A man attempts to transport some unlikely passengers across a river in his tiny boat but soon realises he's taken on more than he bargained for.
Hey Peter, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
All good thanks. My short film has been getting into some great festivals all over the world and I've been lucky enough to go along to a few of them. Closer to home I've got Encounters in Bristol coming up on 26th September and Raindance in London on 30th September
Are there any nerves ahead of the screening?
I've seen the film in front of a few audiences now so the nerves have started to subside a bit given that no one's booed or thrown rotten fruit yet. There's gonna be some family members at the Raindance screening and with this film, in particular, I seem to get a bit nervous showing it to people I know. Not sure why! Having said that half the family members who are coming have seen the film before so I guess if they really hated it they wouldn't bother!
What does it mean to be screening Take Rabbit at Raindance 2018?
I'm dead proud given that it's in my hometown. That's if you class your hometown as where you were born and grew up. If you class your hometown as where you live now then that's Bristol and I'm screening there a few days before. Either way, I'm dead proud. And given that Terry Gilliam is possibly my favourite film director ever, the fact that he's being honoured at this year's Raindance makes it all the more special.
Tell me a little bit about Take Rabbit, how did the film come about?
I wanted to do something a little more ‘serious’ than my previous short films and the idea of a relationship drama between unlikely candidates appealed. Not really knowing where to find funding for the film I decided to take time off from my day job to knuckle down and make it myself.
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
It’s based on an old riddle where a man has to transport (in this case) a fox, a rabbit, and a cabbage across a river but he can only take one at a time and he can’t leave the fox with the rabbit because it will eat it and he can’t leave the rabbit with the cabbage for the same reason. There are variations on the things the man has to ferry across (another version features a fox, a chicken and a bag of grain) but essentially it’s a series of things that’ll eat each other. I thought it was a fairly universally known riddle but as I’m traveling around the world with the film I’m finding that perhaps it’s not quite as well known as I first thought!
What was the most challenging part of making this film?
I think it would have been holding out to try and get the voice cast that I wanted. Gareth Owen who produced the film did a great job of pursuing agents and chasing them up. Now that it's all done and dusted I'm so glad we held out to get the amazing actors that we ended up with. It was definitely worth the wait but there were times I thought it would never happen.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
If you count sitting in front of the TV as a kid watching The Flintstones and Hong Kong Phooey and wanting to make cartoons yourself then yes! I went to college to study graphic design so I suppose my passion got a bit diverted there. They offered animation as an option in the second year which I immediately took up and by the end of the course my degree show was entirely animation which got me back on track. Obviously a huge loss to the world of graphic design.
How much has your style and the approach to your filmmaking changed since your debut?
My first short film was plasticine animation and although I still work in that medium for this latest film I just couldn't see a way of making it using that technique with no budget. My debut was very much a pastiche (of classic children's TV) and I guess I'm still trying to subvert certain well-known tropes (in this latest film it's a classic riddle). I think my approach to making short films has changed quite a bit. I was really lucky to have been given the chance to make my first film with Aardman Animations - it almost fell into my lap and so I suppose in my naivety I thought at the time it was really easy to make a short film. Nowadays I appreciate a bit more how rare those chances are and how difficult it can be to get a short animated film off the ground.
"It would be really nice if people who assumed animation was either just for kids..."
How would you describe Take Rabbit in three words?
Sexy. Mildly diverting
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?
It's probably handy to remember it is possible to do stuff off your own back. Given how hard it can be to get funding for short films (certainly in animation) there's usually a way of making something without backing. Especially if you cut your cloth accordingly.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
Apart from being mildly diverted and incredibly aroused?! Sorry. Seriously though I'd just be happy if they spent an enjoyable quarter of an hour in its company and were entertained by it. It's not a big message film (it's not even a tiny message film) although I was really surprised that someone recently said they found it quite emotional. I wasn't expecting that and I'm not sure that could be said about any of my other short films. It would be really nice if people who assumed animation was either just for kids or full of slapstick gags saw that it could also encompass drama and pathos and dark humour after watching the film. That's quite a big ask though.