Chuck Steel – Night of the Trampires: An Interview with Sam Holland

Sam Holland works as Head of department and is a highly experienced puppet and model maker for film, television and exhibitions.  He is currently ‘Head of Puppets’ for the forthcoming feature length stop motion film, “Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires” – the latest installment from director Mike Mort.  We spoke to him about his involvement in the project, how the puppets were made and the challenges and rewards of running a film studio facility for stop motion puppet production.




You have an interesting job title ‘Head of Puppets’.  How did you become involved in the project and what does this role entail?

I worked with the line producer Ben Halliwell on ‘Frankenweenie’ and I worked with Mike Mort twenty years ago on lots of commercials. I had a company called ‘The Puppet Factory’, so I was employed to make puppets by him through ‘Passion Pictures’.  He called me up about this project and invited me to discuss an idea he had about a feature film.  So I went over and met Mike and Ben, laughed my head off at the ideas and cried at how much work that would have to be done (laughs).  It was so immense, fun and technically interesting.  I was gagging to be on board.

Unfortunately I had to wait two months to find out.  It was a happy day when the guys said ‘yes’ I’d got the job.  So now I’m ‘Head of Puppets’, which involves working very closely with production and the director.  Basically, I’m in charge of making Mike’s ideas come into fruition – the character design and construction methods. I run a team of twenty-five when we build and then scale down to about ten for the maintenance.  I have lots of procedures running through my head continuously with seventy-five processes to make a puppet and four hundred odd puppets to build.  It’s been fun. Not for the faint hearted!




The ‘Chuck Steel’ films are a pastiche of 80’s action movies.  Why choose puppet stop motion to tell these stories?

Well, Mike has been thinking of Chuck for years and he’s one of these directors who is so knowledgeable about 80’s cop hero movies and action/horror movies.  He has an amazing memory of all of these off-beat B movies and I don’t know why he doesn’t just make an actual live-action movie!  Maybe he will someday but for the moment, Chuck has always been stop motion in his head.  You can do so much with the medium.  You can have fun with it and do some great effects with it as well.  It’s a great medium to work in and Mike’s been a successful contributor to the medium for the last twenty years, so why not carry on.



What informed the character designs and why the choice of materials for puppet fabrication?

I was bought into this production with a set budget and team number, which isn’t the way that I normally work.  I had to work out a technical way of building these puppets within those constraints, so it’s very modular.  How can I work through a system of making hands correct, every single time, for example? So everything is about the success rate.  How do I get a pair of hands, a body or a paint job out with the highest success?  I worked with the team and in ZBrush to get our generic body shapes made so our armatures would fit in a modular fashion.  In this way, we knew that our success rate would be good as everything would fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  That’s how we were able to turn out thirty odd puppets per week with only a crew of twenty or so.  When we were running we were running!  It was exciting!! It was very much like a chef’s pass at times.  A lot of adrenaline going on for everybody, we were just flying.  A lot of clever thinking to make it work, but we enjoyed it.

Mike loves the work of special effects guys of the 80s era, like Rob Bottin and Rick Baker.  So instead of trying to be too clever with our finishes, by using silicones and materials like that, we ‘dumbed down’ the finish a bit, so we were using latexes and foams to give a slightly dated look.  It was homage to our great American buddies in special effects really.




‘Night of the Trampires’ follows ‘Raging Balls of Steel Justice’.  Have there been any significant developments to the puppets over these productions? 

Mike had ideas about how he wanted us to work on this film, but we couldn’t do that as that was a very small team of people working very hard but with only twelve or so puppets.  So I had to persuade him to do it another way.   I wanted to work with ZBrush for years and this was the perfect job for it, so we put it to him and he said ‘OK, let’s go for it.’  So we used technologies in the right areas but we still do traditional methods of construction. It’s a balance.

It’s very difficult sometimes for a director to visualise without something tactile in front of him, which he can see.  On computers, as much as you can rotate an object, for some reason it doesn’t always click.  So that was probably the biggest change; the use of technologies and materials that would assist us and allow us to spend more time on the pretty stuff, like all the effects and finishes.  Our production systems allowed us to make puppets at high speed.  We knew we had to hit certain standards for Mike to be happy.  As everybody is good at their work and everybody is striving to finish a great puppet, we were able to move quickly.  Finished, signed-off, next one.


PrintAnd lastly, do you have a favourite puppet?

I would have to say Chuck, for without him I wouldn’t have been able to make the other 399 puppets.



Interview by Emma Windsor


‘Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires’ is currently in production at Animortal Studio in Wales and is due for release in 2017.  For more information on the production as it unfolds, visit the studio blog:, join the Facebook page or follow the team on YouTube, Vimeo or Twitter.




Meet the Intern: An Interview with George Northcott

Sat drinking a latte at The Old Market House on West Street Bristol, home of the Wardrobe Theatre, waiting for stop motion practitioner, model maker and Puppet Place Associate Artist George Northcott to join me, I think back to the first time we met when I joined the Puppet Place associate artist family. George was at that uncertain but exciting time in an artist’s career between leaving full time education and the reality of having to make a living from their art out in the real world. I’m struck by how much more confident and self assured he looks now as he joins me. 

20161008_122414Hi George, thanks for agreeing to this interview.  I’d like to start if I may by asking about your background and how you came to be a stop motion artist?

Of course. During my studies for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art & Design at Truro college I’d stumbled across animator and film maker Jan Švankmajer  whilst watching stop motion videos on YouTube.  I really enjoyed his subtle blend of reality and imagination and soon became a big fan of his art. He and Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studios, who manages to create stunning backdrops for his characters, sparked my love of moving image and model making.

Those two artists were the biggest influences for my first major project (FMP), a stop motion animation called Endless Hunting, for which I was recognised for outstanding achievement in art and design at our final year exhibition at the Truro College Lemon Quay Exhibitions. I felt that stop motion gave me the best and widest use of both materials and processes and also allowed me to use the fullest range of skills I had been taught on my course. With these influences, and the success of the exhibition, I was pleased to be awarded a triple distinction. 2After college I applied to UWE to study illustration, with the intention of doing animation in my second year, but ended up doing illustration and animation because of the stronger focus on storytelling and narrative. It also allowed me to focus more on model making towards the end. Working primarily in a 3D manner creating a range of stop motion animations, puppets and models – my final exhibition enabled me to showcase all my creations in a mixture of animated shorts, puppet shows and concept posters and prints. I completed my course with a BA first class honours in Illustration.


At my final year exhibition at the Bower Ashton Campus I sold some prints to UWE which will be displayed at their new Frenchay building when it is complete in 2017. They also want to discuss using some models as part of the signage around the new building.  In July, the exhibition went to the Hoxton Arches in Shoreditch, London where I sold my first 3D work, a piece called the ‘Brexit Bike’. This opened my eyes to the potential of puppets and models being artworks in their own right. I also had a very welcome opportunity to meet sculptor Wilfred Wood who shared both his knowledge and good advice with me.

You’re currently engaged on a three month operations and production internship at Puppet Place, how’s that working out for you?

It’s been amazing to be surrounded by so many professional creative artists who have so much ‘how to’ knowledge for me to tap into. Rachel, Emma and Luke have been very supportive throughout. They have allowed me time and space to work on my own skills and projects, as well as supporting me in my role to contribute to the smooth working environment Puppet Place provides. Working with the artists at Green Ginger, Rusty Squid, Pickled Image, together with any number of freelance and associate artists, has undoubtedly been the best next step for me on my journey to become a professional artist. I am very grateful to Puppet Place for giving me this opportunity to learn from and to network with so many talented and kindred spirits. I will certainly be looking for ways to maintain my close association with the team when my internship ends soon.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working as a freelance 3D illustrator on a number of projects including making a series of models for a new company called The Social Skills Agency who create classes in film, drama and music for children with Aspergers to help develop their social skills while learning about subjects they are interested in. I’ve recently finished some imagery for their website and I am exploring the potential for my involvement with them to develop into a collaborative production.  This may give me an opportunity to be more involved in the delivery of these workshops. It is a very exciting project with lots of potential for the future.


I’ve also just finished making a life size model of a Yeti for Anorak Magazine for their 10th Anniversary Drawing Imaginarium at Dalston Square, Hackney in London this October. Cathy from Anorak Magazine approached me after she saw my creations and puppets at the UWE exhibition at Bower Ashton.


And the future, what are you hoping that will bring?

I’m especially keen to work collaboratively with the artists at Puppet Place, and with the Social Skills agency as we discussed earlier, to develop and create projects with a new, innovative approach to the use of puppets and stop motion. I’d also love to do a solo  exhibition one day if I can to show case my fascination with both materials and processes.

If someone reading this interview wanted to follow your path to becoming a professional artist, what advice would you give them?

If something feels right, do it. Enjoy what you do, follow your own path and don’t be afraid to be unique. Make opportunities happen by networking and when they come, take your chances…

Interview by Stephen B. Watters

To find out more about George’s work and to browse his portfolio, visit his website at:

Based in the heart of Bristol, Puppet Place offers workspace for artists and creatives including puppeteers, prop makers, graphic designers, animators and filmmakers. We also run an Associate Artist Scheme to support like-minded artists working in other locations.  To join us or to find out how we can support you, contact Rachel McNally at rachel [at] or call 0117 929 3593.

Passion For Puppet Making: An Interview with Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is a professional maker and senior technical instructor in stop motion animation at the University of the West of England in Bristol.  She has an eclectic background in ceramics, craft design, prop making, live action puppetry and film.  We sat down with her for a coffee and chats, to find out about her passion for puppet making and her thoughts on the differences and similarities between stop motion and traditional puppetry.


What’s your background?  How did you get into puppetry?

My mum and Dad are Irish, but emigrated to the United States, so myself and my sisters were born out there.  My earliest memories of television are shows like Sesame Street.  We had a lot of friends with older children and inherited a lot of toys, and as this was America in the 1970s, these were Jim Henson muppets and Fisher Price toys – all with very bright, saturated colours.  We were plucked out of that in the early 80s and dropped into the middle of nowhere in Ireland knowing very little about the culture.  But what we could watch still was Sesame Street, so all the puppets and characters were like all of the friends we’d left behind, a little piece of America.

Also in the bag of stuff that we bought back to Ireland were the Fisher Price velcro muppets and some marionette puppets. They weren’t the type of thing you could buy in Ireland at the time so they made us like celebrities in our little housing estate in the middle of Tipperary.  I think that had a big impact on us all.  I became a compulsive maker.

It came to going to college and I decided I was going to do stop motion animation.  I took a little bit of advice from a chap who worked for Aardman that my teacher knew, who said, ‘tell her to do mould making, casting, sculpture, ceramics and to just keep making characters.’  So I went to the National College of Art & Design, spent my foundation year making puppets.  Then the second year, I decide to do ceramics.  I really enjoyed making and the process of making, and was able to transfer those specialist skills into stop motion fabrication.

I came to Bristol to visit my current partner, I was just visiting and I still am (smiles).  I got a job teaching ceramics at Bristol City College and started teaching a little bit of media on the side, so that I could use the cameras for stop motion.  I then applied to do the MA in Animation at UWE.  All of it was about getting into industry and keeping moving and learning.  In the second year I was given the opportunity of being the teaching fellow at UWE and since then, I’ve continued being really interested in processes and learning.  I gather processes, I gather information, I gather knowledge and I disseminate it out.  I am the conduit through which stop motion happens; I am the cause of stop motion in others (laughs).

How do you see yourself?   

If you boil it right back to what I do, I am absolutely driven by materials and what materials do, and I would say that, more than anything else, I’m a maker – a maker who wants to share knowledge.  I’m very interested in how you can push something, in how you can maximise the potential in something.  If you introduce me to a new material I am going to work with that material until I know exactly what it does.  As soon as I figure it out then others want to know, and it’s nice, it’s gratifying.  I would never say that I am this thing or that I am that thing… It depends on who you’re talking to and where you are, but if you did put a gun to my head, I’m a creative person.  If you took stop motion out of the world tomorrow, I’d find something else.  I enjoy working with young artists.  I see what I do a lot of the time here at UWE as collaboration.  I see myself as a kind of production assistant or producer.  It’s enjoyable to problem-solve.  It’s enjoyable to help figure that out.

It means that you keep learning and that is really important to me.  I think if you go into an industrial context and get a job somewhere you’re learning but within a very tight pipeline.  I quite like knowing I can sit at a desk and with around £50 worth of materials make an entire puppet from scratch that will work and perform really well.


In your opinion, what are the key differences between stop-motion and live action puppetry?

I think if you look beyond education, beyond the needs of students, and into stop motion, then you do have quite a high proportion of young, hungry creative people who feel that the mastery of particular materials or of silicone casting, for example, is the answer – that if they have a ball and socket armature, for example, they will make a better film.  I think the more questioning, experimental kind of creatives don’t want to go into a very specific, highly intense pipeline for something that is quite risky.  It may or it may not work.  They are the same people that if the had just a feather and a bit of foam, could probably produce something gorgeous.  I think with live action puppet making that happens because you make a puppet and you then perform with it.


With stop motion, there is the further hurdle of knowing how to stop motion animate in order to make well.  So you’re kind of constantly one step forward and two steps back.  You can make something that looks amazing, but if it does move properly then you have to go back to the drawing board and re-make it.  You can animate really well, but if you don’t have the technical ability to present that on screen at 25 frames per second, with all of the terms and conditions that you need, you might have the most amazing looking puppet in the world, but if it moves like a truck, it hasn’t done the job.  The problem is that the process is so lengthy, requires so much focus, I think a lot of people that are experimental – are very witty and have a light touch – can drop off.  In stop motion, what you wind up with in the end are the very tenacious people, the very driven people and quite often the people with their eye on industry.  Independent animated filmmakers will quite often decide on a less intensive processes, such as paper-cut out.  Not that cut-out isn’t stop motion, but compromises often have to be made.

Traditional puppetry and its relationship to stop motion is something I wish I had more time to play with because if I go right back to when I started, for me it was rod puppets and string puppets.  It was that thrill and joy, not of just creating movement, but having a performance with the puppets communicating.  At that level, it’s the same process between stop motion and live action puppetry.  It’s just the interface is different.  The interface isn’t the craft, it’s just the interface.  The actual creative process is exactly the same.  I think a key difference between the puppets for stop motion and stage performance, are that stop motion puppets are self supporting; the joints are flexible but self supporting.  For most theatre puppets the joints are non-self supported.  I think that’s the only major difference.  If you look a little bit deeper, what happens between the frames is exactly what the manipulator of a traditional puppet is doing.  It’s just they’re doing it in front of an audience.  In a way it makes it easier and in another way it makes it harder.  So for me, they are just two versions of the same thing.


Interview by Emma Windsor


Mary Murphy’s book, ‘Get Started in Animation‘ is the complete beginner’s guide to making animation. The book starts with clearly illustrated instructions on how to set up a simple animation station at home and includes a list of low cost but essential items that make a complete animator’s toolbox.  Buy a copy on here

Based in the heart of Bristol, Puppet Place offers workspace for artists and creatives including puppeteers, prop makers, graphic designers, animators and filmmakers. Benefits of becoming a resident at Puppet Place include a profile on our website, advice and information, discounted rates on hire rates in the fabrication and rehearsal studios and more.  To join us, contact Rachel McNally at rachel [at] or call 0117 929 3593.

The French Connection: An Interview with Rémi Brissaud

Rémi Brissaud is a self taught stop motion artist from France and Resident Artist at Puppet Place.  He has produced a range of works including commercials, short films and music videos.  We sat down with him to chat about how it all began, what brought him to Bristol and his latest stop-motion film short, a tribute to the late rapper Tupac Shakur.  


What’s your story?  When and why did you get involved in stop motion?
I got into stop motion when I was thirteen.  I’d watched Nick Park’s movie ‘A Grand Day Out’ and ‘King Kong’ (the first film) and I asked myself, how did they do that?  How did they achieve the techniques?  So I read books, as there was no internet at this time, and I discovered stop motion animation.  I started in my room with a webcam and some Lego.  I improved my skills, year after year and now I’m here.

You mention Nick Park as an inspiration.  What other artists have inspired you?
George Romero, because I really love zombie movies and horror movies.  Fritz Lang, because he was such a great artist.  For me he was one of the first directors to have a huge message in his films.  Adam Elliott also, the Australian animation director and Adam McKay, the American director and comedian.  He’s a very funny guy.

What projects have you been involved in?
Six years ago, I was living in Paris and working in a stop motion studio.  They helped me to produce five of my movies.  I worked for 27 hours non-stop once, just to make a short sequence.  I also made a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ in black and white.  It was a commercial intended for screening in movie theatres.  I also made a homage to ‘King Kong’ for the eightieth birthday in 2013.  I also made four movies to mark centenary of the First World War, ‘The Great War’ and last September I made a music video for a rap artist.  I’ve also been working on a short story for children over the last four years, producing the story, which I hope to get commissioned.  And right now, I’m working on another homage to the rapper, Tupac Shakur to mark the twentieth anniversary of his death.  I like to keep working on projects, even if they are just short things because I think in this Internet world you have to keep showing your works, so people don’t forget you.

3a8340_7c860f12c210471cb2ff176e2411d4e0-mv2Sculpting Tupac: See more ‘making of’ images at

How have you funded your filmmaking?
It is mostly out of my own pocket.  In France we have a work scheme for the unemployed to develop skills.  You work 500 hours over a ten month period and the French government support you.  I used this scheme to support myself as an animated filmmaker.  I also work as a lighting technician in the film industry.  I invest this money into my independent filmmaking, I don’t have a producer or government funding unfortunately – maybe one day.

3a8340_995c1c571b944bab8a19a1071caa871b-mv2Sculpting Tupac: See more ‘making of’ images at

Can you tell me about your most recent project, the Tribute to Tupac?
Sure.  I’ve used the ‘Changes’ song as it’s quite ironic because he speaks about dying in the street – the violence in the Middle East and on the streets in the USA.  And the song finishes with him saying ‘one day a guy will come up to me and shoot me in the back’ and this is how he died.  It’s short, only one minute and twenty seconds.  It’s just a film for all the fans of Tupac and the people who love his music.


What brings you to Bristol?
Well, it is kind of my childhood dream to work with Aardman Animation.  I think about Bristol as a place I would like to live one day.  My girlfriend had an opportunity to work in England, so we decided to come to Bristol and discover the city.  We’re not drawn to London, it’s too big.  I lived in Paris but I found it too crowed – too many people, too much pollution and not enough parks.  Bristol is an amazing town with a lot of artists, places to relax and green spaces… Not so sunny, but this is England and I’ve become used to it (smiles).  It’s good to be at Puppet Place, I really like this place but someday I hope to get my chance at Aardman.  Well, we will see!


Interview by Emma Windsor


To find out more about Rémi’s  work, browse his portfolio and see exclusive ‘making of’ photos, visit his website: 

Based in the heart of Bristol, Puppet Place offers workspace for artists and creatives including puppeteers, prop makers, graphic designers, animators and filmmakers. Benefits of becoming a resident at Puppet Place include a profile on our website, advice and information, discounted rates on hire rates in the fabrication and rehearsal studios and more.  To join us, contact Rachel McNally at rachel [at] or call 0117 929 3593.

A Terrible Hullabaloo: Interview with Ben O’Connor

‘A Terrible Hullabaloo’ is the story of young Vinny Byrne, a fourteen year old boy who found himself fighting for Ireland in the 1916 Easter Rising.  We caught up with the film’s director, Ben O’Connor at the film’s screening at Bristol Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival to chat about puppetry, digital animation and the practicalities of producing animated work in short timescales.


Can you tell us a little about your background, your production company and how you came to make ‘A Terrible Hullabaloo’?

Myself and my business partner Aoife Noonan started Bowsie Workshop five years ago.  I was doing some bits of work on the side and she’d just left her job as an industrial designer.  We’d studied on a college course together, so she came in and gave me a hand and the company just started from there.  We began making music videos and our first production was in stop-motion.  We made four videos in total but quickly realised that no-one was going to pay us to do that!

Fortunately we had lots of other skills such as modelmaking, sculpting, moulding, etc. and found people who would pay us to do that, so that has become the main focus of our business – we design monsters, creatures and visual effects. We work in both practical and digital effects and I would say that about 70% of our work is practical and 30% is digital.  It depends on the problem we are solving, for example, instead of building something that is animatronic, we can sometimes produce the equivalent digitally and save our clients time and money.


We’d been working on a lot of horror films and had become a bit tired of splashing blood everywhere.  We wanted to go back to our original plan as we’d built a bit of a track record and people knew who we were in the business.  So, as it is the 1916 centenary, we applied for some funding to produce the short.  Aoife wrote it and I directed it.  We get asked to do a lot of gruesome stuff for the horror film industry, the kind of stuff where people look away, and I wanted to produce something that people didn’t have to look away from!


The film uses an interesting combination of real-time rod and string puppetry and digital effects.  What led you to use these production approaches?

The funding programme was for film production, so the timescales were not animation timescales.  Originally we’d planned the short as stop-motion, however, as the time got tighter and tighter we decided to use puppetry and digital animation to get the shots.  So we started breaking things down to find timely solutions, for example, we’d originally planned the eyes as stop-motion but eventually decided to digitally composite the eyes on.  I was worried that it might be too weird and creepy but then I saw Chris Lavis’ ‘Madame Tutli Putli’ and thought that it worked, so that became the approach.


There are puppet design features that we didn’t use in the shoot, simply because of time constraints, such as the additional time to change mechanisms.  We have some former experience in using puppetry through our visual effects work.  For example, we’d used rod puppetry to create a zombie baby that was birthed in a sewer (and we won an award for that also, ‘Most Disturbing Scene of the Year!) For me, however, it was primarily about composition and producing those images by what ever means best suited.


There has been some controversy surrounding the inclusion of real-time puppetry productions in animation programmes at prolific international film festivals.  Do you have any thoughts on this?

Yes, I have had this conversation myself with animators.  For example, we built all the sets for a stop-motion animated film that screened at the Toronto Film Festival and I had a lot of discussions with the animator there who was adamant that our work was not animation.  But we feel we are animating something and bringing it to life.  We have to think creatively and ‘animate’ to make our audience believe that something is alive.  It’s also three dimensional and manipulated by hand, just as plasticine, but via a different technique.  But we all have things we feel strongly about, and that’s fine.  So if anyone has any really strong feelings, I’ll leave those with them.

Interview by Emma Windsor

Bowsie Workshop Ltd was formed in 2011 with the aim to create a facility where ideas can be seen through from concept to fabrication all under one roof, with a strong emphasis on craft and artistry. The studio has gained a reputation for their imaginative approach to FX – mixing traditional techniques and the latest industry standard technology.  For more information, visit the website:

New Encounters: An Animated Review

As the 22nd Bristol Encounters Film & Animation Festival gets underway, we report back with a review of the animation screenings and other events so far.  

hullabaloo‘A Terrible Hullabaloo’ dir. Ben O’Connor


Tuesday: The Aardman 40th Anniversary Special

It was a cracking start (groan) to this year’s Bristol Encounters Film & Animation Festival on Tuesday, with the Aardman 40th Anniversary Special, a retrospective by co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton of Britain’s most beloved animation company.  The event began with a whimsical review by Peter Lord of the company’s history, from their experimental films as teenagers, through years of developing a small yet highly specialist team to the industry-leading organisation that Aardman have become today.  A true love story that encouraged artists to follow their hearts.

This was proceeded by a treat for all audience members (but perhaps even more so for those with fond memories of the 80s) with the premiere of a newly digitally remastered HD version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’.  The screening was introduced by David Sproxton who recounted the difficulties faced tracking down the original film negatives, only to eventually find a treasure trove of additional film, including screen tests and footage from the wrap party, all of which provided a unique insight into the very different technical and collaborative processes of the time.

The event was rounded off with a lively Q&A that revealed that despite their many years in the business, Aardman still have plenty more stories they wish to share.


Wednesday:  Animation 1 & 2 ‘The Weight of Humanity’ & ‘Moving Pictures’

The first two animation programme screenings on Wednesday included some real gems from the worlds of puppet and 2D animation.  A possible first for Animated Encounters was the inclusion of a real-time puppetry short, ‘A Terrible Hullabaloo’ directed by Ben O’Connor.  The short, which told the story of a young boy fighting for Ireland in the Easter Rising, combined rod and string puppetry with digital animation for a distinctly odd yet humorous feel.  Another short that used evocative hand-crafted imagery was ‘Come Alive’, an abstracted paint-on-glass animation directed by Darcy Prendergast and Xin Li that portrayed the desolation of women hunted as witches in colonial Tasmania.

‘Analysis Paralysis’ dir. Anete Melece.

In the evening, several shorts captured the imagination.  ‘My Home’, directed by Phuong Mai Nguyen was a beautifully surreal exploration of a young boy’s struggle to accept his mother’s new relationship.  ‘Analysis Paralysis’ directed by Anete Melece  used digital cut-out and quite striking felt tip drawings to deliver a quirky and funny tale about the dangers of over-thinking.  Last, the haunting stop-motion short ‘Lili’ directed by Hani Dombe and Tom Kouris, told the bittersweet story of a young girl’s battle to save her childhood from a sandstorm  (more about the production and fabrication processes can be found on the studio blog.)

All in all, it’s shaping up to be another great festival.

Review by Emma Windsor

Bristol Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival runs until Sunday 25th  September at the Watershed and other venues.  Key animation events include programmes 3,4, 5 and 6, which run from Thursday 22nd – Friday 23rd September.  Also on Friday is a masterclass with Hugh Welchman, co-writer and co-director of ‘Lovin Vincent’, an animation hand-painted by over 100 artists that celebrates the life of Vincent Van Gough.  Further, several workshops for adults and children are running on Friday and Saturday, including Animation Therapy and Build Your Own Gromit or Shaun the Sheep.

For further information and to book tickets/passes, visit the Encounters website:

What importance does collaboration overseas have for puppetry in the UK?

At first glance, it may seem odd to write about the importance of artists getting together.  So much time is often spent alone in a studio, workshop or at a laptop, involved with the making of this or that project.  And for many, creative enterprise is very much a one-person vehicle, a freelance or small business venture.  Yet, in one way or another collaboration is prerequisite for the arts sector and creative industries to flourish.  In recent months, the question of how to collaborate overseas has become a hot topic, so below some ideas about the need and value of bringing it all together.

Photo: BFP13

Thoughts about how to stimulate good company and its benefits have been on our minds at Puppet Place for sometime now.  Of course, Puppet Place produce the bi-annual Bristol Festival of Puppetry, an event that has always celebrated diversity and internationalism. More recently, however, we kicked off our ‘Creative Hub’ conversation – an open discussion about the future of puppetry and Puppet Place.  This discussion has not only covered topics about local and international networks, such as best practices and the many benefits beyond resource pooling, but is itself, reflective of positive connections in action around common ground.

Then in June, the EU referendum result set the course for what will surely be given time, an overhaul of the infrastructure underpinning the UK creative sectors and industries.  Now more than ever, it seems appropriate to have those conversations about our relationships; who we work with, who funds us and how.   For some artists, in particular those seeking to work worldwide, there are various concerns:

cp_pull_outGreen Ginger could not have survived four decades of making work aimed at young adult audiences without the international market to work in.  The UK alone offers limited opportunities for companies like ours.  Theatres are still nervous about risk-taking and festivals are few in number and if they can offer bookings it is rarely for more than a single night.  The lack of any post-Brexit road-map is scary for those of us trying to work globally.  Forward planning is necessarily restricted to the short-term whilst the powers that be work out what it will actually mean in terms of free movement of labour and goods. We hope that the current wave of cross-border dialogue between festival producers, artists and enthusiasts will continue to stimulate fresh ideas and possibilities for all concerned.
Chris Pirie, Co-director, Green Ginger, UK.


But possibilities remain open, especially in appreciating collaborative endeavour:

dc_pull_outI’m unsure how Brexit will affect those involved in the Arts. I hope that it will not cause an “economic fear-factor” leading to more conservative programming in theatres around the UK.  I personally hope to find many more collaborators who will bring their diverse skills to the table so that we can create something new – and that we all go from the experience as better artists. It is important to protect traditions, but also to invest in work that is not always obviously commercial or conventional.

It would also be wonderful to see more specialists – puppeteers who focus on one aspect of puppetry, master it and make it their own – so that they can collaborate with other skilled masters to create work.   Drew Colby, Artistic Director, Finger and Thumb Theatre, UK.


Certainly, arts organisations in countries that have opted for a cooler approach toward the EU have managed strong and positive relationships with European and other overseas partners, which have in turn, nourished and enriched their domestic culture and creative industries:

ga_pull_outOur main mission is to develop visual and puppet theatre as a genre in Norway. Interdisciplinary and international collaborations are crucial for such a development. Without international exchange, the visual arts could easily become a traditional and over protected art form – that has a bad smell of old socks.   A wide and vital international network and exchange is the main base in order to obtain artistic development.  Norway has never been a part of the EU, but still there is trade and cultural exchange between EU and Norway.

Being from such a desolated part of Europe, we have experienced that the only way forward is maintaining a close relationship to the artists in the rest of Europe, and maybe even more importantly the rest of the world.  Geir-Ove Andersen, Producer, Figurteatret i Nordland/Nordland Visual Theatre, Norway.


And here in the UK, vital spaces for international exchange remain vibrant and vocal about their pivotal role in supporting widely collaborative creative enterprise:

ka_pull_outThe creative industries in the UK are a significant contributor to GDP and festivals, no matter how small, play an integrated and important role in the promotion and vibrancy of the creative product… It is through an active use of festivals internationally where filmmakers and animators in the UK become known worldwide as producers of noteworthy and high quality films. It would be tragic both culturally and economically if this was damaged in any way. I hope that new ways of collaboration arise and opportunities with other countries open up, whilst we continue to preserve the excellent relations we have worked hard to build over the years with our EU friends.
Kieran Argo, Curator, Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival, UK.


So there is much potential, as we move forward, to continue to develop and enjoy the creative sectors and industries here in the UK. Effective collaboration is key to unlocking that potential, both overseas and among arts organisations.  Touring theatre companies need the opportunities that international connections bring to maintain vibrant ventures and our cultural economy is clearly enriched by overseas investment whether that is direct finance, collaborating organisations or visiting audiences.  Lastly, our communities are better off with a range of perspectives and ideas in the mix.  And at Puppet Place we will continue with our discussions regarding a collaborative hub and our vision for it into the foreseeable future.

We believe that by talking and listening with each other, we better learn as a society to accept difference and work together to make a better world for all.  Puppetry is a universal artform that communicates across language barriers, cultural, national, generational, political and social divides.  Puppet Place dedicates itself across all its activities to breaking down these barriers and divisions.   

Rachel McNally, Puppet Place Executive Producer, UK.


Article by Emma Windsor

We are opening up the debate about what Puppet Place should be and are working with a Creative Group to focus our thinking. Our Creative Hub Conversation continues into the autumn 2016.  Your thoughts and feedback are most welcome.  Minutes and materials are available on our website: 

Puppet Place is your hub for all things animated on stage and film in the UK. We are dedicated to sharing our passion for puppetry and animation with the wider public and supporting artists and professionals working with these artforms.  To find out more about our organisation, our resident artists and associate artist scheme, visit the website at or contact Rachel at