365, the new short from the Brothers McLeod, has an unusual concept. It is a compilation of brief clips that were animated by Greg McLeod (pictured right) at a rate of one per day throughout 2013; the results were first released as a series of monthly chunks, which have now been gathered together into a single seven-minute film. Cartoon Brew spoke to Greg about the creative process behind the film and the business model of creating a self-funded short film and then selling it online.
Cartoon Brew: Was the idea for the film a sudden burst of inspiration towards the end of 2012, or something that you had in mind for a while?
Greg McLeod: It was a sudden burst—I was looking to make a new short film and had toyed with a few ideas, but 365 struck me as an interesting challenge and one that wouldn’t be tied down by a traditional narrative structure.
Cartoon Brew: The film contains a credit for “rules.” Can you let us in on the guidelines behind the film?
Greg McLeod: Each day had to be a second, so I had to post a still from that day on Facebook with an explanation of the image. Then each month, we’d post that month’s installment. My brother Myles then made sure I didn’t redo any animation after the fact and didn’t re-use animation. That was it, really.
Cartoon Brew: Most artists keep daily sketchbooks; what you have here is essentially an animated daily sketchbook. Would you recommend this process for other animators, even if they may not wish to publish the results?
Greg McLeod: It is a challenge and time consuming, over a thousand hours’ work. However, it forces you to generate ideas that you feel worthy of animating. Even on a boring uneventful day, you have to search for inspiration. I found it very rewarding. It was like an animation gym with a workout every day. I’d say I’m pretty fit now!
Cartoon Brew: By releasing the film first as monthly half-minute segments, and later as a complete seven-minute short, you made use of the fluid formatting approaches that only Internet distribution offers. Has it inspired you to try further experiments with format?
Greg McLeod: It’s been interesting watching it grow online and it seems to have gone down well. Non-traditional forms of narrative have always interested me. Most of our commercial work is heavily narrative and we love doing those projects, but I enjoy breaking those conventions in my personal work. Whether people will be prepared to actually purchase the film is an interesting question. So much is free online now that I think that’s what people expect. However, if people get used to purchasing high-standard short films, then this can only benefit the filmmakers and may mean they can make a modest income from working on their own projects. So far, it’s been a slow start on the downloads. We’d normally get thousands of views if we made the film free. We’ve only had 40 purchases so far. That says a lot.
Cartoon Brew: Did you ever consider varying the art style more significantly—doing the occasional stop motion or CGI piece, for example—or was consistency of style a factor from the get-go?
Greg McLeod: I always wanted a consistent style. I figured the viewer is going to have to work pretty hard anyway without the style shifting as well. It also made the project more practical as I had to have a remote setup so I could animate wherever I was.
Cartoon Brew: Any plans for further projects along the same lines?
Greg McLeod: I’ve started a film with sound designer extraordinaire Tom Angel called Consequences. I animate ten seconds and pass this to him, he adds sound to my pictures and adds a further ten seconds which I animate to and so on. No idea where it will end or what it will be about, but we are having a lot of fun doing it. When it’s animated we will print out the frames, all done in simple black and white, and have a big coloring-in party with paints, pencils, felt-tips and beers, nibbles and many friends. Then we’ll photograph them all and comp together with the soundtrack.