Saturday, January 10, 2009

East Mountain Claymation

Nice article in the Mountain View Telegraph about up and coming claymation artist Kevin Ulrich -- I've seen some of his work at one of the AniMotion meetings -- and it's amazing.



Young Filmmaker Prefers Clay to Computers
Written by Lee Ross

Aspiring Claymation filmmakers and fans of the fantasy genre, heed Kevin Ulrich's warning, for his is a cautionary tale with both good news and bad news.

He said his professors at Biola University in Southern California have told him he won't have too much competition for jobs in Claymation filmmaking. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the field isn't that competitive because it's not very popular right now, and that jobs are scarce. He was encouraged to go into computer animation instead, he said.

"Computers and I don't get along," Ulrich said as he brought up videos he'd made on a laptop.

He explained that the work required to animate something with clay is not nearly as computer-intensive as putting together a film using only computer animation.

The Telegraph first ran an article on Ulrich about a year and a half ago. Since that time the 20-year-old from Edgewood has been attending film classes for about a year.

At that time, Ulrich had taught himself filmmaking and storytelling, he said.

He's also made short stop-motion videos since he was 10, most of them based on "Indiana Jones," "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" story lines and they make heavy use of Legos.

"My first stories weren't that good because I was 10 years old," he said.

One of the recent projects Ulrich completed, feature-length fantasy film, took five years. After that he took a break from the world of clay animation. For about a year after completing the project, Ulrich said he wasn't sure he'd stick with animation. But he couldn't stay away from clay for long.

"I really like this. This is what I'm good at," he said. "I like seeing (my characters) come to life … I like working in an environment that I can control."

Ulrich is making plans to bankroll his Claymation dreams. He said he hopes to sell a short animated fantasy feature he's currently working on, "Chasom: Rise of the Zerad," which tells the story of Elrane, an elf prince who must join with wolfmen to lead his people after they are unexpectedly attacked.

The story is based in a world he and his brother Brian created 10 years ago.

If he can sell the film or the story, he will have startup cash for a Claymation production company, he said. It wouldn't take much money to start one, he said.

"Animation is cheap," he said. "You just need enough money to live on for two to three years."

Part of the reason animation is so cheap is the materials are very rudimentary, he explained. Ulrich creates characters using paperclips and twist-ties, bits of clay and aluminum foil. He molds them with his fingers and toothpicks.

"Toothpicks are very useful," he said...

Ulrich will be at East Mountain High School on Jan. 9 at 9:50 a.m. and East Mountain Public Library in Tijeras on Jan. 15 at 3:30 p.m. He will also speak to an animation class at the University of New Mexico in April and at the Media Arts Collaborate Charter School in June.
More at: Young Filmmaker Prefers Clay to Computers

See a quick video of his claymation process at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ5mdNDgCOI
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