Saturday, 15 May 2010

Channel 4's Mesh scheme

Edwin Holdsworth's King Pylon.

Mesh was a funding scheme set up by Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding of Channel 4 and run by Glasgow-based Blackwatch, intended for animators who - in the words of Clare Kitson - "had neither the traditional skills taught by college degree skills nor the artist's desire to experiment but nevertheless aspired to use the new technologies creatively." As she relates in her book:
The new project was originally designated the 'digital animation scheme' until, within a few short years, it became apparent that the vast majority of all animation had become digital. So it began to characterise itself in terms of its constituency: what were termed 'convergence' artists, ie games designers, graphic designers or people with computers in their bedrooms who were teaching themselves. People who were not coming through the animation degree courses.
But things did not go entirely according to plan:
[Channel 4] needed these films to run in the slot after the news - which had been deemed a narrative-only slot - and were at this stage still looking for ideas with potential to develop into longer-form comedies... But the 'convergence' people were not strong on plot or character. In latter years it turned out that many of the successful submissions were coming from the animation courses at the RCA and other colleges - and were not that different from the constituency that was applying to the AIR [Animator in Residence] scheme.

Campbell McAllister's Wrong Turn.

Despite this disappointment, the work produced under the Mesh banner (a total of twenty-eight films were made before the scheme shut up shop) is very interesting. It clearly comes from a slightly different area to most Channel 4 animation, with influences from video games, anime and American CGI studios very apparent. The first four Mesh films, released in 2001, are typical of the scheme's output: Wrong Turn and The Tourist Trap are two straightforward CGI comedies; Daddy is a small-scale science fiction drama and King Pylon is a metaphysical story of the future reminiscent of the Japanese series Serial Experiments Lain.

Stephen Cavalier's Daddy.

A number of the films had their own webpages, adding an interactive element. For example Welcome to Glaringly had a Flash game allowing you to explore the bizarre ZX Spectrum-like town of the short's title for yourself; while Love Triangle, about a woman who turns into a samosa, was released with a personality test that allowed you to turn yourself into a piece of food after answering a few questions about yourself (I was a prawn cracker, if I remember correctly). Unfortunately all of these pages have since been removed from the Channel 4 website, which is a bit of a shame.

Max Crow's The Tourist Trap.

All of the Mesh films can be viewed online. Here's a complete list:

The Accident (Sara Nesteruk, 2007)
The Bear who Loved Vodka (Darren Price, 2006)
Beasty (Susi Wilkinson, 2005)
Covert (Joe Berger, 2002)
Daddy (Stephen Cavalier, 2001)
Eat Dog Cat Mouse (Kwok Fung Lam, 2005)
E-DEN (John Butler, 2004)
Forest Clearing (Simon Robson and Patrick Vale, 2005)
Glasgowland (Alex Hetherington, 2003)
The Imperfectionist (Asa Lucander and Vicki Kitchingman, 2006)
Invasion (Matt Abbiss, 2005)
Killing Time at Home (Neil Coslett, 2003)
King Pylon (Edwin Holdsworth, 2001)
Limb-o-Xtreme (Mari Umemura, 2004)
Love Triangle (Yasmeen Ismail, 2007)
The Love Tube (Sara Stroud, 2002)
Lula Fantastic (Ellen Deakin, 2002)
Perfect (Sally Arthur, 2004)
The Plot (Matt Hulse, 2002)
The Red Suitcase (Saul Freed, 2007)
The Stunt (Andrew Rae, 2006)
Temp (Hotessa Laurence, 2007)
The Tourist Trap (Max Crow, 2001)
Trip to Yatkumchatka (James Merry, 2003)
Waking Up Inside the Fish (Ann Xiao, 2006)
Watermelon Love (Joji Koyama, 2004)
Welcome to Glaringly (Grant Orchard, 2003)
Wrong Turn (Campbell McAllister, 2001)

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