IT'S now a year since Templepatrick film-maker Scott Newton released his debut animated short, Candlelight, which has attracted rave reviews and won numerous awards for 'best animation' at major film festivals across the globe.
Creating his very own animation was always 'the dream' for Scott after a decade of significant work in local television and film.
"I've always wanted to work in either animation or mixed media live action/CGI hybrids," explains the 31-year-old Co Antrim film-maker, who has a degree in Film Studies from Queen's University Belfast.
"I love the limitless possibilities of animation, the impossible worlds and characters. If you can think of it, you can create it."
Candlelight tells the story of a tall dinner candle which magically comes to life in the setting of an old attic. As the curious candle explores its new surroundings, it meets a second candle. The two play and dance together in the attic, eventually falling in love.
However, when they touch, they find that the heat from their combined flame causes them to rapidly melt, leaving them with a terrible choice – to either live apart, or make the ultimate sacrifice for love.
As both the writer and director of Candelight, the short was the first time Scott had full creative control over all areas of a production. A two-year labour of love for the film-maker, mostly due to complications caused by the pandemic, it is by far his proudest achievement to date.
"I put so much of my soul into it, so I'd have to say it's the project that's had the biggest impact on me," he says.
The success of the film has led to it being screened at numerous major film festivals all over the world, including Oscar-accredited ones such as the Galway Film Fleadh, Tirana, RiverRun and ShortsShorts Tokyo, plus a recent nomination for Best Animated Short Film at the Irish Film and TV Awards, which is something Scott never expected to happen.
"When making the short, because it was something I had created, my whole focus was on just trying to translate what was in my head onto the screen and communicating my ideas to the team," he explains.
"I had no idea how the film would be perceived by anyone else – audience member or critic – so the great reception has been a huge shock. I'm so glad that people enjoy watching it."
Having recently featured on the cover of Kidscreen, one of the film industry's leading magazines, it is clear that the short has inspired younger audiences. The idea behind the project is also universally relatable and, despite there being no dialogue, the seven-minute short still says a lot about the human condition.
"The idea was something that occurred as I was beginning to panic about turning 30," explains Scott of how he came up with the concept for Candlelight.
"I was approaching those life-defining decisions – engagement, buying a house, settling down.
"I pictured different scenarios about how people approach those decisions, and one option is to run away. So that's why one candle panics and runs from the other. But, in the end, we realise that friction makes fire, and to run away and not fully jump in would make life not quite as magical.
"The script and story changed throughout production, with different candle-centric scenarios, but that key theme always stayed consistent: the fear of commitment, the regret of running away and a message of not leaving life too late."
After graduating with a degree in Film Studies from Queen's University Belfast, Scott started an internship with Jam Media, a Belfast-based visual effects and animation company geared towards children's TV.
Over the course of his 10-year career, the Templepatrick man has worked on many successful productions, including on-set work for HBO's hit Game of Thrones, and as part of the visual effects team for the BBC's acclaimed Belfast-based police drama Blue Lights.
"My current day job is compositing supervisor on a TV adaptation of the popular children's book series Isadora Moon with Jam Media for Sky TV. However, I have several ideas in the pipeline for TV and film that I'm developing, as well as starting the prototype stage for a toy line."
Scott also manages to juggle his work with a role as a guest lecturer at Ulster University:
"To be able to share my experiences and hopefully have a small hand in guiding the next generation is something I find very rewarding, and something I hope to do more of later on in my career."
Scott's success in his chosen field is all the more remarkable given that he is colour blind, which could arguably be seen as a disadvantage for anyone working in the field of visual arts. However, he believes it has given him a unique strength:
"Being red-green color blind can be an issue when trying to work on things such as green screens," admits Scott.
"It's something I've had to adapt to over my career. I've found that it's actually quite a strength, as I'm able to see differences in brightness and tone quite well, and then for colours I can do things like changing monitor colour values or treating images in black and white.
"I've even worked as a colour grader on short films before – I hope they didn't all have green skin in the final thing."
To date, Candlelight has been included at 44 film festivals all over the world, winning 19 awards in total. Scott is determined to continue this run of success by showing the short to as many audiences as possible, as well as promoting Northern Ireland film-making.
He is also hoping to emulate the success of the Oscar-winning production An Irish Goodbye which was largely shot in his native Templepatrick.
"An Irish Goodbye has been great for putting our homegrown talent front and centre and on screen.
"Unfortunately for me, as it was shot in Templepatrick, it means I won't be bringing the first ever Oscar back to my hometown.
"I'll have to settle for the first one for animation."
With many more projects in the pipeline, it's unlikely this is the last we will hear of Scott Newton, as there is so much more he hopes to accomplish.
"In terms of what film I'd love to do, it's my dream to make a musical," he enthuses.
Visit Scott Newton online at scottynewton.com