This year marked the biggest ‘Share A Story’ project thus far, with over 7000 children from schools all over the great Britain entering for their chance to have their story told and animated by professional studios. The eight short films, funded and broadcast by CITV are around one minute long each and an amazing way for children to connect with animation and story telling on a creative and educational level.
One of the eight winning entries was Alex Holt’s amazing story ‘My Motorbike’ written in the 7 to 8 (yrs old) category. Alex’s short adventure is a mix of day-dreams and ambition and the anticipation of owning a sweet motorbike once you grow up. ‘My Motorbike’ was animated by Birmingham based Second Home Studios, who’s task was to bring Alex’s two-wheeled dream to life with the CITV partnership.
We had an informative chat with animator and co-director Chris Randall of Second Home Studios and co-director/producer Waldemar Werbel of CITV about Alex’s ‘My Motorbike’.
How did Second Home Studio get involved with the ‘Share a story’ project?
(Chris) This is my third year of ‘Share A Story’ now. I knew about it at an early stage courtesy of the creator Corrinne Averiss and am pleased to be part of this twice BAFTA-nominated short form series. It’s one of my favourite creative projects of the year now.
What was your first thoughts when you read the script/heard the audio?
(Wal) Being fond of bikes myself, I loved the idea of ‘My Motorbike’ right from the start. I can remember what it felt like to hanker after a bike and dream about where it would take me! A very important part of how well something like this works is the quality of the read, and I’m very happy to say that Alex got it just right..!
(Chris) I liked the voice behind the story. There was a dreamer in there that was imagining being an adventurer and a stunt-man whilst playing in his back yard. It took me right back to doing the same thing as a kid.
Once you started, what was the process of making ‘My Motorbike’?
(Wal) One of the earliest stages was to put together a rough animatic along with a guide v/o. This gave us an idea of how the story flowed and also presented us with an opportunity to introduce ideas that weren’t in the original storyboard.
(Chris) Boards then an animatic. Then design ideas, then building. Lots of building. From here we had to schedule model stages and come up with the shooting order to make sure that continuous shooting could take place with the puppet. Always a tricky one, but we got there.
What were the differences between working from a child’s script, compared to that of a professional script writer?
(Wal) Because the script was more of a series of ideas, rather than a prescribed minutes worth of content, it lent itself very well to giving us a bit of freedom in terms of coming up with the ideas for the sets and animation.
(Chris) There’s no hard and fast rules to ‘Share A Story’. The beauty of it is that you can take a 6-panel storyboard and a simple idea and be quite free in how you interpret the visual side of things. The similarity I suppose to a normal script is in trying to be true to the writers original vision. We were quite conscientious about making sure Alex was happy with our design ideas for the film as we went along. I think the nicest development was making the mountain sequence more dynamic with motion-control.
How did you get the balance between ‘the style’ and ‘humour’ right?
(Wal) ‘My Motorbike’ was amorphous through much of the earlier stages of its production. This approach is often a double edged sword, but one of its advantages is that you have a great deal of freedom. When you’re turning something like this around in a very tight time-frame, it’s nice to be able to add things when you see an opportunity – like the crash through the gate on the rolling road – or to make changes to things that perhaps haven’t worked out as well as you thought they might – numerous things! Because things came together in what was sometimes a fairly haphazard manner, it meant that we could mix, match and adapt to suit what we were doing, which often yielded humorously quirky results.
(Chris) Originally we were going to use a finely crafted puppet in cardboard sets that relate to his cardboard crash-mat at the end, but it seemed like a lost opportunity. So we just went all out and built massive sets instead! I think the puppet works really well on the bike because of his obvious disproportion to it. I knew at an early stage that much of the humour would come through in all the little nuances of animation that make stop-motion akin to live performance in a way. For example, once we’d dressed and tensioned the puppet, me and fellow animator Ian Whittle knew we’d have a lot of fun swinging the character’s legs around, and his hefty boots, as he tries to keep his balance.
What was the easiest and hardest part of making ‘My Motorbike’?
(Wal) Personally speaking, the easiest part for me was the post-production, as that’s the side of film-making that I’m most comfortable with. It may sound strange, but the daunting part for me was helping with the building of sets and props – it’s great fun to do – but there’s no Apple-Z on a jig-saw!
(Chris) Easiest part – animating it. Hardest part – finding time to animate it.
What do you think the legacy will be for this small film, and for your studio?
(Chris) I think we’d both like to show this film at festivals over the coming year. It’s important though to look at ‘Share A Story’ as a body of work, not just individual films. It’s a great test-bed creatively, both for trying new ideas and inviting graduates into the studio. I know I’ll definitely be developing my new technique for faking up stop-motion ‘helicopter’ shots but on a much bigger scale after doing this one.