Puppetry was curated by Emma Windsor and the selection was a colourful mixture of wonderful short films. There was no limitation to technique or genre and the films were assembled around the themes: women and puppets.

The viewing theatre is full at Watershed Cultural cinema in Bristol and Emma Windsor introduces the films, the theme, and gives an overview about the challenges that still exist within the puppetry and animation industries. When the first film starts, there is a sense of concentration and enthusiasm in the audience that follows through the whole screening.

What happens when puppets, women and storytelling meet?

While watching the films, I find myself looking out for similarities in the techniques, materials, and topics. I am writing little notes in the dark theatre while trying to make sure that I will not miss anything. After the screening, I believe that I might have identified some common themes that might be specific to the way women use puppetry and animation in storytelling. The most popular theme turned out to be relationships between couples and families. Films such as ‘Belle and Bamber’ (live action) directed by Alex Forbes, ‘Don’t Think Of A Pink Elephant‘ (stop motion animation) by director Surya Raja and ‘Punch’s Letters To His Son’ (live action puppetry) by director Jenny Dee were addressing mother-daughter and father-son relationship, mental well-being, compulsions, anxiety and alcoholism, as seen from the point of view of a child or young adults.

The chosen techniques complemented the stories and it was fascinating to see how stop motion animation and live-action puppetry can be used in telling cohesive and captivating stories. In ‘Punch’s Letters To His Son’, the live action sections carried the story forward, while hand puppets in a traditional booth were performing suppressed memories of abuse and violence. What an excellent way to show flashbacks and difficult experiences while also carrying the story forward.

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Belle and Bamber. Directed by Alex Forbes.
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Belle and Bamber. Behind the scenes. Directed by Alex Forbes.

I was especially touched by stop motion animation called ‘A Love Story’, the winner of British short animation Bafta in 2017, directed by Anushka Kashani Naanayakkara. This beautiful stop motion animation tells a story about relationships between two people, and how people share emotions and deal with loss. All this is visualised with heads made out of wool, yarn, and textiles. The soft, yet strong textures fitted perfectly to the story and emphasized the complicated nature of relationships between humans.

 

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‘A Love Story’. Directed by Anushka Kashani Naanayakkara

Other common topics included the cycle of life and sensuality. I have to mention the one film that got the biggest laughs, the stop motion animation ‘Boris Noris’ directed by Laura-Beth Cowley was clever, funny and its rubber-hose style of animating did not leave anyone feeling cold or puzzled.

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Cosmos. Directed by Daria Copiek.
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Cosmos. Directed by Daria Copiek.

Towards the end of the screening, I became more and more convinced that there might be a difference between men and women in the way women choose to tell stories through puppetry and animation. Women are not afraid to openly address the more dark and sensitive subjects, such as violence, sexuality and mental health issues, and for this, puppetry and animation are an excellent tool!

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Boris Noris. Directed by Laura-Beth Cowley

I would like to think that not only the choices of topics but also the brave and innovative use of materials will bring the strengths and talent forward. Hand puppetry, rod puppetry, shadow puppetry, multi plane clay animation and stop motion animation were just some of the techniques used within these films. Especially in the stop motion animation films, the use of textiles and clay in puppets and sets was standing out.  To me, these materials symbolize femininity, warmth, and softness. But should women be channeling more masculine values in order to achieve equality? I think that being unique, resilient and aware of one’s own strengths are much more likely to be the right ingredients towards equal opportunities.

Seeing how other women use puppetry and puppet animation to tell stories will be our fuel for change.

by Marika Aakala


 

The BFP17 Film Programme continues this weekend with two feature-length films for adults and families.  An accessible screening of ‘My Life As A Courgette‘ at 6pm, Saturday 09 Sept and the European premiere of the all-star Hollywood puppet film ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows‘ at 6pm, Sunday 10 Sept.  Visit our website for further information and to book tickets: https://www.bristolfestivalofpuppetry.org

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Review: Oh Globbits! A Tribute to Terry Brain

Terry Brain, Animator.

Terry Brain animating on ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’. Photo: Aardman Animations  

After spending my morning helping to steward the sea of smiling faces marching down North street for BFP17’s colourful carnival of creatures, I made my way to Bristols’ waterside arthouse cinema and cafe bar, the Watershed, to watch “Oh Globbits”, a film tribute to the much loved and much missed Bristol born animator Terry Brain.

Terry, who may be best remembered by the public for his work on the award winning series ‘The Trapdoor‘ which he co-created with his long time friend and colleague Charlie Mills, as well as for the ‘Stoppit and Tidy Up‘ animations, and for his work on Aardman’s ‘Creature Comforts‘, sadly lost his two year battle with cancer in March 2016. Terry and lifetime friend and colleague Charlie Mills had originally met at Speedwell junior school in Fishponds at the age of ten and with Charlie being good a drawing things and Terry being good at making them, an animation match made in heaven was born.

Terry’s first big break came when he was discovered by Tony Hart and he joined Hartbeat in the 80’s before teaming up with Charlie Mills to form CMTB, later to be joined by Steve Box, who having started at the company on a Youth Training Scheme later went on to co-direct Curse of the Were-Rabbit for Aardman Animations.

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Terry Brain animating on ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. Photo: Aardman Animations

In his personal eulogy, delivered to a packed and enthralled audience, Steve Box recounted how he had responded to a newspaper job advert for a cartoonist his father had seen and although he didn’t get that job, he persistently bombarded Terry and Charlie with his artwork until they relented and eventually took him on. So began a six year stint at the CMTB studios at the Kingswood Factory, which was, for all intents and purposes little more than a derelict building much the the consternation of his YTS assessor.

The team went on to produce some 40 episodes of ‘The Trapdoor‘, telling the story of Berk, the overworked servant of the thing upstairs and Boni, a skull Steve intimated may have been based on him although I couldn’t see the resemblance, (honest.) Steve went on to share many warm memories of working with Terry, highlighting not only what a talented, inspiring and innovative animator he was but also, as many of the other tributes we heard that day confirmed, what a wonderfully warm and funny person he was. My favourite take-away from his talk had to be how Willie Rushton, the narrator for ‘The Trapdoor‘, who often inserted his own hilarious ad-libs to the script, had on first meeting and speaking to Terry changed Berk’s voice from the planned Cockney accent to the lush Bristolian one we are all so familiar with now.

The audience were treated to a series of clips from Terry’s most loved work including ‘The Birthday Surprise‘, Wallace & Gromit’s ‘The Auto Chef‘, ‘Creature Comforts‘, the workout scene from ‘Chicken Run‘, which was Terry’s first project with Aardman Animations and ‘Shaun the Sheep‘.  My most favourite clip from ‘The Trapdoor‘, the one where Berk moves over a carpet of psychedelically coloured worms together with all manner of tentacled creatures and monsters.

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The audience at the Watershed.  Photo: David Brain

Between the clips personal testimonies on film were given by a host of people who had know and worked with Terry at Aardman Animations including Loyd Price, [head of animation], Charles Copping, [director of photography] and Dave Alex Riddett, [director of photography] who told us the story of an inspiring piece of animation Terry once did on some coloured glass that was best described as ‘Cosmic’!

Further testimonies from other Aardman colleagues followed and each and every one spoke warmly in memory of Terry and testified to the admiration they had for him as an animator and as a person.

Next came a speech by Terry’s friend and colleague at Aardman Animation, Jim Parkyn [senior modelmaker] who spoke first of his memories of watching ‘The Trapdoor‘, with its wonderful world of characters and voices as a child. He went on to say how much it had inspired him to pursue a career  in animation as an adult. Subsequently finding himself meeting and working with Terry, first at festivals, then at the BBC and later at Aardman, Jim mapped out how much Terry had been a major influence on him and how quick Terry has been to give praise and share tips, in addition to being such the approachable and funny person that made him an absolute pleasure to work with.

Jim told us that Terry had earned himself the nickname ‘The King of Lick’, when he took the tradition of animators licking their models to keep them moist to the extreme whilst filming an episode of Creature Comforts. Terry had personally licked each individual tongue, of each individual puppet, in a bowl full of muscles he was bringing to animated life. The Muscles were made out of small pieces of shell with clay popping out for the tongue. They were in truth Jim assured us the most seductive yet disgusting things you’ve ever seen. This visual image will remain with me for a long time..! I laughed most at that story,  I laughed at the images of it in my head on the journey home, and truth to tell, I’ll probably laugh about it again now many times in the future.

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Dave Brain talking about his father and ‘Weirdy Rhymes’. Photo: David Brain

The closing eulogy was delivered by Terry son, Dave Brain, who had shared some of the work that he and his colleague Mike Percival have completed on behalf of his father, who had been working on a new children’s ‘Weirdy Rhymes‘ just before he died.  These funny, silly and pleasingly disgusting shorts will be available for everyone to enjoy on Aardman’s YouTube channel in the near future.

If there is one thing that is certain it is that Terry was a very special and talented man much loved by those who knew and worked with him and by those who he has inspired in their own animation careers. Even though he is sadly now gone, he made me and a cinema full of people laugh through his art and his antics and he succeeded in making me laugh again when I got home just in time to watch Wallace & Gromit, ‘The Wrong Trousers‘ on the BBC.

Terry loved to make people laugh, he achieved that when we were children, he did it again today and will undoubtedly do it for many generations of children and adults to come. He has left a wonderful legacy to the world of puppetry and this programme was a well deserved and fitting tribute a wonderful man and an exceptionally talented animation artist.

By Stephen B. Watters


The BFP17 Film Programme continues this weekend with two feature-length films for adults and families.  An accessible screening of ‘My Life As A Courgette‘ at 6pm, Saturday 09 Sept and the European premiere of the all-star Hollywood puppet film ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows‘ at 6pm, Sunday 10 Sept.  Visit our website for further information and to book tickets: https://www.bristolfestivalofpuppetry.org

BFP+ : An Interview with Programme Curator, Emma Williams

BFP + is the Bristol Festival of Puppetry’s Professional Programme, which aims to provide artists and professionals working in puppetry and animation the opportunity to hone skills, learn new ones, meet up with fellow practitioners and make new connections.  The Programme has always bought a diverse range of workshops, masterclasses and networking events to the Festival, and this year is no exception.  We sat down with the Programme Curator, Emma Williams, to find out what was in store for BFP+ 2017.

Is there a theme to this Festival’s BFP+ Programme?

The notion of sharing knowledge underpins BFP+. the artist development strand of the puppet festival.  My ambition is to curate events where all questions are celebrated with umpteen opportunities to pose them and a range of extraordinary, experienced and diverse professionals to answer them.  Being given permission to ask questions is the key, and I hope within BFP+ we have created such an environment through a range of different events.

What masterclasses, workshops and other events for professionals are planned?

Because we are within the festival we are privileged enough to be able to offer masterclasses from companies who are performing work within the program. As a puppetry director, I am particularly intrigued by Stephen Mottram’s masterclass ‘The Logic of Movement’, which explores questions about the way audience read movement within puppetry.   To my mind,  exploring these questions is fundamental to understanding how to make certain decisions about the work you are making.

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Stephen Mottram’s masterclass ‘The Logic of Movement’

In previous years, the Festival Breakfast sessions have been an informal catch up.   Keeping that in mind (and the need for free coffee and croissants) we are simply adding a question to each breakfast and inviting a special guest to present some answers.  These questions will range from “What organisations are out there to support puppeteers and puppet companies and what can they do for you ?”  and “How can we make puppetry inclusive and accessible ?”

The first breakfast is on Saturday 02 September.  We have invited Sarah Wright, founder of the The Curious School of Puppetry and Kneehigh Theatre’s puppet maker/lead puppeteer to this breakfast, to answer questions about training and how to tackled the next steps to building a career.  I’m looking forward to that one.

I’ve also worked with our BFP Film Programme Curator, Emma Windsor, to bring an advanced workshop for stop motion artists to the Programme.  This workshop will be run by Jim Parkyn, senior modelmaker at Aardman and will demonstrate professional approaches to puppet head and hand production – often the most complex areas of puppet design.  It is ideal for those with some prior experience who want to get the best from the most expressive parts of a stop motion puppet.

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Stop Motion Puppet Making, a workshop with Jim Parkyn.

We are also holding a brand-new event this year titled ‘The New Faces of Puppetry Animation’, which for anyone over the age of forty will remind you of a 70’s TV talent contest with a very similar title.  This sweet and awkward 1970’s TV show bares no relation to our BFP+ event, except perhaps in its celebration of talent! Instead, we have gathered four experts in the field of puppetry and animation to talk about their experiences. We will be questioning preconceived ideas around what the new face of puppetry and animation is and each member of the panel will talk about their work, goals ambitions and projects. We are a puppetry festival so expect surprises alongside the chat.

What are you particularly looking forward to in this year’s programme?

I love this festival. Two years ago I watched everything in the programme.  It was the maddest week, filled with the strangest of things – sometimes joyous, sometimes sad, sometimes hysterical. Therefore, my unrealistic tip would be just go see everything. However, if you’re interested in new work, and want to see more than one thing on a budget, check out Prototype.  For the first-time we have teamed up with Tobacco Factory Theatres to run a Prototype dedicated to puppetry.

If you have never seen Prototype before, it is an event were new work is performed for the first time to an audience. It is usually the beginning of a process and has led to some of the best bits of theatre I have ever seen in the South West.  It has never been dedicated solely to puppetry, so for me this is extremely exciting and also important for the development of new work.

Can’t wait!

 


Visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website to find out more and to book tickets to all the BFP+ Professional Programme events .  You can also find details of all our workshops for adults and children at Tobacco Factory Theatres and Watershed throughout the Festival (01 – 10 Sept) and browse our full Festival programme.

Stay up-to-date with all the latest BFP17 news and announcements via our  Newsletter, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

SUPPORT OUR CROWDFUNDER!  Puppet Place are looking for your support.
The crowdfunder has some fabulous rewards – including festival passes for families, a one-to-one stop motion workshop and a puppet tailor-made in your image!

Click here to show your support and claim your reward.

Traces in Clay: An interview with Izabela Plucinska

Iza Studio 1 Autor. Andre Eckerdt

Izabela Plucinska is a producer, director and animator living in Germany. She creates award winning short films working with a clay-motion technique. She runs a production company and an animation studio in Berlin called ClayTraces.  We caught up with her to find out how she uses clay to explore human relationships and to find out more about her latest short film ‘Evening’ that will screen as part of the Bristol Festival of Puppetry Film Programme this September.

 

This year’s Bristol Festival of Puppetry features a short film showcase ‘Women in Puppetry & Puppet Animation’  which is dedicated to all the brilliant women who are working in these industries. We are excited to have your short film ‘Evening’ as part of this screening. Could you tell us more about your film?

‘Evening’ is the third part of a series of short movies, all using the same technique, but different colour theme. The first part was called ‘Breakfast’ and it won a price in Hiroshima in 2006. The second film is called ‘Afternoon’ and it was finished in 2012.


These short films portrait a couple, lonely in their relationship, seeking a connection with each other. The way you use symbolism to tell the stories and the expressiveness of the line made with modeling clay paints a subtle and beautiful view on the underlying human need to be loved.

Modeling clay gives a very tactile, warm and organic feel to your films and you have used it in many different ways, which demonstrates your mastery over the medium. Your techniques move fluidly between two-dimensional drawing or clay-painting, relief sculpture with free-forming the clay as you animate, or animating three-dimensional clay puppets, props, and sets.

Could you tell us more about what made you choose modeling clay and clay-motion as your main medium?

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Seven More Minutes. Photo: Izabela Plucinska

I have been working, playing and dancing with clay for 18 years, wow, so long! (I just counted). I love the technique and it feels very comfortable to me. There are always opportunities to discover something new with clay.

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Evening‘ – Photo: Izabela Plucinska


You are both director and animator in your own production company ‘ClayTraces’. Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for other people who are hoping to start their own production studio and create their own short films?

Running a company is like traveling in a train. Sometimes the train is moving very fast and at a comfortable pace. Sometimes the train moves slowly and you have no place to sit. But even then the train keeps moving forward. Because we make short films, each four months you need to generate a new idea for the next project.

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Multiplane setting. Photo: Izabela Plucinska.

That sounds both exciting and challenging, but it must be very rewarding to realise the stories you have created. What are your thoughts on the role of women working in puppetry and puppet animation?

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Sexy Laundry short film. Photo: Izabela Plucinska.

‘I live in two countries, Germany and Poland. The situation with women in animation and puppetry has changed and is much better now than what it was 10 years ago. I have a feeling that in Poland there are more women working in the animation industry, than in Germany. For example, I would like to name two wonderful Polish film makers Marta Pajek, and Wiolletta Sowa. In Germany, there are also a few great female artists. My good friend, Spela Cadez, whom I have collaborated with before, works in animation.’

Thank you so much Izabela for taking the time to chat with us. We are looking forward to see ‘Evening’ during the festival and excited to see more of your work in the future.

 

Interview by Marika Aakala

 


Visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website to find out more and to book tickets to see ‘Evening’ and other puppet animation and live action shorts in the ‘Women in Puppetry & Puppet Animation‘ showcase at 6:30pm on Mon 04 Sept .  You can also see all our screenings for adults and children at Watershed throughout the Festival (01 – 10 Sept) and browse our full Festival programme.

Stay up-to-date with all the latest BFP17 news and announcements via our  Newsletter, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

SUPPORT OUR CROWDFUNDER!  Puppet Place are looking for your support.
The crowdfunder has some fabulous rewards – including festival passes for families, a one-to-one stop motion workshop and a puppet tailor-made in your image!

Click here to show your support and claim your reward.

Tricyckle: An Interview with Les Sages Fous

Founded in 1999 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada, Les Sages Fous create theatrical worlds where the the mask, the puppet, the object and the human coexist.  We caught with them to find out more about their work, their vision and their latest show ‘Tricyckle’.

Can you tell us about Les Sages Fous and your most recent work, ‘Tricyckle’?

Les Sages Fous is a small company that has been creating theatre together in a very intimate way for over 15 years. Through our years of close collaboration, we have developed a unique way of working with objects and puppetry. We proceed by intuition, trial and error, improvisation, and poetic correspondence. We try to discover the story that the objects and puppets we create want to tell.

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South Miller, Jacob Brindamour and Sylvain Longpré. Photo by: Les Sages Fous

Our company is inspired, among others, by men who roam the city of Trois-Rivières on their old tricycles, looking for all kinds of materials they carry on their makeshift trailers. We are also inspired by people who make folk art; those who are not professional artists, with all the baggage and allegiance to the institutions involved. With Tricycle we hope to break down barriers between high culture and popular art.

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Tricycle. Photo by: Marianne Duval

We produce a non-verbal image-based theatre using objects, mask and puppets. Our shows are created for unconventional spaces and theatres. We have presented our work in barns, warehouses, castles, back alleys, and streets, as well as theatres. Our work is accessible to all, transcending the obstacles of language, age, culture, and economic class.

The music in ”Tricyckle’ is particularly unique.  Can you tell us a little about how it is created?

Our musician Christian Laflamme has been collaborating closely with us since 2002.  For ‘Tricyckle’ Christian has been inventing improbable musical instruments with found objects and laid the foundation of a musical landscape. He has created the beginnings of an unusual soundscape; a mysterious music that is both urban and fairground, in perfect harmony with the protagonist of our story.

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Tricycle. Photo by: Marianne Duval

How do you come up with your ideas for your puppetry performances?  What is your creative process?

Our creative process is a deliberate walk in the darkness of the unknown. By trial and error, collage of images, poetic correspondence, we write the shows whose sense often eludes us until the last minute. For it is only in contact with the public that our desires are revealed. It is as if the play is a double-sided mirror in which each sees the dreams that inhabit themselves.

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Tricycle. Photo by: Patricia Gagnon

We feel like archaeologists, or miners, searching their own dreams to find the
artefacts hidden within. Our shows are living organisms in constant evolution. Our working method is therefore an ongoing creation process. We create, re-evaluate, refine, and rework multiple versions of our shows, between the theatre venues and the unusual spaces. As our company’s working method is not based on a text or on a storyboard, but through experimentation and intuition, the dramaturgy is discovered directly with the objects themselves. The objects and the scenic universe become the springboard for the writing of the show.

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Tricycle: Photo by: Marianne Duval

Puppets are a link between humanity and mystery. The dual nature of puppetry, the ‘animated / inanimate’, parallels our experience of life and death. The paradoxical and mysterious nature of the puppet has led us to create visual theatre that seeks to express the invisible. In search of this mystery, we offer a world of images and sensations, where impressions and memories blend to create stories.

We propose an exciting, mysterious voyage: sailing through troubled waters, at the crossroads between the worlds.

Interview by Stephen Barrie Watters


 

Visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website to find out more and to book tickets to ‘Tricyckle’ at 8pm, Thurs 07 Sept.  You can also find details of all our shows for adults and children at Tobacco Factory Theatres throughout the Festival (01 – 10 Sept) and browse our full Festival programme.

Stay up-to-date with all the latest BFP17 news and announcements via our  Newsletter, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
SUPPORT OUR CROWDFUNDER!  Puppet Place are looking for your support.
The crowdfunder has some fabulous rewards – including festival passes for families, a one-on-one stop motion workshop and a puppet tailor-made in your image!

Click here to show your support and claim your reward.

 

Meet Fred: An Interview with Hijinx

Welsh theatre company, Hijinx, make stunning theatre performed by actors with and without learning disabilities.  In their latest show ‘Meet Fred’ (produced in association with Blind Summit) a two-foot tall cloth puppet fights prejudice every day.  We chatted with them about what makes their theatre unique and what audiences should expect from performance with learning disabled actors.   

Can you tell us a little about yourselves.  What makes Hijinx different from other theatre companies?

Hijinx is a professional theatre company based at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff who tour small scale theatre throughout the UK and Europe. What makes us different is that our casts always include actors who have learning disabilities. The ability of these effortlessly talented performers is at the heart of every show we produce, creating work that is utterly absorbing, surprising and provocative.

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Meet Fred. Photo by: Tom Beardshaw

We call it inclusive theatre because it makes much of the skills and raw talent of people who often get overlooked in today’s world and gives them a platform to make and perform stunning theatre alongside actors who don’t have disabilities. Training actors with learning disabilities to perform at a professional level is also at the heart of our mission. We have established the only professional performance training in Wales for actors with learning disabilities: there are two Hijinx Academies in Cardiff, one in West Wales, one in North Wales and one in Mid Wales.

Can you tell us a little about ‘Meet Fred?’

Well, Fred is just a regular guy who wants to get on in life. He wants a good job and to settle down with a nice girl. The only problem is that Fred is a two-foot tall cloth puppet and day to day life has many dependency issues when everything you do relies on three other guys being with you at all times!  His life begins to spiral out of his control when he is threatened with losing his PLA (Puppetry Living Allowance).

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Meet Fred. Photo by: Tom Beardshaw

‘Meet Fred’ is a visually inventive and entertaining snapshot into the life of a potty-mouthed puppet with a feisty personality who fights prejudice every day. It is an original exploration of what it means to be different, an outsider trying to make his mark in a world in which he needs a lot of help. With wit and dark humour we try to expose the ridiculous situations some of the most vulnerable in our society encounter when their support is taken from them, exploding the myth that “we are all in this together”.

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Fred with a cloud. Photo by: Tom Beardshaw

What should audiences expect from your work?

Expect something edgy, surprising, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes hilarious, sometimes beautiful or ugly, sexy or plain offensive, but always with a cast that includes artists with learning disability.

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Photo by: Tom Beardshaw

Interview by Stephen Barrie Watters

 


Visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website to find out more and to book tickets to ‘Meet Fred’ our BSL interpreted evening performance (7:30pm Mon 04 Sept) and our relaxed afternoon performance (2pm Mon 04 Sept) .  You can also find details of all our shows for adults and children at Tobacco Factory Theatres throughout the Festival (01 – 10 Sept) and browse our full Festival programme.

Stay up-to-date with all the latest BFP17 news and announcements via our  Newsletter, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

SUPPORT OUR CROWDFUNDER!  Puppet Place are looking for your support.
The crowdfunder has some fabulous rewards – including festival passes for individuals & families, a one-on-one stop motion workshop and a puppet tailor-made in your image!

Click here to show your support and claim your reward.

Puppetry, Film & Women in Filmmaking: Interview with Mallory O’Meara

 

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Mallory O’Meara is an author, screenwriter and producer for Dark Dunes ProductionsHer latest film is Dark Dunes Productions’ feature-length puppetry film ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows’.   We sat down with her to find out more about her passion for the puppetry, horror and monsters; the challenges of producing a live-action puppetry feature film and the role of women working in the puppetry and animation filmmaking industry.

 

We are incredibly excited to have the European premiere of the feature-length film ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows’ as part of our programme at the Bristol Festival of Puppetry in September 2017. Where did the inspiration come from for choosing live-action puppetry to create a feature length film?

Dark Dunes Productions, the company I produce and develop for, is dedicated to showcasing the wonder of practical special effects. Every film we produce features some aspect of practical special effects, whether it is real make-ups, actors in monster suits, or puppetry. It’s our biggest passion. When we met Sam Koji Hale through his fundraising efforts for his film ‘Monster Of The Sky’ and he told us about his ideas to expand his award-winning short ‘Yamasong’ into a feature, we wanted to get involved. We were incredibly excited about Sam’s vision and the world of ‘Yamasong’ and the opportunity to collaborate. Everyone on the Dark Dunes team is a lifelong puppet fan. It was a great fit.

 

You have mentioned in an earlier interview that you used green screen work and it appears that some of the mouth movements are digitally composited in post-production. Does it affect the puppeteering and production processes when traditional puppetry techniques are combined with the latest digital technologies?

It absolutely does. One of the challenges of creating ‘Yamasong’ was integrating traditional puppeteering and digital and CG technology. The entire film was a fantastic learning experience. There’s never been a feature film like ‘Yamasong’ and the excitement of that trailblazing carried us through a lot of the frustration. Sam had a lot of experience with this integration process on his previous films. Combined with our incredible team of puppeteers, we were able to create something special.

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Photo by: Dark Dunes Production

 

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As a producer of ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows’, what were your main tasks and roles during the production? Do you have any tips to other people who are hoping to go into producing for puppetry and animation?

As the producer that helped to creatively guide the project, I was not as deeply involved in the actual production phases of ‘Yamasong’. Adamo Paulo Cultraro, one of the other producers, guided the day-to-day tasks and decisions of the production, and my job was assist him in any way. Adam is a project management genius. I work more on the creative side of things, so I was busy with tasks such as editing the script, helping write new dialogue and voice overs, and collaborating with Sam and Sultan Saeed al Darmaki (our third Dark Dunes producer and CEO) on casting choices. My biggest and best tip for those looking to get into this world is to be friendly and get involved. Find your local filmmakers, find other people passionate about puppetry and animation, see what’s happening in your town or city. And don’t shy away from something you have no experience in. A big part of filmmaking is problem solving and thinking on your feet.

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Photo by: Dark Dunes Production

 

The key thread for Bristol Festival of Puppetry 2017 film programme is women in puppetry and animation filmmaking. As a Producer, Communications Director, Screenwriter and Author for Dark Dunes Productions, what are your thoughts on the role of women working in the puppetry and animation film industries?

Some of the greatest puppet filmmakers I know are women. It’s not that women need to learn to get good at animating and creating puppet films, it’s that they need to get the job opportunities and funding. I’m very excited by the recent push to give more women opportunities to get on set and get hired in film. I’m incredibly proud that ‘Yamasong’ is involved in that movement – nearly half of our cast and crew were women.  Animation and puppetry are just like any other types of filmmaking – they are desperately in need of more women telling stories and making movies.

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Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. Finally, from your personal experiences, could you name some of the strengths that women working both in front of and behind the camera can bring into the world of puppets and storytelling for stage and screen?

The greatest things, among many, that women bring to a production is their experience and their vision. Women experience the world in a fundamentally different way than men. By having a production that is gender balanced, you get to look at things from many types of eyes. If you are telling a fantasy or science fiction story, the best way to imagine new worlds is with a diversity of input.

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Photo by: Mallory O’Meara

 

Interview by Marika Aakala


 

Visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website to find out more and to book tickets to see the European Premiere of ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows‘ at 6pm on 10 Sept, followed by a Q&A with Mallory O’Meara and ‘Yamasong: March of the Hollows’ Director, Sam Koji Hale.

You can also see all our screenings for adults and children at Watershed throughout the Festival (01 – 10 Sept) and browse our full Festival programmeStay up-to-date with all the latest BFP17 news and announcements via our  NewsletterFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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