Notes on the making of The Village


Since leaving the National Film & Television School in 1988, I had worked for a time at TVC, London before joining Pizazz Pictures (now known as Studio AKA). At Pizazz I designed and directed adverts and title sequences, but right from the start I was also working on The Village. Pam Dennis and Mario Cavalli, were keen to help me get my next film in production and together we approached Clare Kitson at Channel Four.

The Village started life as a sort of reaction to The Hill Farm. I wanted to show a darker side of rural or isolated life, and I wanted the whole story to come from elements within the location, rather than having other characters turning up to get the action going. I spent a lot of time just trying to invent elements that could fit into this kind of situation. During this period I couldn’t settle on a final plot line, so my first proposals to Channel Four, were more along the lines of describing the characters and possible ways the story might go.


The shape of the village, with all the houses looking into a central courtyard was directly influenced by an engraving I had seen, of the Globe theatre. I liked the idea of the village having a definite inside and outside, with most of the characters staying in their houses and occasionally scuttling across the courtyard from one building to another. I worked out a basic plan for the layout of the houses and who was going to live in each one.

Since the characters walk about a lot, this layout was one of the few things that remained constant through all the drafts of the script and storyboarding.


Once I had completed what I regarded as the final draft of the script, I translated it into a drawn storyboard by first printing out the typed script under blank storyboard squares. Filling in these blank squares with drawings was a very fast process, since I had been imagining the action, and writing about it for so long. I think the final storyboard took about two days to draw (compared with a year, off and on between commercial work at Pizazz, working on the script).


The image above is one page out of a total of thirty eight that formed the final storyboard. This in turn was the basis for the character design. I photocopied all the various drawings of each character and made up a sheet for each. I then based my final character designs on the elements from each rough drawing that I liked.


I had animated The Hill Farm on my own, but it had taken three years… The production time allowed for animating The Village was just over three months, and I was going to work with a team of animators. This was one of the reasons the character designs had to be translated into detailed model sheets. I also laid out the whole film on sheets of animation paper, before the animation started. A large proportion of the budget was made of animators’ wages, so we had to keep the process as organised as possible.

The team of animators were, Neville Astley, Mark Baker, Sally Baxter, Roxanne Ducharme, Caroline Cruikshank, Alyson Hamilton, Vanessa Luther-Smith, Gaston Marzio, Tom Newman, Isabel Radage, Sharon Smith, Paul Stone, Pete Western & Julia Woolf.

Pam Dennis, the producer, and her assistant, Angela Cocker, would check with us on a weekly basis to find out if we were keeping up with the schedule. We were always behind, but somehow we got the animation done, only straying a couple of weeks over schedule.


The above image, is half a page from the production route sheet. On the left are images representing each shot from the film, with details of its length, which animator was responsible for it etc. The columns represent different stages: rough animation, cleaned-up animation, background, trace & paint, etc. As each shot’s elements were completed the relevant square was coloured in blue. The complete route sheet for the whole film, is about twenty times as long.

At this stage none of the painted backgrounds had been done. We had been working above pencil drawings. Now Rachael Stedman, began to work out techniques for translating them into coloured backgrounds. Since the characters were coloured using cel paint, we didn’t think they would look good on top of backgrounds coloured with pencils (the technique I had used on The Hill Farm). Instead we used oil paint, applied very thinly, onto stretched cartridge paper. Before the oil paint was brushed on, we painted the whole sheet with white emulsion, to give it some texture. Each background took a while to dry, and had to remain stretched on its wooden board for days. At one stage we probably had at least thirty backgrounds on the go, in various states of completion, in Rachael’s cottage in Scotland. I think there were just over eighty backgrounds in all – which might seem a lot, considering the film is set in one location. The trouble was that there were a lot of different angles and view points.

The characters were traced and painted by a team at Pizazz, led by Lynne Holzer and the film was shot by Jim Davey.

Annie Kocur edited the rushes and Julian Nott composed his score to the final picture edit. Danny Hambrook started track-laying the sound effects. We had less time than on The Hill Farm, but we worked in more or less the same way, track-laying in the day and recording effects at night. The main difference was that we worked digitally and in Dolby® stereo. Certain effects proved harder to get than others – in particular the scratchy noises made by the ants, which ended up being a mixture of several sounds. Extra voices and effects were recorded by Dominique Wolf and the final sound mix was by Adrian Rhodes.

Mark Baker, January 2000


The Village Prizes



SILVER HUGO PRIZE Chicago Int. Film Festival 93.


BRITISH ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION 93 for Best Short Animation Film.

BEST SHORT FILM Carrousel Int. Festival, Canadian Film Board 93.

SILVER DRAGON (1st Prize) Krakow Film Festival 93.

2nd PRIZE Stüttgart Int. Film Festival 93.

1st PRIZE Festival du Mons, Belgium 94.

HIROSHIMA PRIZE 94 Hiroshima Festival 94.

BEST TELEVISION FILM Ottawa Festival 94.

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