Finding magic in unexpected places
From a (HUGE) love of Wind in the Willows, Wallace and Gromit and other childhood TV delights, I had an idea of the basic concept of stop motion. So when I first got a 3D Mr Bear, I was able to take just a few photos with my phone and watch him spring to life. It was so heartwarming and a seed was immediately planted in my mind.
I had mapped out my business goals for summer 2020 and none of them featured anything to do with learning needlefelt, set creation, stop motion or film editing. But making a film of Mr Bear’s Christmas quickly became a nagging idea at the forefront of my mind for a few weeks and I soon set about working out how, not if, to do it. Every day felt totally bonkers and far out of my depth. What I imagined would be a few weeks work became 6 months. Yet making Mr Bear’s Christmas was one of the best adventures to come out of this business, if not my life, so far.
After Christmas 2020 - and the release of my film - I'd weathered several business hurdles and I investigated whether was any advice available for startups through the government. I filled in a form online and within a week, I received a call from a lovely man called James from Manchester Met University. We happily chatted for an hour about what my challenges & aims were in business, as well as discussing a shared love of Wallace and Gromit. At the end of the call he offered to sign me up to start on Tuesday. “That’s fine”, I said, “but what starts on Tuesday?!” Having been put in touch behind the scenes, James was unaware that I was totally oblivious to what his course entailed. After a brief explanation, I dove in for 13 weeks of business support in exchange for my time on Zoom each Tuesday morning. In the depths of lockdown, this would be no problem at all. In fact... it would be wonderful.
Run by Manchester Met Business School, each week a key area of business was addressed within a supportive group, led by two wonderful humans - James Crawley and Neil Simpson. It was such a chance opportunity that I didn’t even know I was looking for but each week left me with insights into myself and my business and a growing sense of clarity and direction - gold dust with perfect timing.
I would have been so thankful for this support alone - which continues to help me today and has given me lifelong friends - but the icing on the cake was the offer of a grant which also came as a surprise. It transpired that I was eligible to apply for a grant to support funding new business equipment. With a second animation tugging at my coat tails, much like the first, I applied for some help to fund a new laptop, camera, tripod and some stop motion software (Dragonframe). It was all approved and by August 2021 and soon I was staring through the lens of a new camera... With no clue how to use it!
Mr Bear’s Christmas was filmed using my iPhone with a £19 wobbly tripod, a £5 stop motion app and a laptop which would crash when I tried to run Premiere Pro let alone export a huge movie file. If you have any desire to have a play with stop motion, I highly recommend this set up, but it was really challenging to make a film with it.
Any glitch meant removing my phone from the tripod to reboot the app (the tripod obscured the phone buttons). It was impossible to reset the camera exactly where it was before, so you’ll see the jumps in my footage on Mr Bear’s Christmas. I filmed the aerial view of Mouse in the storm with one foot weighing down the flimsy tripod & one hand taking the shots and animating. It was all done on a wing and a prayer.
But thankfully this time round for Mr Bear’s Day Out, I have a Canon camera which is specially designed for stop motion and to integrate with Dragonframe. It sits on a brilliant tripod and I’m loving working in Dragonframe. It’s all so much more stable … unless I trip over it on my way to the kettle.
So many things on this journey have come of saying yes to unplanned opportunities, however big or small, not knowing where they’d lead. The unexpected financial support from the MMU grant has been such a blessing, but the emotional support has been priceless.
If you’re a small business based in Cheshire & would like more information about the course or working with James & Neil, I’ll be delighted for you to get in touch or click here for more info.