CTS awarded grant from the Culture Recovery Fund!

We are so pleased and proud to announce that we have received £25k from the Culture Recovery Fund!
The fund is part of the Government’s package of support for the UK’s culture and heritage sectors, supporting organisations that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
Now, we can continue to support and develop emerging creative talent across the South West through the spring and into summer.
Thanks to the Arts Council England and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for making this happen.

Meet the animators – Laura-Beth Cowley

Meet Laura-Beth Cowley, a Bristol based creative working in the animation and research sector. Laura partnered with us on the BBC Arts Animated Thinking series – a collection of short films exploring the latest ideas from Arts and Humanities researchers around the UK.

We caught up with Laura to find out about her experience working on the project. 

Tell us about your piece. 

I worked on The Life and Times of a Witch Bottle, which was based on research by Professor Owen Davies , Dr Ceri Houlbrook (University of Hertfordshire) and Nigel Jeffries (MOLA). The film follows the journey of the bottle itself from its original creation and use as a vessel for transporting various fluids such as vinegar, cider and mercury to its final use as a witch bottle as a method of ‘counter magic’. I was aware of witches’ bottles and their use before the project, so was excited when I was told I’d be working on it.

Tell us about your creative animation process. 

The style of the film was something I had wanted to try for a long time; collage often lends itself to more non-fiction content and so this felt like a perfect opportunity to try it out. The whole film is made in After Effects – having a background in stop-motion, I tend to use After Effects as it feels the most similar to moving objects under a camera in that you can build rigs and puppets and animate them frame by frame.

So, I would gather together materials from various sites, clean them up in Photoshop and manipulate them if needed and once the scene was signed off, I would bring it into After Effects and lay it out and make sure all the moving points were correct before timing the movements to the audio track. It was quite a straightforward process, although keeping the images as high quality as possible almost broke my little old computer when trying to render, but we got there in the end.

The sheer volume of images needed to create the 12 scenes was crazy. With modern collage it’s all about balance and so it was a mix of finding images that represented what was actually being discussed and additional images that were decorative and either framed or otherwise balanced the scene. As much as possible, I tried to make the decorative element have hidden symbolic meaning. Like the flowers in the fireplace scene, toadflax represents protection and breaking of hexes and birdsfoot trefoil (which is also one of my favourite flowers) is symbolic of revenge. Also, many of the items in the ground when the bottle gets buried at the end were objects that have also been found or placed around homes to ward off evil spirits.

What support did you get from Calling the Shots when making the films? 

There are a lot of vintage etchings and drawings, as those are the gems in collage work that gives it the right look. So, finding ones that were available to use and would follow through multiple scenes and read as the same character, such as the Cunning Man, was tricky. Holly (Holly Churches, CTS Project Producer) and the folks at Calling the Shots were very good at making sure everything was clear for use and flagging up any potential issues. As well as supporting my nerdy desire to assign meaning to every element.

What did you enjoy most about the project?

I think the team did a really good job of assigning the various films to their makers. Having worked with Calling the Shots previously, they knew my fondness for all things witchcraft and folklore so it was a crazy exciting thing to be able to make a film for the BBC with the AHRC and get to work with Owen as he is a big deal in folklore circles, so it was like meeting celebrity for me. It’s always a pleasure working with Calling the Shots, they are very structured and will go the extra mile to help you get your vision across.

What did you take away from the experience?

A way of working that is time effective, new ways of documenting processes to help keep track of resources and belief in myself to pull a project together in a short turn around.

You can find out more about Laura at www.laura-bethcowley.co.uk 

Follow her on Twitter: @lbcowley

Follow her on Instagram: @lbyellow

Watch this space for more animator interviews throughout January. 

Meet Calling the Shots Mentor and Filmmaker, Michael Jenkins

Meet Michael Jenkins, one of our Calling the Shots mentors. Michael is an award-winning film director and founder of 8th Sense Media, a creative production company that prides itself on giving a voice to unheard voices. We caught up with Michael to find out about his experiences as a mentor on the BBC New Creatives scheme.

What is your background / experience? 

I have been making films since 2012. I started off by making music videos but went into documentaries and arts films and now I make longer form docs and dramas. I’m self-taught so watching videos online and then going out and practicing was the way I learnt my craft.

What does mentoring on the New Creatives scheme involve? 

Being a mentor on the New Creatives scheme involves a lot of meetings and establishing a plan for the New Creatives idea. Essentially, at the beginning we bounce ideas back and forth about ways of approaching the idea. I work to enable the New Creative to think creatively about their idea  and make it achievable within the budget set. I can then help them to source cast and crew and help with the post production side. As a mentor you are with the New Creative all throughout the process and are there to answer any questions and make things less daunting.

What is the best part of being a New Creatives mentor? 

I love being able to work with new creatives on trying to achieve their overall vision. The final film is not always exactly how it was first imagined so going on that journey with the mentee is really exciting and scary at the same time.

What is your favourite memory from working on the New Creatives scheme? 

I really enjoyed working on Dinah. It was the first film made during lockdown on the new creatives scheme, it was challenging but the subject matter was really powerful.

You can find out more about Michael at www.bymichaeljenkins.com

Follow him on Twitter: @MichealDJenkins

Follow him on Instagram: officialmichaeljenkins.

Watch this space for more mentor interviews over the coming months.

New Creative, Pierre Nyongira, wins first prize at the Royal West of England Academy’s 168 Annual Open Exhibition

Huge congratulations to New Creative, Pierre Nyongira for being awarded 1st Prize for his film, Dinah, at the inaugural Royal West of England’s Academy Open Exhibition. Inspired by the true story of Dinah Black, the short film is about a Bristolian runaway slave in 1687.

Pierre Nyongira and Guillermo Quintanilla (Producer), will receive a £5000 prize and will be featured during the 168th year exhibition which invites painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, installation and mixed media artists to showcase their work.

We caught up with Pierre and Guillermo to find out about their experiences on the BBC New Creatives scheme.

Why did you want to tell this story?

Having lived in Bristol it only felt right to share my experience of this city and its history. Before the statue was pulled down, no one ever really spoke of Colston or the Georigan period that really made Bristol into the city it is now and it’s very evident in the architecture and street names. In many ways it is a constant reminder of that dark period for people like me. I was actually inspired by the black students of UOB (University of Bristol) when I was documenting their experience of studying in a very predominant white institution and the mental health that came along with it as a result. Essentially that is what the film is really about at its core, feeling like an outsider. This is the essence of what connects both Dinah and Michael, regardless of them being from two different time periods they both share that same isolation. -Pierre-

I wanted to tell this story because it reflects some of my own personal experiences when I arrived in England from my country El Salvador. Being in another culture and surrounded by people that look different to you, questions your own identity. Even though my experience in England has been overwhelmingly positive, I too sometimes identify with the protagonist (Michael) and long for acceptance. Becoming an expatriate opens up a never-ending journey of self-exploration and trying to find your place in the world. -Guillermo-

What support did you get from CTS? 

CTS were supportive throughout the whole process. I would say especially during the pre-production. This was my first time really writing a script and it was the feedback from Jeremy and Mike that really helped. The story was so different from the first draft to what you see on screen and that was all thanks to their valiant efforts of being honest and pushing me and questioning every aspect of the story and ideas behind it, to really absorb myself into this world that I had created and make sense of it all. Having passed English GCSE on my third try, this experience really boosted my writing confidence and felt like I had actually stories worth telling. -Pierre-

As a producer in the project, Calling the Shots provided me with the right guidelines on how to develop, manage and execute a film. Michael Jenkins, our mentor producer, was extremely supportive throughout the entire process. He was always available to discuss all the logistics and necessary elements to make this film a reality, from health and safety, props, costumes, budgeting, managing of the crew and cast; he was present from the moment we started shooting until we finished and was a key element of allowing us to have a smooth production. -Guillermo-

What was it like making a film in Lockdown?

Making a film in lockdown was really a unique and difficult experience, one of the biggest factors was finding indoor locations that would actually allow a crew of people to film in and as a result there were a lot of times in which I thought this film would really never see the day of light. But like all productions there are always hurdles and problems, in this instance it was COVID. Additionally, it was an odd experience not having the freedom to move around the set and departments, it was very rigid and everyone had to stay in their bubbles and play their part. The only bright side of it all was that we had more time for pre-production which allowed us to refine the script, do casting, location scouting, budgeting, costumes, props, etc. Normally the New Creatives program would run over a period of three months but this production ran over six months. -Pierre-

Extremely challenging but at the end very rewarding. Lockdown allowed us to dedicate more time and effort in every aspect of the film before the start of the production, it changed the normal priorities in what would have been a common shooting plan. Now we had to think about how to keep our crew and cast safe of any potential health hazards, while at the same time being productive on set and capture all the shots within two days. For example, the scene of Michael and the two students inside the lift was achieved without the DOP being present in the same space as them, to comply with social distancing rules the DOP shot the scene by leaving the camera in a free recording mode and reviewed the footage after every single take. -Guillermo-

What did you take away from the experience?

Overall self-confidence as a creative, director and writer. I had many instances of doubt at the beginning of whether I could really do this, having never really written a script and only directed on a small scale. The pressure of feeling to succeed and not plunder this opportunity was overwhelming, especially having so many people involved, including the BBC. I really felt that this was a defining moment for me as a creative on whether I would be able to step-up to the challenge or crumble underneath the pressure. Therefore, I am forever grateful for this opportunity for allowing me to reach that next level in my career as a filmmaker. -Pierre-

The desire to make more films and to work with more fantastic and talented people. This experience has allowed me to grow as a producer, it taught me to listen to others, stay true to your convictions, follow your instincts, be flexible and remain always professional. -Guillermo-

What was the best moment for you?

For me it really was the production period, because having worked on this story through a series of drafts day in and day out and being immersed into this little world that I had created. Then on production day seeing it all come to life, It’s as if I had spoken it into existences. These were no longer just characters in my head, they were real people. All of it all wouldn’t have been possible for the amazing friends, crew and cast, especially CTS and BBC for bringing it all to life. -Pierre-

When Pierre entrusted me to become the producer of his film, he is a terrific person and friend and I enjoyed working with him every single minute of it. We have enough trust in each other that we knew from the very beginning that we could put our friendship aside and work professionally towards the same goal. My second favourite moment was all the wonderful people I met along the way and the satisfaction to see how committed they were with the film. -Guillermo-

Find out more about Dinah, here.


Calling the Shots are excited to announce our latest partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine.

Since May we’ve been working hard on a series of nine short films, collectively known as… Animated Thinking.
Each of the 5-6-minute films explores new ideas from academic researchers across the UK, brought to life by early-career professional animators, underlining Calling the Shots’ reputation for nurturing outstanding emerging talent and creative collaboration with partners in higher education.
The Animated Thinking films provide diverse perspectives on propaganda photography in Nazi Germany, the origins of a medieval ‘Witch Bottle’, the history of the brown hare in Britain and the nature of grief during the pandemic.
Other films explore the experience of autistic girls and women, the history of visits to Britain by the Indigenous people of North America, corruption in Ancient Greece and Rome, women’s publishing in Mexican prisons and the impact on women’s lives of new high-rise housing in Mumbai.
Production took place throughout lockdown and presented many challenges for the animators and producers. Animated Thoughts producer at Calling the Shots, Holly Churches, says, “Creating this project from home, during lockdown, could have felt like a quite lonely experience, but luckily working with such talented and creative people it has never felt that way, there has been a real sense of teamwork.  There is certainly something fantastic about all of these films being made out of peoples living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens… and the incredibly hard work that they have all put into them is absolutely clear in the finished product.”
Animated Thinking is the latest in a series of exciting collaborations between Calling the Shots and university researchers over the last few years.
In 2018 Calling the Shots partnered the University of Exeter on their Wellcome Trust project Exploring Diagnosis, working with autistic artists from Canada, the US and the UK to teach animation skills and produce three original films featuring the voices and experiences of autistic adults. From 2015-2019 Calling the Shots worked with the University of Bath and Grade II-listed Arnos Vale Cemetery on the Future Cemetery project, funded by AHRC’s REACT programme, exploring new ways to connect cemeteries to local and wider communities through original arts commissions and digital interpretation.  In 2015 Calling the Shots worked with the University of Bristol on the AHRC Connected Communities project, Know Your Bristol, which saw multiple communities across Bristol co-producing work with researchers.
You can watch the Animated Thinking films by visiting BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine. A new film will be released every day for the next nine days.

Meet Filmmaker and New Creative, Anna Mouzouri

Anna Mouzouri is a third-year Film Student, with a passion for getting across important issues in a humorous and surrealist way.   She has directed three short films, with her last documentary being nominated at the Royal Television Society’s Student Awards. Her latest piece, Fruity is a no-dialogue coming of age short comedy about a lonely lesbian plagued with intrusive thoughts of fruit whenever she attempts to masturbate.

We interviewed Anna to find out what it’s like being a part of the BBC New Creatives scheme. Keep scrolling to learn more.

How did you get onto the New Creatives programme? 

I applied in 2019 with a different project and was shortlisted but I didn’t get commissioned. The producers provided me with very useful feedback and although I was still downhearted, I then applied again the following round. I couldn’t have done it without attending a one to one meeting with Calling the Shots to discuss the idea. It’s important to read the brief and cater your project to that.

What was the programme like? 

It was amazing and very useful. The training sessions were great, especially in Marketing. I thought I knew enough about social media and writing about my project, but it benefitted me way more than I thought. It’s cool enough to be commissioned by BBC and have that platform, but having professionals with you the whole time in case you needed any help with paperwork (Trello! yay,) weekly advice on my script – it helped everything go SO insanely smooth.

What was the mentoring process like? 

The mentoring process and what I learnt is something that I’ll take through the industry with me forever. It was my personal highlight from the scheme. It is such a great thing that New Creatives scheme and Calling the Shots in particular offer – I didn’t expect it to be as helpful as it was.

What did you take away from the experience? E.g skills

Working within a crew on a professional level is an important skill I learnt, keeping everyone updated with the film, keeping everyone together, making sure everyone has the information they need. I did things I’d never done before, like when I have casted actors in the past, I did via groups etc. But this time I used a Casting Director and dealt with agents. I also feel much more confident in scriptwriting. I wouldn’t of been able to get to this point without my mentor Alice Seabright. I always had zero confidence in this, but her consistent help and encouragement was so great.

Has the New Creatives scheme helped you further your career? 

Completely. I feel more prepared for the industry, especially from the training sessions, and I’m also ready to pitch my ideas to others. I’m ready to make more and more content – my next step is to find funding and collaborators for my next project which I’m excited about.

What message would you have for others considering a scheme like this? 

Do it! It’s such a great opportunity. Giving young creatives a platform is so important and I love seeing what everyone else does with the opportunity. It’s also great to expand your network of creative friends and potential collaborators outside of University courses, work and school. I’ve met some great people.

Find out more about Anna’s work, below.

Instagram: @annamouzouri

Website: www.annamouzouri.com 

Twitter: @mouzourianna

Meet Filmmaker and New Creative, Elias Williams

Elias Williams is a Bristol-based filmmaker and founder of online media platform, mandemhood.com. As part of the BBC New Creatives scheme, he created My First Love Bite, a film telling the story of a young woman’s last moments in human form before turning into a zombie. We interviewed him to hear about his experience on the New Creatives scheme.

How did you get onto the New Creatives programme?

I applied via the Calling the Shots website and was fortunately selected after the shortlisting process. I’d applied a couple of times before and not made it, but I’m glad that it was my final idea that earned the successful selection.

What was the programme like?

Overall I’ve really enjoyed it and I feel very grateful for the opportunity. It’s been great working with professional crew despite the limitations of Covid restrictions. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a talented director of photography, producer, editor, make up artist and production designer, all of which have supported me through the process.

What was the mentoring process like?

The mentoring process was very useful. I was lucky enough to get partnered with a previous lecturer of mine so we already had good chemistry. My mentor was very helpful in improving my initial script and making useful notes in postproduction.

What did you take away from the experience? E.g skills

I have definitely improved my filmmaking skills throughout the experience. I have learned how to direct a film effectively within Covid limitations and I have learned a lot about scriptwriting. I have also learned a lot about the importance of communicating with my producer and the rest of the crew in order to realise my vision for the project.

Has the New Creatives scheme helped you further your career? 

Yes, the New Creatives scheme has helped me further my career insofar as that I now have another film commission under my belt. Future employers will be able to see that I can produce a film on a budget, thus it will enable me to apply for more prestigious filmmaking opportunities in the future. It has also improved my filmmaking skills which will inevitably have a positive impact on my future career.

What message would you have for others considering a scheme like this? 

I would say go for it! Make sure you have an idea that you believe in and are passionate about. Also, have a reasonable idea of how you can get the project made. Having a budget doesn’t mean you can sit back and let others do the work, but it will give you the freedom to express your creativity in new and exciting ways.

Find out more about Elias’s work at www.vimeo.com/eliaswilliams