Leeds academics are unsung heroes of Kaisers tour

A still from Tim Blackwell and Ashley Dean's film.
A still from Tim Blackwell and Ashley Dean's film.
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When Leeds indie rockers Kaiser Chiefs decided to add a touch of animated magic to their concerts, singer Ricky Wilson knew just the man for the job.

Ricky’s friend, Leeds Beckett University academic Tim Blackwell, was asked to come up with a video based on The Occupation, a Bill Nighy-recited poem that featured on the band’s last album.

And today Tim told how he and Leeds Beckett colleague Ashley Dean crafted the film, which was shown as an accompaniment to actor Nighy’s pre-recorded reading of the piece during the Kaisers’ recent UK tour.

Tim, senior lecturer in broadcast media technologies at the university, said: “The poem is about the futility of war, narrated from a soldier’s perspective, so we knew we ideally wanted to create something visually striking that drew on the iconography of war, but that was removed from time and place. We discussed Raymond Briggs, Pink Floyd and Terry Gilliam as points of reference.

“Some of the show designers had expressed a desire to have people reading lines from the poem, but we preferred the idea of developing an animated soldier as the visual narrator.

“One of our first jobs was to find a stand-in for Bill Nighy’s mouth and luckily our colleague Hugo Smith – who also teaches at Leeds Beckett – gamely obliged, methodically learning the passages of the poem.

“From that we were able to edit together a complete reading that matched the pace of Bill’s delivery.

“We then both set about producing drawn and animated content into which we could composite the mouth.

“I worked mostly on characters and drawn elements whilst Ashley worked on the machines of war, locations and animation.

“The finished product was a true collaboration of ideas.”

The crew for the band’s gig at Leeds’s First Direct Arena last month included Leeds Beckett broadcast media technologies students James Teague and Ted Burch.