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2014 BUFTA Winner – Thomas Evans

  1. How did you hear about the BUFTA competition and what was your main reason for entering?

I got into talking about my films with a lady at the Gold Coast Film Festival booth at Brisbane Supanova in late 2013. She told me about BUFTA, the scholarship, and gave me a GCFF postcard with ‘BUFTA’ written on the back. I went home and tacked it up on my wall. I was dead set on doing animations for my final year of art class already, so I figured I'd do both. In addition to a good academic score, a fully paid scholarship was a very tantalising goal to work towards!

  1. Your winning film is of an animation genre, do you have a favourite genre and why?

Science Fiction is easily my favourite genre to watch – I get that from my family. The thrilling adventure of Star Wars, the moral and ethical themes of Star Trek, and the gritty realism of the newer Battlestar Galactica have all been huge influences on me. I tend to think of animation less as a genre, and more as a medium. So far I've continued to work with animation and lego mainly because of the creative freedoms they lend themselves to. I'm looking forward to playing with a whole range of genres in the future – hopefully some science fiction amongst them.

  1. What are your predictions for the future of animation? For the future of Claymation?

Animation will always have its place in the cinemas, be it via CG or otherwise. Claymation lately has become a lot more niche. It seems to reside mostly in advertising, indie productions and YouTube videos. However, with the LEGO movie’s successful integration of stop-motion-esque movement, hopefully we’ll start to see some more Claymation and stop-motion projects coming into the mainstream. Claymation holds so many possibilities, so it’ll always be there in some capacity.

  1. How did you get the idea for your film?

A lot of the inspiration for ‘Against the Sky’ came from my early experiences in high school. I was very shy and it took me a long time to find a solid group of friends. I also love sunsets, so there’s a bit of that imagery in there as well – it was actually the first concept picture I drew.

The film is also the sixth part in a series of animations called “Adventures of Lego Minecraft” which have found a decent chunk of popularity on YouTube. The inspiration for those came from wanting to do something with the Minecraft Lego sets. I cast a misplaced character in a story that gradually built up to an epic battle inspired by Lord of the Rings. After a couple years I’d initially wrapped it up in five parts, but when I showed them to my art teacher she said “Just do that”.

The main idea was to continue that story, and for people following the series, this film has a slightly different meaning. The yellow door actually holds quite a bit of sentimentality, and the main character is dealing with the loss of a friend. I experienced quite a bit of loss during the making of this film, so that might also have something to do with it.

  1. In your opinion, what do you find is the most difficult stage in the film making process and why?

It’s difficult to pick one particular stage as being the hardest…

Getting started is probably the worst part, especially with something as daunting as a four-minute stop motion. Once you get into the real meat of day to day work, it’s easier to process, and you can ride the momentum. Although, when you’re going to bed early in the morning, and staying indoors to work on the animation all day and night, that can be a pretty hard slog too. Especially when you’ve got school work to stay on top of.

But with any film, the hardest part is probably that initial burst of energy to get the ball rolling and keep it rolling. Even after doing so much planning and preparation, it can be tough to muster, especially if you know what you’re about to put yourself through.

  1. How confident were you that you might win BUFTA 2014?

I was happy with what I’d made and fairly sure I would win something, but I could never have predicted just how huge. I was scheduled to be in Hawaii at the same time the awards were on, but the organizers insisted I delay my flights for the ceremony. On the night, I got a few smaller awards, which was awesome, but to get the Overall Best Filmmaker award at the end was still a very big surprise, I certainly was not counting on it – I was more prepared to congratulate the person who did win it. I had watched the winning entries from previous years and was fully expecting a live-action drama or comedy film to take home the scholarship. In any case I’m glad I attended the night.

  1. What advice would you give to students thinking of entering a film into BUFTA and what tips and tricks can you offer to assist them in creating a winning film?

Start as early as possible. The more time you have to incubate your ideas and refine the film, the better. Plan as much as you can too. It’s good to have a detailed blueprint to work from. If you can see some form of the film basically completed before you even set up a shot, it helps immensely, especially if you like to make up things on the fly like I do all the time.

To create a winning film, all I can really say is just make something that feels right to you and that will keep you going. If you can find something that you can pour your heart into, it will show whether you realize it or not.  It is in the nature of the creative process that you will probably doubt yourself or your film at some point, but you have to keep going. Everybody feels down at some point, the pros just hide it better by working through it.

  1. Do you have a favourite memory of your BUFTA experience?  

There were some great moments – getting up and receiving awards is of course a highlight. But the biggest thing for me, even before getting into the awards night, was just hanging out with all the other filmmakers in the evening beforehand. I’ve always had trouble finding others who are into filmmaking – there is no subject for it at my school – and it was super easy to get along with so many people. We were cracking jokes, talking about filmmaking and having fun pretty much straight away! It’s hopefully a taste of what’s to come in the future.

  1. What new opportunities has being crowned Winner of BUFTA 2014 given you so far?

I probably would never have been able to afford Bond University before these awards, so getting a full scholarship to attend is an incredible opportunity that I’m looking forward to throwing myself into – I just have to work out how to get there from Brisbane. I’ve already had my face pop up on the front page of a local newspaper, and I was featured on the state news for getting an OP 1 along with the BUFTA scholarship. Another good thing was that in the short time I was at the awards evening, I made a few very cool friends which I’ll hopefully catch up with sometime in the future.

  1.  Upon visiting the campus for the BUFTA Gala Ceremony, what were your initial thoughts of Bond University?

I came to the campus about an hour early with my older brother, so we had some time just to walk around and take it in on our own. The campus is huge – the arch and lake are particularly quite beautiful. It reminded us a lot of Naboo from the Star Wars prequels with its grandeur. The tour I went on a bit later with the Gala ceremony was absolutely jaw dropping once I got to see the equipment they had on hand for film students. I haven’t been that excited about something in a long while, and it just kept getting better! I definitely want to have a play with the equipment. There’s such a huge range of high-end equipment, including actual film cameras – I really want to have a go at using those.

  1. What is your ultimate ambition?

I ultimately I want to make something, or maybe even multiple somethings, that I can be really proud of, and that I can watch on a big screen. At the very least, I’d like to make something that emotionally connects with people in a profound way, like other films and shows have for me. Whether that take the form of a film, a TV show, or even a video game – who knows? I still have to work that part out.

  1. In one sentence, sum up your BUFTA experience.

An unreal, life-changing experience of hard work, triumph, and an open door to a future that I’m looking forward to that much more as a result.