Ian W Gouldstone
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Ian W Gouldstone
15-Pixel Street Fighter, Alaskan Military School

15-Pixel Street Fighter, Alaskan Military School

APEngine put a few rapid fire questions to Ian W Gouldstone, award-winning filmmaker and design Drill Sergeant at the Alaskan Military School.

Can you sum yourself up in one sentence?

Ian W. Gouldstone is a designer, writer, and filmmaker based in London, UK.

So what do you take your inspiration from in your work?

I grew up in a house full of engineers and cartographers so my view of the world is heavily influenced by science, math, geography, logic and machines.  Having said all that, I’ve always been fascinated by everything that these things have no way of expressing.  Talk about making life difficult!

What piece of work would you say are you most proud of?

There’s no question that I love my first film, All Very Well and Good, the most.  It’s a student film, so it’s not going to win any prizes for craftsmanship.  However, it was the first thing I ever made that even began to express who I am.  If I hadn’t made it, I think I’d have gone down the strict numbers route: working late nights in a bank or at sea on a one-man submarine.  Maybe one day I’ll even revisit it…

Your RCA graduation film, guy101, was very successful – winning a BAFTA… it’s a darkly funny film – can you tell me where the story came from and how you used computer animation to represent it?

guy101 is based on a series of conversations I had with Keith who I met in a chat room years ago, so it’s pretty much a true story. At the time I made the film, I felt really overcome by how explicit animation had become, so with the film I really wanted to explore how animation could illustrate things implicitly. I figured the best way to do this was to illustrate these very human scenes in an extremely cold computer language.

You recently set up an outfit in deepest, darkest Deptford called the Alaskan Military School – where does the name come from?

That’s classified.

OXFAM: Face the Music, Alaskan Military School

OXFAM: Face the Music, Alaskan Military School

How did your residency at Newport come about? What did you get out of the experience?

Newport University, in partnership with Screen Academy Wales, runs an annual Animator in Residence scheme, so getting the residency was as simple as putting together a compelling proposition and submitting it. At the time, I was concerned that the university might not opt for something so process-led but I was immediately blown away by the enthusiasm and support of the university.  The staff and students alike embraced the experimental aspects of the project and at times I was working with about 60 people from different departments all at once.

For me, personally, this project was all about finding the fun again in animation.  After the success of guy101, I was really paralysed for a while.  I put so much pressure on myself to make my next film even better that I forgot how to have fun with filmmaking.  So for me, this project was never about making a great film, it was just about having a really good time.  It worked!  And even better–it gave me loads of ideas too!

You mentioned that you were interested in taking the concept of your residency film To Whom It May Concern further, have you had a chance to do this yet?

Yes, I’ve been furiously pitching the idea as a means to help people and organisations quickly develop their visual communication skills. I’ve had lots of interest so far on both sides of the Atlantic and could be launching some new sessions very soon.

And what about your ‘virtual actors’ work at MIT Media Lab?

That was a dream job–I loved it.  I got to work with some of the best AI researchers in the world to make these autonomous animated characters that could use both their their voices and their bodies to communicate just like people do.  In the process I was constantly amazed to learn about how we subconsciously use our bodies to convey what’s going through our heads.  As an animator, it made me acutely aware of the multi-modality of film, a theme which I really got my teeth into a few years later with guy101.

So, have you ever considered working in gaming?

Definitely! Actually, I worked for a while at Sony’s flagship game development studio in Soho where I got to help build and launch one of their giant AAA titles.  I was very tempted to stay there after the launch, but I wanted to explore other things for a while.

This October, though, I returned to the gaming world with a series of animated spots we at the Alaskan Military School made for the huge indy games festival, GameCity.  Not only did we have a ludicrous amount of fun making the spots, but they also went massively viral amongst gamers.  It would be silly of us not to explore that further!

What was the concept behind Face the Music, the video you recently made for Oxfam?

Beating climate change is all about taking responsibility so I figured this film needed to reflect that in its form. Normally, a filmmaker would edit a film and construct a story by cutting away to different scenes or camera angles.  However, I thought the best way to turn passive viewers into active participants in the film was to give them the job of editing the film themselves. Here, I took inspiration from painting and fixed the camera on the landscape. Once I had determined that idea, it was my job to make sure that the investment the viewers had made in the film really paid off for them.  Clearly, my love for games came in handy at that point!

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Lots! In addition to producing a variety of commercial projects (animation, branding, art direction, consultancy) and teaching, I’m working with the others at the Alaskan Military School on some super top-secret stuff.  All I can say is that off the back of our recent work for GameCity, we’ve got some incredibly exciting collaborations lined up!


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