As Bradford was declared the world’s first ever City of Film by UNESCO at the National Media Museum on 12th June, the collaborative project between Bradford College and Whistling Woods International was seen to encapsulate the spirit of this announcement so well that Sky News featured it in their news report.
Sky News’ interest stemmed from the buzz already produced by the creative partnership of students from the School of Film & Media at Whistling Woods in Mumbai and photography degree students from Bradford, who are making a short film to be submitted to Bradford’s prestigious Animation Festival and other international film festivals in 2010.
Whistling Woods student, Abhishek Puri explained “The film, called The Music of Life, is a stop-motion animation with each frame captured by stills camera. The story is about a traditional musician who is not admired by society but is a hero in his own way as he struggles to make his life better. People wrongly perceive him as a beggar though he is a failed artist who has never had chance to showcase his talents. His blindness means that the only connection he has to the world is through his music. The action revolves around a noisy alley in urban India where he tries to make his music despite many distractions. He does not give up but continues by going inside himself in an imaginary sequence and so is able to control all the sounds around him. He only comes back to reality with the sound of money dropping into his bowl, as money rules the world. The story is set in India but the theme of the underdog is universal.”
The team from Whistling Woods International comprises students Bijal Choksi, Kanav Gupta, Abhishek Puri, Kuldeep Mehta, Kavan Ahalpara, Prachi Agrawal, Akshay Misra and Zenish Mehta; with project leader Dhananjay Khore and Line Producer Gokul K. They had already completed extensive research on Mumbai's streets, recorded sounds and music, and developed characters and storyboards in pre-production. The Bradford team, which provided crucial technical expertise in stop-photography, lighting and camera angles to maximise the story's impact, comprised students Lora West, Becky Sturdy, Martin O’Nions, Emily Smith, Vanessa Wheatley, Zoë Finlayson, Aimee Lynch, Sana Shaikh, Louise Reynolds and Emily Byrom; directed by internationally renowned photographer, Trevor Griffiths.
When the Mumbai students arrived they took over the Photography studios, pasting up the storyboards and sketches of characters on the walls. Both teams then worked tirelessly to turn the drawings into film. They became consumed by the project, putting in thirteen hour days and then doing homework to keep up with the tight schedule. The production process involved building the set, constructing characters, designing props, lighting and animating. The students gelled together brilliantly as one team, sharing skills and feeding off mutual enthusiasm. A particular highlight was their visit to Aardman Studios, where they received very positive feedback on their work in progress from Dhiment Viyas, Animator Director for Shaun The Sheep.
On their final day in Bradford, the students from Mumbai and Bradford unveiled the results of their intensive labours in presentation to College Principal, Michele Sutton OBE, and guests, including Deb Singleton, Director of Bradford Animation Festival. Incredibly, during this time they had created the set and characters and produced a 90 second sequence, comprising around 700 frames. The audience agreed that the quality and vibrancy of the film was simply breathtaking.
Michele could barely contain her delight at what she saw and wished she had Oscars to hand out. “I cannot wait to see the finished film. You have taught me so much this morning, not just in technical terms but also in teamworking and presentation. Ten days isn’t enough to do justice to the potential here. Bradford College and Whistling Woods will sign a memorandum to enable further exchanges and development.”
Trevor Griffiths added, “We will each waive fees to offer five students the opportunity to study for two weeks at each other’s institution, making this experience attainable for students. I see this as a starting point to continue developing the programme that began with the UKIERI bid. We have laid a solid foundation and the close relationships we have established put us in a strong position to move forward. Whistling Woods have shown a real interest in our Special Make-Up Effects expertise as they use all CGI rather than anything hands-on. Whistling Woods vast cinematography capability and Bradford’s new City of Film status gives us the background to develop filmmaking here.”
The Bradford team are now looking forward to travelling to Mumbai in September to work on the dream sequence, which is more abstract and involves painting on glass rather than clay-mation. They will see the ambient morning light which they worked so hard to recreate in Bradford and the street detail which they painstakingly reproduced in miniature, further expanding their cultural knowledge.
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