Animation Filmmaking in the Community

Exploring Young Peoples' Lived Experiences Using Mobile Technologies and Fantasy Narratives

  • Gerald Conn
Keywords: Animation, creative documentary, teenagers, fantasy, GoPro filmmaking


The aim of this paper is to discuss two complementary filmmaking projects carried out with groups of young people that enabled the participants to deal with challenging material and empowered them through the effects of intense involvement with creative experience and expression. The projects were carried out by Gritty Realism Productions, a UK-based production company with an extensive track record of producing films with a variety of vulnerable groups, and these particular projects were chosen because they make use of handheld video and GoPro footage in an original way to stimulate the imaginations of the participants involved.

One project involved a group of young male offenders in an inner city environment, with the aim of producing an animated film that would tackle the issue of joyriding and encourage them to confront the implications of this activity in a nonthreatening way. The other project involved working with a group of teenage girls from a rural area with the brief of making a film that would promote the area in an innovative way. Both of these films attempted to subvert conventional documentary filmmaking by combining video footage and green-screen techniques with the intention of juxtaposing their own lived environment and their imaginary worlds. With both projects, the young people were introduced to a range of animation techniques as part of the production process with which they created the imaginary sequences for the films.

The paper will discuss how the absorption process and levels of concentration required in these techniques have potential benefits that demonstrate the concept of “flow” and will explore the idea of using animation as both therapy and creative expression with young people in challenging environments. The paper will analyse these contrasting projects in order to compare the differences in approach when using filmmaking to raise awareness and encourage young people to express themselves.

Author Biography

Gerald Conn

Born 1960, with a degree in Fine Art, Gerald Conn is a producer and director whose films have been broadcast on UK television and shown at numerous international festivals. He specialises in sand-on-glass animation and won a BAFTA for best animation for his film ‘The Comet’s Tale’ (1998) and has been nominated on four other occasions. Gerald has taught animation for a number of years to young people and was visiting lecturer for two years at the University of South Wales. He has travelled to France, India, Japan and Ethiopia to run workshops and to talk about his work.

Gerald has also made music videos that have been screened on MTV. His work has often dealt with different cultural perceptions including ‘Just Not Cricket’ (2000) and ‘Romance in the Air’ (2002) both commissioned for Channel 4 in the UKIn 2009 he presented his work at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. In 2010 he established Gritty Realism Productions and in 2013 was Innovator of the Month at the Children’s Creativity Museum, San Francisco. Gerald is currently developing a feature length adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel ‘Heart of Darkness’.

See Gerald’s work at

How to Cite
Conn, G. (2015). Animation Filmmaking in the Community: Exploring Young Peoples’ Lived Experiences Using Mobile Technologies and Fantasy Narratives. The Journal of Creative Technologies, (5). Retrieved from