You’re probably not in France so you can watch it here:
About 3 years ago outside a coffee shop, Ian got some croissant on his face and a silly sketch popped out fully formed. The main challenge was how to attach structurally unstable croissants to a face. We asked Twitter and THE Bob Mortimer told us “copydex”. If sticking stuff to your face is good enough for them it’s good enough for us. After Croissant’s first screening we heard Bob had ‘fallen’ and underwent a triple bypass. I nearly did a little cry. Sorry it took 3 years to make Bob.
This summer we wanted a nice excuse to work with our clever mates and have something to show at a couple of festivals. We settled on Croissant, which at first felt more like a sketch, but there were so many weird elements to it that there was a reason we hadn’t braved it yet.
We feel that animation and live action should only be used when they’re most useful. It would have been easy to make a 2D cartoon, but that wouldn’t have had much impact beyond the amusing concept. The aim was to make the film purely funny in every aspect and have the audience feel the escalation is spontaneously happening right there. However that’s achieved through quite a technical way. The actors and their chemistry have to fit with the correct surrounding. There needs to be some sort of relationship subtext so that you can care about why they’re angry/confused. The transformations should look shoddy but believable. The pastry levels have to increase in the right increments. The roaring torrent of jam has to be a punchline that can’t be topped (I would have liked more jam).
It felt like it should take place somewhere like a roadside cafe. Maybe because roadside cafe’s feel like strange limbos. Probably because we like greasy spoons. As for actors, Tom Reid was always going to be our number one croissant. John Henry Falle was so impressive on DuckManBoy that we had to find a way to work with each other again. Together, Tom’s small performance versus John Henry’s jangly, booming performance was brilliant to watch.
Next thing to work on was the Croissant head. After a while of painting and glazing, the smell of stale reference croissants started to make me think I had a painted an actual huge croissant.
The squirty eyes were made under the wisdom of Chris Randall. I turned up with some pingpong balls, jumbo syringes, tubing and twelve jars of cheap jam. Chris immediately rolled up his sleeves. The first test was a thick jam fail. Cordial made a lot more sense and could wash out. We also got bonus Doctor advice to shorten the tubes for less resistance.
I enquired about a custom croissant handlebar moustache and eyebrows with a French patisserie, but realised it was easy enough to just bake/grill puff pastry to make sturdy but flakey facial hair.
In the script there was no specific dialogue or clear cut emotional ramp until the obvious big transformations. Capturing the spontaneity of the performance took priority so I threw out continuity in favour of building and layered the performance in the edit. It took about 2 edits to realise this. Up to then, the performance felt consciously cut and snarky. Once the continuity was ruined it was quite freeing to do the ‘croissant choreography’ from scratch, even though this meant removing and adding croissant on most of Tom’s shots. It also meant I could really start experimenting with the rhythm of the edit. The emotional build up of the characters became much clearer too. John Henry’s nervousness is brewed up by Tom’s stupidity to the point where you can see why he would crack. It took a lot of time and we debated whether we should have done things differently, but the only way round would have been a day of rehearsals we didn’t have, or tons of retakes which might have killed the atmosphere.
Craig’s framing on the shoot really captured Tom’s performance and built the tension, but all of my edit meddling lead to inconsistent framing. This meant that half the shots were reframed with tracked background plates. Sounds stupid, but it did give the scenes a flow as the camera seems to push back and forwards on Tom. By the time I’d gone this deep I went the whole way and fixed a couple of continuity errors, rubbed out jam tubes and rubber bands, painted Tom’s face, and made his butter fascinator melt.
Making a jam torrent that would smash into Tom without a ruining the cafe was another hurdle. Genius Chris Randall came to the rescue again. He had the idea of turning Tom on his back against a green screen and pouring jam from above to give the illusion of lots of gravity defying force. Otherwise we’d need to bodge together pressurised equipment full of jam. Buckets are easier.
We had one of the nicest teams we could have had for filming in such a tight space.
We’ve done stuff with Craig Bush for a few years now. We share a lot of the same humour and he was the one that chose Croissant as the next film.
Pete Styles is a great sound designer and recordist and we’d wanted to work with him for a while. He’s one of the loveliest guys going, and since shooting this Craig, Pete and me have got to keep the fun going on a few location shoots.
Beth Lowes was amazing and one-upped Bob Mortimer’s ‘Copydex’ with ‘eyelash glue’. We’re really grateful that she chose to use her Sunday to share Tom’s head as a craft project.
Also a huge thanks to Kings Sandwich Bar in Kings Heath. After recceing around town and scouring Google Maps, the only cafe that was closed on Sunday, happy to film, and had the world’s best fry up mural was just a mile up the road. Thanks to Lucy from King’s for cameoing as the waitress too.
The film got it’s first showing at Bar Shorts in Shoreditch. By most accounts it got the best laughs of the night. Ian filmed this nice video of the reaction:
Here’s some GIFs. Everyone likes GIFs.
Massive thanks to Dog and Rabbit who put the night on. It looks like a great lineup and worth going just for Chris Shepherd’s presenting style. There will be a few of us there so come along if you want to say Hi.
It’s a free and doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. You can tell them your coming here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ha-ha-shorts-tickets-18971531361
Here’s the Facebook Event if that does it for you: https://www.facebook.com/events/1504715969821607/
*EDIT* Croissant got a great reception. Here’s a video of the reaction:
We’ve made a new film. It’s called Croissant. It’s very silly. It stars Tom Reid (Gregory is a Dancer) and John-Henry Falle (The Story Beast). Here’s a teaser.
The full short sketch will be released shortly. Follow us on Twitter @diceproductions in the meantime.
We’ve had a lovely surprise today as our short film All Consuming Love (Man in a Cat) has won two awards at The Moonrise Film Festival in Canada. It won Best International Short Film and the Audience Choice Best Animation. Thanks Moonrise!
It’s particularly pleasing as Man in a Cat was our first commissioned film and it’s been a good while since it last appeared at a festival. It’s nice to see the film is still be doing the rounds and collecting accolades.
You can see the other winners and follow the Moonrise Film Festival on Facebook.
If you haven’t seen the film before, it stars Kevin Eldon, Josie Long and Isabel Fay and you can watch it on Vimeo below:
After finishing DuckManBoy, and other projects we can’t chat about yet, we thought it was time to finally make a showreel. It’s also been about 5 years since starting production on Man In A Cat. Since then we’ve created stuff for Channel 4, Nickelodeon, BBC Comedy and Oxfam, and worked with some amazing people in the process.
That was fun. Everything is with Italian 60’s Pop.
It’s also been 6 years since my last freelance reel, so it’s nice finally showing off what I’ve done for other people between our Dice work. More Italian 60’s Pop:
We’ve also got a new website design and silly Dice ident to suit us better. We’ve always had an awkward relationship with the formality of ‘Dice Productions’. It’s like an embarrassing band name that’s too late to shake off. So, instead of starting again we’re styling it out with a silly rubbery neck, yellow paint, and a slide whistle.
We’ve had Ross Butter in the studio for the last few weeks animating on DuckManBoy. As he was leaving we collaborated on a heart (and lung) warming Christmassy GIF for Skwigly Magazine’s Advent Calendar. I think it was the first time I’ve ever jammed on the same scene with someone. It’s nice having a little idea and then just piling things on top of it without worrying about the consequences.
Don’t worry Rudolph. Santa will need his oxygen mask… any… second… now…
The screening is at 16:10 on Saturday 24th January in NFT3 at The British Film Institute Southbank in Comedy Film Showcase One.
LOCO is one of our favourite festivals. We won the inaugural short film prize with Man in a Cat, judged the shorts competition the following year, and screened Don’t Fear Death there last year. Now Gregory gets his chance to shine at the BFI.
It’s always a great time at LOCO and we always wish we could see more than we do. Come along! Check out the rest of the programme here.
Louis and I will be doing a talk and panel at University of Worcester this Sunday 16th November. We’ll be showing some films, chatting and answering questions about animation and how we work as Dice Productions. Joining us will be friend and bearded wonder Steven Spencer of Nice Monster.
The talk is 11am-1pm on Sunday 16 November at The Chapel CHG012 & CHG014, City Campus, Worcester.
As you may or may not know, we’re making a new short film for Nickelodeon called Duckmanboy. And as with most short films, we need a cast. And now we can reveal it.
Please be introduced to Rasmus Hardiker as Dwayne, John-Henry Falle as Sir Richard Battenburger, and Mike Wozniak as Neil (flanked by Louis and me).
Rasmus Hardiker plays Dwayne, our naive, gung-ho, half-duck wannabe hero.
Rasmus is an actor and voice artist that has appeared in many sitcoms and animations. You might recognise him as Steve Coogan’s sidekick in Saxondale, or from his roles in sitcoms Lead Balloon, The Wrong Door and Funland (which I think is criminally overlooked). Rasmus is also an established voice talent and is soon to be appearing as not one, but two of the Traceys in the rebooted Thunderbirds Are Go series.
As a bonus, Rasmus is from our neck of the woods. He’s a Birmingham lad and it’s nice to have more Brummies portraying half man, half duck superheroes.
Neil – Mike Wozniak
Mike Wozniak plays Neil, an uptight half duck accountant and reluctant sidekick and older brother to Dwayne.
Mike is a stand-up comedian and actor. He was nominated for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2013 for his live solo show. He is also a regular cast member of Channel 4 sitcom Man Down with Greg Davies and the late Rik Mayall. Mike has appeared with another former Dice collaborator Kevin Eldon in his BBC2 sketch show It’s Kevin.
He is often seen sporting a glorious moustache.
Sir Richard Battenburger – John-Henry Falle
John-Henry is an actor and comedian who is one quarter of sketch group The Beta Males and 100% of The Story Beast, a character in the thrall of mythology and lore. We first met John-Henry at London Comedy Film Festival in 2013 when we as judges selected his film Womble in the top 3.
John-Henry has been seen in The Boy With Tape On His Face’s comedy pilot and is soon to feature in Bill, the Horrible Histories feature film. We urge his casting in many other things. He’s very good and a lovely chap.
And now, for anyone interested in the process of animation or filmmaking, I thought I’d talk about how we go about casting for a comedy short. It’s one of the most fun parts of the process for us alongside the voice recording itself.
We tend to start the casting process with quite specific ideas of people we know or have seen live or on TV. Recommendations also help from people in the biz. Often, we’ve written the parts with people (or voices) in mind so that gives us a strong starting point.
When it comes to choosing people to audition it’s all about the voice and the character. Name, popularity, and look don’t come into it. If they’ve got the right voice and the comedy chops to interpret the script then they’re the right person for the role.
We particularly like working with comedians. We’ve been lucky to work with some great alternative comedy talent so far (Mayall, Eldon, Long, etc). Comedians have a natural sense of timing and can add to the performance in ways that some voice artists cannot. That’s not to say pro voice artists aren’t good. We’ve worked with some great ones and their versatility and range is the thing that marks them out as special. For this project, we thought comedians and comic actors were the way forward.
So after some head scratching and research we held the auditions at Nickelodeon’s London HQ and we saw some very talented people. We gave a 20 minute slot to each performer in the Spongebob room and did a recorded read-through of the script, with Louis and I filling in the other parts. It’s a testament to the skill of the actors to react to our terrible line-readings and fluffs.
We give a small amount of direction in auditions, but mainly want to see the performer’s interpretation of the material and their energy. Animation often requires quite big vocal performances and sometimes it can be difficult, even for actors, to break out of their shell and go nuts. Cartoons are often big, vivid worlds, so the voices and performances often have to be too. In this case, we wanted to mix big and wild, with some understatement and restraint.
After the audition we took the tapes away and listened to the takes, combined with the self-taped auditions that were sent to us by performers that couldn’t make it on the day.
Following some deliberation and thinking about the characters we had difficult decisions to make. In the end we decided on our core cast of three based on their unique angle on the voices. The voices we’ve ended up with aren’t exactly what we initially thought, but that’s fine. We go into casting hoping to be surprised. Sometimes you can’t prescribe a voice to someone, you just have to hear it and decide from there if it fits the bill (duck pun intended).
Once the formalities of contracts and fees are sorted it’s onto the voice recording which hopefully I’ll talk a little bit about in another post. We’re really happy with our cast and the performances we’ve captured, and all that feeds into the next stage of production. Onwards!