“I make claymations… that are NOT for children”

Immediately after New Year we featured a YouTube clip ”˜The Thing ”“ Pingu remake’ within hours the clip was being reposted across the globe.

During the ensuing chaos we managed to catch up with the films maker Lee Hardcastle and chatted over the phone about his career as a film maker, his background, how he was influenced by Jeremy Beadle (seriously), and his time as a drummer for hardcore band Shit The Bed, who sadly are no more; and despite us asking are not about to reform.

LTW: Your site states “Want to be a film maker? Make a film. There.” ”“ A definite punk rock attitude there; has your independence been a driving force from the start or as a result of being unable to break down the establishment barriers?

LH: It’s funny you should say that, I’m a fan of punk and was in a few bands, Shit The Bed being one of them that I ended up making music videos to.
So I’ve got that about me but what it’s about is personal frustrations. I spent my whole high school life working towards & believing I was gonna be a film director. After film school, It was a crushing realisation that it was never gonna happen because of who I am (I have small problems) but I carried on doing what I liked doing with nothing but passion driving me.

So what I realised was, I was an idiot for thinking I wasn’t a film maker. I had strong delusions that some one should be paying you to make films if you are a film making which isn’t how it has to be.

LTW: Just in relation to Shit The Bed, what did you play?

LH: I played the drums & took lessons through out high school; I had to give up the drums when life called for me to move to London about 5 years ago. I’ve been living out of a suitcase since. Music was something I never took seriously but I had incredible fun with it.

LTW: I gather you studied at the Northern Film School based at Leeds University ”“ are you local to the area?

LH: Yeah, I grew up in South Leeds – Lofthouse. Some will argue its Wakefield.

LTW: What year did you graduate?

LH: 2006

LTW: Prior to Uni, I guess you had an interest in film ”“ were you fortunate enough to attend a specialist media school, or was this a private passion?

LH: I had a rough time trying to make videos. Certain teachers at high school couldn’t care and wouldn’t help; I eventually saved some money and gave it to my parents to put it towards a video camera one Christmas. I made this one film, you can see it on YouTube actually ‘4 RETARDS IN THE WOODS’

I showed it to my media studies teacher and he simply said “You know what’s sad? The stick men were better actors” I know he was joking but I thought he was a bit of a cunt for saying that.
Ha-ha, thanks I feel better for sharing that. Before that I had a TYCO Camera that hooked up to the back of a VCR, still got those videos somewhere.

LTW: When did you develop this desire to create film, and is there a particular genre you favour?

LH: Watching ‘You’ve Been Framed’ and seeing people achieve video on the cheap & I’ve always been the kid who told stories and jokes at parties and sleep-overs. I suppose it’s no surprise that I was brought up on horror films; it turned into a bit of an obsession.

LTW: Seriously, You’ve Been Framed as an inspiration – Have you ever submitted your own clip; real or staged?

LTW: I never did actually – I did however make and submit 4 RETARDS IN THE WOODS for “Adam & Joe’s Takeover TV” back in 2001. I later received a rejection letter from their TV company saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ but I kept hold of that letter because I thought it was very cool that Adam & Joe’s TV company were sending me a letter.

LTW: We generally interview musicians, so are aware that creating music generally begins in childhood; every kid gets a recorder at school ”“ not many get access to the equipment required to make a film ”“ How did you start, was it with your parents camcorder?

LH: It’s weird but I wanted to make videos before I touched a camera. Stuff like You’ve Been Framed really did it for me. This TYCO Camera I mentioned was £20 brand new and could only stretch a couple meters away from the back of the VCR and I was only allowed a couple hours on a Saturday to make something before my Dad wanted to watch the horse racing. I used to make stop motions with teddy hedgehogs on a Subbuteo pitch, my greatest film was about my hamster escaping the hamster ball and then ends up being stabbed & stood on.

LTW: I’m guessing you are aged 25-30yrs ”“ which film makers/directors have you been influenced by?

LH: Too many to mention, anything and everything all for various reasons. It’s such a film student cliché but Tarantino, Rodriguez & Raimi have been the strongest. And then there’s The Adam & Joe Show, Family Guy and South Park, the usual suspects that crack me up and make me feel comfortable about making my own jokes. It’s a scary thing to do at first because you don’t know if people will understand your joke? I’m not a comedian but I suppose I am now.

LTW: Why clay? A childhood throwback to Morph, and Pingu or a cost necessity.

LH: It’s a long story but the whole thing about being capable of making a film for next to nothing and by your self is difficult but not if you’re making a stop motion animation. So I started out making videos with Action Men

But they never did very well and one day I used some clay and the response was like “WOW WEE!!” and it was just so bleeding obvious that I needed to start making videos out of clay – can you see this long process now that was involved in learning what I needed to do and that? At this point I just wanted to make successful videos on YouTube, these were my goals.

LTW: Are you responsible for the production of the entire film, from the model making, the story boarding, right up to the actual filming and post production work?

LH: Most of the time, yes. For bigger projects I have a certain Sound Engineer I like to work with, Tim Atkins. I give credit where it’s due. I hate just slapping my own name in big letters across the screen because I want people to know its MY BABY. That’s cringy behaviour I saw a lot of at film school. So, I simply write “Made by Lee Hardcastle” when I did everything.

Set building at Claymation

LTW: We focused on ‘The Thing ”“ Pingu remake’ ”“ everyone just loved it!! Just how long did it take to produce just 1min 25 of finished film?

LH: It was suppose to be 60 seconds long but I ended up falling in love with it too much and hated the 60″ edit. That’s why there’s the extended 2 minute edit. It actually took a lot longer to make than I anticipated, 10 days shooting. I usually get 20 seconds of footage animated in a day but when there are a lot of characters/shots/set up/set changes etc it’s a different ball game but I really did want to put the time and extra effort into this one as ‘The Thing’ is right next to my heart. There was just loads I wanted to include but couldn’t.

LTW: Following the clip being featured LTW had literally thousands of hits; we were getting hits from across the globe as our piece was reposted in Japan, America etc. When I posted if first you had 304 plays on YouTube – you are now on 20K; you must be pleased that your work is getting seen?

LTW: Yes, I am very pleased and it does me big favours but it’s not the first time I’ve had videos go viral, it’s happened quite a few times now and I know what to expect. It’s a rush of attention, many phone calls, many promises, and dollar signs, thousands of new fans, interviews and then 3 days later – nothing. Back to normal like nothing ever happened but I’ll keep making stabs until something does happen, that’s my plan.

LTW: Does any of this earn you any money or are you struggling holding down another job?

LTW: If you didn’t know, there’s a partnership program on YouTube that anyone making YouTube content can apply for. They place adverts on your videos and you gain revenue from that. Its revolutionised independent film making, I kinda feel like Wayne’s World sometimes, some nut job running a TV show from his apartment? Its tough going and you have to understand your audience and it takes a lot of time as well as actually making the content.

LTW: You suggest that you literally make the films on your kitchen table, is that romantic poetic licence or is that for real?

LH: It started out like that but now I have this home made table I made. It cost just a couple of quid and it’s just something I can abuse.

LTW: I love the ‘Claymation’ brand – great to give your work an identity, very clever as it draws on the old Gerry Anderson Supermarination name, was that a reference for you?

LH: Nah, Claymation is actually a trademarked term by Will Vinton but you get what I’ve done, I’m just trying to sell myself and it’s important to brand yourself in a way that people can quickly recognise what it is you’re actually selling.

LTW: Back to music; Which bands are currently doing it for you?

LH: If you knew me you’d be a bit surprised by my answer and I can’t explain how or why but over this last year I have fallen head over heels for a guy called Gregg Gillis who is better known as Girl Talk. In a nut shell, he mashes music up – which sounds lame but his choice of tracks, music hooks and samples are impeccable. It’s simply euphoric to listen to.

Another album that played a hundred times over was ‘Title TK’ by The Breeders. I’ve always been a big fan of The Pixies but never really got into The Breeders; but I adore that album. It’s rare that I ever appreciate new bands, I’m always digging in the 90s bin or something. The last “new” band I remember getting into was Vampire Weekend.

LTW: Thanks for your time, lastly though What’s next for you, where would you ideally see you self going?

LH: The offers I’m faced with are stuff like TV shows to feature films with respected film directors but nothing is happening yet, waiting games and that. So for the time being, I’m still the nut job making content for my YouTube channel with no budget.

Ideally, I’d love to break free from Claymation and start working with actors but that’s way way way down the line”¦

Lee has a YouTube channel which releases a new clip every Tuesday, in addition the 7trk Shit The Bed ‘Camel Bite’ EP is available to download.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.

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