Manchester craftsmen behind BBC One short film ‘The Supporting Act’


LAST week saw the release of BBC One’s powerful festive short film, ‘The Supporting Act’. Since then the campaign has been viewed 3.3 million times on Facebook and has over 38,000 re-tweets on Twitter.

The stop motion film was devised by Amar Marwaha and Arvid Härnqvist for BBC Creative, directed by Blikink’s Elliot Dear and boasts the incredible creations of Manchester based companies Mackinnion and Saunders (creator of puppets) and Clockwork Frog (creator of sets).

Over the next week the animated short, which illustrates the joy of ‘oneness’, shows a young girl who is preparing for the biggest performance of her life. Pulling her best moves as she dances round the living room, kitchen and on the street it seems although her father ‘Raj’ is always with her, he is always busy. His focus remains this way until the moment she really needs him showing a heart-warming and teary shared moment between father and daughter during her main performance.

BBC One short film courtesy of BBC

MacKinnon and Saunders were heavily involved in the production of the film. Their job was to create the sculpts, the armatures, and the puppet characters along with completing all of the clothing and hair work down to every strand on the characters look. Ian MacKinnon admitted this was quite a challenge but a really enjoyable one to be able to work with Elliot and the Blink crew.

Spending five weeks in London with an ambitious script and storyboard, it was hopeful that the craftsmen could achieve it. On the first day they started doing some testing work with the puppets allowing them to see the way that they could move, their flexibility and their fluidity.

The film has broken new ground in the animation techniques it has used. The characters were animated with stop-motion and the detailed facial expressions on the puppets used CGI allowing them to be brought to life. The dance routine the puppet follows was first choreographed in real life where the Blinkink team were then able to re-create the moves frame by frame.

Behind the Scenes video courtesy of Blinkink

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As we begin the festive season Christmas advertisements are becoming hard to top, a time that is typically dominated by winter mainstays like John Lewis, MacKinnon admitted it was a daunting task to begin with, but as the most-watched UK TV channel they had to entertain a vast audience with a story that was universal.

MacKinnon & Saunders previous credits include Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and Frankenweenie. Clockwork Frog Films’ credits include Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.

Bringing the feeling of togetherness the short film warmed the hearts of millions as viewers took to twitter.

I spoke with animator Ian MacKinnon, MacKinnon and Saunders, about his involvement with the campaign.

Still images on this video are courtesy of Blinkink


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