Giving people a voice through digital media, animation and film

Action ! Children create their own cinematic drama

Film buffs from Manor Park First School in Dorchester who watch and review movies in their after school Film Club, have made a short film of their own. 

With support from national charity Into Film, the 30 eight and nine year olds have created an atmospheric five minute drama called
The Stone - under the professional guidance of filmmakers Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet from ScreenPLAY. The film - premiered at the club's end of year celebration - was screened throughout the summer on the big screen in Dorchester’s Brewery Square.

"Because it was quite a big group and our time was limited, we focussed on the movement rather than dialog," explained Sharon. “They have created some wonderful dramatic tension and beautiful movement."

Manor-Park-crew2
Cameraman Anna, aged nine said they filmed on location in the school grounds: “ It was fun filming from different angles - once I had to climb a tree and use a handheld camera.” 

“We all did a drama warm up and then decided who was going to be an actor and who was going to do the filming,” said Susie, 9.

“We wanted to make it feel like we were on a journey through the forest - and were all a bit scared,” added Archie, 9.

“I was one of the actors - it was epic !” said Mary, 9.

“The film made me feel like a proper movie star,” said Grace, 9. “The story is about a strange stone - if you touch it you go to crazy land !”

Headteacher Melanie Cridland said the children had gained a huge amount from the experience. “It’s been about team work and developing communication, as well as learning to use the equipment and creating some wonderful movement and drama.”
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How to make animated characters swim

People have been asking how to make an animated character swim.

Like the walk cycle, the ‘swim cycle’ can be broken down into about six frames, but - as we have discovered - it can be surprisingly tricky to make your swimming movement look realistic. One effective way to achieve realistic movement is to film the movement in live action - and then pick out and print the key frames to use as a basis for the drawing.

In real life, you don’t actually see very much of a swimmer’s body, but if you try to emulate that in 2D animation, it can look terrible.

In our workshop film Splash, we simply put the swimmer on top of a wave background, and it looked sort of OK, but in The Big Splash, one of our films for the Cultural Olympiad last summer made by younger children, we added a translucent layer to slightly obscure the swimmer’s bodies below the water. Did it work ? You be the judge.

Our next movement challenge: how to make a character curtsey !



Splash Swimming2

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Legacy banner project underway...

Children at five schools in Weymouth and Portland are working with artists from ScreenPLAY on a new set of brightly coloured banners for Weymouth seafront and harbourside.
Westfield banners


The legacy project in partnership with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council started this week with two day residencies by artists Heidi Steller and Sharon Hayden at Westfield Arts College and St John’s Primary School in Weymouth.

Sharon explained: “The banners are all about activity - swimming, cycling, sailing, canoeing, riding donkeys on the beach, as well as some of the sports at the Weymouth beach sports arena which thousands of people took part in last summer.”

“The year six group at Westfield took part in these activities last summer and have included their photographs in a wonderful series of seaside collages. They have loved making their banners and we’re really pleased with the way they have worked together on them.”

Westfield3 Westfield1


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Children to design new seafront banners for Weymouth

London 2012 banners
Remember the brightly coloured banners lining Weymouth seafront for the 2012 Olympics ?

Schoolchildren in Weymouth and Portland will be designing a new set of banners for the seafront and harbourside as part of an Olympic legacy project delivered by ScreenPLAY in partnership with the Borough Council.

“We’ll be working in five schools during the first half of the Summer term, supporting the children in creating vivid new banner designs which will be in place for the start of this year’s summer season,” explained project leader Sharon Hayden.

“They will be all about the activity that people see and do when they come to the seaside and the wonderful Dorset coast.”

Head of Olympic Legacy and Operations at the Council, Simon Williams said the banners were one of 66 projects which would help keep the Olympic feelgood factor alive. 

“Last summer’s events were an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience for more than 550,000 who came to Weymouth and Portland. We hope these new banners - designed by children in our schools - will help people remember and be inspired by the Olympic experience.”
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Workshop film to be screened in Sydney

Work by young filmmakers in Dorchester is being screened at the historic Sydney Observatory in Australia.
The Willow Pattern Story - a short animation from a workshop with Alastair Nisbet and Sharon Hayden - is being used to support a new archaeology programme at the Observatory, one of the city’s oldest buildings.


“A lot of old Willow Pattern plates have been found on our site which dates back to 1804,” explained Observatory manager Toner Stephenson. “We will use the children’s film as a way of introducing the story behind the plates.”

She said children on school visits will dig, inspect real artefacts and examine the original 1804 Fort and 1848 cottage. 
“The Willow pattern is very dominant in the finds and we ask them to put together a willow pattern plate from pieces excavated. 

They then make their own plate but we want them to understand that the plates have a story, and that the Willow Pattern story was appealing to British colony settlers. Your film will inspire them to create their own design for their plate”.
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Old Irish Furniture wins at Sundance

Animation, old furniture, wonderful Irish voices - this delightful film by Tony Donoghue appeals on so many levels… which is obviously why it has just won the short film jury award for animation at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

To call it an animated documentary about repair and recycling in rural Ireland just does not do it justice.

I don’t know how long they will keep it on YouTube so watch and enjoy!


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The Helpful Dead - the real people behind the story

Last of England
In the days of sail, Lyme Bay was a notorious danger spot for shipping. If you allowed yourself to come too close to the shore, prevailing winds could make it impossible to clear Portland Bill. Many ships foundered on Chesil beach and the Cove acquired a nickname “Dead Man’s Cove”. The wrecked ships’ cargoes were scavenged by the people of Wyke and many of the dead crew buried in Wyke churchyard.

The first draft of the script for the Helpful Dead included skeletons of long dead seamen coming back to life to save an Olympic yachtsmen but it was only in the latter stage of script development with mentor Peter Snelling that he asked the key question: “Why would they ?”. Why let generations of sailors die and then choose to save one in particular ? There had to be a link with the past.

Headteacher logbook
While the children were researching shipwrecks off the Chesil, year leader Miss Lynch produced some old leather bound volumes that had been in school for decades - the head teachers logbook. The book, written in pen and ink script, is the diary by successive head teachers from 1863 - an extraordinary first hand account of all major events affecting school life. Some days there were no children in school because they were out in the fields bringing in the harvest - on others they were on the Chesil, scavenging off wrecked ships.
Helpful_Dead_Serena
“It being my birthday, I have decided to close the school for a holiday,” he declares one day.

Then in November 1872 he writes “Monday in this week, a very wet day - in the evening an emigrant ship was wrecked on the beach. School open but no roll call as so few were present.” The Royal Adelaide, carrying families to a new life in Australia had foundered on Chesil beach. Most passengers were saved but six, including a young girl drowned.
Josephs-mother

In The Helpful Dead a Victorian mother sees her boy drown as a ship sinks off the Chesil - and we cut to 2012 to find a Olympic sailor in trouble who looks the image of the Victorian mother. The long-dead boy looks up from his watery grave and thinks she is his mother. He summons the Helpful Dead back to life with the words - “It happened to us, don’t let it happen to them”.


Emma Hill
So with script complete, what should our women look like ?
We studied Ford Maddox Brown’s famous painting Last of England in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. A young family are leaving England for a new life on an 1860’s emigrant ship. The mother, holding the hand of a baby under her cloak is strikingly beautiful. The model for the picture was the artist’s wife Emma and our Year Five artists were able to use Maddox Brown’s sketches of her as their inspiration for both Joseph’s mother and our Olympic sailor Serena.

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Best Film for Helpful Dead


Best Film - Electric December
The Helpful Dead has won Best Film by primary age children at the Electric December 2012 awards in Bristol.

Four of the filmmaking team from Wyke Regis Junior school joined facilitators Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet from ScreenPLAY to receive the award at Bristol's Watershed - and a bag of film goodies from sponsor Aardman Animation.

Project producer Sharon Hayden said it was a wonderful achievement for the ten year old filmmakers.
Best Film: Helpful Dead wins at Electric December
"We're thrilled their work is being recognised in this way. It’s the first time any of these children have been to Bristol - and being part of these awards has opened their eyes to some of the opportunities out there in our creative industries. Best Film in Electric December could perhaps be a first step on the path to a career in film.”
Best Film: The Helpful Dead
Other winners travelled from as far away as Poland for this year’s awards. Best animation went to 20 year old Agnieszka Konarska for her atmospheric film Hunt about a Raven and its bid to escape.

Best Comedy went to Taking Out Tim by Tiverton High School with My Pockets, and Best documentary to Adrenaline Junky, a moving film about a motorcyclist regaining his action packed lifestyle after an accident.

Electric December winners
Electric December producer Hannah Higginson said the films had all been chosen for their imaginative and distinctive style. “I’ve been knocked out by the huge amount of flair and talent on show this year. We are committed to developing new talent and it’s a joy to see the exciting range of films from across Europe.

All the Electric December films are on the website electricdecember.org - including The Big Splash, one of the other Dorchester Arts Olympic films by St John’s Primary School in Weymouth.
The Helpful Dead was based on a real life tragedy and characters were inspired by Victorian works of art in Birmingham and Cambridge. Read about the real people behind the story.

The Helpful Dead was funded by the Lottery's First Light initiative with additional support from b-side, Departure Arts and the school itself.

Best Film2 ECHOp1 ECHO-Best-Film

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Electric December for Children’s Olympic films

Animated films by children at two Weymouth primary schools have been selected for an international showcase of young filmmaking talent.

Animation at St Johns
The Big Splash and the Helpful Dead, made for the Olympics by pupils at St John’s Primary and Wyke Regis Junior schools will be part of Electric December, a countdown calendar featuring the best of young people’s short films from across Europe.

The films, seen by thousands on big screens during the summer, will now bring Weymouth and Portland - as seen through the eyes of ten year olds - to an international audience.

Over the course of a month in each school the young filmmakers worked with a group of six artists from Dorchester Arts, led by Sharon Hayden of digital arts organisation ScreenPLAY.

She said the children gave both films a strong sense of place and local identity. 

“In the Big Splash they wanted to capture the feel of the torch relay on Weymouth seafront and the determination and courage of a group of young people swimming across the bay.
In researching Helpful Dead, the children found a head teacher’s diary from 1872 with descriptions of a shipwreck off the Chesil. This gave them the idea to link a Victorian tragedy with the 2012 Olympics,”  she explained.
The films, plus the third in the trilogy the Portland Race, were funded by the lottery through the BFI’s First Light initiative.
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The Willow Pattern Story




I’ve just noticed that our short animation of the the Willow Pattern Story from a half term workshop a few years ago has topped 17,000 views on You Tube !  Seemed like a good excuse to tell people about it again. 

The young people who took part should feel really proud of their work !
Watch out for the not very subtle comedy moment.
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