Based in south London and represented by Studio AKA, Marcus Armitage considered becoming a painter for a while, but the pull of making drawings come to life proved too strong and, since deciding to become an animator, he hasn’t looked back. “You can take people on a journey,” he tells us, “and by the end of your film, maybe even change their mind or open them up to your way of thinking or a different perspective on something we encounter every day.”
Marcus’ work is wide-ranging, both in terms of topics and styles, a direct result of his want to constantly push and experiment, especially when working on personal projects. “When I’m directing my own projects I always enjoy the ones where I have room to make something bold and usually totally different from my other work. I do get bored quite quickly so I’m always trying to do something different that keeps me pushing my boundaries and learning new skills,” he explains.
His eclectic portfolio is not just borne from boredom, however, but from an understanding of the potential of animation to augment the world we live in, creating an altogether compelling storytelling experience. Marcus says: “For me, the most exciting part of animation is that you are not restricted visually to tell your story. You can bend the rules, you can stretch characters and alter movement and make this part of your narrative. I love it when a film takes all the elements available, from colour, sound, technique and movement and make it all essential to the narrative. So that it’s not just a story with a visual style tacked on, but a complete package that couldn’t be made any other way.”
It was one project, in particular, titled That Yorkshire Sound that caught our eye, and which demonstrates all of the above. It initially came from a commission run by the BBC and BFI called Listen to Britain, based on a film of the same name by Humphrey Jennings depicting wartime Britain. “The brief was to re-appropriate the ideas from that film into something about modern-day Britain,” Marcus outlines.
Around the time he received the brief, Marcus had been travelling back and forwards to Yorkshire on the train a few times and started enjoying when telegraph poles and train tracks passing by would sync up with his music. “It made me want to make a film using this idea, a rhythmical piece but using recordings from my surroundings,” he recalls. “I saw the brief online and instantly knew I wanted to make a rhythmic film about Yorkshire, its landscapes, people and colours. Something that celebrated its diversity, its good bits and bad bits.”
As a result, the animation is first and foremost a soundscape, produced from multiple visits to markets and motorways and tells the story of one day, compacted into two short minutes. Aesthetically, Marcus tells us, he “came at this film as if each scene was a sketch from the place I recorded.” Drawings are colourful and loose, made using oil pastels which “allowed me to put colours down quickly and not have to spend too much time designing each shot.” He continues: I decided the best way to visually tell the day-to-night transition would be negative space and colour, starting off very limited with a few sketchy lines and portions of colour, until moving into the full-colour market scenes before using inverted watercolours for the nightlife. I think the film squeezes a lot into those two minutes. It always goes by quicker than I thought it would, I’ve had comments that you see something new every time you watch, which I guess can’t be a bad thing.”
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