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Graduate’s film revealing personal experience of Alzheimer’s gets international audience

An emotive film exploring what it’s like to witness someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, created by one of our graduates, has proved to be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

BA (Hons) Animation graduate Will Rowson, from Harrogate, created the award-winning One Last Dance based on his mother’s experience of seeing his grandfather suffer from the degenerative illness. The animation has been chosen to play at film festivals in Manchester, London, New York, and Ciudad Real, Spain, and was named Best Animated Short Film at Dorking Film Festival.

“I started the project knowing that the film would be about my grandad,” says Will, 23. “I wasn’t sure what I would show visually or if there would be narration or music playing throughout. For research I interviewed my mum as a way of finding out about him and there was something very pure in the way that she spoke about my grandad. I chose to narrate the film using my mum’s interview because the emotion in her voice was so powerful.”

“I know that One Last Dance is about my grandad’s fight with Alzheimer's but it’s also a celebration of the kind and loving person that he was for the majority of his life. I didn’t want the disease to be the thing that defined him. I learnt so many things about him that I never knew when I was interviewing my mum.”

Once he had the interview for the film in place, Will, who graduated in 2016, created the visuals using hand-drawn watercolour animation. He says: “I did a test to see how it would look and really loved how the images flicker from frame to frame. The watercolour adds a sense of life to the drawings. It also allowed me to have things warp and melt which helped to show my grandad’s deterioration.” 

In addition to receiving the award at Dorking Film Festival, One Last Dance was also named runner up in the Best Animated Short Film category at the 3FICAE International Festival of Short Films 2017, and has been chosen to show at This is England 2016; Medway Visions 2016; Manchester Animation Festival 2016; London Short Film Festival 2016; Short Film Festival "Jose Francisco Rosado" PACAS 2017 in Spain; and ANNY: Animation Nights New York 2017.

Now an illustrator, with a particular passion for digital painting, Will shares his secret to creating strong art. “It doesn't matter if your drawing isn't 100% accurate to real life,” he says. “If you fail at a drawing or something is off in your animation, learn from it and start again.

“Everyone likes different things visually and trying to please them all will never work, so stick to what you like - that way no matter what you make, it will always have integrity.”