Leeds Arts University Animation graduates win awards at six major film festivals

14 December 2021

Derek the Sheep, animated by five BA (Hons) Animation graduates and directed by Senior Lecturer Ben Simpson (aka Doctor Simpo), has won awards at six international film festivals and been selected for many more.

‘Derek the Sheep - The Grass is Always Greener (Pilot)’ has been announced as the winner of an Award of Excellence: Animation at the IndieFEST Film Awards; Best Animation at the Port Blair International Film Festival 2020; Best Mixed Media at Animation Celebration Fest 2021; Jury Prize at PRIX ROYAL Paris Animation Awards 2021; and Winner Award of Excellence at Best Shorts Competition. The film is also a Semi-Finalist in the New York Film Animation Awards.

A spokesperson at the IndieFEST Film Awards said: “Winning an IndieFEST is something you and your entire team can be proud of! Our judges base their decisions on the quality, creativity and technical aspects of each piece. The award appropriately reflects the endless hours you and your team have spent to create your outstanding production! Congratulations on your achievement!”

Derek the Sheep was created by cartoonist Gary Northfield and was a regular strip in the Beano, first appearing in 2004. The story follows a sheep called Derek in his attempts to reach greener grass on the other side of the river.

The film was animated by a team of five Leeds Arts University alumni; Prathik Poojary, Damian Jenorowski, Tisa Rahman, Haraldur Pétursson and Cameron Cook. The graduates set up SCHWA Animation Studios after graduating from BA (Hons) Animation in 2020. Describing themselves as an “award-winning, ragtag group of animation graduates…looking to push the boundaries of modern 2D animation”, the team work out of their Huddersfield-based studio to create experimental 2D animated content; from short loops, to adverts and short films.

The film was directed and animated by Senior Lecturer BA (Hons) Animation, Ben Simpson, who told us:

“Coming from an auteur animated film making background myself; where I have often been solely responsible for all of the animated elements just working alongside musicians and commissioning bodies, I found that working as a director on Derek the Sheep most rewarding and a real pleasure.

"I was immensely impressed by the work ethic and attitudes expressed by the Leeds Arts University alumni animation studio SCHWA. You could say they were taught well (!), but all joking aside they were very professional and worked well through diverse conditions. If there are any producers out there looking for a working team I would highly recommend checking them out.

!It was also a pleasure to work alongside the immensely gifted writer and creator Gary Northfield whom I was lucky enough to deliver a very popular drawing workshop with at Thought Bubble 2021."

Derek the Sheep has also been shortlisted in a number of other film festivals including: Creative Film Awards, Los Angeles (Finalist); Chinh India Kids Film Festival (Award Winner); Leeds Young Film Festival; and KIDS FIRST! Film and Video Festival.

Cartoonist Gary Northfield, creator of Derek the Sheep, joined students at Leeds Arts University in November 2020 as a part of the University’s programme of visiting professionals.