Malawi – Because I Am A Girl
Wow. The film has just been shared by Michele and Barack Obama. Great to see that 2 years on it is still making an impact. If you want to watch the cool making of videos, scroll to the bottom of this page. If you want to read about how the film came about carry on reading…
This weekend “Because I am a Girl” – a film I made with Plan International – will play on the Pyramid stage at the Glastonbury music festival for an audience of about 100 000 people. This is the latest of hundreds of screenings in 35 countries. Since October 2012 the film has been translated into 15 languages, has screened in 30 festivals worldwide and has won two major prizes – The UNICEF prize at Annecy Film Festival and the Programmer’s Award in Korea’s ANIMPACT Festival. It was voted amongst the top ten animated films of 2013, and amongst the top ten educational films too, it has been picked up for broadcast in EMEA and USA.
In short, the film has been a success, and because of that, I have been reflecting on why that is. Maybe the story of how it was made might be interesting to those embarking on similar projects.
Not everything about this project went to plan. As with all projects there were hurdles: creative differences, internal politics, technical problems and mistakes. None of those things scuppered the project because at the core was a group of dedicated talented individuals unwilling to let any of these things distract us from what was a sound basic idea.
In late May 2012 Shona Hamilton and Mary Matheson, AKA the excellent Plan International Video Unit, came to Wired Video for help. They wanted to produce an animated film for the launch of their “Because I am a Girl” campaign. They had no experience in creating animation and knew that I had experience in animation, working with children and of shooting in Africa.
Their original idea was to use a mix of 2d animation and live action. The animation would show the problems which force girls around the world to drop out of school, then live action would show the heroine going into a classroom in real life – showing the positive impact Plan interventions can have. (You can see the original script here).
I told them that I wasn’t sure that cut out, tabletop, animation was the way to go with this, and suggested ‘Pixilation’. (Pixilation is the name given to stop motion animation featuring human beings.) I also suggested a streamlined version of the script. Making such a film, in Malawi, with local children, would be more challenging in many ways, but the results could be really spectacular. I showed them some examples including this one by Robin King, which prompted suggestions of a climactic scene with children driving their desks to school.
Plan loved the idea and I worked together with them to develop the script from the slightly clunky NGO text they initially came with, to something much more visual. At each stage adding elements which would make the most of the animation. Pre-production was to last three weeks, after the first week the script was developed first into a rough pre-visualisation for approval.
After script approval the film needed to be very carefully storyboarded. As I drew the scenes out, Mary and Shona from Plan tested them out, in Wired Video’s studio in London. You can see the results below:
Repeating this process we developed the very detailed storyboard needed, which in turn became our animatic, the template for the film.
The shoot was over 14 days in July with a four person crew from the UK aided by a truly incredible production company called Timveni, who also documented the shoot. Here are some great promotional “Making of” shorts showing some behind the scenes footage (Cut by Phil Barnard with Mary Matheson from Timveni’s footage.):
Almost two years on from the shoot in Malawi and the film is still screening in festivals around the world. Most recently scheduled to play in the bi-annual Hiroshima Animation Festival – one of the World’s most prestigious – in the “Animation for Peace” programme. You can watch the final film here