GEORGE NEWS - A former Georgian and learner of Glenwood High School, Hannah O'Brien, is on cloud nine after a short animation film that she produced won a gold award in the student division of the 2020 New York Festivals TV & Film Awards.
Another former George learner, Abraham Mohotsi, who matriculated from Eden Technical High School (former PW Botha College), was part of the film team.
The film, The Boy and the Robin, is a short adventure-drama about a young boy named Adam, who through his imagination is transported into a new world based on a TV show he loves.
"When a terrible accident occurs in his imaginary world, the boy finds himself exposed to a reality he struggles to come to terms with," O'Brien told George Herald.
"Through this film we aim to tell a universal story about coming of age and the loss of innocence that comes with it, which is something we believe we have all experienced in our lives."
The film is four minutes and 34 seconds long. It was produced last year by O'Brien and a team of eight other students of The Animation School in Cape Town as their third and final year project.
The story was originally written by a member of the team, Tian Westraad. "It was then changed to better suit the animated format with the help of our lecturer Benito Kok and the director of the animated film Mune: Guardian of the moon, Alex Heboyan, who came all the way from France to help us. After this lengthy process it was then adapted into a final script," said O'Brien.
The film is aimed at a general audience. "We wanted to make a film that is deeply personal and can resonate with many people around the world, however, it is suitable for children to watch."
It should be released on The Animation School's YouTube channel in the next few weeks.
Challenging and time consuming
It took a full nine months to produce the film, from February till the beginning of November last year.
"Our biggest challenge was the scope of our film and the team work involved to get it to the level of quality we wanted. Up until this point none of us had never made something of this length. We had to constantly adapt to work with one another and learn new essential skills to keep on track with our film with the support of our lecturers. A short five- to six-seconds shot can take up to two weeks to produce."
She says that every prop, set and character was modelled using computer software. "Each object and character is then 'painted' through the texturing process and given different material qualities, like shiny metal or soft skin. To make your character come to life they need to then be rigged, essentially giving your character a skeleton for you to animate.
"From here, it's similar to a real life film where you place your cameras, light the scene and then edit the footage, except it's all done sitting at your desk using your computer."
'Animated stories shaped my ideals'
O'Brien chose to study animation because it has always played an enormous role in her life. "Growing up, animated stories shaped my ideals and perceptions. Whether it was Toy Story teaching me the true value of friendship or Up! telling me to live out my dreams and seek out adventure, animation has always been a place where you can feel emotions that you would have never thought something completely fictional could make you feel.
"When my mother, Kim Breytenbach, discovered The Animation School in my matric year and took me to the open day in Cape Town, I just knew that it was where I belonged."
Mohotsi said he is extremely proud of the team's achievement. "Each year The Animation School has a trend of improving on the year before, and I'm glad to say that's what the class of 2019 has achieved. Animation is a field that tends to be underestimated. We take it seriously because we understand the significance of the medium. With it, we are able to deliver a complex message in the form of a story that even children can understand. The Gold achievement serves as recognition not only for the craft, but acknowledges the impact of the narrative."
His interest in animation started at a young age. "The idea of turning your vision into something visible is what appealed to me. He says animation demands a lot more perseverance than he had expected, "but it's worth doing something I'm passionate about".
Plans and dreams
She is very pleased to now be working at a VFX (visual effects) company in Cape Town. "I have always wanted to return the favour and make the same impact on someone's life through animation and media, as it had for me. Currently, I am working on content that will be viewed on TV screens and at the cinema in the near future."
In addition to O'Brien, Mohotsi and Westraad, the team members who worked on The Boy and the Robin were Tamika Bramwell, Kyle Ryan, Storm Arendse, Hanno van der Merwe, Conor Louw and Hayleigh Gundry.
The New York Festivals TV & Film Awards honours television and film content in all lengths and forms across 50 countries. Its aim is to encourage the next generation of storytellers by recognising innovators in 14 categories.
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