The making of A Mighty Tale

In our latest blog, author Tim Britton, tells us the story behind the making of A Mighty Tale, the film and the book. Read on as Tim gives us a fascinating insight into the creative process, all told in his own unique way…!

If you haven’t already seen the film click here – you can also find details of how to order the book.

A couple of years back Forkbeard Fantasy (the film and theatre company I work with) was making some interactive exhibits for Durlston Country Park. One of them was for the Jurassic Coast, and Sam Rose from the Jurassic Coast Team sidles up to Penny and me and announces he’s got this great idea. Would we make a cartoon film about everything there is to know about the Jurassic Coast in just five minutes? A Mighty Challenge, but irresistible! We love the Jurassic Coast and had already learned loads about it when Forkbeard made The Cabinet of Curiosities in 2008 – still whirring and murmuring in Lyme Regis Museum to this day.

We met up again, this time with Sam Scriven, my dedicated Personal Science Trainer and Colossal Egghead on all things Jurassic, at our Forkbeard Studios in Devon. In the meantime I’d come up with various ideas, most notably The Grannies – my attempt to make the monstrous passage of time a little easier to grasp. They liked it. So we were away!

Later, after the storyline had grown and the absurd number of things I had to squeeze in had begun to gel, I met up again with Sam to check facts and agree how irreverent and cheeky I could afford to be!

Tim in his studio
Tim in his studio

My cartoon films develop as poems really, lots of tasty words and a rhythm to drive the illustrations and the bursts of animation. I start out with rough scribbled storyboards, like strip cartoons. Then, when I’ve got the pacing sorted, I start drawing and painting the final pictures. I do them all with 3B pencils, a rubber and watercolours. The pictures are about four by three inches big.

Tim working on some of the illustrations
Tim working on some of the illustrations

I developed the technique of animating my hand doing the pictures for our live Forkbeard performances – appearing to be drawing and painting live on stage, rubbing out and scrumpling up pages I didn’t like. This gives the film its lively interactive feel and makes you think it really has taken me just five minutes to do the whole thing!

To film it I use a JVC ProHD camera and I-Stop Motion – which is great fun to use. You should try it. I make all my films like this. As I make each sequence of pictures I load them into Final Cut Pro. I used to make my films on 16mm, the old celluloid stuff, but lovely as it was the digital film means you can keep checking everything as you go, re-shooting things you aren’t happy with. I used to have to wait a whole week for the film to come back from the labs only to find it all wrong. And it cost a fortune too.

I also keep trying my voice over the film as I go, editing or elongating the pictures, fine-tuning to match the words. It’s really important having the restriction of the five minutes, especially with 250 million years to cover!

Tim with the camera he used to make the film
Tim with the camera he used to make the film

Finally, when I like what I have, I record my voice. I do this in my little room. The telephone always rings halfway through or a Song Thrush starts singing right outside my window, but I far prefer it to people in headphones giving me countdowns which just makes me nervous.

Happy with the voice the final stage is music. For A Mighty Tale I asked my friend, the fabulous pianist Leon Michener, and he made the lovely soundtrack in just one weekend.
And then I nervously send it to The Team for their approval…

Now, two years down the line, comes the book of the film, so generously enabled by Sibyl King and the Fine Family Foundation who also backed the film, and all superbly and dynamically driven by Alex O’Dwyer from The Jurassic Coast Trust.

I worked on the book with Penny, my partner and fellow Forkbeard, who oversaw the design (she’s a trained graphic designer) and the very excellent Ted Moore, the graphic designer at Maslands in Tiverton where the book was printed.

Putting a book together is quite a long and very methodical process (much like making the film) but surprisingly easy when you’ve got experts like Penny and Ted. The printers give you lots of ‘pulls’ to check everything’s how you like it all the way through, which is wonderful.

Pages of the book hot off the press!
Pages of the book hot off the press!

But the very best bit of all is standing beside the huge printing machine, smelling the inks and watching it churn out the thousands of pages in what seems like seconds!

I hope you enjoy this romp through 250 million years!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *