Myles McLeod on the marvel of Magical Thinking and BAFTA-nominated Marfa
It gives us great pleasure to welcome back Myles McLeod of The Brothers McLeod. Since we last spoke, they were nominated for a BAFTA, launched a book of children’s verse and worked on a promo for Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson.
Myles, welcome back. It’s been quite the year for you guys. So, first off, let’s talk about the promo for Unicorn Store with Brie Larson. You did the animation – how did that come about?
Back in 2016 we worked on a short political promo for Joss Whedon’s Save the Day campaign. That featured Stanley Tucci reading a thinly veiled allegory about the Three Little Pigs. One of the executives on that project came back to us to work on this new Brie Larson promo.
The promo is called Magical Thinking and it’s all about the things Brie Larson thought were true when she was a child. It was great fun and the finished piece got a lot of attention on social media. Hopefully it drove people towards her film on Netflix.
How did you find the process of working on the project – is it harder to work with other people’s vision and ideas, or did you get quite a lot of freedom?
Collaborations always depend on the person you’re working with. In this case the interview was already locked down, so the main role for us was to work out which parts to animate. Greg took the lead on this project. He put together a rough animatic to see if they liked the direction before starting work on design and animation.
Did you get to meet Captain Marvel?
Sadly, we didn’t get to meet Brie herself. We were working from our base in Stratford upon Avon. The production team who hired us are based in LA.
You were nominated for a BAFTA this year for your short animation, Marfa. Can you tell us about the project and where the idea came from?
Greg travelled to Marfa, Texas in 2014 for a film festival with our last short film 365.
As Greg was going on an epic journey to get there, and it was his first time in the USA, we thought we might try our hand at something new – an animated documentary. We used Kickstarter to raise some starter funds. While Greg was there he sketched, did interviews, took photos and videos and generally collected materials that might inspire us later. It took a while to find the right style and tone for the film, but ultimately, we discovered the right kind of storytelling and atmosphere to convey a sense of place.
Marfa is completely hand drawn and painted – how long did that take to put together and what was the process behind it?
The film took a long time to make. Greg did all of the animation himself, as he often does on our own short films. It probably took him between six and nine months to get all the drawing done for the film. Our studio was covered in bits of paper. The finished film has a ratio of 1:1. Greg was keen for it to be square to reflect the shape of his sketch books – including the ones he used in Marfa.
Originally we’d toyed with a more colourful, computer-drawn look like our film 365 but it gradually evolved into an ink and paint piece. It suits the feeling of the place.
I saw some of the pictures you took at the BAFTA ceremony, it looked like great fun. How did you find the ceremony?
The ceremony was great. A real spectacular. We were sat to the side of the stage and about four rows from the front so we had a great view of the action. There were a lot of A list stars there to see and it’s always rather curious to see royalty for real – Prince William presented an award – but I think the most impressive thing was the opening sequence with Cirque de Soleil who were being hurled around by each other. It doesn’t really come across on the TV but they were amazing to see up close.
Most famous person you talked to there?
I’m afraid I didn’t talk to anyone famous. I saw Viggo Mortensen up close. I did see Andy Serkis there too and I have spoken to him and his wife before. They are lovely. I was co-creator on DreamWorks’ Noddy Toyland Detective and their son was the voice of Noddy.
In 2018 you also had the opportunity to work with Joss Whedon and comedian Sara Pascoe. Can you tell us a little bit more about these projects?
Joss Whedon I mentioned above. I’m not sure how he found us! Perhaps our Adam Buxton/David Bowie animation? Greg met Sara Pascoe at one of Adam Buxton’s gigs a while ago. When her short film came up she remembered meeting Greg and the production company got in touch. The finished piece Sara Pascoe versus Monogamy is really good. I guess that shows that networking does work!
You’ve also recently released Singalongabingbong, a collection of children’s poems. How long did it take you to put this together and where did the inspiration come from?
The poems took about a year to write. Inspiration came from my own childhood, from being a dad and I also asked friends on Facebook to suggest kid-friendly topics. Many of the poems were written as part of a year-long collaboration with illustrator Wilm Lindenblatt. You can see those in a fully illustrated magazine we made called Poetry Picture Club here.
I also wanted to make the poems available in a more affordable format, hence the book Singalongabingbong. A few of the entries have been published elsewhere, particularly in the wonderful Caterpillar Magazine.
You are the writer and your brother, Greg, works on the illustration. Do you sit down together to devise projects, or do you write something and ask him to put his spin on it – how does your relationship work?
There’s no one way. Sometimes I’ll come up with an idea, other times Greg. We’ll talk about it together at each stage … the idea, the developed concept, the outline, script, designs and all through the production if it gets that far. Occasionally we might work on something more completely before sharing it with the other but that’s not the normal process for us.
Finally, can you tell us about any projects you’re going to be working on – what’s next for you guys?
Greg’s just presented an art exhibition at the Flatpack Film Festival. The exhibition is called Bermingham the (Not Entirely) True Story of a Misspelt City. It’s a series of beautiful images and a film. It’s witty and playful.
I’m writing and developing shows for a variety of TV series.
We’ve also been working on some new ideas, one for an animated sketch show and another for a drama, which we hope we can share more about one of these days.
You can follow Myles and Greg on Twitter: @BrothersMcleod