Thursday, November 21, 2013

Looking for a Ghost at CBU

Tiny Circus spent the final week of Fall Tour 2013 in Memphis, TN, hunting a ghost that resides in the basement of a building at Christian Brothers University. Sadly, the ghost was nowhere to be found, but stories abounded about experiences with the ghost on campus. Our newest Circus members, a group of students and instructors at CBU, worked with us over the week to collect and compare those stories. While some of our interview subjects expressed disbelief in the reality of the ghost, they struggled with the idea that their friends reported to have direct experiences with it. We decided that the most interesting thing about the Kenrick Hall Ghost lay in this intersection of belief and non-belief--what do you believe when your friends' stories tell you one thing and your own head tells you another?

The first half of the week was dedicated to recording and sorting through audio. We discovered that many of the stories we recorded contained overlapping content--footsteps, inanimate objects moving on their own, a piano playing itself in the middle of the night, a face in the window. We used these repeat occurrences to craft a single ghost story narrative, sandwiched by our interviewees' thoughts on the potential existence of ghosts and other spooky details. A ghost story sandwich.

For the intro and outro scenes, we constructed a lifelike set out of foamcore and printed images of Kenrick Hall, the building that the ghost is rumored to haunt (and the building in which our classroom was located). Our CBU collaborators brought some serious Photoshop skills to the table, as well as a pretty cool jib arm for shooting. 

We shot the rest of the animation at night, setting up in some of the eeriest rooms in Kenrick and using ourselves as subjects. Our crew stuck it out for some late nights of shooting and editing in order to finish by the end of the week, and even recorded an original soundtrack at the last minute to accompany the animation. We had candy and coffee available at all hours.

"Ghost Story" screened on a chilly Friday night, in front of a crowd of students, instructors and friends of TC. The ghost was not in attendance, as far as we could see...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tiny Circus Big Top

NOW PRESENTING: Tiny Circus Big Top!

Tiny Circus is exploring new topics and themes that might not be appropriate for younger audiences. While we are interested in creating animations with more mature content, we acknowledge that our viewership and our pool of fellow collaborators is comprised of both children and adults. We recognize that our past animations are uniformly kid-friendly and that parents often let their kids view Tiny Circus videos on their own. Over the past few months, we have been trying to figure out how to post our new work without alienating any of our audience members or fellow collaborators. The solution we’ve reached is to post our less kid-friendly content under a new name: Tiny Circus Big Top.

Tiny Circus Big Top was created as a result of discussions among full-time collaborators, TC alum, and friends of TC, many of whom are teachers and parents with children. Here’s a quick rundown of those discussions:

  • We considered posting the new videos under the same Tiny Circus YouTube account as all of our other videos, but we imagined that kids viewing videos on their own could possibly come across content that their parents would rather them not see.

  • We also considered posting our new work under a new moniker that would be kept completely separate from the Tiny Circus web presence, but we realized that we still wanted to share our new animations with the current TC community.

  • The most logical choice in our minds, after months of discussion, was to create Tiny Circus Big Top. TC Big Top has its own YouTube channel, Vimeo channel, a new e-mail address, and a new Facebook page. Big Top viewers will be encouraged to check out Tiny Circus animations, but Tiny Circus YouTube viewers will not be linked directly to Big Top animations (this allows us to better manage the probability that kids or viewers who do not want to view animations with adult themes would come across such videos unintentionally).

Our goal as a collaborative organization is to create animations that are fun, hilarious, fascinating, and interesting to our group of animators. Since that group of animators so often changes form, so does the content of the animations that are created. Providing this new space for adult-themed animations is meant to allow us to expand our current body of work and grow as an organization. TC Big Top will be a place for animations with content that we imagine some parents might not want their children to see; it allows us to leave that decision up to parents. After all, some parents might see the TC Big Top animations as an educational opportunity or a way to spark conversation with their young ones. Either way, we are making the process of creating TC Big Top as transparent as possible, and the conversations about what this means for TC are by no means over.

All that said, it is our “pleasure” to share these new animations with you, TC family and friends.

Check out our first Big Top animation here: Big Top - Pornucopia

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Art Educators of Iowa Fall Conference

Tiny Circus was in Cedar Rapids with the Art Educators of Iowa this past weekend. AEI's fall conference took place in the lovely Hotel at Kirkwood Center. We converted a conference room into our animating studio for the weekend, making use of the huge magnetic whiteboards, the rolly desks and desk chairs, and the gigantic flat screen monitor (used to show animators shots from Dragonframe in real time).

As the "animation troupe in residence" at the (coincidentally) circus-themed conference, we spent three long days in our animating studio. Teachers attending the conference jumped in both to observe the process and to get hands-on by making characters and animating. Some conference attendees spent a few minutes with us; others spent hours and returned day after day.

The storyboard for the visuals involves shots of clay, paper cut-outs, and dry erase marker drawings as well as time lapse and stop motion sequences. The fanciful and imaginative visuals will be paired with an audio document crafted from interviews with art educators at the conference. Exploring questions related to the importance of art education, what actually happens in the art classroom, and what larger lessons art educators hope to give their students through art education, the audio document takes a closer look at what art class really does for students at any grade level.

The weekend with AEI was packed full of animating and interviewing, but we also had the opportunity  to give a lecture to the entire crowd, do a screening the last night of the event, and make some new friends from all over the state!

After packing up and saying goodbye to our converted conference room turned animating studio, we returned to our Grinnell home base to edit the animation and prepare to head south for the winter. Stay tuned for the animation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Circus at Citizen Jane

Two weeks later, Tiny Circus is still feeling the buzz from this year's Citizen Jane Film Festival in Columbia, MO. Having been too busy animating during our last several years at Citizen Jane to actually experience much of the festival, we were grateful this year for the opportunity to kick back and enjoy some great films. We also got to know some awesome filmmakers as we interviewed them for next year's film festival bumpers. We asked them about the first films they ever made, and what kind of film they'd make now if they had unlimited time and budget.

We spent our weekend discussing what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, and strategizing about alternative structures to the current model.

Katie and Sally spoke on a panel about collaboration. We collected lots of Citizen Jane gear. 

And we danced. And ate 2 a.m. biscuits, and explored a cave. Ken, our cave tour guide, came to see The History of War, The History of Curiosity, Ghost Trap, Age, and Creativity as they were screened in the Animated Shorts! program. 

This short film made by Stephens College student volunteers at the fest really captures the magic of the weekend. Thank you, Citizen Jane! We can't wait until next time. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cornell College Joins the Circus

Tiny Circus has begun its latest project in residence at Cornell College. Located in hilly Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Cornell College has a long and proud history of community and art.

While at Cornell College, the Circus is providing students with hands-on experience brainstorming, producing, and editing stop-motion animations a collaborative environment.

The Circus moves fast, but so do the students and faculty of Cornell. The production studio is up and running, and the creative team has already done a quick introductory animation with one of Tiny Circus' recurring characters, Billy Circus.

The animation station set up and ready to go.

This month, the Circus crew plans to shoot a series of short animations on the topic of the Seven Deadly Sins. Deciding to limit set-making and animating to only the medium of paper, the group has found a variety of captivating ways to construct and shoot some scenes about sin.

The Circus will conclude the month with an appearance at Mount Vernon's Lincoln Highway Arts Festival . Thanks to the hard work of students at Mount Vernon, you can be sure to stay tuned for some of the most sinful stop-motion you've ever seen.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tiny Circus Returns from the Super Fantastic RAGBRAI Tour

After an exciting eight day long tour with the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), the Tiny Circus has returned to Grinnell. Each day involved setting up our animation tent in overnight towns along the route to allow the riders and locals to participate in our animation, as well as participate in interviews about their RAGBRAI experience and the community it has to offer. 

Animating tent getting prepared for the day.

Day three of RAGBRAI was our big animating day in Des Moines. Instead of our usual animating station we set up a sky jack in front of the capitol building to animate people! The sky jack allowed us to shoot photos of everyone from above.

Two Circus-ers shooting and directing on the sky jack. 

Participants on the ground and in position for animating.
 In each town people of all ages and backgrounds showed up to our tent to help make paper characters for the animation project. Once they were done making their character, they had the opportunity to take it to the animating table and learn how to do stop-motion animations.

Participants at the making table.

Jenny and Katie demonstrating how our process works at the animating table. 

We received a lot of super fantastic help from participants in each town and we thank everyone who came by.  Now that we're home we'll be going through all of the animations and interviews we collected along the way to begin the editing process.  Please check back soon to see the finished Super Fantastic RAGBRAI animation! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer 2013 Residents' Animations

Tiny Circus artists recently completed the animations Age and Before Sleep. Like previous documentary animations, these videos use audio recordings of interviews.

The Circus Prepares to Tour Iowa

#packing the air stream and setting out#
We continue to make progress in preparation for the giant workshop we have designed for the upcoming Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, RAGBRAI. Animation sessions are planned for stations in each overnight location along the RAGBRAI route. Riders will be recruited to create animations and record audio for a documentary video about community. We need your help! Tiny Circus relies on group (community) participation in our creative process. Look for the big red tent, red signs, and carnies dressed in red Tiny Circus t-shirts, which we coincidentally will be selling, in the following RAGBRAI overnight locations: Council Bluffs, Harlan, Perry, Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Fairfield, & Fort Madison. The finished product will be featured at the "Riding Through History" exhibition hosted by the State Historical Museum of Iowa in conjunction with the Iowa Arts Council.
During this morning's group meeting we learned about Monday's front page of the "OFFICIAL NEWSPAPER OF GRINNELL AND POWESHIEK COUNTY, IOWA".
Much has been accomplished in preparation for RAGBRAI so far this week. We have collectively settled on and tested out a storyboard that anticipates community assistance. We have exhausted every song ever written about bicycles, but we're open to suggestions. We have an especially spectacular scene planned for Des Moines! Come join The Circus!!
Have you watched this one yet?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday at Tiny Circus

After another intense lead-up to our second film screening, our weekend concluded with a welcome relaxed pace, but was accompanied by the departure of several Circus clowns. The rest of us spent Monday organizing ourselves to tackle the upcoming RABRAI tour project—which our new video promo (below) might best explain!

As a few of us aren't joining the main crew next week, we split the seemingly-infinite remaining logistics, responsibilities, and plans. Animation tests and phone calls to newspapers alike were made, and our Google "Ducks" online turned grey with every completed task. We rounded out the day with a picnic dinner at Rock Creek, where one particularly spry clown proved that swimming across the lake right after eating is safe (so long as you ignore the haunted depths and their aquatic moaning). A recently-returned harp made the evening especially peaceful.

Tuesday began anew with excellent DJing by none other than your most humble blogpost author for today, and the morning was spent discussing the test animations and tackling a storyboard for each day of the trip. We're talking tubes, hoppers, and gears galore—so get excited!

The afternoon switched from all that couch time and got us moving in the sluggish humidity: some of us completed a series of new test animations, others made to-do lists for making more to-do lists, and everyone suffered from the heat. Overall, it was as productive a few hours as it was icky working conditions, but the Circus never lets the weather get to us! Dinner was served in town at Community Meal (which you should attend every Tuesday at 5:30pm if you live in Grinnell) and the evening spreads out in front of us. More to come!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

End of Week 2: Afternoon Ducks & Late-Night Donuts

It’s already been another week here at Tiny Circus! We started week two with three new members in the community, but in the past two days we’ve welcomed another four--- three ducks, one person. Yesterday afternoon, in the midst of our exceptionally focused animating and sound-editing, we watched as Turtle, Enya, and No. 3 crawled their way from their dark shells into the light and love of Circus.

Their arrival could not have been more timely. This week’s animation explores some of the complications of age and aging. We do this through collected interviews from the Grinnell community, and short animations of animal kingdom milestones. Watching the ducks hatch added both a more tangible and more magical element to our project.

Because of the ever-changing roster of this year’s summer session, we have been spending only one week on each animation. The compressed timeline is exhilarating. Some of our members have observed that this lifestyle is something lik
e a cross between a music festival and finals week. 

Last night (or this morning?) we all worked hard until midnight. After checking in on audio and visual progress, we decided that a) some people needed to sleep b) some people needed to animate, and c) some people needed to go get donuts for the animators (there is a Grinnell tradition of 2 am “bakery runs” to the local bakery in town). The donuts (and espresso) did their job, and the animators finished another scene at 3:30 am this morning. 

Tonight will be our second potluck-screening-dance party of the summer session. Tomorrow, a few more members will leave town, and those staying at Circus will spend the next week planning the Tiny Circus event for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

End of Week 1: Before Sleep

Tiny Circus has been hard at work creating our first animation of the summer session. We set a goal for ourselves to make a visually and aurally compelling documentary animation, all in only four days!

The premise of the animation is to explore the peoples’ thoughts in the moments before they fall asleep. We’ve had a lot of fun interviewing people of all ages in town on this subject and experimenting with animation on a multi-plane table that some of our members constructed. We’re excited about how everything is coming together, both in the diversity of people’s responses and the images we are now able to create with the new equipment. 

We’re in crunch time now and are in the process of editing the audio and shooting final scenes. Then we’ll turn to final editing and create a whole out of the audio and visual parts. We’ve invited friends and community members for an evening showing of the completed piece and can’t wait to pose our question to more viewers!  

We’re sad to see some of our Circus members leave but we look forward to new arrivals this weekend for Week 2!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hocus Focus

Today the Tiny Circus crew took focus to a new level with the construction of a brand new contraption for our latest animation.  We built a focal plane structure for the animating table that has already resulted in some truly stunning visuals!  For this project we are playing with depth of field as a way to communicate different perspectives we are exploring concerning the time before sleep.  Circus folks also spent the morning hyper-focused on collecting a myriad of imagery and editing together the community interviews we conducted yesterday.  In the afternoon we listened to the compiled interviews as a group as well as viewed multiple test animations.  Afterwards we continued to collaboratively develop ideas surrounding these audio and visual materials.  The nifty "exploration map" created as a group the day before helps guide our discussions and ideas as we continue to move towards to the finish line.

Its been a highly productive day, which means its time to shift our focus to... DANCE PARTY!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tiny Circus is back.

Tinny Circus Summer session is back! This is the 6th edition, and we are excited to be back in Grinnell. Participants come from all over the country and we even have an international visitor this year.

Our day starts with a nice breakfast and some group cleaning. We are then energetic and ready to start working.

This year project, based in thoughts before sleep, it’s starting to shape. So far, we have been recording interviews with some local folks and we are now in the audio editing process.

This year, the rooms have been named so everyone knows where they belong. Check out those names:  Peatang, Zebaby, Dungaroo, Whonky, Snooster, Porncupine. Yes, we know, those are impossible combinations in wild, lucky us, this is Tinny Circus.