Case Study: True North

A look into the making of this short film.

George Bowler grew up on the banks of the River Hamble near Southampton. He studied Animation at the University of West of England, and went on to animate and direct at studios in Bristol and London. 10 years after completing his BA he decided to return to education and studied an MA in Animation Direction at the National Film and Television School

His short film True North is in the official competition of the Euregion Film Festival. True North is an 8 minute student animation produced at the National Film and Television School. It combines rotoscoped live-action footage, 2D drawn animation and CG animation.

“The use of harsh light and a limited palette were present from an early stage and continued to be relevant to the story.”

Where did the idea for this film come from?

“The idea behind True North came from the collaboration between Shane Cowley (writer) and George Bowler (director). Both grew up living by the sea and had an affinity for the sea and stories of the sea. They began sharing ideas and discovered they also had a shared interest in stories revolving around moral ambiguity. The story developed from those shared interests and took many forms and rewrites, inspired by other stories of moral ambiguity and the sea, both true and fictional. The final story is a distillation of these ideas which returns to much of the original concept. The writer Shane Cowley tended to write in full text whilst the director George Bowler preferred to write beat sheets.”

What was the starting point for the production?

“The design of True North came from the work between Damián Galán Álvarez (production designer) and George Bowler (director). The director created a series of mood boards which were used by the production designer as the starting point for original artwork. The artwork sets out a tone for the project as well as developing a cohesive concept behind the design. The use of harsh light and a limited palette were present from an early stage and continued to be relevant to the story. There were early references to line cut engravings in the mood boards as well as charcoal sketches. The production designer developed the idea that, as events became increasingly unclear so would the drawn line. Hence, as we progress through the film the line goes from a clearly defined line cut engraving to a smudged charcoal.”

“The film was produced at the National Film and Television School, where one works with a team of students from the various different departments. These include writers, editors, cinematographers, production designers, sound designers, composers and Digital FX.”

What can you tell us about the look and style of this film? How was it created?

“True North was created using a range of techniques. The process started with a 3 day live-action shoot. A 12 foot boat was rigged on a stage where it could be rocked from side to side to replicate the movement of the ocean. The entire film was shot in live-action with an actor playing the fisherman. This footage was edited into a rough outline of the film and then manipulated frame by frame to exaggerate the action and increase the drama. It was then rotoscoped in TVPaint using a style that replicated the appearance of line cut. The sea and the boat were created in CG and then stylised to match the rotoscoped footage.”

Want to see this film and many others? Come to the Euregion Film Fetival! Click here for more info and tickets!

How was the music and sound design handled?

“The music for True North developed in a similar way to the original idea for the film. There were a lot of discussions between the composer Louis Dodd and the director. Ideas and examples were shared between them and the composer created an early draft of the music which immediately gave everyone a good idea of what to expect. From that point it was a matter of honing that draft and making sure there were the correct emotional cues. The sound design worked in a similar way and the composer and sound designer Pete Gummerson worked closely together.”

What can you tell us about the distribution? Has the film been shown a lot?

“True North has featured in over 15 festivals around the world from Brazil to Taiwan. These include Anima Mundi, Cinanima 17, Foyle Film Festival and London Short Film Festival. The film continues to tour the festival circuit with series of exciting festivals in the new year.”

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