Carrion Films is an Exeter-based group of film-makers dedicated to celebrating British folklore and British gothic. Founded in 2008, they’ve won numerous industry awards and launched their first feature-length film Borley Rectory in 2017. We spoke to writer, animator and illustrator Ashley Thorpe.
What do you do?
Commercially we are film makers/animators for hire. Artistically we focus on neglected aspects of British folklore and legend, whether that be a Dartmoor myth or a once-famous haunting that may have slipped from the nation’s memory.
And what keeps you doing it?
I’ve always felt compelled to tell stories. Even when I was working full time in retail I still wrote, painted and animated in my spare time. It’s just what I do. I’m very lucky to be able to work in a field that stems from my interests.
What’s the story of Carrion Films?
Carrion Films was formally launched in 2008 during the creation of our first animated short Scayrecrow. This was quickly followed by The Screaming Skull (2008) and The Hairy Hands (2009), which went on to win a number of accolades including a Media Innovation award and a Best British Short Film nomination at Raindance. I’ve since gone on to work on projects as the Tales from beyond the pale radio series with Glass Eye Pix and the Hollywood horror feature Tales of Halloween with Neil Marshall. In 2017 we completed our first feature Borley Rectory with Reece Shearsmith and Julian Sands.
What keeps you in Exeter?
I studied in Canterbury and I’ve also lived in Manchester, London and Athens but eventually I came home to my roots in Exeter. With the internet it doesn't matter where I am: I worked with a crew in Los Angeles for Tales of Halloween (2015) from the comfort of my living room. And why not? Exeter is a great place to raise my kids!
Who do you work with?
I work with producer Tom Atkinson on most major projects. He’s been part of the team since The Hairy Hands and has steered and organised each shoot with great clarity, imagination and enthusiasm, leaving me free to concentrate on the creative aspects.
Commercially we work pretty much with anyone, it all depends upon the client and the brief. Locally I have close ties to the community, running workshops with children and young people, teaching both animation and film-making.
One thing that would make your life easier?
Funding and support are the obvious answer. Our first film Scayrecrow was funded via the DCC/Exeter Phoenix’s Project Greenlight scheme, but more recent artistic ventures have all had to be crowd-funded.
Tell us what a typical month looks like.
One of the nicest things about my work is that it’s so unpredictable and varied. This past month I’ve run a series of film-making workshops and an animation class for 10-year-olds, as well as creating marketing videos for the new theatrical run of Don Carlos with Tom Burke. We’ve also been touring Borley Rectory and attending the various festivals it’s been playing. I never know what’s around the corner.
What’s been the best moment of 2018?
The completion of Borley Rectory. After six years of development and three solid years of animation, it was truly wonderful to finally be able to screen it in London with cast and crew present. It was made with very little compromise and not tailored to the expectations of the marketplace, so for it to be so enthusiastically received was amazing. It’s already clocked up seven award nominations and a Best Animated Feature win at Buffalo Dreams New York. The coming year will see its commercial release – which is a huge thing for me.
And looking forward?
I’m developing a follow-up feature inspired by Dartmoor ghost stories.
In what ways are you helping to put Exeter on the cultural map?
I’ve always been very inspired by Devon and its myths so there’s invariably a little bit of it in everything I do. The radio play The Demon Huntsman that I wrote for Glass Eye Pix in New York explicitly evokes the region and its towns via Dartmoor myths. And of course our work, which originates in Exeter, is presented all over the world.
What if ….
…we could grow more connections between different professionals and organisations? Connections are crucial to a film-maker. They are the lifeblood of what I do and many of my best opportunities have come via networking.
How do we find out more?