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netribution > features > northern light with rachel bevan baker > page one

In late 1997 in Edinburgh, I met a young woman at a workshop for would-be entrepreneurs in Edinburgh. While the other attendees saw their future in dry-cleaning, or aromatherapy or boat trips for tourists, Rachel Bevan Baker had bigger ideas: she wanted to establish Scotland’s first animation studio; Red Kite Productions. Three and a half years later, the studio is full of busy animators and Rachel has just collected the Jim Poole prize for Best Scottish Film of 2001 for her animated short The Green man of Knowledge.

| by morna findlay |
| photos from red kite|
| in edinburgh |

How did you get to where you are today: did you study animation?
I graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1995. I concentrated on illustration and did bits of animation, but the college didn’t do much animation then. Then I took an MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art. I came back to Scotland and applied to various film schemes before finally being offered a three-month residency at MOMI (Museum of the Moving Image) in London.

What did that involve?
Well, I was like a kind of exhibit at the museum! I would work in my glass-sided studio and members of the public would come in and watch me work and ask me questions about what I was doing.The BFI and Channel 4 sponsored the residency. I was given the equipment, the time and the support of a producer to develop a film proposal for Channel 4.

What were you expected to have produced at the end of the three months?
A proposal, a storyboard and one minute of the proposed film, Beelines.

And Channel 4 commissioned Beelines.
Yes, and so my partner, Ken Anderson, and I moved back to Scotland to make it and to create a Scottish animation studio.

When I last met you, you were just planning to set up this studio.
We had to find a place to work, buy a camera, editing equipment, and employ an assistant.

Tell me more about Beelines?
It was about a beekeeper; It was based on my Mum’s garden and diaries: basically about a garden coming to life.

You showed me an excerpt where a bee performs a complex figure-eight dance in the hive. Is that real bee behaviour?
Yes, bees do this to tell other bees where the best flowers are. Somehow they align the dance with the North, and the other bees watch and can tell, even in the dark, where to go and how to get there.
It was a time-consuming film to make. I’d line-test each sequence sometimes up to 10 times, and the colouring process was very complex. I etched the colour into the cells by scratching lines in the acetates and rubbing ink into the lines, sometimes using six layers of acetates at a time.
We used a similar technique for The Green Man of Knowledge — it gives a very rich, earthy look.

The Green Man of Knowledge was made for BBC Scotland?
S4C commissioned the series, "Animated Tales of The World" — to be shown on Channel 4 — from broadcasters in 26 countries. The Green Man is the Scottish tale.
S4C are great supporters of animation. (The Animated Bible, Canterbury Tales). BBC Scotland came to us, and I researched the story. BBC Scotland wanted a story that existed within Gaelic culture and, if possible had a strong woman character, which Malmhin — the Green Man’s daughter is. We worked with an executive producer at BBC Scotland, but the script editors were in Wales: they edited the whole series.

Why did you enter the Green Man Of Knowledge for the Jim Poole award?
Well, it has a strong story, it’s a high quality production and we were lucky enough to have good actors like Shirley Henderson (Trainspotting), Forbes Masson (The High Life, East Enders) and Russell Hunter (Daddy’s Girl and — everyone in Scotland knows Russell!)

The Green Man will find quite a different audience at the Oasis Cinemas.
I think that’s a great way for animation to be shown. I’m really pleased about that.

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