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The making of Living In A Box

This film is part of the UK official entry for UNICA 2003

I persuaded my Dad to join Chichester Film and Video Makers back in 1999, but it was a couple of years before I persuaded him to get a digital camcorder so that I could get started on my own movie making. My first film was a short drama starring my University friends. Although it won the club's annual competition, the sound quality made it hard for most club audiences to get tuned in to the story, so I determined to make a film that would have wider appeal - never thinking that it would be seen internationally!

I had always wanted to work in animation and so the Oxford University Shoestring Shorts competition in June 2002 provided the impetus to get an idea that I had had for quite some time on to video. With some thanks to TV characters such as Morph, that I had grown up with, the cartoon character interacts with his creator, finds he is trapped in his cartoon world but manages to escape in the end.

I set up a simple white card background on a table in my college room, on which I could place my cut out character, and, with nothing more than an angle-poise lamp for lighting, proceeded to shoot the frame by frame action over the course of a few hours. I thought the computer editing might take just a few hours, and so I got my Dad to bring his PC with the Adobe Premiere editing software up to Oxford the next day. After 5 hours, there was still a long way to go, and so I ended up going home the following weekend for a marathon editing session. After some 25 hours of editing and with sound effects from my brother and a bit of technical help from my Dad, the film was ready enough for the competition.

It got an honourable mention in that competition, and since then has succeeded beyond anything I had hoped for. The next stop was the Sussex Film Festival 2002 in which it won the Animation Trophy and Youth Trophy. Then a gold award in the club's Lindemann competion (any subject up to 5 minutes). Next the Seriac Festival Youth Trophy at which Reg Lancaster (as MC) commented that my name would be familiar to many IAC members, as I am the grand-daughter of Edward Agius, a past chairman.

The same version of the film had been in all these competitions, and one particular criticism was the lack of any soundtrack for the first 50 seconds of the film. This was partly by intention and partly due to the rushed editing schedule back in May. So I tightened up some of the editing, added some new soundtrack at the beginning and some extra sound effects. Another key idea of the film was that the character should 'touch' the edge of the screen (his 'box') and although I had got it right on a TV monitor the edges were wrong on the big screen, so I used the PC to re-size the picture and add a blue border so that he was definitely 'in a box'.

This version was then entered for the International IAC festival where it won Best Youth Animation and a Silver Seal in the Youth Category. In May 2003, it won me the club's annual award for the 2nd year running along with the Best Editing award. In May, it was also shortlisted in another Oxford University film
competition and was shown on a full size cinema screen. It didn't win an award but DID get me a year's subscription to Empire magazine.

I thought that must be the end of it's run, until Reg Lancaster telephoned to request it's inclusion in the Unica entry for Warsaw - a great honour indeed. As a final final postscript, it was entered into a festival in St Maur in France, twin town of Bognor Regis (almost Chichester!). It has now been selected for the 2nd phase and is to be shown and judged in October 2003. It can rest in the archives after that!
- Eleanor Agius

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Page updated on 09 October 2011
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