Brothers McLeod show film at Sundance Festival

Myles and Greg McLeod’s short film Marfa will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo: Lucy Barriball

STRATFORD-based animators The Brothers McLeod have made a new short film that will have its premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

A still from Marfa.

The Brothers McLeod — AKA illustrator and animator Greg, and writer Myles — have been making animations since 2006. They’ve worked with Disney, Dreamworks, Aardman, the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Sundance Film Festival was founded by actor Robert Redford in 1969 and is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It takes place in Utah from 18th to 28th January, 2018.

Marfa is an eight-minute animated film about a small and isolated West Texas city in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos.

The Brothers McLeod explain: “Marfa is a town on the borderlands of Texas and a place out of time. It takes its name from a novel, possibly Dostoevsky, possibly Jules Verne.

It’s famous for the famous people who’ve passed through, including James Dean, on location for his last film. But there’s much more to it than that.

“Strange lights dance in the night sky over the desert. It is also, implausibly, a mecca for lovers of minimalist art. It’s a landscape of lost horses, freaks and food trucks… and then there’s also a giant lemon!’

It’s three years since Greg visited Marfa, Texas, for the Marfa Film Festival. It was an epic journey. He left the sanctuary of Stratford, took the train to London, and flew out on a Dreamliner to Austin, Texas. (He was upgraded on the way out. Result!).

But Texas is a big place and Marfa is famous for being near… well near nothing. This journey and the destination are the basis of The Brothers McLeod’s new short film.

This film is about the anecdotal experience of being in a new and unexpected place. A place is more than just the physical place – the buildings. It’s the people who live there now and who put it together.

“It’s the tiny, crazy moments that you witness (like an old man dodging a train). It’s the stories that people tell you about the town (and wider America). It’s the food you eat, the drink you drink, the heat you feel, the sound the train makes or the cop car makes. This adds up to a character. The place is the character.

Back home, after the trip, Greg worked with Myles on taking his raw materials – photos, audio snippets, interviews, video footage – and turning it into a film. Myles wrote a poem to act as a story spine while Greg experimented with different visual styles.

Thanks to Greg’s ongoing myinkyhead project (you can check it out on Instagram) they settled on an ink and watercolour style. The style is loose and alive. There is a lot of black and white, but also moments of colour (watercolour and ink), and really is beguiling and soulful.

The Brothers McLeod also worked with long-term collaborator and sound designer Tom Angell. The project was partly funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

The contributors were able to follow the development of the project through a variety of styles, which The Brothers McLeod have now shared on their blog site at: