Animation G-man: Cordell Barker

The Craft

I’m a G-man now, and I’m kind of excited! I don’t know how many have heard the latest news, but if you haven’t, let me be the first to warn that I now have the delicate task of acting as the Creative Consultant on animation for the Northwest Centre for the NFB. The NWC is a massive geographical area comprised of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut – an area bigger than Europe, though the animator population is, I’m guessing, a fair bit lower.

As Creative Consultant, I’ll be looking at some of the animation projects that pass before the Executive Producer David Christensen. You’ll note the use of the word – some.  My involvement is at the discretion of the Executive Producer and he will decide on which projects I’m turned loose. This seems a good time for a disclaimer: I don’t make ANY determinations on which projects move forward into production and which ones might be (here’s the delicate part) reconsidered. I merely read through the proposals, making constructive suggestions, observations and generally act as an extra set of eyes that have a bit more animation experience.

I can imagine a fear that I will favour funny narrative over other forms of animation, but really – I DO have a sensitive artistic side. Really! I think this might even be the part of the job that appeals to me the most – looking at a broad spectrum of projects, many of which will fall outside of my usual oeuvre.  I’m forever saying in interviews that you can’t escape your sensibilities, so maybe through this process I can look at my own work more critically or with a slightly different slant. So in a way it may all serve one grand purpose. We’ll see!

An interesting aspect to my CC role will be in creating animation workshops, setting up workshops by others and generally keeping an animation weather-eye open. The whole thing is fairly fluid and open to whatever seems appropriate to the moment.

The really great thing about my CC job is that it’s a one-third time position which allows me the freedom and flexibility to also work on my own films. And I, in fact, just happen to have a new one in the works. The working title is: If…, the premise being; what would I do if I were God and how badly might I screw it all up if I was.

In my film a boy sits and speculates in his classroom, skylarking about the power to manage life, loves and bullies. I chose a young character as God so that I could play with the ideas of thinly controlled impulse and petulance – God as a spoiled pubescent child. He may not intend to destroy anything, but once he gets going, he kind of enjoys it. God, like any beloved child has lightning swings between sweet benevolence and vengeful mayhem – all impulse with very little conscience. The whole point of my film is that we’ve become our own God (and an immature one at that), crafting a new world for ourselves – but ultimately, not what we were expecting or hoping for.

What I like about my new concept is that it gives me the opportunity to play with different animation techniques. My plan is to incorporate stop-motion puppets, naive low-quality Cordell-like 2D animation, naive computer CGI, and papier-mâché and cardboard cut-out animation.

This film theme may offend some viewers I suppose. But, I’m making a humorous film about what is generally just a point of opinion. So if it does upset anyone, I guess that’s fair – it is their opinion.

And as a Creative Consultant for Animation, I’m all just opinion.

Wish me luck!

Cordell Barker