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Here's A How de do Diary: September

The seventh installment of Barry Purves' production diary as he chronicles producing a series of animated shorts for Channel 4. An Animation World Magazine exclusive.

Barry Purves.

Barry Purves.

Editor's Note: Lumps, warts and all, for eight months Barry Purves will share his personal production diary with us for his current project with Channel 4, tentatively titled Here's A How de do. This film will take a look at three men: Gilbert, Sullivan and Richard D'Oyly Carte. D'Oyly Carte brought Gilbert and Sullivan together and formed the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which performed Gilbert and Sullivan operas for 100 years. While the trio worked together for roughly 25 years, their relationship was strained at best. How will the production of their story go? All we can do is read along monthly and find out...

September 1st

A productive start to the month, if not wildly creative. Sullivan is still flapping his arms about furiously. I hope there is a real distinction between the gestures of Gilbert and Sullivan. I took the fact that Sullivan is a conductor as a starting point for him -- his arms flail all over the place and are quite floppy and musical. Gilbert, with his military background, is somewhat stiffer and tighter -- well, that was the theory anyway. The odd floppiness has crept in with Gilbert, but that's me really. The rows between the chaps have started, and I think it's clear why. Money is certainly playing a part in all this, as it did with them in reality. Gilbert was certainly very tight about money and did not like wasting it -- as the famous carpet quarrel bears out. This incident, of Carte and Sullivan buying a carpet for the Savoy, without consulting Gilbert, was a major factor in their break up -- sadly, I could not weave (!) it into the film as there are not many songs about carpets. There's been a series of programmes on the last few nights, celebrating the "Carry On..." films. Whilst they are at different ends of the spectrum, there are similarities between the "Carry Ons" and Savoy Operas. They both set up British institutions, had a cozy repertoire of familiar characters, are comfortingly predictable, unequivocally British and don't travel too well -- the big difference is where the operas had wit, rhymes and music, the films had boobs, bottoms and bodily functions!!! September 2nd I was listening to the Chieftain's inspiring album, "Santiago," on the way home, and all manner of new films suggested themselves. That's the trouble with animation, it takes so long. That's films crowding my already crowded mind. Someone actually asked me last week, "Where do you get your ideas from?" That is not the problem. I have got so many ideas, most of which will never see light. I have such a thirst for knowledge and cultural experiences of every kind, and all this usually sets me off on some idea for a film. But to see even the shortest of animation films through takes so much time, that I'll never get to direct or write all the things I'd like. How many productions has Steven Pimlott (our baritone) directed in the 20 months that it has taken me to write and film a slight 15-minute animation? Maybe I'll have to have a break from animation, just to clear my head of some of the ideas buzzing around in there. But it's not as if I can just walk into a theatre company and say, "I would like to direct a play please." It's a little sad to think that I have 75 minutes of film (ignoring commercials and such) to show for my last decade of work. Not much really. We were shooting out of sequence today, which always does my head in, but I did manage to get Sullivan to jump up onto the bed, and sit on it. Being rather short in the leg department, he looks like a grey tennis ball with two small feet stuck out from underneath. I've certainly been very bold with him today. In his anger he has been flapping about at full speed, and hopefully, I've pushed his moves as far as I can before they fall to pieces. I've done some huge moves, but I use a trick to make sense of such huge moves.

September 3rd

A bizarre day spent with Sullivan under the sheets, thrashing about. What a strange job I do. I was working to one of the most difficult patter songs, "My eyes are fully open" from Ruddigore, and I could have gone really over the top with it, but I went the other way, and it seems to work. This is one of those instances where the audience will have to rely on the impression of what Sullivan is up to, rather than the exact words. There's a little conflict between the words and what I was trying to convey, but I did not want to change Gilbert's brilliant line, "This particularly rapid and unintelligible patter isn't generally heard and if it is it doesn't matter." The first half, as sung by Sullivan would be a good insult against Gilbert's work, and the second half seems to imply some sadness that Sullivan's own work is not appreciated. That's quite a lot to get over in a second or two, but if the audience watch Sullivan, they'll see he is pretty fed up with the likes of The Mikado. Talking of which there is a production visiting Manchester this week of The Rocking Mikado. This seems to be the opera that gets the most interpretations -- there's been "cool," "hot," "black," "metropolitan" and many, many more. Yup, I've seen them all. September 4th Another work experience chap, Paul, left us today. These people have helped us so much. Basically, they have been our crew. It has been hard work of course, as every Monday morning Jean Marc and I start a very condensed `how to' course, but it is satisfying to watch them absorb everything and become confident. There are a lot of things I am awful at, but I think I am good at getting people fired up with passion for animation. This has happened with every person we have had with us, and that gives me some pride. I just wish certain members of our crew could have the same passion, but there we go, that's another story. A grand total of 66 seconds this week, though we slowed down today as we were trying to organise me getting to New York next week-end. The Guggenheim are showing my films in a programme alongside puppet films of Julie Taymor and Jim Henson. Noble company indeed. Sadly, for all Karen's efforts, it's just too complicated and expensive to get there at the moment.

Sullivan in action. Photo courtesy of Bare Boards Productions.

Sullivan in action. Photo courtesy of Bare Boards Productions.

September 7th

As I write this, sometime after midnight, things look a little bleak. We are battling illness and fatigue. We are tired, very tired. Not tired of the film or believe it or not, Gilbert and Sullivan, but tired from the constant battles with our lack of the necessary, the disproportion of the workload, and things that get in the way of me filming. But it's easy to lose sight of what we have already done. There were some 70 seconds of rushes this morning. All very lively, and I stayed late alone to do a shot of Carte getting angry with G & S. This was a big moment and as I came to do a final few seconds, I suddenly thought of three alternative bits of business to show why he was angry and frustrated with the men. Sadly, I think I chose the least clear one, but it was the one that didn't put the schedule back, and allowed me to get home before midnight. These are important considerations. Still, the sequence works as a volatile piece of action. I've let a little bit of scrappy animation go through -- I have to. It's sad I'm so grumpy and angry just now, as I've had some amazing fan mail recently, and a lot of encouragement from some people. Also I must not forget my films are showing at the Guggenheim -- that must say something. What I'm dreading happening soon, as often happens at this stage of filming with the end almost in sight, is people coming out of the woodwork, offering totally unconsidered opinions about such and such a thing. I do not mind criticism at all as long as it is done bearing the whole film in mind, or if they've at least thought about it. What drives me wild is people coming along who have not been with us from the start, and saying something absurd. I've seen the devastation a naïve word can cause; a seed gets planted and everything grows from there. Anyone who is familiar with the Duke's codpiece in my Rigoletto knows what I'm talking about.

A review of the D'Oyly Carte's production of The Mikado in the Sunday papers was full of praise for Gilbert's words, saying that they still dazzle with their wit, but was very off about Sullivan, saying that the music is very thin and has no surprises. Thin his music is not, and if there are no surprises it's because the music is just, well, just right. Certainly, I'm grateful for our wonderful orchestrations, which even after hearing them for weeks still delight. I was listening to Carousel on the way home, and last night, a lot of Kander and Ebb songs. How I admire those partnerships: Gilbert and Sullivan, Kander and Ebb, Rodgers and Hammerstein. I would love to have that real and last creative working relationship -- what joy it must be to creatively spark off each other. The nearest I have is working with Wyn. There is a real respect and exchange of ideas and no treading on toes or egos. Davies and Purves, I wonder. September 8th Whoops! How did Gilbert slip into Norma Desmond acting. He was all raised eyebrows today and twisted gestures. I've been a bit on automatic pilot -- well, after the late night last night, I'd not really had time to think everything through, but there sits the camera, demanding to turn over every available minute. So insatiable. As a result there was a lot of wild gesticulation, vaguely in time to the music. It's clear that they are all upset with each other, but why? I ask myself that everyday. Here I am struggling with making everything clear, and Channel Four is slightly apprehensive about the clarity, but I remember the film being described by them as no more than a set of jolly tunes to watch while you're eating dinner. It's not that! I've been asked back to Sitges to give a talk at the Fantasy Film Festival. I've been several times over the years, and it's a great festival. Rather ironic that I was in Sitges just before filming, and now I'm going straight afterwards. I'm striking up a long distance friendship with a lady called Bee -- a Kiwi in Atlanta. She keeps phoning just to chat and say how much she loves the films. Wonderful! Now she does work for an animation network but work hasn't entered the equation yet. It is great having friends around the world (and yet no-one at home to go to the movies with at the week-end. Can I get anyone to come and hear Wyn conduct Die Fledermaus. Nein.) September 9th Oh no, I've just rewritten `The Art of Coarse Acting/Animation.' I really am being so bold with these puppets, and have thrown subtlety out of the window. It's not me being lazy, but more that I can't afford to spend time on things that won't be noticed. I'm hoping that it is the cumulative effect that will register. The three chaps are now on the spinning bed, going hell for leather. It is a rather bizarre sequence in a rather bizarre film, but, even without camera moves, there is so much drive in these last two episodes. This is probably some of the crudest animation I've ever done, but it seems right for this. I would like, one day, to show exactly the sophistication of animation and complex choreography of which I know I'm capable. 12 seconds a day does not lend itself to much finesse -- I'm dreading seeing some scenes on the big screen, if we ever get it onto the big screen. Finances are complicated there. Our work experience chap this week, Darren, was reading the printed script and totally relishing Gilbert's words. He said that without even knowing the tune you can hear music in the words. Whether you like his words or not, that man Gilbert was quite a genius. For this scene where each of the men look as though they are walking out on each other, I'd had hats made, and a coat for D'Oyly Carte. I thought putting a hat on would easily signify someone leaving. However, when I came to the shots, they just looked silly. For hats to fit their rather large heads, things were getting out of proportion. Plus, we are now so used to seeing them bare-headed. Likewise, I've discarded Carte's coat because it suddenly looked odd. So, sorry to the girls who made them. There haven't been many things I've not used. Everyone's work is certainly up on that screen as bold as brass. I would like to hope that the budget is all up there too.

September 10th

A whirlwind of a day really -- a lot of visitors and a lot of work. The chaps are still spinning on their bed. All a bit frantic, but it certainly livens up an already lively episode. In the afternoon Wyn and a lady from the orchestra called in. Wyn had not been since our first week, and was mighty impressed with what he saw. He said that the characters are very clear, as are the motivations. He also said that it seemed so fresh and spontaneous. That pleases me, as this spontaneity comes from a lot of hard work, none of which is spontaneous. So much animation looks over designed and planned, with everything precisely composed and plotted. I try to give an edge to my films, with heads cropped in the framing, or a hand going out of shop, or shadows happening from outside the frame. Wyn said he felt it had been filmed with several cameras. To Joy, the ambidextrous percussionist, the whole thing was a concept she could not get her head `round. It seemed so far removed from the day in the recording studio in May. She couldn't believe how I could work it all out. Mind you, how musicians work is another world to me. Yes, I can read music, though I can't look at a page and hear a whole orchestra as Wyn can. As I read Joy's parts in the music score, it is a world of secret squiggles. Wyn did say that there are a few things he did not quite grasp, but that the whole mood was easily understood. This is a fault of mine. I have so much passion for my subjects. How do I put a lifetime of love for G & S into a mere 15 minutes? I can't but I do tend to cram a lot of details into the films. I do expect audiences to watch and concentrate. Today, that seems to be asking too much. It doesn't worry me when the audience doesn't get everything the first time. It would be sad to come away thinking, "Was that it?" I like to come out of a gallery, cinema or theatre with something to ponder on and puzzle over. It would be ghastly if a painting in a gallery yielded up all its mystery on first inspection. I know I'll be told that I have to make the film understandable to the lowest common denominator -- I say, "Why?" This is another subject that can get me so worked up -- the dumbing down of culture. September 11th Only a short day in the studio, as Jean Marc was off back to Paris for a breather. We were still quite productive. The spare afternoon gave me a chance to get busy with credits, synopses, and all those other important things that I've not had time to even think about. It certainly seems odd to be sat at a desk again. September 14th Apparently, our films got a wonderful reception at the Guggenheim on Saturday. Oh, to have been there. We got the rushes of the maniacally spinning bed -- this should be quite a sequence. A complete change of tone today with G & S pleading for Carte to come back. I keep noticing some extremely melodramatic gestures creeping in. This being Victorian theatre I suppose it's allowable. A shot that I had been fretting about all night, of G & S sliding into shot on their knees, turned out amazingly well. It will come as an amusing surprise. Well, it kept us amused all day. I spoke to Clare at Channel Four who is very enthusiastic about the first three episodes, whilst still reinforcing that I must make things as understandable as possible. It reassured me to see Spielberg being interviewed last night, saying that he did not expect the audience to get all the layers of Saving Private Ryan at the first viewing, but hoped that things would filter through in the days afterwards. Now I'm not Spielberg and this film is hardly Saving Private Ryan, but hopefully, some of it will linger on. Certainly, Joy, our percussionist, has been talking about it with her orchestra ever since her visit last week. Four weeks from now, and that may have been the last of my animation. Looking at Sullivan today, I got a brief twinge of sadness, as though I was getting ready to say "Goodbye" to a friend. Well, I am -- three friends. The music in the car on the way home tonight was Berstein's Candide. What a masterpiece, and was there ever a song that more movingly summed up my philosophy of life than, "Make Our Garden Grow." I won't quote the words as they fall to pieces without the music, but oh, how relevant is that song. I had to play it six times.

September 15th

My mind was not too clear today as the complex chaos of post-production is starting to intrude. Post-production is my very least favourite part of all this -- there is so much technological stuff I do not understand nor am too interested in. Worse still, your precious little film, that you have had the most intimate control of, is now in the hands of others. We're trying to find the most economical way to finish on video and then get back to film -- once again it's economics. On this film I am going to fight to get the sound right. On previous films, I've always been disappointed that the music gets lost. Here the music must stand out. I was not able to concentrate on the shooting today and some of it was a bit bland. I did a very literate and clumsy gesture of Carte wiping his eye as if a tear was there; a hideous gesture that I'm stuck with, but I redeemed myself with Sullivan and Gilbert looking very sweet as they agree to shake hands. Little Bethany popped in today as she often does, and is still singing all the songs' words perfectly. She really loves watching this and can do all the actions. If the film is keeping a six-year-old very happy, then there's hope. I laughed at myself tonight, that I still have the lollipop stick that I started this film with. This, to open and move the lips, and a map pin, to move the eyes, are my sole tools. The most high tech I get is a lollipop stick and that was after I had eaten the lolly. I've never been one for gauges, as I think I've developed some form of combined muscle and visual memory that tells me where things were in the previous frame. September 16th We've transformed into the "Yeoman of the Guard" sequence, which will again come as a good visual moment, especially after an episode that has been mainly filmed in close-up. The three chaps look good in their costumes, particularly D'Oyly Carte as a Yeoman. Gilbert is a little disappointing, but that's my fault really. Sadly, my schedule is such that I can't go and look at things being made. The costume is a good shape, but the colour is a little dull. Well, there isn't any colour really. I wanted him as Shadbolt, and Sullivan as Jack Point, because of the camaraderie they share in the opera, but a keeper of the keys isn't perhaps the most interesting costume I could have chosen. Anyway, the scene looks good, and I've been doing more complicated dancing, with a little cadenza that gets everyone in the studio joining in. I hope it works. My voice at the beginning of the film, doing the narration, was not deemed good enough. Everyone was coming up with various suggestions of men, but I've gone for Daphne Oxenford -- a voice that has wonderfully safe, comforting and very British storytelling connotations. Very tired tonight. Another screening at the Guggenheim tonight, and my loyal chums David and Michael will be there, cheering me on. All this nonsense about Viagara -- honestly! Though, I gather from all accounts Mr. Gilbert would have been the first to have used it back then. There was something rather wrong with him in that department. From what I know, and what is clear from his writing, he loved the idea of pure and idealised love, as represented by characters such as Yum-Yum and Patience, but the thought of anything physical and predatory, as with Katisha and Ruth, was seen as both ridiculous and a little repulsive. Sullivan did not have this problem; by all accounts he was quite rampant! September 17th A good morning with G & S dancing away, but then I had a little wobbly, and couldn't get going at all. I remember a very famous incident at the Royal Shakespeare Company where an actor of great repute came on stage one night, well into the run, got ready to write something with his propelling pencil, but was distracted when he saw there was no lead in the pencil. Suddenly, everything fell to pieces for him. He did not have a clue where he was or what he was meant to be doing. Psychiatrists have written many articles about this failure. I felt the same today. We had faffed around for so long trying to find a way to lower the drawbridge in the Tower Of London, and tempers were getting heated and time was racing by. Eventually, I started, and lost what I was doing. I started again, and still had no idea what I should have been up to. Third time through I got to the end, but only just. It was quite frightening. A mini panic attack.

We had several visitors today, all enthusing over the film. This gave me the chance to see it several times and from a distance. Looking at the acting, this is really unlike any of my other films. Some of the acting is so rough and unsubtle and I've let awful stuff get through, but it all works. It works because I am not saying this is real life, but some sort of theatrical nightmare. I'm giving the effect of what could have happened. I remember years ago when I was animating Toad, the director told me not to turn the characters' back to the camera. I rather grandly said that I could act with my back -- thank you. Yesterday, I did a whole scene with Carte with his back to us, and he was acting away very clearly. I wish I knew whether the audience would actually be taking in the words on this film. They can be heard very clearly but there are usually two meanings. Today G and S were performing a song from Yeomen, but the literal words, about two chums ready to tell a "tale tremendous" of "convincing detail full" and so on, also apply to the situation in the film. I've not hinted at the other meaning in the actions, but how big are the letters that I have to spell out everything. Just how engaged are the audience, or is this just animated wallpaper? September 18th I gave Sullivan his heart attack today and made a bit of a mess of it. I gave him two violent spasms before he collapsed, and they were probably too violent. I pushed it too far and I'm worried that Sullivan looks a bit comical, like a pantomime Quasimodo. Still the aftermath is quite effective, and with the help of some telling grunts and groans, I can probably make it work. It's stupid that I panic about the gestures that go wrong and barely look at the ones that go right. I would have liked another go at this, but there just is not the time. Of course, there are a few shots that I hate, but I clearly have two favourites. One is Sullivan dancing with Queen Victoria, and the other, is Carte turning his back on G and S. His body language speaks volumes, and it's a satisfying composition. I must keep looking at these shots when things go wrong. We set up the final shot of Episode Four, but it really did not look as I saw it in my head, so I changed it all quite drastically. Our work experience chap this week, another Andrew, was pleased to see me improvise. Andrew, who has done some pretty encouraging animation, has been an enormous asset to us this week, as have all the various students. We really could not have made this film without them, as we would have otherwise literally not had a crew. September 21st That's it. I've reached overload. There were too many people on set today and I didn't have a clear head. It's my fault as I don't want to discourage people coming to see us, and it's good to have some fresh reactions at this stage. However, it was a bit much today, and my head was taken up with post-production issues and other things that need to be done. But I also need to finish this film. We had rushes back this morning, masses of them, and they all look good. Sullivan's spasms didn't look too bad in the cold light of day, but I'll still have to find exactly the right sound to make it work. We went on to the shot of Sullivan's limp body being laid on the floor as Carte and Gilbert look aghast. Well, that was the intention. It was nearly 14 seconds, most of it in silhouette. To make the emotion stronger I wanted to keep the characters, as still, as shocked, as possible, but as any animator will know, it is damned hard to keep a puppet still for long periods. Puppets, in particular, "die" after a few frames of holding. So I fidgeted and fidgeted, and there were rather too many empty gestures. Also what is odd about this shot is that there is no music. It will need some suitable plaintiff sound. It was a little distressing to see Sullivan sprawled on the floor. The pose I'd put him in was a little too familiar for comfort, and had painful resonances for me.

September 22nd

Just listening to Wagner's Ring -- wow, that's an antidote to G & S, though Sullivan does often allude to Wagner, especially in Iolanthe. My mind still not much clearer, as I'm having to think about the post-production, writing of a publicity blurb, who we should contact to get an article written, and a million things like this. Oh, and finishing the film. We did a series of cutaways of Carte dressed as a Beefeater. This is without doubt my favourite costume; well done Clare. Though I gather at an early stage it was a rather uncomfortable shade of salmon pink, not the deep rich red it should be. This costume looks so vibrant against all the black -- but sadly, we never see it full length, and it probably only has about 8 seconds of screen time. I love costumes, but they can be both blessings and curses. They do make things difficult to work with. I've just remembered when I was part of the Manchester University Gilbert and Sullivan Society (M.U.G.S!), one year we had an end of season party en travesti. I went as Mad Margaret from Ruddigore. A very picture of sober decorum, in black riding ensemble, with a flash of red hair, woven with country flowers, betraying her "madness." Sadly, or happily, no evidence of this exists.

Trying to think of a catchy tag line for this film, and I keep ending up with other people's tag lines. Oh, here come the Valkyries, racing `round the living room, terrifying the cats. I love it that in the midst of all Wagner's sometimes suspect mythology, he still found time for the Valkyries to basically call each other rude names. A bit of humour amongst four days of less than lightweight music.

Anyway, tag line -- I can feel the rhythm of it, but can't make the words Gilbert and Sullivan fit into this.

We are up and ready for the final episode, and how sad Sullivan looks in bed. Amazingly, it doesn't look absurd that he is still wearing his tail suit.

September 23rd

Well, I've done fourteen exhausting seconds, as well as editing the Fourth Episode. Little wonder I'm sat here in something of a daze. It's been a frustrating day, as, rightly, everyone is thinking of the post-production, but there are, for me, more immediate things I need to concentrate on, like Episode Five. It's hard to get my head round the ins and outs of the complicated grading process, when I'm meant to be doing Sullivan's quiet and moving death scene. I'm not looking forward to the post-production at all. At the moment things look a little confused but will hopefully all come together over the next few days. Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I should know exactly what is going on in every single department, but hang on; I'm already doing about four people's work. Should I ever animate again, which I doubt, I have to have the framework where I can concentrate on the animation itself. Maybe I should lay down the law and say, "Do this, do that, then this," but then this already takes me away from filming.

September 24th

36 seconds in two days is too much, but that's what I have to do. I had a long shot of the three chaps today that took me most of the afternoon, so I sent everyone out of the studio to go and enjoy the sunshine. I was able to concentrate a bit, but I was so focused that I slipped into some other reality. I got such a shock when the phone rang. Mind you, when I got home, I was so exhausted. I definitely went into a daze. I'm numb with fatigue.

I'm still finding this sequence hard -- trying to keep the puppets from acting too much is near impossible. The music is very slow and calm and sad, with some notes being held for over forty frames. As a result, it's not easy to find just the right amount of activity for the mouth: too much would not match the purity of the note, too little and it looks as if there's no sound coming out. Hopefully, it's working okay, more or less.

I am ready for this film to finish as I have so little left inside me -- no, that's not true, as I love what I do, and have endless stamina for things I'm interested in. It's all the other stuff that is wearing me down. I'd like to say that at least it's financially worthwhile. Hah!

September 25th

Two long solo shots of Gilbert and Sullivan being retrospective. Again, I'm fighting myself to let them remain as still as possible. Sometimes I am in danger of doing something for every single note. Animating to the phrasing of the music is more relevant in this slow piece. Still, this episode is a dramatic u-turn after the others. It is very dark and melancholic. However, I am saving a burst of energy and colour for the last few seconds. Just two weeks to go -- amazing. I looked at Sullivan today, all frail and feeble, and thought, `How sad, I've only got a few more shots with him and then he reverts to a lump of brass, latex and cloth.' As usual, I will probably suffer some sort of post filming depression. It's inevitable that after all this effort, I look at this small, insignificant 15-minute film, and wonder why the equation of effort and result do not balance. What happens after this film, I do not know. I know there will be changes. There have to be. Whether there is any work, I do not know. September 28th Dammit -- I've just been to a movie and had a drink with a friend, and now I'm all behind with everything. How silly of me to try to have even a single night of a social life. Ironically the film, Love is the Devil, about the painter Francis Bacon, was about the all-consuming and somewhat destructive nature of any art. Here's to that! I think I deserved at least three hours off tonight, as I'd managed to churn out 24 sort of okay seconds. Here we are nearly 75 seconds into this last episode and still nothing has happened. They are just sat on the bed looking reflective. One very good shot, of Sullivan, still looking very ill, but also managing to be musical at the same time. The usual problem with Carte -- I fidgeted with him too much, spelling everything out. However, in a long shot, I managed to keep them all still, but also alive. Strong poses, and a minimal amount of movement -- magic. 24 seconds, but still a long way to go, though everyone else seems to think the film is over, as I'm having to make some major decisions about things already. But I'm not finished yet. Don't tie me down with the editing or timing. I need to stand back coldly at the end, and see the film as an outsider. I may want to change it. But economics and schedules dictate that I have to be pinned down now, even as I'm shooting. Sadly, we won't have a print ready for the London Film Festival. September 29th My mind was still full of images from the Francis Bacon film. What stunning camera work, breaking every rule of focus and composition. Never have I seen flesh look so appetising and so revolting at the same time, but then that is his work. A really great film, looking behind a popular cultural figure. Hey, that sounds familiar. I would never be so grand to even think of myself in the same breath as Bacon, but my films do try to look at a flip side of popular cultural images. Certainly this G & S film is taking something most people know, but by the end of our film they may have seen G & S with fresh eyes. I can't ask for more than that. The Bacon film tried to make the film a living canvas as Bacon might have painted, and used this to tell his life story. Using an artist's work to tell his story is hardly original and yes, I'm doing it on a small scale with my film. I was suffering this morning from daring to snatch a few hours of a social life. There is so much preparation to do for a day's shoot, and I had to stay up very late to do mine. I was tired this morning. Fortunately, the three chaps were not too demanding. Sullivan is barely moving now, but still Carte is fidgeting about. He's going to get a good slap from me soon. As it gets a bit sad now, I am sorry that we could not afford to have eyes that blinked. The characters look in a constant state of surprise, and I could really do with some half-closed eye acting now. Also blinking provides such wonderful punctuation between phrases of movement, on which I could have capitalised. Mind you, if you found two black and white figures sat on the end of your bed singing in soprano voices you might well look surprised for the next fifteen minutes.

Post-production issues still getting in the way, and I even had to argue to get a mix today. The credits are going to have to be classically simple -- good job. I did not want anything too adventurous.

September 30th

Totally numb from fatigue. I think I've managed to keep today's shoot reasonably still. There was one note of Sandra's as Gilbert that went on for over 50 frames, without a single wobble. It was hard for me to leave it simple, but I resisted the temptation for any business that would distract or ruin the line of the note. This episode is definitely different from the others. This is literally three men sat on a bed, watching one of them fade away, but it does work in contrast to the busier early episodes. Besides, I do finish with a burst of something.

A piece of business that I'm shooting on Friday, and has been in my head all these nineteen months without me questioning it, suddenly seems silly and illogical. In real life, Gilbert wrote a letter acknowledging some sort of respect for Sullivan's craft. Sadly, Sullivan was dead before he received it. I had Gilbert giving Sullivan the letter, only to find Sullivan had died. But why a letter when they've spent so long sitting next to each other, and holding hands, as they have today. I've found a better way to do this, but I'm leaving it a little late.

Read Barry's previous monthly diaries in Animation World Magazine, starting with the June, 1998 issue.

Barry Purves is a Manchester-based filmmaker. Through his production company, Bare Boards Productions, he has directed several stop-motion animated films and commercials, including Next, Screen Play, Rigoletto and Achilles.