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Friday, 24 August 2007

“Rogue Farm” Mark Bender and Garry Marshall


“Rogue Farm” is set in the future on a farm in Scotland. However as we quickly discover this is no ordinary farm. The equipment the young couple have available is beyond the resources of most rural folk. Joe has the advantage of a sheepdog, Bob, who can speak and pilot a floating mat. Maddy, the young woman, operates a battery of surveillance gear and the sort of body suit armoury that would shame Robocop. “Put your arms and your tentacles where I can see them!”she orders as an intruder threatens the barn. The intruders are interesting aliens with rather warm voices and a sort of charm. News broadcasts tell of a plague of Rogue Pharms setting up camp. I can't begin to explain what these are though they are certainly not wanted on Joe and Maddy's farm: "Get off my land." Based on a short story by Charles Stross, the film was commissioned in February 2004 as part of Scottish Screen and SMG's New Found Land film scheme and made very quickly (5 months) by a team not all of whom were used to animation. 24 minutes is quite a length of time for an animation on a tight budget though the movie sustains our interest very well indeed. If more time and finances had been available perhaps the lip movements of the characters could profitably have been synchronised with the words spoken but I quickly became accustomed to the voice-overs and was anyway interested in the action, of which there is a lot. This is very science fictiony, an altered reality with all sorts of odd things occurring - talking dogs and the alien who seem to have different identities. There's also movement between past and present; some pretty cataclysmic conflict seems to have occurred prior to the action and both our farmers have pasts. The music score is most atmospheric, composed by Paul Leonard Morgan and played by Adam Strap. The film was produced using the games software Machinima Pro and it works terrifically well at times. Animators Matt Rochester and Han-Ter Park working under the leadership of Gary Marshall and Nic Harrison have managed to fashion some moody moments and all sorts of interesting perspectives and effects in a style somewhat akin to manga. Visually some of the scenes are stunning and the design is never less than first class. Directors Mark Bender and Gary Marshall have created a movie of which to be proud. To be honest, I wasn't aware of a great animation industry in Scotland, the home of my grandparents. Now to the point I'm actually most pleased by. I discovered the film on YouTube thanks to a recommendation but in fact you only get a six minute or so appetiser. Should you want more, simply pay $2.5 to Paypal, less than £1.50 my money, and you get the rest. I must confess the software on my computer managed to block the thing though my laptop downloaded straight away. Mark Bender could not however have been more helpful. He tells me he is appearing on BBC Scotland's Artswork Scotland on September 7th, and BBC2 at 10pm to talk about Scottish film-making; I shall set the recorder. The first six minutes then: Rogue Farm 1.

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