I'm a filmmaker and visual effects artist living in Cardiff. I began my career in computer games working at Bullfrog Productions before studying filmmaking at Newport University. Since then, I've held the post of Head of Visual Effects at Dinamo Productions and made a number of short films that have been seen in festivals around the world. I am now the owner and director of Red Wire Media and have a number of feature projects in development.
Short film directed by Matt Grinter for South West Screen Digital Shorts 2010. Removing faces from hoodies to make them more threatening and adding other invisible spot effects where required. ...
Saturday, 14 July 2012 21:10
This will be my last post for this website in its current incarnation as I'm planning to replace it with a much simpler and streamlined version soon. It's been a year since my last update and, in that time, I've completed work on Ha Ha Hairies (airing now on S4C and Cartoonito around the world) and have become Managing Director at Bait Studio, a VFX and motion graphics company co-owned with Gorilla and Paul Nicholas. I'm also putting a great deal of effort into getting a feature project off the ground before the end of the year so I'm going to redesign the site with these changes in mind. Although I'll still keep a lot of the information here as an archive, I will instead just focus things on my own filmmaking projects and leave the VFX and animation to my respective company sites. I'm not sure what to do with my sketches and banners collection but I'll come up with something creative as I don't plan to stop commissioning them, especially if I have the chance to go to more than the Bristol and Cardiff Comic Expos in coming years. It would be great to curate and publish a selection some time.
So, expect a change soon. Ha Ha Hairies was a massive effort for a new company to delivery but we got everything completed on time and the results are spectacular. I wouldn't have been able to do it without the talented crew so all put far more into it than I could ever pay back. I was sorry to see the project end and many of them leave Cardiff. I hope very much to get them back on something bigger and better in the future, something that will test them even further!
The company changed its name to Red Wire Media not long after starting Hairies and I've decided to trade as Cloth Cat Animation going forward. Now that I have a share of Bait Studio, it doesn't really make sense to have such a mechanical sounding brand name. Red Wire doesn't really conjour up an image of animation so Cloth Cat was chosen as it was more fun and relevant. I chose it in honour of Bagpuss, my favourite animation series of my childhood. Krystal Georgiou has designed the logo and I hope to have an animated version when we start a new project next year.
For now, my filmmaking career is stepping into the spotlight again, continuing on from my It's My Shout film that I made last autumn, King of the Castle. I'm unable to show the film publicly yet but will create a page as soon as I can. I'm really proud of the film and I was very humbled to win Best Director at the closing awards ceremony. For my feature plans, I hope to announce something in the next few months. It'll take me back to Something Real in many ways, building on interest in science fiction as a way of commenting on the modern world. The film will have a very low budget but I have an excellent script and collaborators and I know that we'll create something surprising and enlightening.
I'll leave you with a showreel of the work on Ha Ha Hairies. More to come!
In a week's time, I'll be preparing to welcome my first employees to the new offices of Red Wire to start working on the Ha Ha Hairies. Some of the facilities are in, hardware and software have been ordered and all the 52 first draft scripts have been delivered. Elsewhere, the sets are starting to be built and the costumes made. I've been involved in the project, in its various incarnations, for over three years and it's great to see it finally coming together. It's going to be a full time production until February next year, by which time I might have aged a few extra years.
I've also nearly finished my post production VFX work on Elfie Hopkins, delivering the final shots to The Mews via FTP for grading. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was shivering on a sub-zero March night in West Wales. From what I've seen, it's going to be a fantastic, individual film with a distinctive British flavour. I'm looking forward to the first crew screening where I see it together in all its glory. The production was a great experience for me, having never been on a feature film set before. Most of my work up to now has been on local TV productions so getting the chance to be on location for four weeks was something I couldn't pass up. I'm just glad it happened before Hairies started otherwise I would have had to stay away.
Actually, my next big production will be a short film for the It's My Shout scheme. My film is called King of the Castle and has been written by William Smith, also a Newport Uni graduate, albeit a decade later than me. It'll be filmed on location in Coity and The Coal Exchange for three days next month before being edited at BBC Wales in Llandaff. The premiere will be in November at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl. I'm rather glad I'm not organising everything on this film! I wouldn't have had the time anyway so I really appreciate the support the scheme gives me. I've pretty much finished casting and Huw Walters will be my DoP again. Actually, James Bolam will be in one of the other films on the scheme so I'm hoping to take a day to go to that set and say hello. I can't believe it's been a year since I was finishing Blank Canvas and The Cursed Mirror. I really need to make that feature film!
The comics section of this website now has loads more banners to look at. I need to take some time to fill in the descriptions for the sketches from the recent Bristol Convention. We recently had our first meeting for the second Cardiff International Comics and Animation Expo (yes, animation now as well) and there are some big plans for the event in February. We'll be in the Mercure Hotel again, but for two days, and I'll be hosting a number of the panels. There was so much support and good will for our first event that I know it'll be a huge success next year.
I'm on Twitter now (@jon_rennie) so I'm going to try and use that to post more immediate updates. Also, www.redwirevfx.com has been established.
Elfie Wrap and Mr. Winstone
Tuesday, 12 April 2011 13:37
Elfie Hopkins has now wrapped and I'm back in Cardiff finishing off work on a promo trailer for a potential feature film called Embedded, directed by Reign of Death helmer Matt Savage. We shot the promo on Merthyr Mawr sands in mid-Febrary and will screen it at the Sci-Fi Film Festival in two weeks' time. There's quite a bit of creature work in there courtesy of Linus Hoffman and Jordan Davies (also Reign of Death - bit of a reunion actually) and I'm doing matte paintings and grading to make South Wales look like Afghanistan. Things are going really well and the response so far has been excellent.
My four weeks in New Quay (Ceredigion) filming Elfie were fantastic and I really enjoyed my time there. The days were long (12-15 hours minimum) but very rewarding and the final film will be excellent. I was on set to supervise the VFX and also be DIT, moving the RED footage from CF cards to multiple hard drives. It was all really pleasant shoot to be on with so many superb and professional people. While I was there I had the chance to interview the extraordinarily generous Ray Winstone about his work on Beowulf, Indiana Jones and Rango (plus a bit of Hugo Cabret!) I've also done one with Rupert Evans about this work on Hellboy so I'll post that as soon as I have time.
While I was away, I decided it would be a good idea to climb Snowdon on my day off. I have to admit that out of the three of us who did the climb, I was by far the worst and always trailed behind. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic trip and the perseverance paid off with some amazing images of Snowdon, walking through the cloud to stand on top of the world. Very 'Misty Mountains'.
Lastly, Blank Canvas will have its first festival screening this month at the London Independent Film Festival on April 23rd. Really looking forward to seeing it on the big screening again and hopefully a few of the cast and crew will be able to make it down as well. Hopefully this is the first of many festival screenings for my short films!
Film, TV and Comics All At The Same Time
Sunday, 20 February 2011 19:06
Another long period between updates but it hardly seems any time at all. Since I put my short films online, I've been working on a Children's TV series called Tati's Hotel for Machine Productions, done VFX for a number of local productions (see the Work section) and helped organise the new Cardiff Comics Expo that takes place on Saturday February 26th.
The response to Blank Canvas and Cursed Mirror has been excellent and I'm so glad I made the films when I did. They've been entered into about twelve festivals over the next year so I'll update these pages when I know they've been accepted. I'd really like to make more films, whether they be short or feature, but that costs money and that's something in short supply at the moment. Red Wire VFX is now in the process of being set up in a new locations in order to produce animation and VFX for a children's live action show in the autumn. More on that when the press releases are online.
In the near future, I'm going to be working on Ryan Andrews' debut feature film Elfie Hopkins and the Gammons. The shoot will take four weeks on location in Wales and stars Jaime Winstone, Ray Winstone, Steven Mackintosh and others to be confirmed. I'm really looking forward to being on my first feature film set since sneaking onto the Gladiator set when I was living in Surrey. Hopefully this time I won't be chased off my security. I think this film will be the start of a new wave of filmmaking in Wales, commercial films that already have distribution in place to reach the audience without relying on years of festival meandering.
I'm also part of a new industry group called the Wales Animation Movement - WAM! I'm a member of the Media Academy sub-committee for animation and so a number of us have banded together to create a group that will champion animation production in Wales, along with exploring the future of animation in games and mobile apps. We have a Facebook page, a blog and a twitter feed but the aim is to consolidate this into a larger website in the near future.
However, my most immediate appointment is the Cardiff Comics Expo next weekend. I'll be actually running two of the panels taking place in the afternoon, one interviewing my friend Matt Savage who has recently been doing concept artwork for X-Men: First Class, and the second will be for the Warhammer Ultramarines animated movie that was crewed by a number of my friends from Dinamo during production. I'm really excited to be part of the organisation of a convention after a number of years of visiting Bristol and Birmingham as an ordinary member of the public, especially one taking place in Cardiff for the first time. In future years, I'm hoping to expand its remit to include even more animation and VFX so that it becomes a celebration of the visual arts, both Welsh and International. This year, it's only taking place for one day but future years will be two or more.
New Short Films
Friday, 27 August 2010 14:46
My two new short films, 'Blank Canvas' and 'The Cursed Mirror' are now online on Youtube and Vimeo. There are also two articles about the films on this website but here are the embedded versions:
The articles give far more information about the projects than I will here but suffice to say they were amazing to work on and it was fantastic to finally get behind the camera again after more than six years of VFX. I still can't believe that, when I made Something Real, we were shooting on a digibeta camera with tape transfers and deinterlacing to deal with. This time, we were shooting on a stills camera in HD with a 35mm sensor. Such a huge leap in technology in such a small time. Also a major change for me was working with a full professional crew and actors, whereas before I was mainly relying on the help of friends to support me. All the way through, from camera, lighting and sound to the post production and music, I had access to far more knowledge and equipment than my earlier films. I just can't wait to get going on more films, perhaps even a feature.
Grandpa in my Pocket has now finished filming and so I'm back at Dinamo for the next six weeks while we do the CG animation and compositing. By then I hope to have a better idea of what I'm doing for the next year and what path my career will take. There are plenty of options available to me, even though this isn't really the ideal commercial environment right now.
I've also finally updated the comics section with the banners I got at the Bristol Comic Convention in May. Better late than never...
Reign of Shorts
Sunday, 18 July 2010 18:33
Exciting times ahead! I've now finished production on my two new short films, Blank Canvas and The Cursed Mirror, the premiere of which will be on Saturday 31st July. I'll be showing them in HD in Chapter Cinema 1 so hopefully everything will be finished by then! We currently finishing up the VFX for The Cursed Mirror and the sound of grading for both. I'll be updating both projects' articles over the next few weeks and I'm committed to putting them online straight away. In this day and age, people are getting far more exposure for their films on the web so I've decided to avoid the expensive and lengthy festivals route. That said, if a festival is happy to show the film despite its web premiere then I'll be happy to submit it.
The full length short of Reign of Death has also be posted on Youtube so I've updated the Reign article with the movie and VFX breakdown. Work is continuing on the feature film version, although nothing is concrete. As soon as there is news, I'll post it. In fact, the release of Reign on the web after an eight month delay to show it in a handful of costly festivals is what convinced me to put my own shorts online. There have been a number of VFX shorts getting considerable high profile viral exposure this past year and I hope that both Reign and both my films can join their ranks.
Grandpa in my Pocket Series 3 starts later this week for a four week shoot. It's only fourteen episodes this time but will hopefully be a relaxed experience. Although I'm no longer at Dinamo, I'm still overseeing the production and will be based there for all of September. Due to various efficiencies, there are no new CG props or FX-heavy sequences so things will be lighter than the last series. It's a shame that it couldn't get a full swan song but I have a feeling we'll be moving onto bigger and better things soon.
I've also spent the last few weeks working on a number of projects, including another Ryan Andrews short called Jerusalem and a series called Indian Doctor for Rondo Media. Indian Doctor stars Sanjeev Bhaskar and Mark Williams and is currently shooting in South Wales. I'll be providing a small bit of VFX support to create matte paintings of the Welsh valleys as they appeared in the 1960's. Jerusalem is Ryan's Digital Shorts film about the painter William Blake and it stars Ray Winstone in the lead role. In a shameless display of namedropping, here is my photo of me and Ray on set (very lovely chap who was really enthusiastic about motion capture following his role in Beowulf). To temper this, here is a photo of me riding the boiler plate of a steam train on the set of Indian Doctor. Simple pleasures...
Friday, 23 April 2010 22:33
It's been a few months since I left Dinamo and a lot has happened in the meantime. I've updated this site with articles about Grandpa in my Pocket Series 2 and my work on Black Tears, an installation by artist Cecily Brennan. Further articles to come as soon as some of the work is premiered online.
Noel Clarke has been terrifically busy and has inked a deal with Icon to develop a slate of projects over the next five years. The feature version of Reign of Death is one of those projects so fingers crossed that we get to make that in the very near future. Nothing's certain in this game but Noel has a drive and ambition that's second to none. Matt Savage, the director, is itching to get started and has been sending me some of the early production art to drool over.
My big news of the quarter is that I'm making some new short films. One is already in the can and I'll be filming the other in early May. The premiere will be in late July and I'll be spending the next few months completing the post production and updating this site with lots of pictures and making-of articles. I don't think I'll be able to post the full movie online for a while (in case festivals require some exclusivities) but I'll certainly post clips and breakdowns of the VFX shots.
On top of all that, I've now started my own VFX company, Red Wire VFX. Things are still in the embyonic stage but I hope to have it running by the end of the summer to do some really cool jobs.
It's been a year since I decided to leave Dinamo and in that time I've done so many things and met so many interesting people that I could never have predicted this career path. Take every opportunity you can - you never know what will happen!
Thursday, 26 November 2009 10:05
Grandpa in my Pocket has been nominated for a BAFTA Children's Award so I've been invited to the ceremony this Sunday to represent Dinamo at the Ad Astra table. It's also been nominated for a Kidscreen Award (against Sesame Street!) so the accolades are starting to flood in! Here's hoping we walk away with the statuette.
It's my last official week at Dinamo but I don't think it'll be last time I step through their doors. There are too many interesting projects going on! I'm looking forward to having a bit of a rest between now and Christmas, although I'll still be working on a couple of projects, not least a short film script I put in for the Digital Shorts scheme. Should I get through, I'll be making that around Easter next year. There are lots of other things on the horizon but nothing that I can talk openly about.
2012 was fun but overlong. Twilight: New Moon was dull and overlong. Avatar is clocking in at two and a half hours so hopefully it won't be third time unlucky! Never bet against James Cameron, though. I'll be seeing the film in the Cineworld and not the fake IMAX screen which is heading to Cardiff. It won't be a full IMAX cinema, just a reworked and rebranded existing screen at the Odeon. Sorely disappointed at that and it's frustrating when you consider that Bristol had a full IMAX up until a few years ago and it's never reopened.
Getting Things Finished
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 22:13
Post production on Grandpa in my Pocket is now complete and we've just delivered the last episode to the editing team in London. Our final shot count was 1051 shots, a 25% increase on last year and most of that was down to the scripts that integrated Grandpa more with the action. There's far more activity and running around in this series and there are plenty of times where Grandpa is on his own trying to solve a problem without being seen. It's been a tough schedule but, since this is the second series, we were able to jump straight back into the workflow without the stress of trying to figure things out as we were going along. Here's hoping for a series three! Grandpa has been nominated for a Bafta so I don't think this will be the last we've heard of Grandpa and his cap. Showreel and full writeup will be posted as soon as the series has been aired next February/March.
I've also now finished production on Reign of Death and the trailer has been posted on Youtube (see below). It's been great to work on this from beginning to end and it's really inspired me to return to filmmaking again, now that I'm leaving Dinamo to work on personal projects. I'll certainly be making another short film again next year, hopefully a script that Barney and I wrote a few years ago but had to shelve when our careers took over. It's been a great pleasure to work on this production and was a really good editing and compositing experience. I think this film is going to go far and people who see it are really passionate about pushing it further and really making use of the great crew that came together to make it. A big thanks to both Matt and Linus for all their hard work and inspiration!
I've added loads of new articles to my work section, filling out the titles with making-of information and showreels. I just need to write the Grandpa Series 1 piece and then I'll be up to date.
Lastly, I visited the Birmingham Comic Convention last month and got loads of new banners for the Comics section. There are about eighteen new sketches, plus a couple of extra ones drawn at the recent MCM show in London that I sadly couldn't visit but had a friend take along my sketchbook instead. The convention was good, but oddly empty and I'm not sure whether it will go well next year. The Bristol one is more fun and energetic so I'll certainly be going to that in May. I'd also like to go to the next MCM show that's also in May but I'll see what my finances are like first! The highlight of Birmingham, however, was seeing Star Trek on the Imax - definitely an experience I had to do twice! What a great film.
On the film front, District 9 was superb, Up was okay but rather simplistic (I wonder whether Pixar's canonical group-writing process actually removes all individuality from the story and simplifies things too much), The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was a fun mess that I really enjoyed, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was good fun and didn't hurt my eyes, and Fantastic Mr. Fox was okay even though they all looked a little like animated roadkill. Looking forward to Avatar and 2012 - I'm a sucker for VFX overdoses.
Summer of Work Over
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 08:15
The summer has rushed by and I don't think I've seen daylight! Grandpa in my Pocket has now finished filming and we're about a month away from completing the visual effects post production. Reign of Death has also finished post production and the only remaining task is to do the sound dub and present it to the world. It's been a really tough two months doing days on Grandpa and nights on Reign but the results have been worth it. The resulting short film looks great, especially the CG work done by Linus Hofmann and the CG animation students at Swansea Metropolitan, and it seems strange to think it was a half finished, colour and sun-lit edit not a month and a half ago. I'll post more about the film when it's done in a special making-of article.
I've now made a big change of direction in my career by resigning from my post at Dinamo Productions and going back to being a freelance VFX artist. I'll also be setting up my own company to handle some (hopefully) larger jobs, but for now it'll just be myself doing some general VFX work. It's been a long time coming and I decided that now was the time to move on and put my knowledge to use in ways that would benefit me more directly. I've learned a lot in the past five years and I'm keen to take advantage of the opportunities developing currently in Cardiff. I finish at the end of November and I plan to take most of December off! It'll be my first proper holiday in three years!
Due to my ridiculous work schedules, I've barely been to the cinema recently. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was fun and looked great in 3D (something I couldn't say about Coraline). We've been watching True Blood at home and it certainly lives up to the pedigree of other HBO drama series. Very bloody, very sexy, very funny and completely engrossing. Have also seen Generation Kill (also HBO), which was good but meandering, and Star Trek twice on Imax, which completely blew me away. I've now seen Star Trek four times at the cinema and it still holds up - it has the most incredible energy and enthusiasm to it that means it just keeps getting better on each viewing.
Last weekend I was at the Birmingham International Comic Convention so I got a large number of new sketches from artists of every genre. I'll be scanning and posting them over the weekend. It was a good convention, although I think its venue and limitations to the comics industry means that it's going to struggle to grow. They need to find a city-centre location that can grab passing trade and appeal to a wider audience. The number of artists were noticeably fewer on the ground this time and most of the vendors didn't do as well as they expected. In its current state, I can't see it surviving. The next convention will be the Bristol one in May.