Art students win at Royal Television Society Awards 2021

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BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts students win big at RTS Devon & Cornwall Television Awards 2021

Two students from BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts at Plymouth College of Art have won awards at this year’s Royal Television Society Devon & Cornwall Television Awards 2021. Third years Yergalem Carimini and Sonny Layton have gained great praise for their short films, ‘La Volpe’ and ‘1977’, winning the Craft Award for Production Design and Animation, respectively.

Yergalem Carimini’s win of the Craft Award in Production Design for her short film, ‘La Volpe’, follows the film being selected for the NAHEMI programme 2020. The judges commented on how they loved the use of set dressings and small details to tell the story. Praising her fabulous originality, they also noted the flawless, professional quality achieved despite the challenges of filming during lockdown.

Shot in her home country of Italy, ‘La Volpe’ is a great example of a single location film, with the set built in Yergalem’s family home and featuring a cast of her family and friends. Set in a dystopian future, the eight-minute film shows a character in a world where you are raised to work a single job for the rest of your life, following a narrative loosely based on the tragic events linked to the Taiwanese electrical company Foxconn.

Yergalem said, “During my first year I was told about Foxconn, a company that used to make electronic parts for iPhones, and how in the early 2000s, there were some concerns about the working environment there. There was an incident of employee suicides and their solution was to install nets to protect the buildings and the lives of those who fell. It really struck me. I originally wanted my idea to be in the form of an art installation, playing with ideas of being confined to a room and exploring the exploitation aspect. Obviously, Covid happened so I ended up flying home to Italy. It was my tutors who suggested that I turn my idea into a film, but I really didn’t know how I was going to do it. I knew I had to create a narrative instead.”

Poster design by Benedetta Falcone 

“It was a really personal production, it was my family and friends working at the same time, laughing together, eating together. Outside of the house, there was a pandemic raging, but while we worked, all within covid restrictions, of course, it was a lovely chance to feel like that wasn’t happening.”

“I have to give a shout out to my producer Roberta Milone and director of photography and camera operator Riccardo Pits. Roberta was the one who read the script and saw its potential and Riccardo was totally selfless throughout the whole production. They worked with me day and night, and they are both so extremely talented at what they do. I think making this film during lockdown in my home country really saved me and my development during my second and third year. If I had been in England, I wouldn’t have been able to produce something like ‘La Volpe’. The Covid situation is a challenge, but it also challenged my artistic development, if we look on the bright side.”

Yergalem Carimini on the set of ‘La Volpe’, filmed in her family home in Italy

“It’s so amazing to win the Production Design award, it’s the first award I’ve ever won! I’m so happy that people have watched the film and had such a positive reaction to it. I’d never done production design before ‘La Volpe’, but I became an expert on making and faking mould! My Mum doesn’t want anyone to think that’s our actual house! My Dad says you never know how you’re going to discover yourself, my biggest passion is directing and writing but I’m not closing any doors, I love all aspects of cinema. Everybody’s an amateur at this stage, so working at home in Italy, I was able to share my enthusiasm and passion with people from my hometown. It was such a great opportunity to find people who shared my interests but were also close to me – local actors, producers, score designers. I never thought that a project, born in such a small way, was going to have this level of recognition. I’m not going to stop being delighted about it!”

21-year-old Sonny Layton’s film ‘1977’ won this year’s award for Animation, with the judges commenting on how mesmerizing and original the short was. Of particular note was how they ‘could feel the love and hard work that had gone into making it’. The film follows Sonny’s dad as he backpacked from Bournemouth across France and Spain, embarking on his adventures in May of 1977. Travelling over three months, he documented his travels in a journal every day, these entries Sonny has recreated with simple, black and white illustrated animation that, despite its simplicity, captures great detail.

A still from ‘1977’

Sonny said, “During the first lockdown last year, I ended up having conversations with my Dad about life and he told me stories about what he was up to when he was my age. He showed me the journal he had written during his travels and I was blown away by the amount of information in there. Being a film student, it immediately sparked ideas for an adaptation.”

“I’d barely done any animation before this project since I was primarily working as a cameraman or editor, meaning I had to create my own style from scratch. I use the technique of rotoscoping to draw over each frame of footage, which was extremely painstaking. Five seconds on screen took two days to animate. It was a full month of 10 hour work days, which if it hadn’t been during lockdown, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to.”

Sonny’s father on his travels

“I was really surprised to find out I’d won. I thought I’d have no chance since this was my first animated film and I was presumably going up against much more experienced animators.”

Sonny first came to Plymouth College of Art with the Saturday Arts Club, which led him to further education at the Pre-Degree campus, followed by choosing the college for his degree in BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts.

“There is an undeniable charm to the college, which has always pulled me back in. The equipment and resources available are very attractive and I’ve always had great experiences with fellow students and lecturers here. The Film & Screen Arts course has been a rollercoaster, but it’s been so fun creating films with my coursemates. The last year has been tough for us with online learning but we have worked around it well. I can’t wait to start shooting my grad film and seeing what everyone creates.”

Sonny Layton

The Royal Television Society’s Devon & Cornwall Centre also runs its own programme of public lectures, technical workshops and social events throughout the year, with the Student Television Awards presented as part of their Annual Awards Ceremony. Winners from the six categories go forward to be judged as part of the National Awards in London with the Devon & Cornwall region regularly boasting winners in the national awards.

Chris Bailey, Subject Leader and Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Film & Screen Arts said, “We are absolutely thrilled for these two films to be recognised for the levels of creativity, adaptability, production skill and artistry that have gone into making them. Lockdown has been incredibly tough for filmmakers everywhere but the films that our students are producing are evidence that with a creative mindset and a will to succeed, you can make excellent work at Plymouth College of Art no matter what is thrown at you.”

©2021 Plymouth College of Art

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