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Interview With The Grave of Saint Oran Director Jim Batt

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Hello?

Hi this is Jim Batt here.

Oh wow I love your accent, that’s awesome.

It comes natural.

That’s awesome.

Im duly supposed to inform you that this call is being recorded simply for my note-taking purposes.

Noworries, sorry I was a bit late calling.

Its all good you’re obviously very busy.

Yeah the last interview went a bit into technical stats so we ran a bit overtime
That’s totally fine. So we’re here talking with jim batt, about his creative collaboration for Neil Gaiman’s The Isle of St. Oran. So let me ask you, what made you as a director decide to take on this particular project?

We first heard the poem when Neil Gaiman was giving a reading of it at one of his events, I think even before it was published. He had given a reading of it and at the time I was looking for a new project, I had just finished a few other animated shorts, and so I got the poem stuck in my head, the strange imagery of it and the melancholy atmosphere. And when I was looking for a new project, I had some friends in common with Neil which was convenient, so I emailed him and was like hey, how would you feel about me adapting this poem. And he (Neil) is very generous with his creations, I think he’s more interested to see the versions other people will make of his stories. So he was onboard, he’d seen some of my previous work which I think really helped, so he could get a kind of sense of the skills I’d bring to it, and so yeah, that started the project. It was quite a few years ago now, and then off the back of that we planned to raise the funds for the project off a kickstarter, so we did that, and because Neil has such a supportive community, we were able to get together the funds to hire a small team, and that was that!

Was it you who made the decision to do the paper cutouts meticulously hand animated frame by frame?

(laughs) Yes it was. The project I had just finished at the time had been paper cutouts as well, so I had been exploring that kind of format before, and was interested in taking those techniques I had learned from making the previous film and developing them a bit further. One of the things I really like about it is its an opportunity to collaborate with other illustrators, so you can work with other people who aren’t necessarily familiar with animation, so one of the first people I brought onto the team was Ellen Barkin, she’s a Swedish artist who did all the watercolor drawings for the film, and because we do paper cutouts what it means is that she could look at our storyboard, draw and paint the scene, and then we would take it and break it all down into layers in photoshop, build the puppets from that, and then print it all out and hand-cut it all out with scalpel blades and then we actually animate on layers of glass, we use a fairly old-school technique called multi-plane animation, which is basically we’ve got a giant 9ft high by like 5ft wide rig that’s got like 5 or 6 layers of glass on it and we put all of the paper on it, we rebuild the scene with layers and the cameras overhead so from the cameras point of view, it looks like a seamless 3D landscape. But it means you can get in there and light each layer separately. Josh Mahan who’s the lead animator, could then get in there and animate the characters separate from the background and things like that.

That’s super cool. It reminds me a little bit of the ancient Chinese art of shadow storytelling, or shadow puppetry, if you know what I mean.

Yeah! For sure.

Was it you who made the decision to make it into a cartoon? Why not a Claymation or even a live-action?

Yeah! I mean, I direct live-action as well, so it was a very conscious choice to go with animation on this. I think, I find Claymation is harder to capture some of these more somber moments and I think that we knew that this story would have a lot of stillness and a lot of atmosphere, so it kind of made sense to go with something that has like the gentleness of watercolor and kind of ephemeral feelings with that, it definitely felt like the right approach, whereas Claymation is much more tactile and kind of more immediate. I think the other things that’s real important to me in terms of choosing stop-motion over Claymation is, is that it has this very real feel to it, you can see the way the light bounces around, its not like manufactured, all of it is grit and texture, from a digital composite or something. So that for me was a good way to bring that kind of feeling to the film. And live-action would be interesting, but I think it would be a challenge to capture a lot of this atmosphere, especially because of the way the story is told, like the landscape and the atmosphere and that sort of thing kind of change a lot throughout the course of the story, the scope would’ve been a lot harder, I think we have a lot of fantastical sequences in there that were challenging to do on a small budget, much less live action.

And will you be showing the film in various places, such as film festivals? How are we the common public gonna be able to see it?

Yeah, for sure! We’re actually at the tail end of our festival run at the moment. We got a little interrupted by the pandemic, unfortunately. But we’ve been screening here and there, had some really good screenings, it’s been awhile since we’ve had any in-person ones so I’m looking forward to actually being able to watch it with an audience again, like at Comic-con.
And that actually leads into my next question – it says that it’s your first Comic-con ever, please – elaborate!

So I haven’t been to Comic-con before! I’ve heard a lot about it, obviously.

I find that hard to believe, it seems like you’d be right up Comic-con’s alley!

Well, I look forward to checking it out this time! I’m gonna ease into it a little bit, I’m only going for the Saturday and the Sunday. And I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about!

Your Twitter handle happens to be “Battsignal”, are you into Batman?

Yes yes, when I was a kid I think Batman was my favorite comic book. So that was an easy Twitter handle to come up with.

That’s super cool. Do you have a preference as far as comics go? The standard DC vs. Marvel is a bit overdone at this point, and though of course for this there’s a bit of preference because DC Vertigo is Neil Gaiman’s thing, it’s where Sandman happens to live, but other comic book companies, and even graphic novels like Umbrella Academy and such, have gotten very popular in recent times, people are getting more into alternatives, what have you got?

Yeah, I think like you said the DC vs. Marvel thing is much less an issue these days, people can take what they want from each thing. When I was a kid I used to like DC comics a lot more, I wasn’t really into Marvel comics when I was younger, but then I kinda got back into comics when I was at University, all the DC Vertigo stuff, I read a lot of Vertigo comics at that point. I would say what’s interesting now is that on the film front, the Marvel films are definitely the ones I find more interesting, the DC films don’t feel quite like they’re nailing it as well. But I would say now I read a lot of independent stuff, so I would say probably Image is actually where, if you look at my collection of comics on the shelf, a lot of it is gonna be Image stuff.

Did you see the, I believe it was an Image character, the Bloodshot movie?

No, I haven’t seen that. Was it good?

I actually liked it. It wasn’t widely popularized despite starring Vin Diesel, but I thought it was good!

Okay good, I’ll have to check it out.

Have you actually been to the Isle in the story, the Isle of Iona?

No actually I haven’t, but by coincidence, my parents have. So they were like, oh we went there this one time, and I was like okay, that’s a huge coincidence. So they had some photos I could use for reference, which was good. And I got to show them the film and ask them, we got it right? So yeah that was an interesting little coincidence, but no, I haven’t but I would very much like to. When we did the Kickstarter, there were some people who reached out who were actually from Isle of Iona, saying they were very excited for us to tell the story and were looking forward to seeing it. So that was pretty special. And I would like to go there at some point, we briefly spoke with someone who was like, Oh there’s a festival and maybe we could do a screening, and I was like damn, that would be cool.

Wow, I am totally impressed. So, what are you working on next?

Covid has kind of screwed filming for awhile, so mostly focusing on scriptwriting for the moment. The next project will be longer, is the main thing. Depending on which of these gets off the ground, I’m interested in doing – stop-motion takes a long time to make anything, so I’m interested in doing something episodic there because the feasibility of doing a stop-motion film is very slim, and you need a lot of resources to not let that take up the rest of your life. But I am interested in exploring the idea of something that releases like a series of very short episodes, that like all add up to a bigger theme. That’d be an interesting format to explore so I’m working on some scripts there, and then some kind of Indy-Sci-fi feature scripts as well.

Is it possible to get a tiny tiny teaser for the sci-fi script you just mentioned?

Well it’s early days, but I can say it’s blue-collar sci-fi.

That doesn’t happen terribly often!

I wanted to do something in a kind of Cowboy Bebop vein. I think the title sequence to Cowboy Bebop is one of the most amazing pieces of animation ever done, such a good intro to like encapsulate exactly what they’re going for, and when I saw the live-action version of the intro and they just didn’t quite nail it, I was like, I think I’ll just leave this there for now.

Rather than courting potential huge disappointment, yeah. How about other anime you happen to enjoy?

I rewatched Princess Mononoke recently. It’s just like such a well-told story that is as timely as ever I think. It really captures that feeling of like, not needing all your characters to have a happy resolution at the end, some of the character arcs it leaves it pretty up in the air, like yeah this is some stuff and we’re gonna have to work it out. And I think that’s really important storytelling. You want your storytelling to be about something – it’s nice to have an element of escapism, what I like about genre in general is you’re able to inhabit other places but at the same time it doesn’t have to be an escape, it can be something that brings to mind current issues or themes, things that make you think of everyday life.

Do you watch foreign films, Korean, Japanese, that sort of thing?

Yeah, for sure. My favorite foreign thing recently has been Dark, all three seasons of Dark (on Netflix). With it’s like impeccable filmmaking, incredibly well-written scripts, I hesitate to recommend it because each season’s ending looked like it may have gone off the rails a bit, but they somehow manage to nail it, the plane lands on the runway and you’re like wow, they actually pulled it off. It somehow all clearly made sense, from step one, if you just hang in there. So it doesn’t pull a Lost, where it sort of veers off and no one knows what’s going on anymore! I was nervous in the beginning with Dark, like do they know what they’re doing, and then you get to the end and there’s things they clearly set up in episode one and you’re like, okay, this is master craftsmen at work here.

That’s fantastic and I will definitely take your recommendation. So was there a panel or anyone in particular you were looking forward to seeing at Comic-con?

I haven’t really had the chance to dig into what panels there are, I’m more just going to going and experiencing it. I think having too much of a plan sounds like not the best way to do that, so I’m just gonna catch up with some friends and then follow my nose and see where it takes me!

Sounds great! Well that’s the full slate of questions I had, thanks so much for taking time to do an interview with me, I hope your panel at Comic-con goes over very well and you have a grand time at the Con itself!

Cheers!

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The HISTORY Channel’s “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” To Make Panel Debut at San Diego Comic-Con

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“The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch,” a hit nonfiction series on the HISTORY Channel, is making its debut at San Diego Comic-Con with an exclusive panel. The panel will feature aerospace engineer, astrophysicist, and lead scientist Dr. Travis Taylor; Defense Intelligence Senior Executive (Retired) Jay Stratton; and others. The series follows current ranch owner Brandon Fugal and an accredited team of scientists, researchers, and experts as they conduct carefully curated scientific experiments, daring drilling and drone exercises, and more to uncover what’s taking place on the anomalous 512-acre hotspot of high strangeness and UAP-related activity. New episodes currently air on Tuesdays at 9/8c, with the two-hour season five finale airing on Tuesday, July 23 at 9/8c.

HISTORY’s “THE SECRET OF SKINWALKER RANCH” PANEL – Thursday, July 25 from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Hilton San Diego Bayfront (Indigo Ballroom)

Can You Keep A Secret? Unveiling the Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch – Ever seen a UAP? Or witnessed something strange and unusual that you couldn’t explain? Join the experts from The HISTORY® Channel’s hit series The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch, including astrophysicist and lead scientist Dr. Travis Taylor and others, for a dynamic panel discussing the motivations, inclinations and secret findings currently taking place at one of the most infamous UAP and paranormal hotspots to ever exist. The moderator will be Matt Zoller Seitz (New York Magazine/Vulture). Cast subject to change.

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ADULT SWIM TO HOST FOUR-DAY “PIRATE PARRRTY” AT SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2024 ALONGSIDE EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEKS, SERIES PANELS AND LAUNCH OF THE “RICK AND MORTY: THE ANIME” ANIME-RICAN TOUR

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Adult Swim, the global leader in adult animation, unveiled plans today for San Diego Comic-Con which includes an ongoing Pirate-themed fan “parrrty” featuring a series of special evening events, exclusive panels diving into key Adult Swim programs, and the kick-off of a cross-country mobile tour to celebrate “Rick and Morty: The Anime.”

“For reasons too long to get into, we at Adult Swim have always used a pirate ship (and, owls, but maybe we’ll do that at a later con) as a metaphor for how we operate,” said Michael Ouweleen, president, Adult Swim. “We thought since we like to think of us, fans and network, as all one thing, that we should bring the pirate ship to the harbor of San Diego this year and let everyone join us on the – erm – poop deck.”

ADULT SWIM PIRATE PARRRTY

Adult Swim will crash onto the shores of San Diego with a shipwreck adventure on the network’s Adult Swim on the Green space outside the San Diego Convention Center (5th Avenue Landing and Convention Way). The “Adult Swim Pirate Parrrty” will include custom games, exclusive first looks, giveaways, and evening entertainment including DJ laser sets – no badge required!

The space will also host a series of special evening events including:

  • AEW x Adult Swim “Battle for the Booty” Wrestling Tournament – Join a collection of AEW wrestlers who will face off in a tag team tournament against famous Adult Swim faces for a no-holds-barred event as each competitor vies for the chance to win the “Battle for the Booty” title. Thursday (7/25) at 7:30pm
  • Adult Swim’s Night of New – Comic-Con attendees will be the first to experience a collection of brand-new Adult Swim series at this special screening event featuring the full-length premiere episodes of “Common Side Effects,” “Rick and Morty: The Anime,” “Invincible Fight Girl,” and “Women Wearing Shoulder Pads” alongside more never-before-seen Adult Swim content.  The screening will also be livestreamed in real-time on Adult Swim’s YouTube Channel. Don’t miss your chance! Friday (7/26) at 7:30pm
  • Fun with Zach and Michael – Fresh off the finale of the hit series’ second season, join “SMILING FRIENDS” co-creators Michael Cusack and Zach Hadel for a special live-draw and fan Q&A event. Saturday (7/27) at 7:30pm

The first 1,000 attendees to join the “Adult Swim Pirate Parrrty” at 1pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday will receive an exclusive giveaway! For more details on the “Adult Swim Pirate Parrrty” visit here.

RICKMOBILE TOUR KICK-OFF

This summer marks the return of the famed Rickmobile and Mortymobile for Adult Swim’s “Anime-rican” tour in support of the new series “Rick and Morty: The Anime,” and San Diego Comic-Con is its first stop! Fans attending the “Adult Swim Pirate Parrrty” will have a chance for a photo-op with the Mortymobile, while the Rickmobile will roam San Diego’s Gaslamp District with special giveaways. After Comic-Con, both the Rickmobile and the Mortymobile will cross the country for a nine-city tour that will conclude in Adult Swim’s hometown of Atlanta.

PANEL EVENTS

The fun continues inside with a series of can’t-miss panels featuring advanced looks, breaking news and insightful discussion from series creators and voice talent:

  • Adult Swim’s “Common Side Effects” Series First Look – Come experience the side effects of an incredible panel discussion about Adult Swim’s highly anticipated new series.  “Common Side Effects.”  From executive producers Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, and creators Joe Bennett and Steve Hely, this comedic thriller follows two former high school lab partners who take on big pharma and government agencies as they try to bring a medicine that cures everything to the whole world. Co-creator Steve Hely and writer/director Sean Buckelew will join the series voice cast including Martha KellyEmily PendergastJoseph Lee Anderson and Dave King to discuss the new series. Friday (7/26) at 11am, Indigo Ballroom
  • Adult Swim’s “Rick And Morty: The Anime” Series First Look – Go further into the multiverse of Rick and Morty with the new series “Rick and Morty: The Anime” as it lands at San Diego Comic-Con.  Writer/director Takashi Sano, producers Joseph Chou and Takenari Maeda, and Adult Swim’s head of action and anime Jason DeMarco will share details about the intergalactic adventure and show you the inner workings of the new series on Adult Swim. Friday (7/26) at 12pm, Indigo Ballroom
  • “My Adventures with Superman” Screening Presentation and Panel – Join executive producers Jake WyattJosie CampbellBrendan Clogher, and voice cast members Jack QuaidAlice LeeIshmel Sahid, and Kiana Madeira as they answer your burning questions from season two. Plus get the early scoop on all the action, comedy, and romance that awaits Clark, Lois, and Jimmy in season three. Airing on Adult Swim, “My Adventures with Superman” is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Saturday (7/27) at 10am, Indigo Ballroom 
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BMI AND WHITE BEAR PR PRESENT“THE CHARACTER OF MUSIC: THE ART OF SCORING FOR ANIMATION” AT COMIC-CON 2024

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BMI® and White Bear PR are excited to present “The Character of Music: The Art of Scoring for Animation,” at Comic-Con 2024. The panelists include BMI composers Sherri Chung, Deana Kiner, Kevin Kiner, Sean Kiner, Joy Ngiaw, along with composers The Newton Brothers and songwriter Alex Seaver. The panel will be moderated by White Bear PR’s Chandler Poling and introduced by BMI’s Director, Film, TV & Visual Media, Louie Stephens.

Step into the mesmerizing world where sound meets artistry at this year’s “The Character of Music: The Art of Scoring for Animation” panel. Discover how composers work hand in hand with animators and directors to weave a seamless tapestry of sound and imagery. The panelists include Deana, Kevin and Sean Kiner (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Star Wars: Rebels), Sherri Chung (Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, Based On A True Story), Joy Ngiaw (Blush, Barbie Mysteries), The Newton Brothers (X-MEN ’97), and songwriter Alex Seaver aka MAKO (Arcane: League of Legends). 

WHERE: 
San Diego Convention Center Room 6BCF
111 W. Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101 

WHEN: 
Sunday, July 28, 2024 

TIME:

2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. PST

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