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Chris Robinson from Animation World Network has a poignant take on our Radiation film. So pleased you like it Chris.

Pictures from the Brainbox: A Weekly Dose of Indie Animation – ‘Radiation’

Every Tuesday, Chris Robinson digests and dissects (relatively) new indie animation short films. Today’s Layla Atkinson and Trunk animation serve up, Radiation, a new short aimed at kids with cancer.

‘Radiation’ directed by Layla Atkinson (Trunk Animation)

The week before I started chemotherapy I was asked to attend ‘chemo classes’ with other cancer patients. The aim was to guide patients through the process and to let them know what to expect during their chemo treatments. Mine also happened to coincide with the 2011 Ottawa International Animation Festival. Racing back and forth between festival duties, CT scans, blood tests, and ‘chemo classes’ was, well, not remotely enjoyable. And while the sessions were well-intended, it’s pretty hard to sit in a class room like environment and process the information while you (and everyone else in attendance) are scared out of your fucking mind. And frankly, the classes had limited effect. While they warned about potential side effects (nails falling off, loss of hearing, nauseous) … they never really prepared you for the full onslaught of not just chemo but the effects of the drugs you had to take (include a steroid that made me Hulk-like in temperament, having to stab yourself in the stomach with a needle to fend off a low white blood cell count that chemo can cause, or nurses coming over to your home to stab you in the ass because of bouts of severe nausea) to counter the chemo side effects.

I was in my mid-40s and terrified, although those emotions remained cloistered in a stone faced Buster Keaton look that I’d learned to master over the years. People confused this with calm and stoicism when really it was shock and a fear that was so prevailing it just numbed me of expressions.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for a child to endure chemo or radiation. With so little life experience, with a not quite sense of mortality, maybe it’s not quite a terrifying for them as they enter treatment. Maybe not. I don’t know, but I actually kinda wish that in lieu of classes they’d just commissioned some animators to make some ‘What to expect when you’re expecting chemo’ videos. Something visual…and hell…I’d have appreciated something with a sense of humour. It doesn’t have to be presented as something so dark … even if its terminal… well…why not laugh on the way out the door?

So…this short…well it’s cool…it’s well done, funny, calming and about as informative as any of chemo classes I took – yet much shorter.

One of the best projects ever!

The phrase “Your child has a brain tumor” is something you never want to hear. Of course, any type of cancer diagnosis is awful, but it feels so absolutely unfair when it’s a child, who has yet to experience all the opportunities life has to offer.

So when we were approached by LA based Agency RPA on behalf of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and was asked if we could bring a smile to some children facing a cancer diagnosis, our answer was a resounding “YES!”
What followed was a very emotive passion project where we threw everything we could at the screen to make some kids and their families feel a bit better about what they’re going through.

RPA came up with the fantastic concept of creating films revolving around the ”Imaginary Friend,” and if you’re anything like us, you may have dabbled with fictional characters at some point in your past!  Twenty of the finest animation companies in the world got involved to make films about the various treatments these children will have to experience on their journey through to recovery. These include – getting diagnosed, MRIs, chemo, surgery, hospital stays and going back to school among many others – all difficult experiences for kids to face and surely times where a helping hand is needed. The aim of each film is to give children confidence and courage by explaining in simple terms what to expect from treatment and all that follows, and provide a positive voice to keep their spirits up in what has to be a dark time for not only them, but their families as well.

Trunk’s director Layla Atkinson and producer Richard Barnett’s film deals with Radiation therapy, a baffling procedure at first glance. An initial script from RPA was expanded and developed with the help of Trunk director Jock Mooney, to create one that is full of fun. Set in a child’s bedroom at night, a time when a young child may feel particularly vulnerable and alone, the helpful imaginary friends appear. We meet Walter, a suave secret agent character (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and his gluttonous sidekick Gus (Jane Horrocks). The pair go on to explain the process of radiation therapy whilst touring the bedroom in all forms of animation and puppetry! Trunk wanted to create a film that had real warmth and that could inspire a can-do attitude. The team wanted kids to see the film and feel like they could make something similar in their own bedrooms. So out came the craft box. Followed by LOADS of help!
In retrospect making this film was no mean feat! Layla says “In the time we had, and as a passion project, I don’t think we could have made this much harder for ourselves if we’d tried! We built the child’s bedroom on the ground floor of the studio, and then used a mixture of replacements, puppetry, and then some nicely comped 2D animation. Using replacements in a set means you first animate the characters, then print them out, then cut them out by hand (so they retain all their lovely little edges and character) and then finally get them on the wall and shoot each frame moving across set! A lot of people were involved in the cutting out of over one and a half thousand frames!”
One of the most amazing things about making the film was the amount of time and the generosity of so many companies and people that got involved and helped out. It has truly been inspiring. It started with the amazing performances of Julian Rhind-Tutt and Jane Horrocks, who were such a pleasure to work with and whose performances created great opportunities for the animators. Who in turn drew snappy, well timed movement, in such a short space of time. The amazing James Cropper Paper provided us with such beautifully textured paper to give our characters some depth, and hordes of friends and family took up the scissors to help with cutting out each frame. The incredible DOP Pete Ellmore, who lit the set beautifully for the mix of stop motion and live action techniques, worked with the small but mighty crew of Jono Yates and Ollie Craig. Using top quality equipment loaned to us by Take 2 Films, Clapham Road Studios and Panalux. The film literally couldn’t have happened without their support. The shoot lasted a gruelling seven days, over which the team wrangled with thousands of pieces of artwork, props, a model car and an unruly bunch of ping pong balls. Our compositor Rok Predin then had the daunting task of pulling everything together, ironing out small mistakes, adding lasers, and making all those frames stand up and be counted! With composer Daniel Pemberton taking time out from scoring Ridley Scott’s new feature to give our film a soundtrack, and the team at Fonic bringing every action to life with a beautifully crafted sound bed and mix, the film was given depth and beauty.

The finished short is a beautiful and informative tour de force. The painstaking hand crafted approach ensured it felt real and accessible to its audience, and the generosity of so many wonderful people made this film into a community effort. A community that wanted to look after those in their time of need.

Producer Richard Barnett notes, ”It was such a pleasure and an honour to be a part of this whole campaign, and we really hope that for years to come the amazing people at the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation can carry on bringing a light, and sense of hope, to all those families in their time of need.”

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Credits

Walter: Julian Rhind-Tutt
Gus: Jane Horrocks
Director
Layla Atkinson
Producer
Richard Barnett
Director of Photography
Peter Ellmore
Gaffer
Jono Yates
Focus Puller
Ollie Craig
Illustration
Jock Mooney
Layla Atkinson
Animation
Harry Slinger-Thompson
Alex Potts
Jeremy Carlen
Layla Atkinson
John Harmer
Lucy Blackhurst
Compositing
Rok Predin
Music
Daniel Pemberton
Sound Design and Mix
Barnaby Templer @ Fonic
Marty O’Brian @ Fonic
Scissor Wizards
Lucy Blackhurst
Michaela Fairhurst
Zoe Dent
Jock Mooney
Chris Andrew
Marisa McLoughlin
Biddy Lloyd
John Dunn
Daisy Daniel
Cicely Mentis
Gary Rutter
Shirley McNicholas
Leyla McNicholas
Pip Piporo
John Harmer
Layla Atkinson
Richard Barnett
Model Makers
Jock Mooney
John Harmer
Richard Barnett
Props
Dr A Leak
Runner:
Fiona McKiernan
Camera and Grip
Take 2 Films
Lighting
Panalux
Paper Stock
James Cropper Paper
Lenses
Clapham Road Studio
Set Materials
Whitten Timber
MASSIVE  THANKS TO:
Everyone involved in the making, as well as those behind the scenes: Kate Davie @ United Agents, Barry Measure and Asha Chander @ Take 2 Films, Kelly Amundsen @ Panalux, Tim Nattrass @ James Cropper Paper, PCR Ltd, John Whitten @ Whitten Timber, Paul Haslem @ Benwells, Elizabeth Day @ Clapham Road Studio, BIG Thank you to Jock Mooney.

Trunk’s Layla Atkinson animates Sassoon’s Aftermath

Trunk’s director Layla Atkinson has animated Siegfried Sassoon’s moving and very personal poem ‘Aftermath’. The poem reminds the reader to never forget the horrors of war. This month marks the birth and death of Sassoon. although he survived the war the awful things that he witnessed, would change him forever. He has since been recognised as a leading poet of the First World War.

One of his most famous poems ‘Aftermath’ written in 1919 asks if the terrors of war have been forgotten. He writes “Have you forgotten yet?…. Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget”. This powerful poem, in the early years of the century, was broadcast on Armistice Day to add force to the meaning of remembrance.

Indeed with the world in an ever volatile state. The war in Syria is entering it’s seventh year, North Korea is on the brink of a nuclear tragedy Sassoon’s words seem to be more relevant than ever.

Trunk’s Layla has created a beautiful and moving short to accompany the poem. In its own way it pays tribute to Sassoon whilst visually following the poems narrative. We see a clear peaceful spring day brutally transform to the hell of the front line at Mametz.

Layla was drawn to the poem as it clearly and fiercely reinforces a simple and awkward truth. She notes ‘”Our studio when flooded by sunlight and the sounds of children playing outside it is all to easy to forget the horrors of war. We need poets whose words are powerful enough to reach across decades to hold us in check and make us grateful and watchful of our peace. Sassoon’s poem I feel is one such work”.

The short was composited in After Effects using a variety of hand drawn lines, textures and elements. By using the language of cubist imagery seen in such works as Juan Gris’s ‘The Bottle of Banyuls’ Layla cleverly roots the poem in the period in which it was written. This is reinforced by her use of a washed subdued palette that skilfully captures the post war era. The wonderful Julian Rhind-Tutt narrates the poem whilst music was by Dom James, Barnaby Templer at Fonic created the sound design.

The short was funded by Trunk Animation as part of it’s on going mission to foster and develop creative talent.

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Credits:-

Director- Layla Atkinson
Producer- Richard Barnett
Poem- Siegfried Sassoon
Animation- Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, John Harmer, Rok Predin, Jocie Juritz, Jacob Read, Clelia Leroux
Music- Dom James
Sound- Fonic
Mix- Barnaby Templer
Narration- Julian Rhind-Tutt

Trunk’s Rok Predin creates homage to Sunday morning cartoons!

Trunk’s director Rok Predin has created a brilliant and delightful new short, ‘Pok’, to honour those halcyon days of watching Sunday morning cartoons whilst still in your pyjamas! Discussing the short Rok notes “This is a homage to the types of cartoons we used to watch growing up in the 80s. Everything in this piece from character and layout design, to the music and sound effects was aimed to evoke that distinct feeling of watching your favorite animated shows whilst eating your breakfast.”

Growing up in Slovenia Rok had access to a plethora of European cartoons such as Bojan the Bear, Lolek and Bolek, Mole, Sport Billy and Professor Balthazar. Some of these cartoons often had odd durations and were normally silent or with minimal vocalization, such as with professor Balthazar where the action was communicated by the music alone. ‘Pok’ really captures the spirit and passion those cartoons had, yet plays to a contemporary audience. Indeed Rok has a perfect critic in his young daughter, who inspired him to create ‘Pok’ after he saw how she, like him, loved watching the old cartoons.

Beautifully graded and composited to look like a well watched VHS tape, the short certainly invokes a 1980s vibe. Barnaby Templer at Fonic has created the perfect sound design to provide Sebastian Duh’s score with the right ambiance. The combination of a wonderful repetitive score and that tinny electronic sound evoke those classic video games, which again helps to ground you in a bygone era. The animation was all created using After Effects and has a distinctly cut-out feel that looks hand made. The limitations created by this style of animation ensured the shorts were inventive and full of imaginative leaps to complete the story arcs. Silent and physical the shorts are bursting with that classic brand of humour and stand up to multiple viewing. Rok notes “We’re hoping to develop it further and create more episodes, releasing it online as a web series. Any sponsors are welcome!“

Something that producer Richard Barnett is also keen to do. “The shorts have so much scope, ‘Pok’ is such a great character and has endless potential for those classic simple set ups and fun pay offs, it would be great to find some support for them.”

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Credits:-
Director Rok Predin
Composer Sebastian Duh
Sound Design Barnaby Templer @ Fonic
Producer Richard Barnett

Trunk has created a second TV Spot for Rightmove.

The new 20″ TVC, which starts to air this week, once again brings together the talents of director Layla Atkinson and illustrator Anna Kövecses. Homebrew, Rightmove’s agency, commissioned the duo once again, to create a spot to promote the property companies’ massive rental portfolio. With the previous success of the Rightmove ‘School checker’ campaign, it was always a possibility that they would get the same team back together, and as chance had it, the stars once more aligned.

Working closely with Homebrew, Layla and the team at Trunk helped develop the script and storyboard, in which we follow a young couple as they go house hunting. They visit a wide range of properties, only to find that they’re too high, too low, or too windy! Before finally finding the perfect rental that they both love. Obviously!

Anna, who grew up in Hungary, was challenged to create a very typical British urban environment. Layla notes, ‘Along the way we developed mews courtyards, Tudor cottages and Georgian terraces, before settling on our final selection.’ The narrative plays out amongst high rises, narrow boats and back to backs, whilst being punctuated by incidental details like the Austin allegro, a celebration of Layla’s child hood, cats in windows, and doves on rooftops.

Layla and the animators well-observed attention to detail brings a sense of warmth and humour to the couple’s adventure. Subtle and nuanced details such as the woman’s shoe falling into the canal, and the guy bumping his head, all help with the playful nature that Rightmove were aiming for, perfectly capturing the sense and meaning of home.

With two beautiful projects in the bag for Rightmove, Layla notes, “It was great to work with Anna again. She’s such an amazing illustrator and I love her style so much. The temptation to just ask her to draw things for fun was always tugging at my moral compass! Would definitely love to work together again in the future!”  Watch this space.

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Credits :-
Client: Rightmove
Agency: Homebrew
Production: Trunk Animation
Director: Layla Atkinson
Producer: Richard Barnett
Illustrator: Anna Kovecses @Handsom Frank
Animation: Roland Edwards, Alex Potts, Leslie Dart, Layla Atkinson
Compositing: Rok Predin
Sound Design and Mix: Chris Swain @ Fonic

Trunk brings Anna Kovecses beautiful illustrations to life for Rightmove.

Animation and Illustration are friends. Well, they’re more than friends actually, they’re family. I guess put simply, Illustration is the exhausted, 3am feeding, bottom wiping, smiling, loving, doting parent to Animation. Without which we’d have no characters to animate, no designs to work from, and no inspired sketches on the back of vape packets! Let’s not be pedantic, you can obviously animate in many forms, not all requiring illustration, but I think we can agree it plays a big part!

Over the years Trunk have worked with some amazing illustrators, including the likes of Pete Fowler, Rob Ryan, Peepshow Collective, Oliver East, and recently Mila Furstova. Whose album cover for Coldplay’s Ghost Stories LP was turned into a stunning 43 minute film by Trunk’s directors Alasdair + Jock. That’s on top of the Trunk directors illustrating themselves, it’s never enough to ‘just’ be a director these days. Animation directors come equipped with at least one special power, so they’ll generally direct and excel at either illustrating, animating or compositing!

So when London based agency Homebrew called Trunk’s studio to ask if they could animate Anna Kovecses’s beautiful illustrations, the answer was a resounding yes! Both producer Richard Barnett, and director Layla Atkinson were already big fans of her work, and Layla had already stocked the studio’s library with Anna’s book ‘One Thousand Things’.

The project was for Homebrew’s client, Rightmove, the UK’s largest property portal, Homebrew were commissioned to create a multi platform campaign to promote their onsite School Checker tool. This was to include a 30 sec TV spot, a 10 sec cut down and a dedicated 30 sec spot for mobile. Rightmove’s School Checker gives you access to admissions criteria and academic inspection reports for primary and secondary schools across Great Britain. Now on every property, School Checker lets you discover previous admission areas and Ofsted ratings to easily compare schools.

The agency wanted a warm and charming style, full of colour and fun, and Anna, repped at Handsome Frank, was the perfect match. As Anna had never worked with animators before Trunk decided to meet with her to discuss the animation process. As her studio was based in Cyprus, (Oh no!) The guys were forced to leave a chilly London for sunny Larnaca in early February! Following the successful meeting a team of animators headed by Layla was pulled together in London to create the three shorts.

Layla notes, “Animating Anna’s work was a treat and it was a real joy to see her bold and colourful illustrations come to life. This job also enabled us to solve a problem that is becoming increasingly hard to resolve. Recently we have been producing a lot of work where a digital screen containing the product has to be seen. Other than an over the shoulder shot or a cut to, it is hard to come up with a fresh way of showing them. However, as this campaign features children we were able to use their natural capacity to place themselves in unusual positions such as upside down or draped over furniture while using a device. This enabled us to have the screen face the viewer in a very natural and charming way. It also added a lot of fun to the script and matched the tone of Anna’s illustrations.“

Homebrew were delighted with the work and Trunk look forward to collaborating with Anna in the future.

Watch this colourful space!

Credits :-

Client: Rightmove

Agency: Homebrew

Production: Trunk Animation

Director: Layla Atkinson

Producer: Richard Barnett

Illustrator: Anna Kovecses @Handsom Frank

Animation: Roland Edwards, Alex Potts, Leslie Dart, Layla Atkinson

Compositing: Rok Predin

Music: Daniel Pemberton

Sound Design: Chris Swain @ Fonic

Mix: Marty Obrien @ Fonic

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Rok Predin’s brilliant concert visuals

Trunk’s director Rok Predin is no stranger when it comes to creating concert visuals. His backdrops for Keith Urban, Sir Elton John, the Queen’s jubilee concert and for Bingo Player’s latest tour have reached a combined audience of well over 30 million. But his latest work is far more personal and intimate. He has created a series of eighteen visuals to be used as a backdrop at his father Zoran’s recent concerts.

Zoran Predin is one of Slovenia’s most respected singer songwriters, and with a string of hit singles to his name, has worked with one of Croatia’s most talented and respected pianists Matija Dedic on a bestselling album, “Footprints in Memories”. This album is a celebration and catalogue of well-known regional songs. Working together Matija and Zoran paired back the compositions to create a classical, yet minimalist sound that perfectly captures the emotion within the tracks. Following the success of the first album they have created a sequel that has also been well received, and which they are now touring.

The pair performed songs from both albums in two concerts one in Ljubljana on the 14 of Feb, the capital of Zoran’s Slovenia and the second on the 28 of Feb in Zagreb the capital of Matija’s Croatia, and this is where the audiences got to see Rok’s backdrop for the first time.

Rok was asked to create eighteen pieces of work in all, one for each track. The team wanted to add a visual depth to the show, and ask their audience to re-imagine these old songs with their fresh compositions in a new light. Rok answered by creating an open, abstract approach to the visuals, giving a dream like quality to the whole performance. The visual sensibility changed the whole context of the shows. They in essence allowed the audience to re-connect to these songs they have loved and listened to for years, in their own special way, and all at the same time.

Each tableaux created references specific lyrics or encapsulates the feeling of each song. Rok notes “Most ideas come from the lyrics themselves such as the image of a burning rose which is from a song that deals with heartbreak and jealousy, other visual elements are more open, creating surprising juxtapositions that establish an emotional response”. The haunting and beautiful images all have a particular look that captures the visual handwriting Rok has grown up with. The artworks feel like they have taken strong influences of the past, but have a futuristic air to them, and it’s this timelessness quality that allows both audiences young and old to come together and enjoy these heritage tracks.
Rok continues, “ I approached each visual in terms of a theatre set or photograph, I wanted to introduce a bit of magic and surrealism to the songs and to have my loops come from unexpected places for the audience to enjoy”

As to working with his father he notes, “We have always had a great relationship and it was humbling to have him trust and appreciate my input to something which, as a creative, I understand is so important and personal”

Cut to one of Zoran’s most famous songs, ‘Wait for Me’, which also features on the album, Rok has put together a montage of the visuals.

Directed by Rok Predin
Produced by Richard Barnett
Animation: Rok Predin, Leslie Dart, Layla Atkinson, Sara Šavelj
Compositing: Rok Predin
Illustration: Sara Šavlej

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Trunk animates Julian Lennon’s Saltwater 25th Anniversary

Trunk Animation were delighted when Julian Lennon’s art director Dick Carruthers commissioned them to create a new video for the re-working of his chart topping single ‘Saltwater’. It is 25 years since Julian’s world-wide hit drew attention to man’s negative impact on the environment. While the hole in the ozone layer he sang about in 1991 is slowly being healed the song’s central message is sadly as relevant today as then.

In their treatment they wanted to avoid clichéd imagery of famine, stranded polar bears, and melting glaciers to instead show that, although we may now be more aware of the various environmental crises the world faces, mankind is increasingly disconnected from the world. The video features a solitary character- a girl staring into her phone (a device that was in its infancy when “Saltwater” was initially released.) She remains glued to her phone throughout the piece, drifting obliviously over a landscape that encompasses themes of desolation and delight. During her journey she is unaware of the decaying world but she also misses beautiful moments emphasising the song’s call that we have to be more aware of our fragile environment.

Trunk’s directors Layla Atkinson and Jock Mooney joined forces for the first time to co-direct the piece. While both had worked for each other on various projects this was the first time that they had collaborated as joint directors. They both enjoyed the process of combining their skills and experiences.

Jock and Layla combined hand drawn illustrations, textures, scanned photographs, vector graphic elements and 3D characters to create a mixed media collage.  They wanted to create a psychedelic landscape alluding to themes in the song. Layla notes, “We used a range of visuals that were driven by the song, for example when Julian sings of walking on the moon we used Jock’s drawing of an astronaut, yet at other times we used less obvious correlations such as a cracked baby’s bottle to convey the emotion of a hungry child”. These subtle devices mixed with more literal images successfully created the abstract and surreal landscape they were trying to construct. Jock notes, “ The video has multiple layers and images that on repeated viewing reveal themselves”

Fellow Trunk director Rok Predin lent a fresh pair of eyes and his immeasurable skill in compositing and 3D rendering to pull the video together. A full range of software was used including Cinema 4D, After Effects, Flash and Photoshop to deliver the film. Producer Richard Barnett notes “ Last Christmas we created a lyric video for Kylie Minogue and James Corden, a light festive song that captured the season’s themes. It seems fitting that we finish this tumultuous year with a far more mature and melancholy song that asks bigger things from us as we head into a time of uncertainty. Julian’s stunning new arrangement is powerful and orchestral in feel and the finished video captures that depth and complexity beautifully”.

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Credits
Track: Julian Lennon ‘Saltwater’ 25 Years
Directed by Layla Atkinson and Jock Mooney
Illustration: Jock Mooney
Animation: Leslie Dart, Rok Predin, Simona Ciraolo, Layla Atkinson
Compositing: Rok Predin
Artworking: Mehmet Ulusahin
Producer: Richard Barnett
Commissioner: Dick Carruthers
Production Company: Trunk Animation

Trunk embarked on one of their most challenging jobs for Shirley Collins.

Director Layla Atkinson noted, “ Putting all your eggs in one basket and stepping off a cliff while exhilarating is also quietly terrifying” This perfectly sums up the creative direction behind Trunk’s latest project. The London based animation house has created a video for national treasure Shirley Collins’ (MBE) new album Lodestar, her first for 38 years. The internationally acclaimed folksinger’s version of “Pretty Polly” is set in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700s. This beautiful ballad, which she discovered with Alan Lomax in 1959 during a tour of North America, set Layla and Trunk on a journey that would require turning a mountain of cardboard and timber into forests, meadows, clouds and rolling hills, building a film set, bringing in tons of camera equipment and packing Trunk’s small studio with eighteen animators, scene movers, puppeteers, lighting and camera operators on the hottest September day in the last 100 years.

Shirley had set only one stipulation within the brief; she wanted the video to incorporate a very special kind of puppet, a jig doll. These puppets come to life when jigged on a vibrating board and have been popular street entertainment for hundreds of years. These dolls fixed not only the look of the video but the spirit and direction that it would take. Layla notes “ My initial thoughts were to shoot the puppets on green screen then add in the backgrounds using After Effects but the prospect of spending a chunk of the summer sitting in a hot room, staring at a screen and trying to key out puppets and then creating “handmade” artwork in Photoshop did not seem that enticing. After listening to the song a couple more times I gratefully ditched the green screen idea and, inspired by the timbre of Shirley’s voice and the stripped back music, decided to create something different. I wanted to use rough cardboard and simple drawings inspired by American folk art combined with beautiful lighting to form the video’s aesthetic handwriting. I then decided to make my life harder still by keeping the camera locked off at all times and shooting scenes in real time with no edits or cutaways so the final piece would feel more like watching a play than a film.”  This low-tech and theatrical approach perfectly captured the feel of the song. Shirley Collins and commissioner for Domino Records Bart McDonagh loved the idea and the project was given the go ahead.

This decision was to raise many challenges that would have to be overcome but there was a firm belief that the process would create a dynamic, chaotic and fluid working atmosphere that would allow something beautiful to emerge. After talking to small world genius director of photography Peter Ellmore, it was also decided to shoot on film rather than digital. Using film felt totally within the spirit of the idea and compared to digital photography it gives a much softer and forgiving drop off within the depth of field. However, it also meant that each scene could only be shot six times and there would be no chance to see the rushes before the sets were dismantled.

Once Layla had created the animatic to tell the story of Polly’s adventure, she worked with stop-motion expert John Harmer, artist Jock Mooney, puppeteer Garry Rutter, plus a small art department team to build and paint the sets, elements and puppets. Everything was crafted and painted on cardboard including hundreds of trees, each individually painted and stuck on their respective backgrounds.

All the landscapes were created by moveable planes attached to timber runners sitting on fixed blocks that could be independently moved by two operators. Each set was to have four separate planes which all had to move at different speeds and at different times to create a charming parallax movement. A methodology was worked out where the song provided the seconds count that dictated when and which planes would move to ensure the sets reflected the action of the song. This meant during a shot one plane might have to travel four meters at two and a half centimetres a second while another plane would have to travel two meters at five centimetres a second. Meanwhile elements were bought into frame when needed by puppeteers and sceneshifters to match the song’s narrative.

As well as choreographing a ballet of moving scenes, people and elements, other beautiful low-tech solutions were utilised. In one scene the face of the song’s hero is seen in close up with his eyes moving from left to right, accomplished by a slider behind the cut out eyes reminiscent of B.B.C’s early Captain Pugwash cartoons made in the 1950s.

Director of photography Peter Ellmore along with gaffer Jonathan Yates built and managed the lighting rig as the sets had to be dynamically lit during the filming. This was seen to great effect during the battlefield set with flashes representing cannon blasts. After a few dry runs to iron out any problems, for example it was discovered a lot of grease would be needed to ensure the timber rails would move smoothly over their blocks the filming began.

Over two days of filming a group consisting of animators, students from Goldsmiths, old friends and colleagues all pitched in to help move scenes and elements with producer Richard Barnett calling time. With the heat from the lights and the outside temperature hitting 34 degrees it felt at a times like rowing in the bowels of a Roman galley but the atmosphere and spirit that Layla hoped would come together certainly did. The filming finished just before midnight on the second day.

Layla notes “ I knew it would be a bit of a nightmare and a challenge, I did constantly wake up panicking at 4am wondering what an earth was I thinking to attempt something like this, but had faith in the people around me. It was brilliant to be torn away from the computer and to get to work with my hands again, to constantly problem-solve, to be covered in paint and to finally see how everything came together”.

Jonny T at Glassworks graded the finished film.

Shirley Collins loved the final film stating “Isn’t it absolutely gorgeous: sweet, charming, full of innocence, and it made me laugh out loud! Quite quite perfect..” Praise indeed.

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Credits

Music and vocals- Shirley Collins

The Instrument- Ian Kearey

Drums- Alex Neilson

Commissioner- Bart McDonagh
Director- Layla Atkinson
Producer- Richard Barnett
DoP- Pete Ellmore
Gaffers- Jonathan Yates, Adam Bell
Illustration- Jock Mooney
Art Department Head- John Harmer
Art Department- Layla Atkinson, Rebecca Manley
Art Workers- Adrian Leak, Shirley McNicholas, Leyla McNicholas, Victoria Szelachowska, Lucy Blackhurst
Puppet Makers- Bernard Pilgrim, Garry Rutter, Richard Barnett, Jock Mooney
Puppeteers- Garry Rutter, Rebecca Manley
Scenery Shifters- Fiona Mckiernan, Mehmet Ulusahin, Luca Paulli, Rok Predin, Kieran Letts, Hannah Wilson, Violeta Paez Armando, Alec Kronacker, Pip Piporo
Rigging- Richard Barnett, Chris Heinhold
PR- Pippress.com
Grade- Jonny T at Glassworks
Lighting- Panalux
Lab- Kodak

Record Company- Domino Records

Thanks to- Rocket Van, London Diamond Drilling, Jack Wood at Glassworks, Flints, Bernard Pilgrim, Jane Pfaff, Karine Gama and Kelly Amundsen at Panalux, Kodak, Chris Harvey, Duncan Martin at Pro-Motion