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Animation Students Imagine a World Without Fair Trials

How would it feel to be tried without access to a lawyer or without knowing the case against you? Or to be needlessly held in prison for years before any trial takes place? This is what a short film by three Animation students asks viewers to imagine: A World Without Fair Trials.

Launching at the College this week, the short animation was commissioned by Fair Trials, a human rights organisation that defends and campaigns for the right to a fair trial. The animation portrays the various stages at which the right to a fair trail can be eroded and the devastating consequences losing this fundamental right can have.

Fair Trials International are using the short animated film made by second-year Animation students Patrick O’Mahony, Dann Parry and Rachael Olga Lloyd as the starting point for a broader, primarily online communications project. ‘We went to the RCA in no small part because of its great reputation, and we weren't disappointed’ explained Alex Mik, Campaigns and Communications Manager for Fair Trials. ‘We were actually blown away by the standard of the pitches put together by all of the students in what wasn't a lot of time.’

Discussing the film Alex explained: ‘It was really difficult to just pick one, but we really appreciated both the innovation of Patrick, Dann and Rachael's project and its universal appeal. We think the visuals and the story make it something that people will love and want to share. We loved how real it felt, and the texture added a depth that you don't often get with animation. The film shows how big picture policy decisions and rhetoric have a real impact on people.’

At the end of last year, Animation students were asked to pitch ideas for provocative, inspiring and thoughtful short animated films that share the message that fair trials matter. They were asked to aim their films at a young audience without specialist knowledge of law, or the legal processes surrounding the right to fair trial.

‘With the brief being directed to young, social media users we wanted to create a short animation that would catch their attention but not overwhelm them with information,’ Patrick explained. ‘We approached the brief from quite a simple angle really, the idea of a person being pulled through the process of an unjust trial system,’ Rachel continued. ‘Starting from being accused, to then being in a police interrogation room where his lawyer is taken away, to being prematurely condemned as guilty by social media, then dropped into a court room where he is ruled as guilty without having the right to speak, before being finally dropped into a jail cell.’

The team decided to film the animation in one shot with props and sets built from brightly coloured cardboard. ‘We chose bright colours to attract the viewer and also as an almost traffic light of warning,’ Dann explained. ‘As the film goes on so does the level of threat for the character, so it goes from green to red and then white to show the loneliness and vast emptiness that a person unfairly tried can feel.’

The project offered students the chance to create professional pitches to a client, and then work closely together on completing the film. The process of collaboration allowed them to try out new ideas and benefit from each other in developing and progressing the animation from conception to realisation.

‘For me, it was the first time getting to co-direct, co-write and create a professional animation and have creative control, which is a great opportunity,’ said Patrick. ‘The animation was also made in a way which is new to all three of us so from the design, materials, to the way we filmed, it was quite a learning process.’

The team each took different roles in the production of the animation. ‘My main role on the project was the character, set and puppet design,’ explained Rachael. ‘This is what I enjoy most, so I spent a lot of time designing the look of the characters and building the puppets.’ 

Working on the project was a change from briefs the students had worked on before. ‘We needed to report back to the client to make sure they were happy with everything but we also had a lot of creative control,’ said Dann. ‘I think the idea that you're doing a film not just for yourself but for a client really ups the pressure but also pushes you to perform and try things you may have shied away from before, to really make the best film you can.’

‘This project was a great opportunity for our students to create a professional pitch and then for the winners to create a short stop-motion documentary for a worthwhile and socially engaged cause,’ explained Dr Birgitta Hosea, Head of Animation. ‘The students involved collaborated very effectively, and I am excited about future projects that they may do together when they graduate. For the first-year film on our new Documentary pathway, we will be working with the Wellcome Trust’s Digital Library and its enormous collections of assets.’

Find out more about the making of the film and the campaign for Fair Trials.

Explore the Documentary and Experimental Animation pathways in the School of Communication, and how to Apply.