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‘Player 2’ – Interview with Charlie Miller & Harry Slinger-Thompson

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UK talents Charlie Miller and Harry Slinger-Thompson recently united to create the short film Player 2, a retro tale produced at Bristol’s A Productions of a lonely young gamer in search of a companion. Following a BAFTA-qualifying festival run that included Encounters, the London Short Film Festival and Brazil’s Anima Mundi as well as being featured as part of the Skwigly Screening at last year’s Manchester Animation Festival, the film is now online in full. We caught up with Charlie and Harry to learn about how the making of the film played out.

Can you tell us a little about your respective paths to animation?

After school we both completed a foundation in art and design and then went on to study animation at UWE. Two years apart, we met when Charlie was in his third year and Harry in his first. We both managed to graduate with 1st class honors.
We both come from creative families. Harry’s Mum is an actor and his Dad is in TV & theatre. Charlie’s Dad is a writer and worked in the video games industry. Our parents have been a big part of our paths to animation, always supportive.
Harry’s influences come from watching copious amounts of cartoons and animated films growing up. Charlie always loved films and drawing, and when you join those two together, you get animation!

Harry Slinger-Thompson (co-creator/designer) & Charlie Miller (writer/director)

You’ve both been quite proactive when it comes to personal projects outside of your work as freelancers. What are the main benefits do you find of staying practiced in this way?

We both get very restless if we are not creating our own work. We want to tell our own, personal stories. You have to flex your creative muscles, if you don’t they fade away…
Are there any personal projects before Player 2 that you’re especially proud of, or proved especially useful as exercises?
Harry is most proud of his short pieces, 11 Second Club and his Anijam entrance, working on short pieces means quick decisions and you learn a huge amount when under pressure. For Charlie the lack of personal projects before Player 2 is what spurred him on – all the ideas that were started and never saw the light of day – looking back on those inspired him on to get Player 2 finished and out there.

Player 2 Storyboard Art

Both of you also have experience working on animated series production for a variety of studios. Has this had a direct impact on your own creative ideas/production processes?

Working on animated series has allowed both of us to work shoulder to shoulder with some great practitioners, and we have learnt a huge amount from them. Also learning the process of how something is made and the organisation and discipline of a series is a valuable thing to see first hand.
How did the two of you come to collaborate (and had you done so before Player 2)?
We first worked together professionally at Arthur Cox, where we bonded over playing ping pong. After that we started to get hired on more jobs together. We work very well together, respect each other and learn from one another, so we decided to work together outside of work.
How did you come to work with A Productions on the film, and to what extent was the studio involved with its production and subsequent distribution/promotion?
We were working at A Productions on a pilot when they decided to get involved with the film. Matthew Morgan was Creative Director at the time and when we told him we were working on a film together, he offered to read the script. He liked it and said we should show it to Katherine and Mark, Producer and owner of A Prods. We pitched the film to them and they liked it enough to get behind it. We had two story development meetings with Matt, Katherine and Mark. Then Harry left Bristol to start a job in London. While working at A Productions on another pilot, Charlie would work on the animatic in the evenings and mornings and screen it for A Prods, getting feedback. For the production A Prods set us up with computers and me and Harry got a small team to come in and help out. Then A Prods set up for the film to have the sound mix and music done a Films @59, which turned out great. We have worked closely with A Prods entering the film into various festivals .

Player 2 Character Turnarounds

The film was realised with a lot of standout local talent, who were some of the key players in getting it made and did anyone bring anything to the table in particular that it benefited from?

We had the best team working on the film: Liz Murphy making Storyboards and Charlie Swan-Pullin, Jo Hepworth, Andy Fossey, Jake Harvey, Robyn Liebschner on animation. Liz really brought the story to life through her boards, she worked off of Charlie’s roughs and added in little details that enhance the film. We gave certain animators different characters to animate, so they could put their stamp on the character.
Between the two of you how was the labour of the production divided?
Charlie wrote the script, created the animatic, designed the backgrounds and composited the film. Harry designed the characters and did most of the animation.

Player 2 Concept Art

The story itself embraces a lot of resonant nostalgia tropes from preadolescence, chiefly love of videogames and schoolyard romances. Are there any autobiographical elements to it?

The film is not quite autobiographical. But we did want to create the feeling of childhood, in particular that last stage of innocence: when a girlfriend or boyfriend was just a friend and nothing else.
Do you have hopes to at some point develop your own animated series or do you prefer the short form medium?
We are both currently working on some animated series pitches.
What are you both up to now (or have planned)?
Harry is freelancing in London and is looking at going abroad to work. Charlie is Directing at Evil Corp in Bath.
Learn more about the artists at their websites charlie-miller.co.uk and cargocollective.com/harryslinger-thompson
Hear more about the making of the film from Charlie Miller as part of our Skwigly at Encounters 2016 podcast minisode series (stream below):

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