Action Bill

Date: 2014
Posted: AMAA Productions
Cast: Kent Pool (William Shatner, Patrick Stewart), Kenneth Haney (William Shakespeare)
Credits: AMAA Productions. Producers: Dustin Butler, Rachel James; Director: Gareth Witte; Writers: Gareth Witte, Kenneth Haney, Dustin Butler, Rachel James; Animation: Kenneth Haney, Gareth Witte; Sound design: Gareth Witte; VFX: Gareth Witte; Editor: Gareth Witter; Cinematography: Gareth Witte; Music: Nick Longoria;
Duration: 5.07

William Shakespeare is seated at home in Elizabethan England, struggling with writer’s block (literally expressed in this Lego film as a block of Lego) when his peaceful Stratford existence is rudely interrupted by the appearance of a time-travelling, angry William Shatner in a giant robot. Who will save the Bard from impending annihilation? Well, Patrick Stewart, of course, though Bill himself proves himself more than willing to take on a robot adversary, and to derive inspiration from the consequences.

This is a particularly strong example of brickfilm animation, which won first prize at the Short Bricks short competition at Cine Bricks in 2014. Settings, camerawork, lighting, music and special effects are all of the highest order, and though the dialogue is a little unclear in places (I don’t think the real Shatner would recognise himself), the pace and inventive silliness prove the film to be a worthy winner.

Brickfilms, or Lego animations, thrive through cutting down our pretensions to size while simultaneously indulging them. What we elevate they miniaturise, yet their affectionate nature confirms that we were right to elevate the subject in the first place. They mirror the confused view we have of culture at this time. Shakespeare is brought down to size and lifted up at the same time – it is a badge of honour, after all, to be commemorated in Lego. If there’s a message to the film, it’s that to be indestructible is to be immortal. Shakespeare can take on all that the future can throw at him, and still survive.

Visual effects breakdown of Action Bill

Links:
YouTube page
AMAA Productions (with behind the scenes photos etc)

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Urban Shakespeare

Date: 2007
Posted by: jenng7325
Cast: Svetlana (Barnado), Ted (Francisco, Polonius), Jenn (Horatio, Hamlet, Ophelia), Emily (Marcellus, Queen, Laertes),
Credits: None given
Duration: 7.03

What is it about taking Shakespeare out into the streets that so appeals (at least to me)? It’s something about placing poetry among the mundane, a flowering of feeling amid the everyday, as though anyone of us has a Shakespearean that lurks within, much as we might dream of how plain passers-by could suddenly believe themselves to be in a musical and start to dance and sing. All the world’s a stage, as someone once said.

At any rate, it’s a form of Shakespeare that is particularly suited to online video. It brings together amateurism and opportunity, charm and sincerity. The example here isn’t entirely street, but effectively so. Three young women and one young man from St Albans, Vermont, put on scenes from Hamlet outside then inside their local Price Chopper, and on the steps of the city hall. The plainness of the performances matches the ordinariness of the locations, and there’s a clever touch when the ghost of Hamlet’s father is portrayed by car headlights. Plus it must be something of a first to have the one performer play Hamlet, Horatio and Ophelia (albeit in different scenes).

In a bravura final scene the players invade a clothing store and recite a cacophony of soliloquies while the camera swirls about them, to the apparent bemusement of the staff. Though the video’s scenes seem to have been shot while the general public was nearby (certainly so in the Price Chopper sequence) their reactions are not seen. That would be true street Shakespeare – discovered accidentally by those who pass by, looking on a bit bewildered, but secretly just possibly moved.

Links:
YouTube page