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Professional Experience 2016-2017

The last ten months have been a real game changer for me. The hardest lessons I have learned have been you cannot control everything and how to manage my time. You could even argue I am still learning these two. To elaborate this further, I can say I have  learned to delegate tasks and trust my colleagues more. I tend to give myself too many jobs and as a result I get overworked and run out of valuable time. For one of these projects, I ended up writing, producing, directing, editing, and sound mixing. That was simply an unnecessary work load. It was a waste of energy and the project suffered as it didn’t end up being as polished as I originally envisioned. It is also clear to me that I need to keep my ideas contained and in focus. I tend to try to do too much and involve too many different concepts, which leads to confusion and lack of cohesion. Keeping the film themes clear and simple will allow me to develop these further and the complexity and depth comes more organically.
I was also able to speak to industry professionals at different instances at events organised by the Manchester School of Art. They were a fountain of knowledge and I was able to understand what were some of the things I could be doing to make myself more employable as a creative. I was also reassured that being a mature student is a a great advantage rather than a disadvantage. I worried that I was not going to be as appealing as somebody with the same experience, eight years younger than me. Thankfully, the only thing employers care about is character, creativity and professionalism. This has motivated me to focus in excelling in my practice even more. These events also informed me about other things I could do with my skills in the creative world, outside of the obvious options like film and television, and to really feel the importance of networking and collaborating with people from other practices. I had a bit of experience with this whilst doing Unit X on my first year, so it was nice to find out the same rules apply in the real world.

I have also taken a few steps further to make myself more marketeable and decided to set up a website. I used a free engine that was included in my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. In addition to this, I bought a domain with my name for the site I built and a contact email that looks very professional (contact@leoastudillo.com). I am currently in the process of creative some business cards and creating a better looking website. I am certain that this will improve my odds at being employed.

Cinespace 2016 Submission: Starry Skies

This is actually something I was not aware of. Matthew Towers, a colleague from the Manchester School of Art told me all about it last summer and we decided to produce a short film and submit it. The brief was fairly simple, produce a work that captures the spirit of NASA and human exploration of space, whilst making use of footage from NASA’s video archive. We decided to make a personal film about a layman’s connection to the stars. The project was a lot of fun to develop and there were several challenges we had to overcome. It was the first time I was writing, directing, producing and editing a starry storyboardshort film. It was also the first time I worked with a child actor, and the first time I tried to mix elements from narrative, experimental and documentary styles. I did a fair amount of research on how to work with children, as I knew it would be challenging. We found our actor through StarNow and him and his mother were an absolute pleasure to work with. They had an incredibly professional attitude, which helped us a lot.
We also worked with a Chilean friend of mine who does VFX for a living. His work was absolutely indispensable, as these beautiful visual effects really held the film together. We also had another colleague from the Manchester School of Art, Callum Kilgarriff, compose the soundtrack.

Music Videos: Kidsmoke’s See The World & Seeing Hands’ It’s True

I had already done some work for Kidsmoke, a band I met at a gig. They were very happy with what we did on their previous video and they wanted me to do their next one. This time, they had recorded a lot of footage of their gigs, driving around and an acoustic session of the song, so it was up to me to edit it and make it look like a music video. This was super challenging as I had to go through a lot of footage and select the best bits for the video. I cut it with the acoustic session they had done of the song and recordings they had from some live performances. After that, I did some colour grading to improve the GoPro/iPhone footage they had and added some filters.

I contacted the guys from Seeing Hands via email, linking my website and previous work. I try to work with bands I really like, as I feel I have to like their music first. They were happy for me to do a video for their single and they wanted me to use archive footage from a particular video on Archive.org. Once I had looked at the video and listened to the song on repeat, I attempted to create a narrative between two plane pilots, flying from opposite sides of the world to meet in the air. I also added vignetting, a projector flicker effect, and film burn to age it up a bit more. I also created some title cards on Photoshop to use at the beginning and end of the video. This brought the whole idea together. They loved the project and I am proud to say the video has nearly 29,000 views on YouTube.

Applying to film festivals

Besides submitting ‘Starry Skies’ to the Cinespace16 film festival, I have also submitted ‘Only When I Miss You’ to several film festivals all over the world. The hardest part was getting the confidence to make the first move and just apply. This project was developed for the Exploration unit at Manchester School of Art and after receiving some feedback I decided to re-cut it and get it out there. So far, the film has been selected to play at the Roma Cinema DOC Festival in Italy, in the Experimental category.

Applying to the Student Filmmaker Award 2017

I saw a flyer for this year’s Student Filmmaker Award/Insight Film Festival: A Newer Hope at the School of Art and decided to do further research. The brief was asking for a treatment and script for a short film regarding our personal interpretation of the sentence “a newer hope”. I had a first draft of a script regarding gender roles in children and decided to do some more work on it and write a treatment to submit it. I am looking forward to hearing their feedback.

 

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I made a t-shirt design

I loved that Muppets film with Ricky Gervais. It was silly, funny and very quotable. I loved it so much I really wanted to buy a t-shirt with a quote from one of the characters from the film. I searched and searched, but I couldn’t find it. The sad reality was that the t-shirt simply did not exist.

So I made one.

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I used Adobe Illustrator and it was simple to do. The hardest probably was coming up with a background colour that looked good against the all green.

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Here’s a preview of the site I used (Redbubble). Click here to go there, you can even buy a mug or an iPhone cover!

 

 

 

 

Unit X – Reflection

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London Scottish House, by Tom Warburton

Unit X is finally over and the exhibition was a success. It all happened here, at London Scottish House, a now empty office space. The exhibition spanned four floors showcasing work from all disciplines from the Manchester School of Art. The opening on Friday was nice to see, as many people came and spent time looking at the artwork. Even the Hairy Bikers showed up (credit to Clare Campion). You can read an article about it here (Manchester Evening News) or keep an eye out for a full review here (Project Unit X).

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As a group we were incredibly happy with our work. Seeing it finally showcased was rewarding and a new step for me, as I had never shown any of my work in the context of an art gallery or exhibition. I received invaluable feedback from tutors, as well as peers and attendants, which highlights the importance of the artist/viewer mechanic. I am a huge believer that the audience interpretation is more important than the artist’s intention. We were also visited by the English National Ballet, as we chose to work on their brief for Akram Khan’s Giselle. They genuinely seemed to enjoy it and were able to understand our intention easily. It was reassuring to know that our concepts and ideas were clear enough to be decoded properly. They also commended the piece as it encompassed the spirit of collaboration whilst using different mediums and styles of practices.

It is very interesting to look back to the very beginning. The inception stages of our work. We had ambitious yet vague ideas that we managed to polish and simplify without compromising the core message. We ran into technical obstacles that we were able to resolve as a group. There were brief moments of panic, but we helped each other remain calm and focus at the tasks at hand. As individual artists with individual voices we were still able to find common ground and come together in harmony as opposed as just mashing random ideas together. Our core ideas and the purpose of the work gre stronger and stronger the longer we went on to develop it. Not only were we able to deliver a product meeting a deadline, but we were able to work together to create something we are very proud of. This is very significant from a personal point of view, because the rest of the team were people I had never met before. It was a group that was randomly generated, so we could not choose our usual work partners. We were forced outside of our comfort zone into the unknown. We did not know what to expect and it was up to us to figure it out.  It was a long process that required a lot of hard work, but the end result is a testament to the power of creativity and collaboration.

Unit X – Lines of enquiry

This is a follow-up post to a previous entry on Unit X. Click here to read the first entry!

After coming up with a concept for our Unit X project we started planning the execution. This is where we ran into potential problems, mostly to do with time. We wanted to animate a character that would cross over two different backgrounds, that would walk into the frame, dying and then doing a bit of graceful dancing. Turns out we had thoroughly overlooked the amount of time this would have taken to animate. Even if we rotoscoped a dancer’s original performance. We only have two animators in our team and regardless of how much the rest of us could help it would have been impossible to complete realistically. After meeting with our tutor for a tutorial we had to face the cruel reality: it was back to the drawing board. It was discouraging for me as these news came in the form of a sudden realisation, and I had been feeling pretty confident about the project all the way until then. But we pushed on.

New concept - Drafted by Anita Kwiecien
New concept – Drafted by Anita Kwiecien

We liked the idea of an unconventional presentation for our exhibition, so we kept the vertical aspect in mind when re-thinking our approach. We also decided to incorporate each individual practice into the piece, which in turn helped distribute the workload efficiently.
The idea became simpler in execution, but bigger in concept. One art piece composed by three standalone works. One with real footage (filmmaking), one with animation (self explanatory) and one with stop-motion animation (photography).
The concept remained the same. Giselle’s transition into the underworld. Leaving one frame to enter another in a quite literal sense.

 

From top to bottom, we would approach the different stages of Giselle’s journey into the underworld. Dying from heartbreak, falling into the underworld and finally her sorrow and despair at the realisation that she would be stuck there forever. Laying these down vertically would also create an obvious sense of geography as well as a literal downfall.

After establishing this as a plan, we started working. A group were to work on the middle

Clay models tray
Clay models tray

panel. They were to animate our character falling and create a layered background with parallax effect. Another group was to create the stop motion animation, which was accomplished at the Animation Suite. The models were all created by us, using modelling clay and watercolour paint. The picture featured to the right displays a few mushrooms, rocks, stalactites, tree roots and a tree. A puppet was also made using clay on a wireframe skeleton and cloth. The group also fabricated a dark environment inside a box where these models were arranged.

Another task was to film a shoot a dancer’s performance. We wanted something short to kick the piece off. We printed a flyer and distributed in the Benzie Building and at the 70 Oxford Street building.
An architecture student helped us achieve this rather smoothly. It took us about 40 minutes to set up a scene we were happy with. We were very impressed with Winnie, our dancer, and her professional performance. We had briefed her on what we wanted and she was very well prepared. It only took a few minutes for her to perfect the timing/performance.

Overall, we are very happy how things have gone considering the obstacles we ran into. We came up with a strong concept and unique execution. You can see a sample of how our piece is supposed to be experienced below. Watch in full screen:

 

 

Unit x – Research

Research is hard. Especially hard when your goal is not clearly established. This was the biggest problem I ran into when trying to get inspired for this particular task. We are to make a piece of work for Akram Khan’s Giselle (English National Ballet), as part of Unit X for the Manchester School of Art. The team I’m working on consists of students from filmmaking, photography and animation, so finding a way to balance all practices without making the final work feel cluttered was one of our main concerns. Too many cooks can indeed spoil the broth!

For this assignment, we will be focusing on the theme of the underworld, and more importantly, Giselle’s transition into the underworld. The underworld is a concept that has been explored in an infinite amount of media, so we took inspiration from a particular aesthetic, such as a blue/purple and washed-out colour palette and the idea of inversion. We wanted to mirror the real world in this underworld.

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First Draft for Unit X. Drawn by Anita Kwiecien.

So this is our first draft. We decided that we wanted to turn this piece vertically, as it conveys the idea of worlds divided, coexisting with eachother, and also allows for an interesting and less common presentation. The underworld would be a mirroring of the real world, using a different colour palette and alternative representation of elements. In terms of narrative, our character would die at the top half and transition into the underworld by literally crossing the division line.
Our approach for this, in terms of practice, will be to use photography to create the backgrounds, animation to showcase the character and  sound design to create an atmospheric soundscape.

See a concept image created by Lucy Adam below:

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Background Concept – Lucy Adam

For the approach of animating the character, we will be using Ryan Woodward’s Thought of You short film.

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Ryan Woodward’s sketches

 

This way we can get a result that is beautiful, simplistic and fluid. I will help the animation specialists in our team in anything I can, as I have experience with frame-by-frame animation, and it will be perhaps the more taxing process of all.
I will particularly be in charge of creating the soundscape, which will be influenced by bleak and droning sounds as well as broken music boxes. The combination of those two puts me in the right frame of mind for this story of love, betrayal, revenge and absolution.

We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do from the very first meeting we had as a team, but these concepts did not materialise until we decided the format. The idea of it being presented in a vertical fashion instead of horizontal was crucial here, not only did it lead to making the work split-screen, but also it aids us to circumvent potential technical limitations. This way we can showcase the work through a projector, a single monitor or two monitors.

Personally, I am very happy I took a Experimental Portraiture workshop at the Manchester School of Art, as it taught me to think how to convey several complex ideas into one image. Without this workshop I would not have realised it was possible to construct tand balance a piece with all the ideas we had, nor have the confidence to know that we could execute it in the way that we have planned.

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Experimental portraiture workshop – Tom Warburton, Sarah Palmer & Leo Astudillo