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Award-winning student animation set to play at national film festival

An award-winning student film, which has been selected to show at a number of events across the UK, is to play at national student film festival Screentest this weekend (10/11 March).

City Lights by BA (Hons) Animation graduate Jessica Lester has already been thrust into the spotlight, having shown at the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, and receiving the Jury Prize for Best Animation at the 2016 This is England Festival. The animation is set against the poem The City is Alive by Savannah Brown and takes the audience on a journey through the streets of London at night.

Jessica, who is 22 and now lives in Bristol, says: “The poem is a metaphor for the city being a living, breathing thing, and I tried to capture this pulsing, organic movement in the imagery and animation.

“Getting across the feeling of nighttime and revealing images through the street lights was a big challenge. I experimented with lots of ink and watercolour effects, but it always felt like the light and dark were too separate and I wanted them to combine as one image.

“My tutors introduced me to an inversion technique where you paint the opposite colour on the paper to what you want, and then use the invert tool on the computer. The white paper then becomes black, and this really helped create the feeling of the light shining out of the darkness.”

In addition to being broadcast at this month’s Screentest, which is the longest-running film festival of its kind, City Lights will also be playing at Premier Plans and Dorking Film Festival later this year.

Jessica, who says she didn’t properly discover her talent for animation until she came to UCA, adds: “I hadn't really done much animation before I started my course, so studying it has definitely changed my work process, and this can even be seen in my illustrations. I always found myself being led back to traditional ways of working and experimenting a lot with different materials. I think it has also made me a lot more observational and I carry around a sketchbook most of the time.

“I think the atmosphere created by the combination of the animation sound and music helps make City Lights stand out,” she says. “The images and colours flow from one scene to the next and are constantly moving, which draws you into the city and its movement. It also shows you things that you don't always notice or pay attention to.”

Since graduating last June, Jessica has gone on to work on a pitch animation for a business startup and is also establishing herself in Bristol’s creative community as well as touring with City Lights.

To find out more about Jessica’s work, visit