Producing the Hansel & Gretel book-trailer was a team effort that wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of my collaborators.
Film: Culture Colony Vision
Models: Philip Cooper
Music: Kate Romano
Hansel & Gretel Prelude performed on the toy piano by Kate Romano and recorded by Rob Godman
I’ve worked with Pete Telfer of Culture Colony Vision many times over the past ten years. He’s produced several films about my practice as an artist. Pete was cameraman and all round facilitator on the animated film I made to accompany Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale at the 2013 Hay Festival, and he filmed and edited the animation and model sequences for the music theatre project of The Mare’s Tale. (Composed by Mark Bowden in 2013 with a text by Damian Walford Davies.) Pete gently guides me through the processes of my ‘film’ projects. He is unfailingly supportive and manages the delicate business of giving me enough freedom to experiment, while ensuring that I don’t make a complete dick of myself.
Phil Cooper and I have been friends ever since he caught a train from London to turn up at a maquette-making workshop I gave in Swansea that I was quite sure no-one would attend. He is a maker to his fingertips. When I saw some of the models he was producing as part of his exploration on the theme of German Expressionist film, I pounced and asked whether he’d consider creating a model version of the witch’s house for my Hansel & Gretel book-trailer. He used my drawings as a starting point, and then freely extemporised on the theme. I love what he created.
In September 2016 Phil arrived at Aberystwyth station carrying a suitcase packed with all the models and materials necessary to make his magic in our dining-room-turned-pop-up-animation-studio. Out came the steeply-pitched cottage, the conical-roofed tower, the boulders and ruined archway and a huge variety of trees, enough to cover the dining-table in an arboretum of impressive dimensions. We reconfigured the set several times over the two days, to get the most film coverage, and Phil glued and brushed and tacked cloth and crumpled tissue paper into the strange topographies of our fairy-tale wood. Moreover between the set-building and tweaking, he took to animation as though he’d been doing it for years.
Kate Romano came late to the team. Just as I was beginning to panic that my original idea of creating a music free soundtrack for the trailer out of strange noises – all of which I’d have to create and record – wasn’t going to work, I took it into my head to suggest that she record a few bars on one of her toy pianos for me to use within the soundtrack. Kate suggested that she take a tilt at composing a beginning-to-end accompaniment for the film, and her Prelude for Hansel & Gretel, played on a two octave toy piano, is the result. I wasn’t able to show Kate any footage before she wrote and recorded the music, though she’d seen a dummy copy of the picture book. The character of what she produced was perfect, and Pete and I cut the trailer to fit it. I think the music is better for not having been tailored shot by shot. I was able to synchronise images to the soundtrack where the fit was good, and to cut across it when that seemed the better option.
Rob Godman is a composer in his own right, and a friend and regular collaborator with Kate. However I’ve never met him, and so his contribution of recording her playing of Prelude for Hansel & Gretel is a particularly generous one. He has my heartfelt thanks.
In 2014 Simon Lewin of St Jude’s undertook to publish my proposed picture book of Hansel & Gretel under his Random Spectacular imprint. His support underpinned the project from start to finish. The book-trailer has been made to celebrate our bringing the picture-book to its conclusion.
Hansel & Gretel
The Brothers Grimm fairy tale reimagined by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Published by Random Spectacular, November 2016
Printed by Swallowtail, Norwich
Scanning by Saxon Digital Services, Norwich
Random Spectacular is the publishing imprint of design collective and print gallery, St Jude’s. The imprint was launched in 2011, providing the opportunity for St Jude’s to explore further collaborations in printed and audio form.
The picture book will be available for pre-order at Random Spectacular from Monday 30th October. (Halloween!)
Oh, that is delicious. I’m way behind on Clivedom…. Love the collaboration with Pete and Dave. And then the toy piano piece! Grand addition. (I was thinking of you, looking at my friend Jeff Sypeck’s turnip jack o’lanterns with the roots on at “Quid Plura?”)
Ha ha! Well Marly, it’s no surprise you’re a little behind, inasmuch that you are another like me, with a dozen ideas/projects skipping along in the margins, any one of which can suddenly take centre page and surprise everyone. Talking of which, I’m glad you like the music. There are to be more projects between me and Kate Romano. Shhhh, tell no-one!
Quid Plura? I’ll need to look that up.
I’m taking a break from the novel for a little sonnet mania!
WOOOOOW!!!!! That’s the best trailer I’ve seen! Fantastic everything, perfectly matched music, and those fingers and branches are just fabulously spooky! I love the set, i love everything…. congratulations to all four of you, and thank you for making this!!
Glad you approve, Zoe. I massively enjoyed making this little weird promo that doesn’t even show the book it’s trailering. I hope it does its job of encouraging people to look out for the book.
Scary, atmospheric, gloriously strange music, shades of those never quite forgotten black and white images of the ‘tele of one’s childhood’ stuck in my head now, holding fast to my white duck, ever so slightly ‘quackers.’
B xxx xxx xxx
Hello Sweetheart. Yes, all that is tucked in there. All that darkness and strangeness, so scary and yet so oddly comforting.
Wait until you see the duck. I think you’ll approve!
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Fantastic! Made me feel really nervous throughout. Need to calm down now!
Congratulations to all.
I don’t think I could be at all calm if that witch was on my tail!
Absolutely brilliant – Hansel & Gretel has always been one of my fsavourite puppet plays – stirred up my imagination from my youth !!!! Geoff
Thank you, Geoff. 2016 has been my Hansel & Gretel year. I’ve a toy theatre version coming out with Pollock’s after Christmas, as well as the picture book being launched Nov 23rd. From Monday you’ll be able to get a preview of it at the St Jude’s website.