With the lockdown bringing the live performance industry to its knees, many artists are turning to online platforms and film making. The ‘Bristol 48 hour Puppet Film Challenge’ has already received registrations from some of Bristol’s most exciting talent as well as from Scandinavia and the United States. This is a wonderful opportunity for creatives of any age or level of experience to jump in and trust their creative responses. Puppet Place talked to resident artist, Cat Rock, who is curating this exciting online event.
How did the ‘The Bristol 48 Hour Puppet Film Challenge’ come about? I understand that you may have had some success in entering this kind of challenge yourself?
‘The Bristol 48 Hour Puppet Film Challenge’ came about after myself and my house mates took part in the LA Puppetry Guild’s 48 hour film project. This was in the height of the lockdown in May. As a household we had all lost work and for the first time found ourselves free to enter the challenge. Izzy Bristow is a member of the Rocky Mountain Puppetry Guild and she got us involved.
We got to work, hardly slept and produced our very first puppet film in 48 hours called “Belly”. We received an honourable mention, and were awarded ‘Best of the Rocky Mountain Puppetry Guild Entrants’. We had a great weekend building weird things with lot of cardboard. After it was all done, I thought that this was the kind of event we should be running here in Bristol. I’m a resident artist at Puppet Place, Bristol and after chatting to a few people we decided to go for it. With the future looking unsure for theatre and performance in general, we really wanted to bring an event that anyone, anywhere could enter and take part in. Professionals, enthusiasts, anyone with a passion for puppetry. People will have the chance to get their work out there and be able to see a wide range of amazing puppet films. By hosting the festival online, we hope to reach a wide audience and spread the puppet love in lockdown.
Can you tell us more about your background in puppetry and how you came to making puppet films in particular?
(Cat Rock) I have a Masters Degree in Theatre and Performance from the University of Kent and have been working in the puppetry industry for over 10 years. I’m a puppeteer, fabricator and have worked with all kinds of puppets. Some fun ones to mention are Greenpeace’s ‘Giant Polar Bear Arora’, Longleat Safari Park’s ‘Atlas the Lion’, ‘Count Duckula’ and I am currently working with The Paper Cinema.
I have been mostly theatre based but have been looking for a way to create and produce my own puppet films. I see all the amazing puppet film productions being made at the moment and I want to be a part of it. The LA Puppetry Guild’s 48 hour film project combined with the lockdown gave me the push to focus and get it done. It also helps living with an amazing bunch of puppet people. We have joined forces and created “The House Of Funny Noises”, and we are now on our third film with a couple more in the pipeline. We love the weird and the surreal, and look forward to creating our own unique puppet films that are short, sweet and sickening.
The House of Funny Noises is made up of three puppet professionals. The other members are:
Izzy Bristow is a puppet and costume maker with a Masters in Puppetry from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She works internationally building large puppets for shows like Regent Park’s acclaimed production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors”.
Helena Houghton is a filmmaker, animator, props and puppet maker. She graduated from the University of the West of England with a degree in stop motion, and has since fallen in love with all puppet mediums. Helena embraces the weird in her work to make visually stimulating art.
How will ‘The Challenge’ work and who are you hoping will take part? Will there be a theme and guidelines or is it all up to the entrants?
The Challenge will begin at 7pm (BST) Friday 28th of August. This is when we will announce the three prompts to all the individuals and teams that have registered to take part in the challenge. The prompts will consist of an action, an item and a theme.
For example, The action ‘throw’, the item ‘pencil’ and the theme ‘temptation’.
Participants must include these prompts in their film.
The timer is then set and they will have 48 hours to devise, build, film, edit and submit their original puppet film. The submission deadline is 7pm on Sunday 30th of August (BST).
Participants can use pre-made puppets, but the film content story and its actual filming must all be done in the 48 hour timeframe. The films will then be reviewed by our judging panel (to be released soon.) We will be hosting an online film festival on the 12th and 13th of September (full schedule to be released nearer the time) where we will show all of the entered films and announce the winners of our categories.
The awards categories are:
Audience Choice (voted for by the audience)
Participant Choice Award (voted for by the participants of the challenge)
Age – 16-18, Judges’ Choice
Age – 11-15, Judges’ Choice
Age – 10 and under, Judges’ Choice
Everyone who wants to submit a film in The Challenge must register before 28th August.
We ask those who are able to donate to the event but our main goal is to make this accessible for everyone. We especially want to reach out to Black, Asian, ethnic minorities and youth communities, to help encourage diversity in the puppetry industry. We will be in contact with registered participants to give them more information about The Challenge in the weeks to come. If you can’t join us in The Challenge, we welcome everyone to join us at the Watch Party to see what everyone has created.
What are you hoping to achieve with ‘The Challenge’ and what will happen to the films once they have been made?
We have six main aims for The Challenge:
To enable the art form of puppetry to reach new audiences, targeting young people and Black, Asian and ethnic minorities communities. We want to encourage diversity within the puppetry industry.
To provide a platform for audiences to become an active part in the creative process, creating their own original work.
To provide an opportunity for existing puppetry professionals to showcase their work to a wider audience.
To encourage people in these unprecedented times to create and have fun.
To inspire creativity, experimentation and growth in the puppetry field.
To provide an event which allows people to build bridges and make connections in the puppetry world, developing careers and prospects.
It is important to make events like this accessible and reach out to new people in these unprecedented times. It can be so easy to get lost in the chaos that is 2020. We hope to give people a creative outlet which will be fun to do, great to watch and give people a challenge.
After the festival, the Top 10 films will be edited together to form an anthology, which will be available to watch online after the event. All of the other films submitted will be in the hands of their creators to do with what they will after the event. We hope everyone will share their work, spread the joy and join us again next year.
How can people take part? And how can people help?
You must register to enter, so you can take part by registering to enter a film in The Challenge and you can join us at the online film festival and watch all the entries. Registration is FREE but you must register before 28 August to enter the competition. Register here.
You can help by spreading the word about The Challenge and if you are able you can donate for our fundraiser, we can go on to make this event an annual one. We are also seeking sponsorship from any companies or organisations who want to support us. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
But mainly we just want people to have fun!
Interview with Josh Elwell