He’s won a Bafta, now he’s hoping to add an Oscar to his trophy collection. Just before he headed for Hollywood, Sarah Freeman caught up with Hull producer Chris Hees.
Chris Hees flew out to Los Angeles at the weekend. Well you would, wouldn’t you if you were nominated for your very first Oscar. His plan was to spend the week taking in the sights and sounds of Hollywood as Tinsel Town gears up for the biggest event in its calendar. However, there’s a small fly in the ointment - his brother’s wedding.
“It falls in the middle of our trip and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, besides I’m best man,” says the Hull born producer. “It just means that I will fly back to England for 48 hours before heading back to the US.”
The slight inconvenience will be worth it even if The Bigger Picture, which Hees produced, isn’t named Best Short Animated Film at next weekend’s ceremony. Just out of film school, the fact he is on the red carpet at all is an achievement and there is already a gong on his mantelpiece after the film won a Bafta earlier this month.
“It was an incredible night,” says Hees. “Walking up the red carpet and into the Royal Opera House felt so surreal. We were all sat thinking, ‘please let our category be early on’. We were all so nervous and we knew we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the rest of the night until we had heard whether we had won or not. When our film was read out as the winner I think we all had to pinch ourselves.”
The 27-year-old, who grew up on Hull’s Ings Estate, took to the stage with Daisy Jacobs, creator and director of The Bigger Picture, which depicts two brothers struggling to care for their elderly mother. Jacobs came up with the idea as part of her masters degree in directing animation at the National Film and Television school and Hees, a fellow NFTS graduate, was responsible for ensuring the project made it from the page to the screen.
“I knew I wanted to work in the film industry, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity,” says Hees. “I tried my hand at the creative side, from writing to directing, but the more I learnt about the production side, the more I realised this is what I want to do.
“It’s a role which means you see the project through from the initial idea to getting a film made and distributed. It’s about linking talented writers with directors, it’s about developing scripts and it’s about ensuring that the finished film is as best as it can possibly be.” While The Bigger Picture may not have had an A-list cast to deal with, there were other challenges with creating a film featuring 6ft tall painted characters on a miniscule budget.
The seven-minute short, which has already won more than 20 awards, took six months to animate with the team working six days a week on the project. The Bigger Picture was funded by the NFTS, but Hees knows that in the real world securing money for films is a competitive business with an ever growing number of producers vying for the same pot of money.
“You have to a have a good script, but once you have a project you believe in there are ways to secure funding, Like a lot of industries you just need work hard and never give up.”
Jacobs has already raised more than £21,000 through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter for her next project which will look at the divorce boom and the 1970s and 80s and Hees believes that the British film industry is in pretty good shape.
“Just look at how many productions have been filmed in Yorkshire over the past couple of years,” he says referring to the glut of feature films from Testament of Youth to Dad’s Army which have been shot on location in the county. “That’s fantastic and is testament to the work that organisations like Screen Yorkshire and Creative England have done.
“As a country we are blessed with a range of diverse locations in a small area and that’s a real selling point. Plus filming in somewhere like Yorkshire is always going to be cheaper than London and as I know that’s pretty attractive for a producer.”