Triskelle Pictures at 10 - a reflection
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when I started using the term 'Triskelle Pictures' in association with my work. Back when I was a student at the University of Creative Arts (between 2007 and 2010), my classmates and I were constantly planning our futures, dreaming of where our lives would take us after graduation, and a few of us had names in mind for if we ever reached the level of Spielberg (Amblin Entertainment), Lucas (LucasFilm) or my favourite, Jackson (Wingnutt Films).
Most of this was just fantasy, with little practical thinking involved, but I joined in the fun, coining my own studio name. For a while I went with 'TBFL Productions' (a condensed version of "Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Love", the phrase often uttered in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!), but that felt like too much of a mouthful, so that name only lasted for a couple of years. It appeared on I'm Your Lady - my teenage attempt at making the Night Owls feature (more on that later) - and Piggy's Walk, one of my early stop-motion experiments, but I can't think of any other notable examples.
The answer to the name predicament lay very close. I had worn a Celtic Triskel symbol around my neck pretty much every day in high school, due to a love of all things medieval & fantasy, so I decided to name my studio after that. But I didn't know how to spell it properly, which is why my 'company' came to be 'Triskelle Pictures'. In Celtic mythology, the Triskel symbol has multiple definitions, but it roughly represents the balance between inner consciousness and outer self. In many ways, this became my creative mantra; the more I developed my filmmaking style, the more my films became about taking inner emotions and expressing them externally, in physical forms. Whatever my characters go through, it will be visually enhanced by art direction, cinematography, or even the edit to a certain extent. It's a mantra that's still present across the full body of work for Triskelle Pictures.
Although I don't know exactly when I chose the name, I do know the first time Triskelle Pictures appeared on a film's credits. Deep Red Sun was made as a piece of coursework called (I think) 'Personal Films', in Autumn/Winter 2008. It was right at the start of my second year of university; I shot the whole thing myself, on my camcorder, in completely the wrong frame rate, with my wonderful housemate Danielle acting in the various rooms of our student accommodation. Looking back, the film was a bit too on-the-nose with its inspirations (just watch Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon to see what I mean!) but it had a few screenings down the line, and it was the first time I put a bit of myself into my work.
The Opening Night (2010), a love note to my memories of the theatre, was another film I made for university coursework. And because it was marked, it also gave me an early taste of criticism, and how to cope with uncomplimentary feedback. But more importantly for Triskelle Pictures, it was the first film under the studio name to be made with a crew - not just me with a camcorder - and the first film to get accepted into a festival (FD4W Festival, a female-focused which sadly no longer exists).
And then, for two years, Triskelle Pictures went pretty much silent on the production front. I graduated, returned home, and took any film work I could to build up my contacts, mostly working in the art department of other peoples' productions. But through this, I met Crash Taylor - who persuaded me to write and direct my own film, which later became Ashes (a challenging but important film, with an incredible cast) - and Neil Oseman, who asked me to help produce his short, Stop/Eject. (Stop/Eject still remains one of the biggest success stories for us; a time-travel drama which not only premiered at Raindance, but which went onto the long list for Best British Short Film at BAFTA 2015).
Both Ashes and Stop/Eject went into production in 2012, and both were finished in 2013. It was during this period that Triskelle Pictures truly came into being, partly because of these two short films, but mostly because of the people who supported me. One such person was the VFX artist Carl Cropley (tragically no longer with us), who one day surprised me with an animated Triskelle Pictures ident to put on the end of Ashes. When Neil saw this animation, he was equally inspired to put it on the end of Stop/Eject, alongside his ident for Jigawatt Pictures. Suddenly my dreams of owning a branded film production studio felt like a reality. It's funny how the little things can actually have great significance in the long run; I owe a lot to Carl, more than I realised at the time, and I am so very lucky to have known him.
|[A slightly-larger crew helped to bring the BAFTA-longlisted Stop/Eject to life.]|
The other person to thank from this era is Stephanie Murphy, a wonderful young woman who was the first to take on the thankless task of doing my PR. She is also the person who created the Triskelle Pictures Facebook page (which, in 2018, now has over 1,030 'likes'). I didn't quite grasp the potential of social media at the time, which is why the Triskelle Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages didn't exist until years later.
At the time, I used the Triskelle Facebook page to promote my own work in general (including my art department work), but soon learned that the more professional approach was to talk in the third person, referring to 'we' and 'the Triskelle Pictures team' instead of just 'me'. I started talking as such on my website and in emails as well, trying to give off the impression that Triskelle was an established company rather than just a lone twenty-something girl in a tiny Derbyshire office. The trick was switching back to talking in the first person in the physical world - at times I felt as though I were getting a multi-personality disorder!
The amazing thing is that, now, when I refer to Triskelle Pictures as 'we', I actually mean 'we'. Because the company grew, and the team grew with it. Not only did we have regular faces across the majority of the film productions - returning cinematographers such as Neil and Christopher Newman, who shot the majority of our music videos plus two short films (The Dress and Songbird), and Ian Cudmore, who did a lot of our audio design before moving into behind-the-scenes photography - but we also had team members working behind-the-scenes in more admin type roles, such as Laura C. Cann and Charlotte Ashton, who handled our marketing and press from 2013 onwards (Laura still works at the company now, having just produced for the first time on Songbird).
This growth is probably the thing I'm most proud of, and the biggest shout-out here has to go to Tommy Draper, who had worked as a writer and production assistant for Triskelle on-and-off since Stop/Eject, but who went beyond the call of duty so frequently that I made him a business partner. He's been a rock-steady advocate for the company all this time, and I can't imagine Triskelle existing without him now.
|[Some of the cast and crew of Night Owls, a very intimate, homely production which went on to have a very successful festival run. Photo credit: Demetri Yiallourou.]|
Triskelle Pictures officially became 'Triskelle Pictures Ltd.' in 2014. Our logo, designed by the brilliant Sam Haynes, got its copyright. Triskelle got clients, got more clients, got regular clients, and then got an accountant - and the growth continued from then on. It's also around this time we made Night Owls, produced by Lauren Parker of Team Chameleon and Sophia Ramcharan of Stella Vision Films, both of whom I loved welcoming into the 'film family'. Night Owls premiered at LSFF in 2016 then went on to win 17 awards at smaller festivals worldwide, with a further 15 nominations. I am incredibly proud of Night Owls, and I'm still working towards a future where we can make the feature-length version, Night Owls & Early Birds, a reality. It's my dream to make that the first feature film to include the Triskelle Pictures logo, but you never know what might happen when the project is finally greenlit.
The next big production was Songbird, made between 2016 and 2017, but that film was significant to us for different reasons. We had crowdfunded before (for Ashes, Stop/Eject and Night Owls, respectively) and we gained a few loyal supporters through those campaigns; we reached a few hundred people on social media. But when we started making Songbird, our reach grew to 20,000 people. Our Twitter following grew, so avidly that we now know the names of people who will regularly comment on our posts, or who'll get in touch to request merchandise (we've never had a demand for that before!) or to just wish Tommy a good morning.
Our previous funding campaigns had raised about $3,000-$4,000, maximum; Songbird raised $17,000. I am under no false illusions that all this is down to Janet Devlin, the singer/songwriter and X Factor star who gave her time, her talents and her spirit to the project. She is the face and heart of Songbird, and I will be forever grateful to Janet and her agents for the exposure they have given us. But when Triskelle moved onto the next project, many of Janet's fans stayed with us, and having a reliable following is something we really cherish.
|[The talented team behind Songbird, our most ambitious project to date. |
Photo credit: Demetri Yiallourou]
Which brings me pretty much up to today. Triskelle are now in post-production on Poison Ivy, our first foray into the world of fan films (a project which has brought along its own set of followers, who we love to hear from on Twitter). I've also started the ball rolling on two more short films - Lepidopterist and The Barn, both working titles - which should go into production in 2019/2020. Although I'd desperately like to move into making features (not just for myself, but with the regular Triskelle team and collaborators at my side), as long as we can keep telling stories in the meantime - for ourselves as well as for our clients - then that is what matters most.
Triskelle's first decade has been one heck of an adventure, and not all of it has been smooth sailing - we've faced budgetary concerns, location and crew re-shuffles, bad reviews, festival rejections, flooded film sets (TWICE!), and even a collapsed office shelf along the way. But there's been so many moments of pure joy as well; moments of collaboration, bonding and banter between the amazing people on set; the moments when you first get the footage home and, even better, the first time you see the footage on the big screen; the moments when you realise your company is in profit, and you can put some of it back into the local film industry; and above all, when you talk with strangers - in person or online - who have heard of Triskelle Pictures, and who have enjoyed watching our films.
[Above: the official Triskelle Pictures 10th Anniversary film, released to celebrate all of our films, and all of the people who helped bring them to life.]
I've mentioned the key players in Triskelle's first 10 years, but there are so many more people to thank that we would be here forever if I listed all of them (and this blog is verging into rambler territory as it is!). So, to each and every one of you, everyone who has worked on our films (even by popping on set for an hour, just to hold a light stand!), everyone who has donated to our funding campaigns, everyone who has bought a ticket to watch one of our films in a cinema, or hired us to make a video, or written an article about us online, and everyone who has liked or shared one of our posts on social media: thank you. I may have started this company single-handedly in my student accommodation, but you are the people who made it what it is. I cannot wait to see what the next 10 years has in store for us.