As well as feature films from around the world, there were a host of short films screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Neil Jack (pictured above working in his studio, alongside a still from the film) is a 25-year-old animator based in Edinburgh. The Tree Officer was made through the Cineworks scheme, which is funded by Scottish Screen, The Film Council and BBC Scotland.
How did you get into animation?
I started at Edinburgh College of Art in 1997, did the first year general course before specialising in animation, which was a decision based on the fact that I enjoyed watching animation and it was one of the few subjects I was any good at! It fired my imagination the most, it encompasses story, lighting, photography, music, it seemed to have the lot. My graduation film Mr Grimby's Video Diary won a couple of awards and was nominated for a British Animation Award in the student category. I decided shortly after graduating to apply to Cineworks... and I spent most of 2003 shooting The Tree Officer.
What's the film about?
The Tree Officer is a stop motion puppet animation, shot in spoof documentary style, set in the offices of a town council. It's a day in the life of a man stuck in the wrong job... Gary Dremmel is a civil servant who's responsible for the care and planting or removal of trees. It's actually based on a story told to me by a friend, so it's rooted in fact. It's a spoof documentary [and there are] obvious comparisons to The Office which came out shortly before I pitched this idea to Cineworks. Although there are similarities it's tonally different.
You wrote and directed it yourself, it was very much a one-man show.
The budget attached to it wasn't massive [£15,000], but it was enough to pay myself a living wage over a period of months. Cineworks attached a producer, Cameron Fraser, who I am still working with now. It was a two-man show in that respect, but one-man in the hands on [area]... We've set up a company, Ko Lik Films and I've assembled a small team for the films I have worked on since, which I direct, which is a better way of working. A few of them are Edinburgh College of Arts graduates or Duncan of Jordanstone [College of Art and Design, Dundee] graduates. We're keen to use the talent that is about in Scotland.
How do you feel about showing at Edinburgh?
Itís fantastic to be selected for the Edinburgh Film Festival. Weíre in a position now where we're trying to grow a stop-motion studio, and the more screenings we can get under our belts, the better. Edinburgh's a big one, and it's got designated animation screenings, and thatís fantastic. And they are well attended. In the years I've been to the McLaren animation screenings thereís always been a packed audience, so itís a great showcase.
What's next for you?
Once we finish the short film we're currently working on we'll be pitching feature animation projects. We can't make short films forever, they are not particularly financially rewarding, and the chance to broaden our horizons to produce something of real girth, and humour and merit, I think is not too far off. Itís feasible for us to do that on a relatively small budget in the next couple of years I think. Given the support we've had so far, it seems like the next logical step for everyone.Watch a clip from the film
Interview by Jen Foley. To contact Ko Lik Films, email email@example.com. Cineworks is a Glasgow Media Access Centre (GMAC) and Mediabase Edinburgh initiative.