art direction

//_sleeper - a short film by jordan buckner

It’s been a while. The grey skies persist, the rain continues to fall, and the factory lights are still on. As 2019 looms, I return to this internet land to share new work - so here it goes.

Since May, I’ve been working on my latest film //_sleeper, a short animation about creepy obsessions in dying industrial towns. The film premiered at the BFI Southbank on November 19th, and then went on to play on BBC Four on December 2nd. It has been a wild ride, and it is honestly a huge honour and achievement to be recognised by the BBC and BFI.

If you live in the UK, you can watch //_sleeper on BBC iPlayer until January 2nd 2019. Alternatively, you can also see //_sleeper on the BFI Player here.

Set in a dying industrial town, //_sleeper tells the story of Frank, a recluse who wakes each day to a strange anomaly on the horizon. Black treacle skies, glowing monitors and strange phone calls are the backdrop to this unsettling character journey, as Frank looks ever watching towards the horizon - the anomaly awaits him.

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I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who helped get this film made. Specifically, Nainita Desai, my sound designer who made so much of this tone possible. And also to Emily Clarkson and Diana Buzea who helped animate this strange tale. And of course, to Phil Gomm for providing his professorial wisdom.

I’ll be back soon, and elsewhere on the internet, with some more info on //_sleeper, plus new details on future projects. Best of luck out there. The world continues to spin…the end has not yet come.

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“As soon as you finish a film, people want you to talk about it. But the film is the talking! The film is the thing! So you go see the film.”

David Lynch

the ultracheese // dead_parts #005

I was going to moan and moan about the internet and the royal wedding. But who really needs more of that shit in there life. So, welcome back! I'm hoping this blog will become a nice quiet place for you, away from the horrors of the world. So sit down, take the weight of your feet, and enjoy some bloody good art nonsense!

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This last week, I've been working hard to get the animatic for my film in good shape. It is starting to make a lot more sense, but it isn't quite right. There is plenty of work to do to get things just right.

Outside of the animatic, I'm trying to do some R+D to explore how this project might be made. Specifically, I'm interested to discover how I can express the scope and tone of this world, but with aesthetic that works well for independant production. The early concept paintings are just too detailed and glossy to be achievable. So I'm playing with starker imagery and handmade textures as a step forward. The results so far are below.

This is just the start of this exploration. I'll be making a mess with some ink, painting and bleach later this week. So do not adjust your TV sets!

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Beyond all of this, I'm also busy marking and listening to Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino on loop. Everyone and their mum seems to be hating this new album, but I've been loving it. It grows on you.

Until next week, stay safe and be good!

goodbye april // dead_parts #003

May is almost upon us, and with a new month, comes a new outlook on what needs to be done. The film hasn't progressed much this week; at least regarding visual development. It has been a busy week with other jobs and other meetings. However, even when things slow down like this, the ideas are still percolating. You need time like this. Time to let things evolve in the background, whilst you get on with some of the more mundane tasks of life.

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I had a chance to play around with a few little visual tests. Nothing hugely conclusive or exciting at the moment, but it is something. And something, is better than nothing.

This is an old character model I had laying around, and it helped form the base of a quick test. The mixed media thing is definitely still an exciting route forward. It is the approach that makes the most sense given the narrative points. The final effect needs to be much more evocative and nuanced than this, but it begins to push in the right direction.

I did actually have time for another mixed media test, but it turned out so shit I can't bare to post it. So you'll just have to imagine that one for yourselves. So, in lieu of something new, here are some pages from the few sketchebooks that I've been keeping during this project.

I've recently been using these sketchbooks as a place to write, rather than simply draw. In doing so, I manage to filter out my ideas regarding the film, and simply get my brain onto the page. It is something I wish I had done at a much earlier point. Indeed, the reason I've started this blog, ins't because I'm a narcissistic twat (although I probably am), but because it gives me an outlet to document my thoughts and progress.

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If you have a spare few hours, check out Good Time (available on Netflix) by the Safdie brothers. I saw it a couple of months ago but it still keeps lingering in my head. You'll like it, trust me.

And so, until next time, be nice out there. Talk to strangers, be kind to neighbours, and stay away from Twitter.

it_continues // dead_parts #002

The planet continues to spin, and I continue to exist on it. Due to this, I'm back, with a few more updates about what is happening in my part of the world. Let's start with the weather:

It's fucking hot...I hate it. I've secluded myself in the basement studio hoping the sun will jog on so I can go out and get some milk. I shall keep you updated. 

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Regarding the film, it has been a week of ups and downs. Lots of indecision and worry. The big questions that keep cropping up around themes, ideas, art direction etc are still gnawing at me. This is a good thing however. It is good to be uncomfortable and unhappy with things. It's part of the process. That sort of anxiety is your brain telling you that things aren't right. Do not proceed. Figure this shit out.

And so I've been trying to figure things out. A few art tests here and there, a bit of sketching and character design. Some questions being answered, others still a bit fuzzy. Here are a few gifs from the experiments so far.

These all use a mix of real paint, ink or charcoal, with 2d and 3d animation techniques. It is essentially a step into the mixed media world of digital and tradition animation.

My biggest concern was that by using my traditional approach (CG animation), the film would fail to express what I want it to. CG has a tendency to kill a lot of emotion, to soften and purify the energy of a character or landscape. And so, I'm beginning to wonder how I can use 2d and 3d, digital and traditional approaches together. So far, these tests are my only step forward. But there are some interesting results. There is a spark of something in these flashing frames.

In truth, it was also really nice to make these from real materials. I'm rather tired of making everything on the computer. It is deadening. Messing around with real mediums is like nothing else, and the results have their own unqiueness that digital approaches struggle to achieve.

The character has to express a lot. He needs to be a mix of lost child, Egon Schiele portrait and scary soul. Wonky teeth an' all. So, I'm excited to see how he'll take shape in this new mixed media world that I venture in. The current state of things regarding character are as such...

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Finally, a little bit of animation from a Toon Boom class I taught this year. I'm not a 2d animator by trade, so forgive me for my sins

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That's it from me for now. The planet continues to spin, and we continue to exist on it. These are strange times that we live in. Keep plodding on in an attempt to make them less strange and less bewildering. Be nice out there!

hello_world // dead_parts #001

I know, I know, It's been a while...and if I'm honest, in these strange times, I'm not one for being on the internet. It's fucking horrible here. All these ironic memes and hashtags are just too much for me to handle. Hence why my instagram and twitter and website are dead places for dead people. I've been holed up in the real world, trying to stay alive and pretend everything is fine. 

Despite these horrors, I plod on. And in an attempt to plod on with more vigor and excitement than before, this marks the first of a weekly blog post about what's been happening in my part of the world. Welcome! This is going to be great. You are going to love it here. Let's call this the pilot episode for what will hopefully be developed into a fully funded Netflix original. If this were a tv show, it would be called dead_parts and it would probably star Paul Giamatti or Jack Nance. So, where to start?

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Well, Easter came and went, and between teaching and a few extra jobs, I've largely been trying to develop an animatic for this little film idea I keep coming back to. In doing so, I'm trying to decide whether it is indeed a good idea, or rather, a terrible bag of shite. I'm still in the decision phase, but whatever the answer, there are some interesting discoveries along the way. Without showing too much, here is a very rough painting that came about this week.

As part of this project exploration, I've also been pissing around in Maya in an attempt to explore art direction. This part is always fun, when the pressure is off and you can begin to figure out how things may look or work. The two art tests so far look like this...

These both use vertex painting. It is an old and simple technique available in Autodesk Maya, and in short, it allows you to colour each specific vertex of a model. It obviously has huge constraints, most notably that textures can only be as complex as the model itself, but it is so immediate and low-fi that it has its own simple charm. It's lovely isn't it. I'm sure instagram are going to love it. But that doesn't mean it is a good idea. Lovely, does not equal good.

This film idea isn't supposed to be charming or lovely. These tests feel too clean, too cute and too CG. The dreaded triple-C. Clean, Cute and CG. The worst of all things. And so, I need to do something different. Something more painterly and expressive. But at least this is a start. Now to try some different approaches.

This week, I've got a few other commitments, but I urgently need to finalise the character for this film. For me, this is always the hardest part. This isn't really a film for anyone other than myself. There is no simple solution to this stage when you are trying to make something expressive. So, I normally just sketch and sketch until the character comes to life infront of me. Here are a few of the sketches so far...

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Outside of this, I also managed to get some time away with friends in Bristol and Eastbourne which was great for the head. A chance to get out of the basement office and into the daylight is always welcomed. Between that, I've also been doing some design work, most notably these little illustration things which will be finished soon.

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Anyway, that is enough from me for now. Tell your friends and family. I'm here with words and pictures for your pleasure. Link them to this page and they'll have a top time. I hope the world treats you well this week. Keep that head up, keep working hard...it gets easier. Here is some Frank Ocean to keep you in good spirits.