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Behind the scenes: Jackboots on Whitehall

churchill puppetJackboots on Whitehall has been called the "British Team America," countless times for its use of puppets, but there's a lot more to the film than that.

It gives us an alternative World War II scenario, in which the Nazis managed to invade Britain. The debut writer/directors, brothers Ed (25) and Rory McHenry (22), have managed to entice an impressive array of stars into lending their voices to the film, including Ewan MacGregor, Rosamund Pike and Alan Cumming as a very camp Hitler.

The production is something of a family effort, as the brothers' dad, David McHenry is on production design (his credits include Love and Death on Long Island (1997) and Becoming Jane (2007) among much TV work), their two younger brothers Dom and Jack are helping with the puppets and mum, actress Maureen Bennett is often on set.

The movie is being shot at the Three Mills Studio in Bow, East London. When I visited the set last month, the crew were pretty busy blowing up Hadrian's Wall, the site of a spectacular battle between the Brits - led by MacGregor's Chris, a farmer with exceptionally large hands - and the Nazis, who are copying the invasion tactics of the Romans.

Producer Karl Richards gave us a tour of the set and workshops, before we got the chance to sit down with the McHenry brothers. The sets are full of background details that will reward close watching, as famous London streets get a German-style makeover, whereas Scotland is portrayed as a mysterious, tribal nation that provides the backdrop to a showdown with the Nazis.


Leilani Holmes : Nokia 15 Second Movies: Working With Dinosaurs

Death of the Dinosaurs is a 15 second short made for the 2006 Raindance Nokia shorts competition. Writer, Director and Crew came together through filmmaking collaborative group OTTfilms. The initial idea was to use toy dinosaurs, which would remain quite static, and then add movement in the camera shots to make the whole come to life. It was decided however to go for stop motion as opposed to camera movements when some very expressive faced and moveable toy dinosaurs were found. The resulting Raindance Nokia 15 Second Film finalist is very funny debut for its director Leilani Holmes, who has been talking to James MacGregor. Death of the Dinosaurs has now been selected for the British Independent Film Awards


Bringing Open Source to Filmmaking, an Elephant's Dream?

Elephant's Dream, an 11 minute animation which premiered on the Internet earlier this month, describes itself as an 'open movie'. It was animated on the open source (ie user-built, free and modifiable) 3D package Blender, has been distributed, with the soundtrack, under a Creative Commons (ie free to copy and distribute) license - and almost all the tools used in its creation were open source. Furthermore it provided an early outing for an EU backed project spanning 6 countries - the open source UniVerse - which allows 3D animators in different countries to connect their computers and 3D software to collaborate more closely. The film is an allegorical of a hopeful boy and embittered man travelling through the internal workings of nightmarish machine that responds to their every move, that could be seen as a tantalising showcase of the sort of work that can be created with little more than patience, a computer and web access.


OSCAR WINNER NICK PARK - Wallace, Gromit and Me

wallace--gromit-1.jpgSince I made Grand Day Out, I’ve thought how similar Wallace is to my father, because my father used to make things a lot. He wasn’t an inventor but he was always in the shed making things. In Grand Day Out, Wallace builds a rocket and it’s got wallpaper inside and furniture, and it just reminded me after making the film of my dad. There was seven of us in the family and he made this caravan with a trailer and he put furniture inside and wallpaper and stuff, just like Wallace would, and it just struck me how uncanny it is that he is doing things so similar to the way Wallace does it.