It gives me great pleasure to open the door to Red’s Kingdom and invite another artist to take up a short residency here. Last week, Japan-based filmmaker and cg artist, Tom Beg, offered up a sneak peak at his new project-in-the-offing. This week, it’s the turn of Graeme Daly, fresh out of university (he only graduated in June 2019), who is balancing his day job as a runner at The Mill with the creative challenge of booting-up a new short animated film.
With the current lock-down giving many of us more time and attention to give to our own personal projects, I thought it high-time Graeme and I caught up…
Phil: All right, Graeme! Welcome to Red’s Kingdom. Make yourself comfy. Now I know you because I used to teach you and we’re mates, but let’s imagine I know nothing about you. What are the five top facts a person needs to know about Graeme Daly?
I might look scary and resemble Hagrid’s long lost cousin, but I’m actually a big gay loveable giant.
My graduate film, Lost Boy won the best film award at Farnham Film Festival and has been accepted into more film festivals.
I’m double jointed in my elbows… It grosses people out.
I have a titanium plate and six screws in my left ankle (I was pissed as a fart and fell off a slide).
I am told I give really, really good hugs.
Phil: What is it about animation that excites you?
Graeme: I love animation and it will always be my medium of choice, as you are truly only limited by your imagination. I love those wild animation talks with other creators when you’re trying to get a project off the ground; if you want a character’s head to pop off and turn into rocket, animation can do that. If you want a character to be encapsulated by a fizzing nervous ball of energy, animation can do that, or how about chased by a massive ball of tobacco? Animation opens up the possibility of achieving anything where something similar with live shoots would be near impossible and really expensive.
The stylistic capabilities of animation are endless. There is obviously 2D and 3D, but what about making 3D look 2D? You can choose inspiration from any other type of art and implement it, then kitbash and warp it to your heart’s content. There is so much wiggle room for experimentation with animation, which is one of the many reasons why it excites me so much.
Phil: Who or what are your creative inspirations?
Graeme: Inspiration can literally come from anywhere. I have Tesco’s finest luxury brand toilet paper in my bathroom and it has this lovely pointillism-type tree pattern on the paper I’m going to incorporate into some tree designs for this new film I am working on. So, inspiration can even come from something you wipe your arse with!
I love artists that work with line and texture, so Basquiat is up there, and I love the concept art of Michel Breton who did the gorgeous concept art and background designs for Les Triplettes de Belleville, directed by Sylvain Chomet. I really love his line work. It somehow looks delicate as a whisper but is still so impactful. I also love the art from The Illusionist, also by Chomet. Sergio Pablos inspires me. Pablos made the film, Klaus, which was all 2D, but 3D trickery was used for the lighting. It’s absolutely stunning and inspires me to mash different mediums together.
Phil: Your graduate film is Lost Boy. What was your experience of making it? I’m talking about the highs and the lows and all the in-betweens…
Graeme: Ah Lost Boy… well it took a year and a half to finish which is a long time for a 4 minute film! I was happy to have completed it in the end, and I’ve made my peace with all the things I know I could have done better – but it’s always a learning curve and I learned so much from Lost Boy.
I absolutely loved working alongside our year group – to work in such a collaborative studio environment with other creatives working their arses off and helping each other was the best feeling. To see all our films flourish before our eyes, to see the many fuck ups, but then getting our films done anyway – that meant everything to me. I love that bunch of people with all my heart.
Starting Lost Boy was a real struggle because it was so personal, but ultimately it was the most cathartic experience to get this film out of me. When I attended Farnham Film Festival people came up to me after the awards saying they related to it so much or they felt like they knew me and my personality… it made me well up and warmed my heart. That people related to Lost Boy means the world to me.
I think that’s what it means to be an artist, to put your heart on your sleeve as anxiety provoking, embarrassing, weird or personal as that is. I think a good artist will always inject themselves into their work either between the lines or quite literally, which was the case with Lost Boy – having a 3D immortalised version of myself with the same beard and cigarette in his gob every shot! I think that’s the massive thing I learned from making Lost Boy. It was the most transformative year and a half of my life thus far.
Phil: What have you been up to since you graduated?
Graeme: I got a job as a runner at the Mill in soho in London and moved in with a couple of friends from Uni and Luna the cat. I enjoy having chats with the other artists and creatives at the Mill, but I really love being at The Mill because of the other runners, as they crack me up constantly and they are always up for getting a bit sloshed after work on a Friday. They really are a talented bunch of people who I know will go on to do great things. I can’t wait to hug the shit out of them when I am back to work! Outside of The Mill I’m working on a new animated short I’m really excited about…
Phil: what can you tell us about it?
Graeme: What I can tell you is how the idea came about. I was in school when I was 15, a chubby-faced, closeted gay guy with shitty highlights, hating everyone and everything. In school, art and creative writing were the only subjects I gave a shit about. In English class we were given a creative writing brief to write something with the heading – “My Pessimistic view on life” or maybe my memory just made that up – but that’s how I remember it. I thought, perfect! I can get out some teenage angst through this essay.
But it didn’t end up like that. The essay took a life of its own. I remember writing it really quickly. It just sort of flowed out of me. It was like therapy. I think there is a lot of subliminal messages in that essay, how it reflected me in that moment. I was just too naive to know I was putting myself in the character’s shoes, that I was the one who felt trapped and smothered. School was really hard sometimes and that essay was definitely a form of escapism. I loved writing it. I could see it all so vividly in my head. It felt more like a painting. I still have the original written essay. It’s gone through multiple house moves, still has the original tea stains on the paper, and smells like an old book. I saved it because I always knew I was going to make something out of it one day, so it’s crazy for it to be happening now.
I can tell you in a nutshell what the new film is about. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but it revolves around a person who feels trapped in his everyday life, who eventually finds a hidden gem of an oasis where he finds some peace. It really has a lot to say about the current crisis of pollution, rising water levels and so on, and how we basically have a choke hold on this planet, but how one person can be the change we need. It is told in a whimsical manner, which I think we all need a bit more of right now.
Phil: What’s your grand plan, Graeme?
Graeme: Besides living with my husband, Henry Cavill, on a secluded island with a tree house where we live happily ever after?
The grand plan is to be working on arty stuff and make films – shorts and feature length, independent and collaborative – until I’m old and grey with a Dumbledore-style beard. I will always continue to tell stories and create worlds. I’m in this for the long haul now and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I will continue to collaborate, absorb and grow my craft as much as possible by soaking up inspiration from people who are smarter than me and culture around the world that I haven’t a clue about. It’s crazy when you talk to someone more intelligent than you how much you realise you don’t know shit! I’ve been told I’m like an information sponge and that trait will persist forever!
Phil: Any top-tips, practical advice or wise words for other creatives/freelancers/filmmakers who might be reading this and experiencing the lock-down doldrums?
Graeme: I would say just be kind to yourself. I think people are starting to feel shit about themselves because they aren’t motivated or aren’t coming out of this pandemic with a new skill, or haven’t worked their arse off on something, Just know it’s okay to relax and it’s okay to feel like shit too. Try to de-shackle yourself from your negative thoughts and really listen to what you and your body needs – sometimes chilling and taking a breather can do wonders. I like a kind of a ‘proactive’ chill session like maybe watching a film from a director that you really like or reading a book from a writer you love.
I find I get an idea for something when my mind isn’t occupied by stressing about what I have to do or what I haven’t done. If your an arty creative type, try creating something just for the sake of it with no end goal and nothing to stress over. What happens when you do that and enjoy the process is your mind relaxes and you start to ask questions. It’s hard to describe but if you let your mind wander a bit but keep it within the boundaries of a small piece of work , it can start to problem solve without really having to think too much into it. It’s when you stop overthinking that the magic happens.
One of the hardest things for shiny new graduates is the inevitable bump back to earth that happens after all that collaborative buzz and focused attention of the final year fizzles out, often to be replaced by much more humdrum daily activities and the indifference of very busy people. Hard too is revving up to start a bold new project when there is no deadline or wagging finger or obvious demand for ‘another new thing’. I think Graeme’s got it pretty much right (I think he’s also got it right about living with Henry Cavill in a tree). You’ve got to keep finding the pleasure and the escapism in your own creative activity and trust in your own process to solve problems and surmount obstacles. You’ve also got to keep sitting down to do it.
Red’s Kingdom will be following the development of Graeme’s new film on an as-and-when basis, so we’ll be welcoming him back soon no doubt for more news and, post-lockdown, maybe a few of his celebrated hugs.
In the meantime, you’ll find Graeme in all of these places: