“I think it even started before 52 Tuesdays,” says Tilda Cobham-Hervey when we ask her whether her passion to work across media in various roles stems from her film debut in Closer Productions’ groundbreaking 2013 feature.
“52 Tuesdays was an amazing entry into film because it was so collaborative and so all encompassing, a year of your life where you’re really investing in the process. Before then, I hadn’t really imagined working in film, but I did work in devised and physical theatre and circus and was very much a part of creating works for stage from a very, very young age.
“I think that I have always done that in various ways in my life as a way of expressing myself. It’s how I like engaging in the world, being able to make things with other people. Film came up when I was 16 and it was amazing, and I had so much fun and I’ve loved working in film, but I do find the experience as an actor… you very rarely get to be a part of the creative conversations in a very detailed way with people outside of you and the director.”
Cobham-Hervey’s latest creation sees her working behind the camera as co-director with her partner, and Hotel Mumbai co-star Dev Patel on the 15 minute animated short film Roborovski, which premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival last year, and will next play at Flickerfest.
“John Collee and Dev were writing this very intense action movie, Monkey Man, and while we were sitting around one night we started talking… Dev was googling something and he found this Roborovski hamster, which is the smallest hamster in the whole world. We’d been writing action sequences all day for his other film, and that’s when we sort of started thinking about this idea for a short.
“Dev and I were really excited about the idea of making an animation because it was a different form to what we’d worked in before. We got chatting to these guys at Spectre, and they mainly work in VR, and they were saying that this thing called UE4, the engine that they created the animation in, is usually used for gaming and for VR but it’s also a way to speed up the animation process because you actually get to build the space live. So, they make it the actual pet shop that we’ve set the film in, and then you’re able to move the characters around. It’s a little bit more like blocking it as if you were in a theatre, compared to the frame-by-frame drawing that a lot of animation typically is.”
A VR version of Roborovski is also in the works, however, using the engine to create the short itself was helpful in transitioning these live action pros to the world of animation.
“I think our brains probably came naturally like we were on a film set, so we got to really dream up a whole world. You got to build exactly how you wanted everything to look and how you wanted the light to hit things. We worked with the team at Spectre and it was very much a collaboration. I wish I could draw, so it was a lot of reference photos and I did a lot of work on colour and who the people were. There’s Pinterest boards of costume ideas, so very much taking it like you were doing a live action film, except that you were getting to create something from scratch. It was sort of like casting. I’d look at faces online of what I imagined Marvin, the old man, to look like and then we got to try and create him.”
Speaking of casting, does she and Dev do any voice work in the short? “We don’t, but we do have a lot of lovely actors that came in to help us, and a lot of very gorgeous kids.”
Roborovski took 1.5 years to make, which is a big commitment, however, it’s all been worth it for the on-the-rise actor, and now director. “It’s been really lovely to start dreaming up what things could look like, and I think that’s come quite naturally from experiences like 52 Tuesdays, and also just having devised work in the past; of wanting to be part of the story creation and telling.”