One day after I finished a grueling two-hour day at university, I decided to unwind doing my favorite thing- feeding my habit of YouTube. Along with nail biting, this is a bad habit I picked up from my Mum. Mum sends me a million videos a day of random things she finds on YouTube. Such as, videos about various cats, videos of a snoring dormouse, twin babies that can talk, but not talk, but they manage to understand each other over a political conversation in the kitchen, videos of dancing ponies, videos about a gorilla who makes friends with a dog, then the dog dies and the gorilla is super sad. Oh and other classic, about a gorilla who learns to understand what death is through American sign language, and naturally like anything that understands death and the cycle of life for the first time, the gorilla gets angry. Anyway, where was I…? So I hopped onto YouTube, to watch some short films. Ever since watching Bob the Builder when I was a young girl (okay, I was about 10… is that wrong because the shows target audience is two to five year olds?), I have love Stop Motion Animation. I came across an animation gold mine, finding the work of Max Martin. I was drawn to Max’s video The Busker, and the optimistic message of always finding the silver lining.
The Busker is the story about a one-man band. The Busker is playing his music in the busy streets, when he thinks someone has thrown him some money, which turns out to be a bottle cap, the Busker smashes his fist onto the ground. The Busker is opened up into a music utopia, a scene very similar to when Harry Potter goes to Diagon Alley with Hagrid (I am a massive Harry Potter enthusiast). In this magical music utopia, the Busker discovers that his hair, fingers, feet, ribs and body is a source of music. The Busker optimistically shows how you can turn a bad situation, into a brilliant one.
I wanted to know more about the man behind The Busker, so I asked Max some of my burning questions.
How did you come up with the narrative of The Busker?
“I can’t take any credit for the story of The Busker. The film came about in a second year project that involved creating a short animation within teams. We all had to pitch our ideas, and then split into groups depending on whose film we liked the sound of most.”
In relation to the character the Busker, do you associate and sympathise with him?
“To be honest I’ve never really felt any emotional connection to any of my characters. Except the brief moments of hatred when the puppets arm falls off and ruins the shot. That said, to get the best movement out of your puppet you do have to in a sense become the character, and act out the way it should be moving before and during shooting.”
What inspires you? Is it the street and environment that surrounds, similar to The Busker?
“It’s hard to say what inspires me. Half of my work is just made up as I go along. I can get more ideas by physically interacting with a character, or object within a set, than sitting with a pen and paper trying to force it. This is why I’ve always been impatient with the pre-production stages of animating, I just want to get stuck in and get my hands dirty.”
So you studied Animation at Bristol School of Animation- what made you want to go into animation?
“I first got interested in Stop Motion animation when I was fourteen. I had watched some crudely made but fun Claymation shorts online when I was off sick from school. (Message from Mel- sounds like someone has a YouTube habit too, Max I think you are my long lost brother). When I realised that the people making them were just a few years older than me, I was inspired to play around with it myself. It was at least a couple of years later when I started thinking that animating could be more than just a hobby.”
Out of all your films, which is your favourite?
“I find it hard to watch all of my films. Partly because before they are even finished I have seen every single frame of the animation multiple times, and partly because I don’t see the segments I’m happy with. I only see the mistakes I made and the things that I wish I had done differently. If I had to pick a favourite though it would have to be Mushroom Tea, a music video I made for Altai Lelio. This has more of an easygoing flow to it, as I created the entire thing without a scrap of pre-production. No storyboards, no sketches I just wanted to make something fun and colourful, and I think the fact that I enjoyed making it shows through.”
For young people trying to get into the film industry, what would you recommend?
“The best thing I could suggest for youngsters trying to break into the film industry would be to share their work as much as possible. Utilise sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, get involved in the communities there and see what feedback people give you. That’s how I started out, and it really helped me pin point areas that I could improve.”
What have you got planned for the future?
“The past four or five animations I have been involved in very commercial projects, that haven’t had much scope for creative expression. So, I’m planning on working on a music video or two for a friend of mine, using a couple of ideas that I’ve wanted to make a reality for a long time.”