I am co-editing Vocal Projections with Maria Pramaggiore (Maynooth University, Ireland) and The Animation Studies Handbook with Nichola Dobson (Edinburgh College of Art), Caroline Ruddell (Brunel) and Amy Ratelle (University of Toronto)
At Surrey I have taught and convened the following modules:
Animation and the Virtual World
Blurred Boundaries: Fact and Fiction in Film
Director Study (Michael Winterbottom)
Documentary History and Concepts
The Film Industry
Introduction to Film Studies
I am Programme Director for Film Studies. Prior to this, I was Senior Tutor for the Professional Training Year (PTY) programme in Film Studies and played an integral role in establishing PTY for Film at Surrey
Find me on campus Room: 25 AC 05
Fridays 11:00-13:00, or by appointment
Gwen Haworth’s 2007 documentary about her male-to-female gender transition is an autobiographical documentary that comprises mostly interviews with family members and close friends, interspersed with home video and observational material. The film also includes some less conventional documentary material in the form of a few short animated segments. About thirty minutes into the documentary an interview with Gwen’s mother is interrupted by an animated sequence that playfully establishes the issues she has with Gwen’s take on being female. Captions are added to retro magazine images of women and domestic scenes, such as ‘family events are not optional’ and ‘grow your hair long.’ Haworth (2008) has commented that she included the animation to lighten the mood and to add humour to a film that would otherwise become too intense and serious. However, this segment is more than a comic interlude. We might think of the use of animation in She’s a Boy I Knew as an interjection. In spoken language, an interjection is a word such as ‘wow’ or ‘aha’ that one utters to create emphasis, draw attention to what has just been, or is about to be, said and to express emotion and attitude. Grammatically, an interjection is not related to the other part of a sentence, yet it only really gains meaning, or significance, when heard in conjunction with that sentence. If a speaker says ‘wow!’ and nothing else, the listener will most likely wonder ‘what?’ If the same speaker says ‘wow! That’s the best documentary I’ve ever seen!’ then the listener will better understand why they said ‘wow’ and the value judgement being made regarding the documentary in question will gain greater emphasis. So, while the ‘How to be a girl’ section in She’s a Boy I Knew can be viewed independently of the documentary in which it appears and as such could stand as an exclamatory statement on its own, it only fully resonates as an articulation of the film’s themes about the societal expectations around gender when viewed within the film as a whole.
Animated documentaries have been written about in a mostly positive way that explores the way the form enhances and expands the documentary agenda. This is true of scholarly and academic writing as well as that in the popular press and film reviews. However, some authors have taken issue with the ascription of the term ‘documentary’ to animated documentaries. In addition, there are potential issues regarding audience response to animated documentaries and the technical proficiency of the films themselves as they become more ubiquitous. This chapter explores the existing, and potential objections to and criticisms of animated documentary and suggests that a more ‘360-degree’ discussion of the form will enrich the scholarly discourse on animated documentary.
This article considers the several animated interviews made by Bob Sabiston between 1997 and 2007, and the implications of considering these films as documentaries. The author argues that the films are liminal, discursive texts that negotiate tensions between reality and make-believe, observation and interpretation, and presence and absence. Textual analysis of the short films in question demonstrates an aesthetic presentation that confirms their documentary status at the same time as exploiting the expressionistic potential of Rotoshop. The nature of Rotoshop also emphasizes the absence of the physical body of the interviewee, replacing it with an excessively present style of animation. Other conventional markers of documentary authenticity and evidence, such as the visual index, are also absent in these films. These absences, coupled with the presence of an aesthetically liminal style of animation infer a pleasurably complex and challenging epistemological and phenomenological viewing experience.
This article gives an overview of the history of animated documentary, both in regard to the form itself and how it has been studied. It then goes on to present a new way of thinking about animated documentary, in terms of the way the animation functions in the texts by asking what the animation does that the live-action alternative could not. Three functions are suggested: mimetic substitution, non-mimetic substitution and evocation. The author suggests that, by thinking about animated documentary in this way, we can see how animation has broadened and deepened documentary’s epistemological project by opening it up to subject matters that previously eluded live-action film.
This chapter analyses the 2013 film adaptation of Graham Chapman’s autobiography and questions its surface interpretation as an unreliable biopic that undermines the conventional goals of the genre. At first glance, the film’s freewheeling narrative and fragmented visual style that uses fourteen different styles of animation could be argued as representing the unknowability of its subject. However, this chapter argues that through rejecting the typical aims and approaches of the biopic, this film in fact works to reveal much about Chapman’s personal life and his creative work with Monty Python.
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