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Students at RTS Awards

The winning and nominated BA (Hons) animation students

SODA Animation students scoop prestigious Royal Television Society awards

22 March 2024

‘Best Animation’ and ‘Best Animation Director’ awarded at RTS North West Student Awards

A moving animation about a stolen sketchbook is among Manchester Met’s School of Digital Art (SODA) student work to have won at the Royal Television Society Student Awards 2024, the industry pinnacle for student filmmaking.

Animation graduate James Watt’s SKETCHBOOK follows a homeless woman who breaks into a car to steal a bag, which she later discovers contains a sketchbook. Inspired by James’s own experience of sketchbook theft, the film won Best Animation, with the judges dubbing it ‘funny, emotional and beautiful’.

Third year BA (Hons) Animation student Olivia Timms took home Best Animation Director, having impressed with her dystopian film Squab, which the judges felt was a ‘funny, dark comedy’ that made ‘climate change accessible and fun’.

Speaking about his winning film SKETCHBOOK, James Watt said: “It’s a great pleasure to have my work acknowledged by such a respected film award. In the summer before my third year at Manchester Met my car got broken into and half of all my possessions got stolen, including my sketchbook.

“I was devastated and wondered if the thief had looked through my sketchbook, and if they felt guilty. This idea then spiralled into a story I would further develop into SKETCHBOOK. I’m thrilled the judges liked the result.”

SKETCHBOOK outlines how the central character feels guilt after flicking through the book she stole and is compelled to return it. With Manchester as inspiration for the backdrop, James used local cafes and passing strangers as ideas for environments and character designs.

Employing traditional 2D animation, he planned out the key poses for the sequences, then filmed, observed, and sketched himself moving, which then informed the final animation.

Best Animation Director Olivia Timms added: “I’m over the moon to have won the award for my animation direction. It feels incredible and surreal to have my films appreciated at this level. In the future I want to continue making independent short films, as well as hopefully expanding my techniques and approaches for animation and filmmaking in general.”

Third year BA (Hons) Animation students Niamh and Nyah Boorman and Patrik Kanscar were also nominated for Best Animation for their films Elephant in the Room and X Marks the Aardvark, and their success follows several years of nominations and wins at the annual RTS Student Awards. 

Jill Griffiths, Head of SODA, said: “It is wonderful to see our students recognised by the RTS in this way. They have demonstrated incredible talent and dedication, and we are extremely proud of them. Having all our students nominated for Best Animation is a fantastic achievement for them, and for the brilliant Animation team at SODA. I am sure that James, Olivia, and Niamh, Patrik and Nyah all have fantastic careers ahead of them. I wish them continued success!”

SODA’s Senior Lecturer in Animation Kristin Marshall added: “We’re delighted to see our students recognised by the RTS in a clean sweep of nominations for the BA (Hons) Animation programme this year. This is a wonderful recognition of the amazing talent of our students and excellent course that we run here at SODA. Many congratulations to them all, and we feel certain they have very promising futures ahead.”

These latest awards follow several recent successes for SODA students including their collaboration with acclaimed director Danny Boyle for his Matrix-inspired Free Your Mind production at Factory International, digital film contributions to Manchester’s Beyond the Music and Psych Fest festivals and the filming of an upcoming feature length crime film.