I was approached by a conductor, Mark Stephenson (who went on to be our Music Director on the film, and conducted the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall) who had heard about the awards that I had picked up at film school, and he asked me if I had ever thought about doing films with live music.
Hugh Welchman, who is nominated for producing Peter and the Wolf, has answered the Six Questions. From concept to today, he has been involved with this film for seven years! It’s a major part of his life and he’s happy that the Oscar nod will allow more people to see the labor of love. Here’s what he had to say:
Rick: How did you hear about your nomination? Did you wait up? Did someone call you?
Hugh: I was told by the Academy that it would be announced at 2:30 pm UK time on their website, at the same time as the television broadcast, so we were all working away at our office, when at 2:00 pm we suddenly got inundated with emails, texts and phone calls!!! So that is how we found out! We had about 30 calls/texts/emails within half an hour! Rick: Since the nominations came out has anything exciting happened because of the nomination?
Hugh: The first thing that happened is that our server went down because of the sudden increase in volume of emails, so we treated ourselves to a long overdue IT overhaul! We also received a software overhaul from Adobe, who sponsored the film, which was much appreciated. The most exciting thing has been the reception for the news in Poland, our co-producing country, where we were featured in every major newspaper, news show, and radio station in the country, we feel very appreciated!
Rick: What was the thing that brought you to your nominated project? Hugh: I was approached by a conductor, Mark Stephenson (who went on to be our Music Director on the film, and conducted the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall) who had heard about the awards that I had picked up at film school, and he asked me if I had ever thought about doing films with live music. I said no, but it sounded intriguing. We met up and brainstormed a number of ideas: new music commissions, various pieces of classical music, and one of the ideas he put forward was Peter and the Wolf. Initially I was skeptical about the idea, as I was sure that such an iconic piece had been already made into a great film. However as I had listened to it hundreds of times as a kid, the idea stuck with me, and I started seeking out the versions already made, and found to my surprise, especially given the calibre of some of the animators who had made versions, that I thought that none of them had grasped the potential of a film version of the piece. At that point the project took hold of my head.
Rick: What made this project special for you?
Hugh: I was 26 when I came up with the concept of how I wanted to do this, and yesterday I was 33 — I feel like I grew up on this project, I have been working on it ever since I set up BreakThru Films, less than a year after I left film school, it would be impossible for me to explain my life and my career without reference to Peter and the Wolf. It has been and still is a very big part of my life, and that feels strange, to have a film that feels ingrained in me! So that is what makes this project special for me. However what makes this film special is the fact that I chose Suzie Templeton to adapt and be the director of the film. From the moment I thought of her for the role I couldn’t imagine anyone else being able to do it. She has made it exactly how I wanted it to be, which is amazing, as it is totally her vision, there were many important collaborators along the way, including co-writer Marianela Maldonado, but it was overwhelmingly Suzie’s creative vision that guided the process.
The most special single moment on the project that I will remember for the rest of my life was during our world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall. We delivered the film off a plane (thankfully the plane was on time!) to the hall at 6:30 pm for a 7:30 pm performance. The tail end of production was so fraught, nail biting and hellish that making a speech in front of 5,500 people seemed like the most relaxing moment I had had for weeks! Anyway then the film started and I was back to feeling nerve wracked, and then at the moment the cat appeared at the gate of the cottage all the children in the hall (about 3,000!) erupted into giggles, and at that point a wave of relief went through my body and I knew that it was all going to work out, and everything would be just fine!
Rick: In the next couple weeks there will be all kinds of big events going on, is there something that you are particularly looking forward to?
Hugh: Showing the film. I love showing this film to audiences and being in the audience when they watch it. We get to show the film on the Oscar Showcase Tour to a very discerning audience made up of the world’s best animators and animation filmmakers, it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do that, and get feedback from that audience. Obviously also I am looking forward and dreading in equal measure the Oscar announcement!!!! It makes such a difference to the life of the film, and how many people will see and enjoy it, so that moment will be either unbelievable or heartbreaking. It is a great honor to be nominated, but it makes a big difference to the animated shorts to actually win, so inevitably that moment will be incredibly fraught.
Rick: Anything else you’d like to add?
Hugh: Thanks to AWN for organizing the Oscar Showcase Tour, I am really excited about it!
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.