The Story | Patrick O’Mahony on his first term at the RCA

It’s time for Part Two from guest writer Patrick O’Mahony on his time at the RCA. If you haven’t seen the first instalment then do have a butchers here. Patrick is taking a closer look at the projects he’s been working on over his first semester and it clearly shows how diverse his course is. I’m quite jealous. Anyway, over to Patrick. I hope you appreciate his work as much as I do!

I’m nearly at the end of my first term, and with the modules all slowly coming to an end, it’s strange to look back over the past few weeks and realise how much I’ve achieved. Our chosen elective, ‘Friction’, has given us a great insight into how to create a film narrative; from the beginning stages of constructing a story, to finalising the storyboards and animatics. Throughout these weeks key experts in the animation industry were brought in as guest lecturers, all presenting their unique insight and advice on their methods and how to make it out in the “real world”.

The first of these classes saw famed animator Jonathan Hodgson teach a creative writing workshop on the ways of crafting the beginnings of a story. We were asked to write, without stopping, for 5 minutes, thinking about a type of journey we have been on. If we couldn’t think of something to write we had to write “I can’t think of anything” over and over till something popped into our heads.

I couldn’t help but think about commuting to work and uni and more specifically my journey to and from college for three years when I lived in Ireland. The train went from a tiny town to a city and on this journey we travelled through a zoo. At first, seeing a flamingo every morning was quite amazing but it soon grew tiresome and I slowly started forming my story from this. I also ended up with this drawing which I think sums it all up quite well. Over the classes I built on this story and have began to develop it as a short film!

Another different experience saw us recording a short story in the sound studio – but only sound effects with no speech. I had to act out throwing up after a horrible meal, pretend to be a cat having a party, and cough to the point where I could barely talk. We then needed to turn these short stories into animatics, changing them to make the sounds reflect something different then what we originally planned the story to convey. Some people completely readapted the sounds while others created more abstract videos. I think if there’s anything I learned, its how surprising it is that so many different objects can be portrayed by a single piece of plastic and a comb.

Alongside this, Our ‘Embodying Voice’ workshop covered the basic principles of animation whilst also getting us to focus on the performance of the characters we animate. A good crash course and refresher in all things animated, these classes were led by animator and ex-RCA student Matt Abbiss, who also happens to be my personal tutor for the year. The outcome of this was to produce a short lip-sync film where we were able to select a pre-recorded conversation from a short list and create and animate a character in whatever medium we chose to speak along with the recording.

One of my favourite projects during my time at the University Of East London was doing this exact same project so I took it upon myself to try and make a more advanced one, featuring two characters and replacement mouth pieces for the puppets instead of digitally creating them. This meant each character had to have around 5 mouths made for them that could be taken off the face and switched out to create the illusion of speaking. Watch my video below!

With our lecturer classes coming to an end in a few weeks it’s now getting to the stage where we’re beginning to think about our first year films which begin after Christmas – a short 1 to 4 minute film. It’s quite clear now that the “easy” part is now over as from here on out I’m going to be making two films as well as writing my dissertation, which leaves all progress from now up to me. My own deadlines. My own schedule. My one shot at getting a masters!

Stay tuned for even more from Patrick on the RCA and follow him on twitter for regular updates: @RickpatArtpick

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