The wonder of card­board: making anim­a­tion with school chil­dren

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(Update- the finished film can be seen here)

Since just before Christ­mas, I have been doing a weekly anim­a­tion work­shop with kids at a school in North London, work­ing with one of the English teach­ers. The brief was to create a short film which told a story that repres­en­ted the school and the exper­i­ences of the students in some way. The students range from 12-18, with the young­er ones being the art assist­ants, and the sixth-formers being the produ­cers. They came up with a story them­selves about a refugee girl from an unnamed coun­try who flees from a war to London, but is then unhappy at the school because she doesn’t speak English (quite a common real story at this partic­u­lar school). Gradu­ally however she starts to learn and under­stand, and feel happi­er and make friends. In the initial sessions, some of the inspir­a­tion clips I showed them included Persepol­is, The Science of Sleep, and my own Erika Pal’s the House.

Through guided work­shops, they created the concept, script and story­boards and recor­ded the soundtrack, and made the props. The film is just over a minute long. Initially all the char­ac­ters apart from the narrat­or only make noises like the teach­er in Peanuts, but as she learns, it gradu­ally turns into under­stand­able English. On Tues­day we star­ted film­ing for real, by the simplest meth­od of having a DSLR on a tripod with a shut­ter release cable. This is a war scene. The build­ings gradu­ally became covered in shred­ded tissue paper in red, orange and yellow. Next week the same build­ings will be re-arranged and re-used to repres­ent London, with a few famous land­marks added, and blue tissue paper strands to repres­ent the river and rainy sky.

The build­ings are made of black card and tracing paper. The fire is tissue paper. The light­ing is two £5 desk lamps from homebase and some pound­land led fairy lights. The mater­i­als budget for the whole film is £40 (obvi­ously the time of me and the other teach­er, use of the classroom and camera are disreg­arded here)

In the words of Oliv­er Post­g­ate “The great inven­tion that made all this possible was Blu-Tack”. (Also Scotch magic tape, and bags of assor­ted sink wash­ers to weigh everything down.)

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