Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Gay Man's Health - Subject Matter

So what's your first thought when you get a letter through the door that tells you, you have to go for some kind of check up? I know mine is always "Urgh". So you can imagine that feeling's a lot worse when it's a sexual issue you need checked out.

So why is it that every single video out there that encourages you to get a sexual health check up a negative one? Honestly I have no idea. You catch a lot more bees with honey than with vinegar my friend. And instantly this became the path I didn't want to walk down. I'm pretty much one of those people that when you tell them not to push that big red button, is gonna push that big red button. I frequently need something to push against. And when I see a big open space that no ones using guess who's setting up shop? That's right it's me. Besides do you honestly think people are going to be shamed into sexual health check ups? Because I don't. I don't think you would get me to have one if you were like "oh but you might give that guy over there HIV" I'd be all like "ppft, if I had it which I don't!" And I'd sass you. But if you said to me "Look you aint getting none till you do because aint no one gonna touch ya and you are gonna regret it hugely when things start falling off" (now ok none of that sounds anything like me but it's just an example. I am also aware that things falling off is not how STI's work but just bear with me here.) A big part of what appeals to me about gay man's health is that they never seen to shy away from the truth about these things. They don't pretend that every guy that walks through their doors or that reads their leaflets is having sex with a boyfriend. They understand how modern relationships work and how modern sex works. Which is something I wanted to keep in mind as I made this film. That it does not matter who you are hooking up with or how often or where as long as you are safe. They have this humour about them and they way they are just straight up about sex. I like that and the last film I want to give them is something formulaic, informational, bland and boring. So I took the entirely opposite angle to this one and said if you want to have you need to know. If you want to get into someones pants, you better know what's lurking in your own first! A sort of positive incentive to keep yourself in good health.

Here are a few examples of films that I don't think cut it in terms of either keeping the viewers attention for a particularly long time or enticing them to get a check up:

oh yawn another diagram of the penis great just what I wanted.

I just don't believe that the reason people don't get tested is because of their lack of knowledge on the subject. It's more so their lack of responsibility (especially in the young) if it's not obviously going to affect them then they aren't bothered. So further explanation isn't going to work

I'm not actually going to put any more in because I don't want you to suffer through the same torture I did while watching several poorly scripted education videos. Either with terrible actors or poor synchronisation with the animated characters. Oh god were they bad. At the end of the day I don't see why just because we're trying to send a message it has to be a terrible film. I really really don't. Do not get it one bit! And honestly I don't see why someone hasn't put there foot down about this before. Oh no wait they have!

The Netherlands is the governing body I have to thank for throwing me a bone amongst the countless crappy films, with their Be Sexy, Be Smart campaign. 

I love this video. It's not patronising, it's still informative and it's a little humorous without making light of the situation. It hit the nail on the head with this one. So This was the only positive influence I have going into this project. And it's animated to boot!

But then we get to the problem

Alistair would prefer if none of our films had a non - digetic narrative. He thinks because of the platform he wants to play them on it would be better if you could also watch them on the go and you are far more likely to do so if you don't need to have the sound on to understand things. That presented me with an extra problem that made a lot of the videos I had watched difficult to imitate or to draw from because all of them are driven by non-digetic narratives. 

Gay Man's health - Getting Started and style

Alright so Gay Man's Health - after abbreviated to GMH. Were looking for 7 films out lining the key messages of the company. They are as follows;

  • Feelings Down? - Don't make decisions you'll regret because you're sad, come talk to us
  • Get Tested. - If you're sexually active you should have a HIV screening every three months
  • Visit a clinic - If you think you've exposed yourself to any sexually transmitted diseases go to a clinic to get tested.
  • PEP. - if you think you've been exposed to HIV then ask your doctor for pep.
  • Drugs and alcohol - don't let these things fuel you to engage in unsafe sexual activities that you otherwise wouldn't have.
  • Anal Sex - you don't have to have it. Make sure it's what you want.
  • Use a condom - Speaks for itself really.
So I was not the only person to decide they liked this project and as a result I am working with Laura, Shannon and Molly on this one. So we began by dividing work load. Molly and I are both working on other projects and I'm not entirely sure what else Laura is doing although I'm sure she's also working on something else. But Shannon, however does not have any other projects and so it only seems fair to allow her to do three of the 7 films. Then Laura took 2 and Molly and I both chose one each. 

I chose get tested. I had no plan behind this other than I thought I could be quite creative with the motive of the character in my film.

So from here I began to accumulate information about GMH, as much of it as I could. After three years of university I think I have finally discovered the way I work best. Which has allowed me to sculpt my time far more efficiently this semester because now I know I work best when I can absorb knowledge about my subject matter like a sponge before I have can make a decent anything from anything. I mean sure it's a little irritating knowing that I can't just start something. But similarly I am aware that I have all the knowledge at my disposal once I have discovered and read through it all. It scares me at times because a lot of the time days can pass where I feel like I'm getting nothing done but that's only because I'm busy preparing my mind for my animation. It's my process and I'm not going to say I do anything differently.

So through this bizarre knowledge accumulation process I usually create an online sketchbook in which to gather up my references and ideas. From what I like the look of to things I've seen done before to things I just need to be aware have happened before. I put them all here;

This pinterest board started with me looking at ways to make this look like a slick 2D, flash pr photoshop animated piece that I could actually make the old fashioned way, under a rostrum or with physical puppets. Taking into consideration animations such as an add campaign for vodaphone's text donation service. However I very quickly moved away from that when I read more into who gay mans health were and decided that anything other than a proper 2D photoshop animation wasn't going to cut it. There's something a bit rough around the edges about stop motion sometimes and that roughness lends itself beautifully to things that want to evoke uneasy. However here I knew GMH were a humorous charity with lots of raw language as well as being blatantly straight forward in their approach. In my head that just perfectly synced up with a colourful and simple 2D photoshop animation. I then began to find that this seemed to be the standard for this type of film and while I've never been one for adhering to standards in this case I agreed with the general consensus. I know none of us fancied building a giant paper mache condom. After I decided on technique I had a look at style before I thought about story. More often than not I work fairly backwards. I feel as though my story should influence the style but for me however it is usually the style influencing the direction my story takes. I think it gets my mind going to look at the options I have stylistically and then I can begin to think about the story. I was getting ready one saturday morning with the television on. On this particular morning I was watching teen titans go! Which is a show I really love and in that moment I was struck by how much I enjoyed the instances in the show where they really play around with their styles and the animation. These short sequences were colourful stylised and memorable and I loved them. I spent the rest of the day thinking about them so I took that as a pretty good hint that I should at least use them as a starting point for my inspiration for this project.

(Teen titan's go - Cut Scene)

So from here I began to look at other colourful and 2D characters I enjoyed the look of, while still looking for something fairly un complicated to work with. Recently I have found myself drawing less and less with a black outline and increasingly more with just block colour and this semester it's something I'm keen to keep working with. I'm just really feeling it, you know? No more justification needed! So I began looking at things characters and styles from apps such as dumb ways to die and Hopscotch - both apps have simple styles however dumb ways to die is far simpler than hopscotch. I knew from looking at them I wanted my characters to come somewhere between the two. Hopscotch was a little too complicated for this film as a lot of the characters there where animals that needed snouts and talks and fur and things to make them resemble the things they were meant to. I needed none of that. Yet dumb ways to die literally just has jellybeans in it. I'm almost 100% certain they are based on jelly beans. So I needed my characters to at least look human. Looking at the silhouette above I wanted something a bit more like that. Bright block colours with recognisable shapes. It may seem a bit odd to patronise a grown up audience with simple shapes and bright colours but part of me feels that with a subject as typically torturous as getting yourself tested for HIV it could actually be beneficial for it to remain interesting. 

(Book of life, Dumb ways to die, Hopscotch)

Monday, 23 November 2015

Externality Year

So the major projects for both half of the semester this year are external. That means that I will be working for client outside the university.  Back at the start of term I was sat in a small lecture theatre trying to decide what kind of projects I wanted to embark on this academic year. Before me I had several presentations only a few of which appealed to me. Most of them were far to commercial and business headed for my liking. I work with far more quirky often silly subject matter given half the chance and the thought of spending 3 months animating the mechanics of a hospital bed, meets stretcher bored made me want to cry. There's no other way to put it I was simply bored and uninterested to the point of physical tears by the majority of projects laid out to me.

In addition to the seriously un appealing stretcher-bed, dubbed by myself as I forgot the intended name of the product, were several labour intensive and confusing options such as a daunting project set by a company who create monster noises using a software known as dehuminiser. An interesting product with a great clientele and while it seemed initially appealing to be offered a chance to be a part of that world, it didn't take me long to figure out that the cons outweighed the pros with this project. On top of an already strenuous workload in terms of modelling and rigging a character before the animation could even begin, there was not even a fully designed character on which to begin modelling. If we ass in the fact that what they were asking for was very mundane and uncreative it made for one seriously off-putting proposed animation in this animators eyes.

As for the rest of the projects, now that I am a few weeks into my chosen options the only remaining one that I can even remember was a project set by the Scottish Office on policy visualisation. It was memorable because it offered money to its participants. An enticing offer indeed. However I am currently not strapped for cash and that meant for me I could entirely focus on the proposed project and whether it was something I wanted to be a part of or not. The project was about policy visualisation and on the whole was a pretty swaying project. I could see myself engaging with it so I made a mental note at the time to consider it as an option.

Yet when it came down to picking the things I wanted to be involved in I was pulled in by a playful and quirky gay man and a charity that wanted to make a video for children. I was hoping and praying for some quirky playful alternatives to the options already provided to me and when Alistair from gay man's health took to the podium to pitch for GMH I knew that I knew I was listening to the pitch for me. They were looking for something silly and fun, quirky and a bit out there. No dancing around sensitive subjects for these guys. They're more of a roll your sleeves up and get stuck right in kind of charity. Which I like. Stop faffing and tell me about my sexual well-being! I hear gay mean everywhere shout. Well fear no more here comes GMH and several short animations to explain things to you. Erm Ok sorry. That was a bit weird. But in short I like these guys. They are my kind of company and thus an instant choice for me.

So what about the other one I have chosen? I also chose to work with a second charity called PBC foundation. Which coincidentally is about supporting people with, and the families of people, with PBC. I can't entirely remember what drew me in about this company any longer but I do know it was something to do with the message they wanted to send and the fact that this animation was aimed at children. Thus again letting me do something quirky. Which is very much a me thing.

So those are the projects I'm currently working on and I'll fill you in next on what all my thoughts on it to date are in my next post!