Meet Tergo, he’s a cleaning robot and star of a new short animation by Leeds filmmaker Charles Willcocks.
They say good things come in small packages and that’s certainly true of Tergo, a short animated film made by a Leeds filmmaker who has big plans for the future.
Charles Willcocks grew up and was educated right here in Leeds and his first job was working for this newspaper.
He’s since turned his not inconsiderable talents to filmmaking and the result is Tergo. Set in the not too distant future, it tells the story of a cleaning robot, eking out a grim existence in the capital until one day he catches a glimpse of himself in a shop window.
Watch the film HERE.
Although only a few minutes in length, the film is tender, melancholy and moving but not without humour and comes with a poignant ending.
Ron Howard just turned up on set, it took us a while to realise who he was - he was pretty inquisitiveCharles Willcocks talks describes the moment movie mogul Ron Howard turned up on set
Charles, originally from Bingley, spent his formative years in Roundhay, attending Leeds Grammar School (where his father, Colin, still teaches) and later Notre Dame Sixth Form College, before studying fine art at Leeds Metropolitan University.
The 34-year-old took up the story: “I then worked as a portrait artist before getting my masters in 3D Animation at the National Centre for Computer Animation in Bournemouth. I am incredibly proud to be from Leeds and Yorkshire. I see friends from back home every week whilst working in London so we keep the ties strong. You can take the boys out of Leeds but it’s hard to take the Leeds out of the boys. We even have a seven-aside football team in which we play a monthly game of Leeds vs The Rest of the World (ROW). To play for the Leeds team you have to have grown up within an LS postcode. For the record, we regularly beat the ROW team.”
Being from the North, he places a lot of stock in family, citing his mother, Liz, a retired primary school teacher, as a major influence, while he has dedicated Tergo to his partner of 10 years, Abi, of whom he says: “She has been so understanding and supportive through all the late nights and missed family commitments. To say that Tergo is a labour of love is an understatement. It’s more than that. Dedicating it to Abi, who more than anyone else has driven me to accomplish what I wanted to achieve, just seemed the natural thing to do.”
The film itself could have come straight out of a major Hollywood studio and puts one in mind of Wall-E, stirring the emotions of the viewer subtly to tell a tale which, despite only being a few minutes long, manages to leave its mark.
Charles continues: “Tergo has taken a long time to complete, to build up the experience and technique in order to make it the way I wanted. It is my Mum who has always encouraged us to pursue what makes you happy. When she saw the film she was really moved by it and this meant a lot to me.
“I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing but I spend a lot of time doing the ‘London commute’ window dreaming and watching the grey pass by. It was on a rainy winter’s commute out of London after a long day that I began to think about my own relationship with the city. Who I was? The role I played in it? Our relationships with the city are symbiotic. London swallows you up and makes you a part of it. It was on one such commute that I watched Pixar’s Wall-E and I got thinking about the story of a robot who was lost in London - unloved, unnoticed and forgotten. Tergo was born from that.
“At the same time I was really looking for an opportunity to work with people from my cohort at the National Centre of Computer Animation. We had been in discussion ever since we left Bournemouth in 2011 about collaborating on something and Tergo seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
But while this film may be short, Charles is already dreaming bigger and is already working on a full length animation with his business partner and scriptwriter, Leeds-born Ryan Lewis, which will be set in Leeds. And if he makes a success of it, he even wants to shift his business back to Leeds.
“The ambition I had when making Tergo hasn’t changed, in fact it has grown exponentially. In the last few years I have learnt that making films is not only something I want to do but also love. I remember always thinking when lighting shots at work ‘what would I do if I had complete creative control?’ And Tergo has allowed me to do that. I am precious about this robot and he will always mean a lot to me. I and Pallas Productions, the film company I have set up with an old school friend, Ryan Lewis, have ambitions and hope that the solid portfolio of work we are beginning to build up will lead to greater opportunity and indeed funding for our own feature films.
“We have already begun preproduction on our next short film currently entitled ‘Harvest’, a horror film based on an allotment in Yorkshire. We are working with a larger 3D team to build a photo real CG creature and it is our hope that we will be able to use this as the pitch for our first feature. Tergo we hope goes a long way to demonstrating the talent we have as filmmakers and what we have managed to achieve on zero budget and with a small team.”
Indeed, that talent was spotted by none other than movie maker Ron Howard (In The Heart of the Sea, 2015, The Da Vinci Code, 2006, A Beautiful Mind, 2001), as the crew were filming in London. He even stopped to have his picture taken on the set.
Charles explained: “That was unbelievable. Truly. It was a complete chance encounter but nevertheless a fantastic experience. We were filming in Soho. It was pretty guerrilla style and this guy, wearing a cap, spotted us and stopped to ask what we were doing. It took a few seconds to register who it was. He was, as one might expect, pretty inquisitive as to what we were up to and asked a few questions. We explained the process and he was genuinely really positive. We can’t say he gave any secret industry tips and he certainly isn’t going to get credits as an executive producer but as a confidence boost for young filmmakers it was invaluable. Hopefully one day we will be able to work with him properly.”
Copywriter Ryan, 34, who also went to LGS and recalls frequenting Headingley’s Lounge Cinema in his youth, is helping write the script for the new film.
He said: “I was always into film as a kid. My Mum loves the cinema. I was pretty much brought up on musicals but as a child of the 1980s it was a healthy diet of VHS that first helped me to fall in love with the storytelling power of film... My Mum would always take us to at least a few of the summer blockbusters at the old Lounge Cinema in Headingley. With a box of fruit gums in my hand I would get lost in front of the screen. Now years later when Charles asked me in a pub in London whether “we wanted to do this?” and set up Pallas Pictures it was a no-brainer. I have always wanted to work in film so why not jump in the deep end and set up your own film company.”
See Tergo here
Pallas Picture link here
Learn more about Charles Willcocks here
Charles once worked at the Yorkshire Evening Post as a data input clerk
He cites Pixar’s Inside Out, Disney’s Up and Wall-E among his favourite animations
For their next film, Harvest, Charles and Ryan are looking for an actor in his 60s or 70s to play a lead part in their film (albeit for free)
Copywriter Ryan, 34, who also went to LGS and recalls frequenting Headingley’s Lounge Cinema in his youth, is helping write the script
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