- Features Archive
- Film and Entertainment
- Julian Tewkesbury
1. How did you get into computer animation in the first place?
I've always loved animation since I saw Snow White at the age of five. Apart from the sheer artistry that's involved in producing quality work, I love the fact that you can do anything and go anywhere your imagination can take you.
I've been making animated films - mostly hand-drawn cartoons - since I was sixteen. I would spend anything up to six hours at the end of every school day drawing frames for my 8mm films. I made all my own equipment, except for the camera. When Star Wars came out, I saw how much more engaging films were if everything looked real, and I tried a number of experiments, over the years, with photographing models of space ships etc. I would rig them up so that they would fly down the washing line at night, and film them!
I also tried my hand at making advanced hand puppets with servo-controlled facial expressions etc. This culminated in my working at Jim Henson's Creature Shop when it was in London.
After that I got a job as a junior graphic designer, and that's when my introduction to computers began. I got my first computer animation software in the late 1990s, and I've been working at it ever since - mostly in my spare time, but also doing the odd commission for people like the Christian Television Association in Bristol. You can see my showreel at www.juliantewkesbury.com.
2. Have you made an actual film yet?
Yes. In 2003, I was contacted by Steve Legg, the evangelist and entrepreneur, to make an animated version of a nativity play that he and some friends had written. I had to come up with a whole new scenario to tell the story, and I got my sister, Alexa Tewkesbury, to write the script. She is an established Christian author in her own right, and is published mostly by CWR. The film featured the voices of Cannon and Ball, Joe Pasquale, David Oyelowo and Steven Berkoff.
I learned how to put together a production while making the film, and it was incredibly hard work, especially towards the end where I was working between 10 and 16 hours-a-day seven days-a-week for three months, followed by a week where I got just 8 hours of sleep in seven days! The film was eventually released in 2005, and again, in a more finished version, in 2006. It was actually made in 3D, but rendered to look like a cartoon.
It's called It's a Boy! and the web site is www.itsaboycartoon.com.
3. How does your faith influence which films you want to make?
I absolutely love CGI animation, but just doing it for its own sake seems pointless and self indulgent. Since I became a Christian, my life has had a different focus: people need to know that without Jesus they are in serious trouble, but thanks to His incredible love and sacrifice for us at Calvary, not only can we get out of that trouble, but we can spend eternity with Him in heaven. My problem is that I'm really not good at preaching, or going round knocking on doors. I am good at the animation, though, and my hope is that God will use my gifts to point people in His direction.
4. So why the mainstream media? Wouldn't it be easier to get your films made for Christian satellite TV stations and DVDs?
It would be very much easier to get my stuff shown on Christian TV, although the budgets are very much tighter than for secular TV. However, as far as I can see, the vast majority of people who watch Christian TV or video are already Christians, or they are searching. I want to start re-establishing the "God framework" for people who wouldn't normally consider looking at anything Christian. Currently, the atheists hold sway in the media, and their influence on society is all too clear. The Buddhists are making their presence felt for younger viewers with Waybuloo, and it's high time the real truth was broadcast to redress the balance.
5. What are you working on now?
I'm developing a TV series called TyHa'an. It's a sci-fi action-adventure re-telling of four of Jesus' parables, aimed at the 6 to 12 year age group. I'm in the process of making a 10-minute pilot to show to potential commissioning bodies what the final programmes will be like. I have made a short promo, but it seems to give the impression that the show is aimed at a younger age group that it actually is, hence the need for a proper pilot. It's going to take me about a year to do single-handed.
I've already had some positive response from Sky, and they would like to see the pilot when it's finished, but I would really like to get the show onto CBBC. Time will tell what God has in mind...
6. What advice would you give to anyone wishing to follow in your footsteps?
Simply that: anything worth doing is worth doing well.
The first thing is to be very sure that this is something God wants you to do. It's incredibly frustrating trying to get into the industry, and incredibly hard work once you're in. You have to be prepared for very long hours while you're working, and big gaps where there's no work. I'd recommend getting into a film school of some sort, as you'll learn a lot faster than if you're working on your own. Also, you'll make contacts and get an understanding of the industry which will serve you very well. Nick Park (of Wallace and Gromit fame) started at film school.
After that you have to be very patient, don't give up, and pray a lot!