Students Animate Poem for BBC Spotlight

15 June 2020
Screenshot from the animation - key workers

BBC Spotlight featured a short animation from Falmouth Animation & Visual Effects students last Friday (12 June).

Head of Animation, Andy Joule told us how the students got involved, “Five weeks ago the BBC Spotlight producer approached us to see if any of the students would be interested in creating an animated response to a poem penned by writer Matt Harvey, with its theme of lockdown.

“Working from homes all across the UK and in Europe, using the remote access we’ve given them to our studios the team produced a phenomenal effort. I can hand on heart say I am blown away. Amazed by their passion, energy and creativity. Nothing seems to have been a barrier to them.”

We caught up with two of the team that created the film, students Rebecca Hardess and Lucy Gatenby who produced and directed the animation:

Rebecca Hardess told us, “This project has been an amazing learning experience for our whole team. Being asked to be a part of something that portrays what is going to be a very important part of history has been a really great opportunity.

“On this film I acted as the producer, I was overseeing the whole project and making sure all work was being completed in time for our deadline. The film Producer role is what I have specialised in over my three years at Falmouth University, however this was my first time working with clients in the film industry which was a bit daunting!

“Making animations isn’t something that can being done quickly, it takes a lot of time and effort. Being given such a tight deadline felt very ambitious, however I knew that the people in my team are incredibly hard workers and the film would not have been made so successfully without them.

Both Lucy and I (and many others in our team) have just finished our final year at Falmouth, so to already be a part of a film for the BBC that has been shown on TV is a bit of an honour! I think we both feel it’s an amazing thing to have achieved and we are excited to see what’s next.”

Lucy Gatenby continued, “My role on the project was directing the animated short. This was a lot of fun as I was overseeing all aspects of the project and I made sure my teams creative inputs were being directed along the same path so that the film would have a consistency of style and mood. I was giving feedback regularly and making sure I was available for animators and artists to ask me for feedback and help.

“As well as director, I composited and edited the whole film. This was a fun challenge as I had to make sure that all 34 shots seemed like it was one continuous transition, so that it flowed fluently. When I composited the shots, I also was doing the lighting of the scene and added any VFX to bring the scene to life. I also coloured most of the animation. Using our storyboard artist Aiesha’s colour scripts, I picked out the colours so that we matched the exact mood we envisioned in the pre-production phase.

“The main challenge we faced was the social distancing aspect of things. As we are normally used to our studio environment and working together in the same building. However, we were all working online in different parts of the world. We overcame this obstacle by using a google drive as a way to constantly update each other on our progress. The drive was how I would check animation and approve it, and then I would download it so that I could colour it then composite it too.

“Another big challenge was the deadline. We were initially given 6 weeks to complete the animation, we had to complete all of pre-production (so animatic, character designs, style sheets and layouts) in two weeks. Which in our course we would normally have a whole term to do! So this was a huge stress but Aiesha our storyboard artist managed to do the animatic in a week! However the deadline got cut from 6 weeks to 5 weeks, because lockdown was easing earlier then expecting, and because the film was about lockdown this meant that we had to get the animation out asap.

“On Friday, when it was broadcast, it was such a perfect end to the project - it was such an exciting premiere of the film. After weeks of non-stop work, it made it all worthwhile and was such a thrilling experience.

“After the broadcast, I got a lot of messages from strangers saying they cried, and it had reached them in an emotional way. I think the BBC Spotlight Facebook video has over 22,000 views, which is crazy to say I was still working on it on Wednesday!”

Check out the animation on the BBC website or on Facebook.