Award for Light and Dark

Congratulations to Tom Stubbs and Michael Smith, directors and subjects of the film Light and Dark which I blogged about here and here in connection with another film ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (on bicycle)’. They won the Current TV Best Documentary Award at the  Night of the Living Docs event in London. They came away with a rather splendid trophy and a grant to make another film. Both directors had no idea they were in with a chance of winning and were by all accounts suitably gobsmacked when receiving the award.

Light and Dark is a phantasmagorial autobiographic film exploring the minds of Michael Smith and Tom Stubbs, both have alter-egos, but whereas Michael’s Alter-ego is a muscled anthromorphic fox with a taste for sex, dark humour and violence, Tom’s Alter-ego is an earnest, technology obsessed video engineer.

It’s the contrast between the two alter-egos that really makes the film, with Tom’s alter-ego (mustacheoed video engineer Graham Lightside) ultimately presented in a similar heroic framework to Michael’s Dark Fox. Graham Lightside is Tom’s reaction to the overblown technology obsessed male who one meets in the media world. I remember Tom and I seeing documentary photography students at our college wearing military commando vests and SWAT team boots as they photographed old ladies in the streets of Newport, South Wales, we would surmise that in their heads they imagined themselves on the streets of then wartorn Sarajevo. There’s a lovely shot of Graham exclaming “It’s render time!” in a low voice as he clicks a button on his mouse, Cue diving electronic tone and close up of the timebar on his mac.

Michael’s alter-ego, the Dark Fox, is perhaps an outlet for his frustrations as a young man who is somewhere on the Autistic spectrum. Creativity is bursting out of him in the form of his artwork and the attendent stories his characters live through, his humour is dark and unconventional, even socially unaccceptable (we see him delight in the reactions of his youth worker to his artwork), yet he and Tom’s alter-egos have more in common that you might think.

Through a combination of animation and live action, talking heads, documentary footage, the film-making process laid bare, costumes and even a song at the end, the two directors talk about, and act out their alter-egos. All within the space of ten minutes.

I’ve also seen some wonderful extra footage of Tom explaining his teenage artwork to Michael, which I hope will one day be included in an extended edition or something.

Here they are with the award in London.

Tom Stubbs and Michael Smith in London with the award for Light and Dark

Tom Stubbs and Michael Smith in London with the award for Light and Dark

And here is a piece of video I shot of Tom’s band My Two Toms performing on stage after the showing of Rime of the Ancient Mariner (on Bicycle) and Light and Dark at the Cube Cinema in Bristol (October 17th 2008). They are joined by Michael Smith, who is drawing on acetate and projecting the results onto a screen as the music plays. The camera was my old Kodak compact digital, very poor quality, bad focus and noisy mechanism. The quality of filming is not helped by the laughter of the audience in the immediate vicinity. The camera went the way of all circuits later on in the evening when I dropped it on Tom’s kitchen floor whilst trying to take a pic of his household bicycles. Without any further ado, I give you a very poor quality film of My Two Toms Vs Michael Smith. If you can’t read what Michael has written on the acetate due to the poor focus of my camera, leave a comment and I’ll give you a transcription.

If you’re interested in seeing Light and Dark by Tom Stubbs and Michael Smith (and I really recommend you do, it’s funny, moving, funny, beautifully made, inspiring, funny and did I mention that it’s funny?) it’s exactly 10 minutes long and I believe DVDs may be available at an extremely reasonable price. Leave a comment expressing your interest and I’ll get details from Tom.

For more on what Tom does, go to which is the artists collective he works with.