A career in the film industry is much more accessible than you might think – in fact you might not even have to leave Cornwall!
We talked to Natasha Price from Engine House about how she got started as a film-maker, how she got her short film shown on Channel Four, and why it’s such an exciting time for women in the film industry.
Tash, tell us a bit about Engine House and the work the studio does.
Engine House is an animation studio based in Krowji in Redruth. Part of our work is making animations and VR experiences for clients. We’ve made cut scenes for games like Assassin’s Creed, as well as trailers for books. We work with companies as far away as Vietnam and Hong Kong.
A few years ago, we decided that our real dream was to make our own animated films. I made a short film called The Ship, about Cornwall breaking off from the mainland to be its own little island. We’re now working on a feature film, and we've got a slate of ideas and projects in various stages.
How did your short film come about?
I got funding to make The Ship from the Arts Council. They had a really great scheme for 16-24 year olds, called Random Acts. You didn’t need a film background, just a cool idea, and if your pitch was successful they gave you a cash grant and creative support to make it.
The support included a weekend away to explore your idea, and you were also given a mentor from the industry. I got a mentor from Aardman, which was incredible.
You also got your film professionally mixed for sound and colour graded to make it broadcast standard. And the finished films got shown on Channel Four. It was an amazing opportunity.
Tell us about the animated feature you’re working on.
It’s a film about female pirates, called Back From The Dead Red. It's been a bit up and down because the way the film industry works is pretty weird. It was initially funded through a cryptocurrency company, but they lost a lot of money when crypto collapsed and they had to pull out. But in the last few weeks there have been some exciting developments and now it’s coming back.
What does your job as producer involve?
It could be literally anything. I have phone calls with people we're trying to convince to come on board with the project, whether that's sales agents, distributors or co-producers. I'm also very involved in the script side of things.
We’re a small team so I help with editing, too – I do quite a lot of sound. I get involved in doing some of the animation, and in signing it off. It really is different every day!
What do you like most about it?
I love being really hands-on with the production. Rather than having one person in each role, we like to do it all as a team of three. We all make decisions on the creative side, so we'll sit down together and go through the shots and talk about it. It's very collaborative and I really enjoy that.
Did you want to make films when you were growing up?
I was definitely on this track from quite a young age. As a kid I wrote stories, and we made films using my friend’s dad’s camcorder. I remember we tried to make a James Bond film, and we made a little trilogy of our own films as well.
I had a real passion for drama, but I knew I didn’t want to be in front of the camera. Later I did an HND in Creative Media Production at Camborne College, which I loved. It was really hands-on and all coursework-based, so no exams. There were lots of modules, but my favourite one was on film.
I knew then that’s what I wanted to do, so I went to study Film Production at the University of Greenwich. From that I learned I don't like the live action side of things, being out on set. So when this job came up in an animation studio in Cornwall, it couldn't have been more perfect. It had all the things I wanted to do.
When this job came up in an animation studio in Cornwall, it couldn't have been more perfect. It had all the things I wanted to do.
What advice would you give to girls who might like to work in film one day?
I’d say just start doing it. Almost everyone has a phone now, or your family might have an iPad. Just get out there and start making films, whether it’s stop-motion or films with your friends in them.
It doesn't need to be high quality – I was definitely making some very bizarre films as a child! I found a DVD the other day and it’s just me and my friends running around. But there are a couple of little camera angles in there that are quite nice.
My other advice would be to watch all the films that you can. Get your hands on some scripts – you can find them online – and see how they work. And just soak it all up and be inspired.
Watch all the films you can. Get your hands on some scripts and see how they work. And just soak it all up and be inspired.
And advice for parents and carers – how can they support and encourage girls?
If they do want to make shorts, see if you can help, or even set them a challenge to go and make a film. That might come in useful right now if you’re trying to work from home!
If there are films you’re passionate about, share that with them. One summer my mum sat me down and we watched Hitchcock films and Marilyn Monroe films, which opened my eyes to classic films. I became passionate about them because I saw her passion for them. It was something we shared and that was really nice.
Lastly, the industry is much more open now to people from different demographics. There are schemes to encourage more women, more people of colour, and more people from other minorities. So it’s an amazing time to be a woman in the film industry.
And with the rise of streaming, there’s more power in the hands of film-makers. There are new ways to get your stories out there – it’s not just cinema any more. It’s a really exciting time.
Into Film is a BFI scheme to help kids from 5-19 learn about film and film-making
Screen Cornwall runs regular film-making events and competitions