What did you have to do to get onto Random Acts/First Acts?
It was a simple case of applying through Random Acts Midlands website. I saw a tweet about Rural Media looking for artists between the ages of 16-24 and just thought 'Well I'll give it go'. I genuinely thought nothing would come of it!
Where did the idea for your film come from? Did you have it before or after you got involved with Random Acts?
I'd always had a rough idea that I wanted to do an animation on mental illness, but I'd hadn't ever had a fully developed concept. Strangely, when I was filling out the application form, the idea came to me a lot more clearly.
It felt very natural, which isn't something I often get with some of my initial thoughts. I personally do not suffer with any mental health illnesses, but I was very close to a lot of people who do, so felt it was worth making something for them and stopping the negative stigma attached with many mental health disorders.
I suppose the film was to make mental health issues a lot more understandable to people who are lucky enough not to suffer with something that can completely change you. I've tried my best to somewhat 'translate' that.
The impossible question: what is your favourite film?
I feel like I should answer with some trendy, indie, European film, but quite honestly my favourite film of all time is Pixar's Up. That animation made me cry and laugh all at the same time and I can just watch it over and over again, while still feeling all those emotions. That's what a good film does to you - the ability to never get tired of watching it.
What projects are you working on following this release?
Part of my new year's resolution is just to work on something almost everyday. I've been somewhat successful so far, but I'm hoping by the end of January to work on another narrative that I've been mulling over in my head. I'm also hoping to start a YouTube blog about my 'on and off' career journey, but either way I'll be keeping my Twitter as creatively active as possible!
What does this scheme offer to young people to further their craft?
Just the confidence that someone believes in your idea. A lot of artists never pursue wonderful ideas because they don't have the funding or the knowledge of how to portray their concept. I have a background in media and film anyway, but a lot of talented artists didn't have that privilege and therefore don't feel like they are supported in that platform.
It was great to have individuals who could provide with help at the time and I was particularly grateful to have an experienced animator as a mentor to provide some much needed guidance. The connections I've made through this scheme have also continued to provide other opportunities, so it's well worth getting involved!
What is your interpretation of the piece? Does it have a narrative?
Oblivion is a first person experience into the mind of a mental health sufferer. Each scene is a different stage of the mind deteriorating until you almost don't feel anything. I didn't want it to end so negatively as there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It does end with the idea that when you find your internal sanctuary, you can begin to grow again.
How much did the piece change from storyboarding to the final editing stage?
It changed a lot. I had a lot more going on and it was initially quite complex, but I realised I just didn't have enough time. I do think it may have been too chaotic anyway and the simplicity of it worked quite well with the feeling of loneliness.
What activities did you and other filmmakers do to prepare for production?
I made the whole animation myself, so it was just a case of finding experts in sound. I am lucky enough to have a wonderfully talented musician for a partner so I used his expertise to make the music at the end. I felt it needed something light and reassuring to make the last scene more impactful. John Catlow did the Foley after I had some trouble with another Foley artist dropping out at the last minute.
This was a good test for always having a backup plan, so while I did panic (maybe shed an emotional tear), MaverickTV and Rural Media had my back and sorted it out for me!
Straight from the get-go though, I made concept art, storyboards and mini deadlines for myself to give myself some structure. I think the importance of having a clear understanding of how you want to do something leaves a large margin for the production process when you need a bit of trial and error to see what fits.
You are under such a tight deadline the pre-production just needs to be nailed straight away so you can put all your focus into a smooth running production. I did also have some technical problems (rule no. 1: computers are unreliable) so I do wish I pre-empted that a little more.
How has your filmmaking life been since graduating?
At University I worked super hard and the results paid off well. I ended up getting a job as an assistant producer for a corporate video production company straight after my last deadline. I did think for a while 'This is it. I now work 9-5 for the rest of my life until I retire.' and I suddenly felt very trapped. It almost happened too quick. I ended up hating that job because I wasn't passionate about it. I saw this scheme and decided to quit my job, move back home and put some more time into remembering why I love what I do.
After Random Acts, I had some friends over at Threshold Studios who provided me with an amazing internship with Urban Projections. That taught me that a job should be something you don't resent, but something you are passionate about and I really admired being able to be part of working with someone who has that ethic. I'm currently considering freelance, but I'm a bit of social butterfly and like the idea of agency life.
Either way I will now only pursue something I know I will enjoy. I think that's important for a lot of recent graduates – don't get too bummed down with adult life, keep on creating and the opportunities will make themselves known sooner or later!
How was the experience for you as an essential first-timer? What was the hardest part?
It wasn't too hard, don't get me wrong, it was still daunting, but I think having had that previous job and similar situations at university, it felt quite natural to just dive right in. The budget was scary as I was used to either working with no money or someone else telling me what needed to be done within budget. The fact I could choose where that money went was very alien to me, and I still felt reluctant to touch all of it. I did, however, enjoy being able to pay other creatives, like my partner, for their involvement, instead of having the guilt of them working for free. It makes you feel professional.
Will the next generation of filmmakers change the world?
With so much being cut in the creative sectors, I really hope we can all push through and not be forced into work we detest. I hope that this negativity will only influence more filmmakers to make a stand and create things that really mean something! I would hate to live in the beige world that seems to be creeping up on us.
What is your favourite bit of the film?
My favourite built of the film will always be the final scene when the tree is there and the leaves grow. I've always had that image in my head and I was so pleased with how the result came out. That was probably the first thing I thought of when the idea came to me, so it's quite special for me.