This weekend I was delighted to be awarded the ‘Best Documentary’ Prize at Cineglobe International Film Festival at CERN, Geneva, for my short animated docu-horror Devil In The Room.
The festival is based at the Globe of Science and Innovation in the heart of CERN: home to the Large Hadron Collidor, birthplace of the World Wide Web and one of the seats of modern science. The festival accepts films which are ‘inspired by science’ and the 2014 theme was ‘Beyond The Frontier’. It was a great honour to receive the award and have the film played in such a beautiful and meaningful location.
Jury member Brent Hoff said: “This film’s insight into the neurological phenomenon of sleep paralysis is not only beautifully rendered, but it’s analysis will bring comfort to experiencers who might have thought they were losing their marbles.”
That’s a nice thought. You can watch the film below:
Devil In The Room from Mackinnonworks on Vimeo.
My graduation short Devil In the Room is now online. It was produced last year as part of my MA in Animation at Royal College of Art and supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award. I had a brilliant team helping with it including the fantastic science consultants Chris Franch, Paul Broks and Dan Denis, as well as arts and technology studio seeper.com, sublime composer Dominic de Grande, wonderful producer of marketing and distribution James Mullighan and the fabulous and versatile Christian Schlaeffer. You can read about the project background and all about the phenomenon of sleep paralysis at thesleepparalysisproject.org.
Best watched full screen, with headphones, in a dark room late at night!
Devil In The Room from Mackinnonworks on Vimeo.
Throughout the autumn of last year I took part in Stellar Network’s Story Innovation programme, a development lab for creatives working across film, games (of all sorts), theatre, sound design and creative technology. The programme was split into two areas: the first two months were focused on taught seminars and workshops exploring the intersection between media, reaching audiences across multiple platforms and telling stories using interaction and non-linear narrative. In the second part of the programme the 20 participants split into four groups and worked on individual projects, developing a prototype to a brief set by a partner organisation. I was in a group with a diverse set of people including screenwriter and director Chris Andrews, Playtest UK organiser Rob Harris, Creative Technologist / pop-up barman Felix Cohen and theatre director Poonam Brah from 3Fates. Our brief was set by National Trust, who challenged us to come up with a new way of exploring their Homerton heritage site Sutton House. The house has a rich history dating back to the 15th century and has witnessed and survived the reformation, the plague, two world wars and urban regeneration. It has been a family home, a school, a trade union centre and an ’80s squat. Visitors to the house have included Samuel Pepes and Oliver Cromwell.
We decided to bring this history to life by creating interpretations of the house’s past events and playing these out using actors, recorded in situ using a binaural microphone. This technique means that when you play back the sound recorded live it seems to be unfolding all around the listener, putting them right in the middle of the action. Using FM transmitters placed throughout the location, visitors are then able to navigate different scenes – unstuck in time and moving through history like a ghost.
Actress Victoria Grove during the binaural audio recording of an interpretation of Sutton House’s history
We successfully prototyped the project with the help of sound artist Joel Cahen and actors Victoria Grove and Anne-Sophie Marie.
I am now using the techniques and ideas we explored over the course of this project to develop a new idea for a site-specific, immersive audio experience which should take the listener on a dark, unsettling and hypnotic journey, in which the removal and reinterpretation of external stimulus creative a challenging and transformative internal journey. The project is being developed in collaboration with Chris Andrews and should be ready to experience (if you dare) in the summer. Watch this space for more details.
This Wednesday 8th January I’ll be showing a selection of my shorts and discussing the process behind them at Whirlygig Cinema’s Spotlights event at Attic in Hackney Picturehouse. Spotlights is a short film night that shines a light on the work and practice of new filmmakers, and the focus of this edition is animation. I’ll be presenting alongside animators tea&cheese (Liam Tate and Jamie Stanton) and Adam Wells.
My short film Ballad of a Broken Vow will also be screening with a live bespoke soundtrack at Whirlygig’s Making Tracks retrospective event at Rich Mix on January 11th as part of London Short Film Festival.
Hope to see you at either or both!
My RCA MA Graduation Film Devil In The Room has been hitting festivals thick and fast this autumn, with screenings including Underwire Festival, Leeds International Film Festival, Cork Film Festival and London International Animation Festival. We’ve had some fantastic responses, not least a lovely piece on the Film4 blog describing the film as “darkly funny” and picking it out as one of Underwire Festival’s five most memorable shorts. Look out for its next screening in January as part of London Short Film Festival.
Q&A following Devil In The Room screening as part of London Animation Festival’s Animated Documentary programme at Barbican in October
The Dewberry Empire, the very strange and beautifully drawn animated short by animator and director Christian Schlaeffer which I co-produced earlier this year has won Best Student Film at Bradford Animation Festival, the UK’s longest running Animation Festival. The jury said: “The wonderful cinematography, characterisation and storytelling in the Dewberry Empire combined to capture a unique moment in time. A glimpse into the emotional extremes and limitless possibilities of a childhood world contained within a summer afternoon.” The film will be playing in London in January as part of London Short Film Festival.
the dewberry empire – trailer from christian schlaeffer on Vimeo.
If you missed the Sleep Paralysis Project’s cameo on BBC Radio 4′s The Night Visiting documentary you can catch it again here. The show looks at the theme of night visitors, common to folk songs, and examines the romantic, social and more sinister aspects of this. I throw in my ten cents worth alongside Prof Chris French, discussing the nature of states between sleep and wakefulness, where anything becomes possible.
Devil In The Room Teaser from Sleep Paralysis Project on Vimeo.
On the same subject, my short film Devil In The Room will be screening at two London festivals in the next two months. At the end of October we’ll be at the Barbican as part of London International Animation Festival’s Animated Documentary programme. Then in November we’ll be at the lovely Underwire Festival, as part of their Celluloid Sculptors Directors’ showcase. Check out the full programmes for both festivals, there is some ace stuff going on.
Look out for the You Took a Child and You Made Them Old screening at the upcoming BFI London Film Festival. It looks like a great programme and features the premiere of The Dewberry Empire, an animated short by talented animator and director Christian Schlaeffer, which I co-produced. This unusual short is a 2013 graduation short from the RCA Animation MA, and tells a story of the social and political games played by two children on a strange, still summer afternoon.
I had a great time on Saturday presenting Devil In The Room alongside an in-depth talk about the Sleep Paralysis Project at Geekfest Nine Worlds Convention. It was an epic event of maximum geekery, including many comic books, much sci-fi and an excellent programme of talks as part of the Skeptic Magazine’s programme strand, of which we were a part. You can read my full round up of the event on the Rich Pickings review blog.
And if you still haven’t had enough of sleep paralysis, you can listen to me and Christopher French talk about the project with the Guardian’s Alok Jha on the Guardian Online’s Science Weekly Podcast..