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From Bristol to new pastures with Shaun the Sheep

Aardman

willslaterphotography.com

Flock 'n Roll

Flock 'n Roll outside the Victoria Rooms

6 July 2015

This week, for the eagerly-anticipated Shaun in the City trail, 70 Shaun the Sheep sculptures have flocked to Bristol, including two sponsored by the University. We caught up with alumna Sophie Smith (BA 2003), Pre and Post Production Manager at Aardman Animations, to talk about the nation’s favourite sheep and her time at Aardman.

I first saw Shaun in A Close Shave – little did I know I would one day work for Aardman. I love the series, and have watched it with my nephews and niece, so it was a huge privilege to work on his first feature film and be a part of the process that took him from the small screen to the cinema screen.

When I was very little, probably about six, I wanted to be an actress, but I lost that youthful confidence and realised I felt more comfortable behind the scenes. I worked backstage in theatres before coming to Bristol University.

Bristol’s Theatre, Film and Television course was the best in the country – and really hard work! I didn't know what to expect, but we had 40-hour weeks, with lectures from 9 am to 6 pm every day. Street theatre was definitely a highlight – I remember running around Cabot Tower dressed as the Mad Hatter, asking children to help me find Alice. Terrifying and exhilarating!

After University, my first job was as a stage management intern. I struggled to find other work, but through my friend Anna I got my first paid job on the TV show - Young, posh and penniless. I wanted to move back to Bristol, so I wrote to every TV and film company here. Aardman was mid production for The Curse of the Wererabbit and I got on.

I worked on Shaun the Sheep Movie for two years as Pre and Post Production Manager. I worked with directors, producers, story artists and editors to decide what was going to be filmed, then made sure scenes were delivered on time. This involved scheduling and managing the story and edit teams, booking crew and managing pastoral care and resources.

Creating a 90-minute story without using words is quite a challenge. The story artists pulled all sorts of funny faces as they drew the characters to try to capture feelings and emotions without words.

Stop-frame animation is very similar to stage management. That’s why I love it. I get a huge buzz from working in a busy studio full of people and puppets, sets and lights.

Working at Aardman is like working in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The team behind the films is extraordinarily talented and passionate, and full of people who make me laugh every day. It’s hard work, but very rewarding when you see how many people love the films, and the life-sized Shauns start popping up in London and Bristol. 

Further information

During the Shaun in the City trail, Bristol's Victoria Rooms will become home to a giant Union Jack-inspired Shaun the Sheep, aptly named Flock ‘n Roll, sponsored by the University of Bristol. Read more about Flock 'n Roll

Sheep spotters will also be able to tick off Flock 'n Roll's neighbour, Rex, stationed outside the Royal West of England Academy on Queens Road, which is being sponsored by the Children of the 90s project.

For more information about the trail, visit the Shaun in the City website.