7th August 2012
Clawing to the top
Title of film: Tibs
Director: Sam Huntley
1.4 talks with Sam Huntley about his short feline film, Tibs, and whether the cliches about filming with animals are true or not

Where did the idea come from – feels as though it may be close to your home?

Well a friend of mine Andy Preston, who is a creative at Euro RSCG’s, and I have been talking about shooting something together for ages and for one reason or another a number of projects we had in mind never got going.

So we changed tact and decided to come up with a really short, simple idea that we could both pool some money together for and definitely get it made.

Andy had mentioned an idea he had had about a ”cat burglar”, i.e a cat that goes out stealing stuff for its owner which I really liked. From there it evolved into a different idea based on our mutual perspective of cats.

I’m not the biggest fan of the feline species [massive understatement] and I generally don’t trust them [or their evil faces], and Andy and I both have friends who have cats who are always moaning about the disgusting presents they keep bringing in for them. Andy also found loads of internet forums with people moaning about the same thing.

We decided that this was maybe an interesting angle to take and that hopefully people would relate to it. With this in mind, Andy rewrote the script and we ended up with something like what we actually shot.

What did you shoot it on and how did you get Tibs to comply so well?

We shot it on RED EPIC. Even though it is a simple story I really wanted it to have a have a strong aesthetic. My work has quite an observational style to it – I started out making documentaries, and I’m really keen now to develop that visual identity in more narrative based work. (See more work of Sam’s in Related Content).

How did we get Tibs to comply so well?… the short answer is, we didn’t!

Didn’t Tibs behave according to script?

As my previous answer will probably suggest, the biggest challenge was in fact getting Tibs [Millie] to do what we wanted, which she very rarely did on even the simplest of things.

Before the shoot, people kept telling me I was crazy to even consider trying to shoot with a cat [even a trained cat], especially for a one day shoot, and the amount of times I heard the old ‘never work with kids and animals’ adage was endless.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I had storyboarded each scene really carefully to allow for any things she may not do. It was all relatively simple stuff, apart from a few key shots or actions, but it very quickly became clear on the day that she literally wasn’t going to do anything I needed.

We started getting behind schedule almost straight away, spending hours trying to get certain shots which I thought would be easy, without success. If it wasn’t so excruciating at the time, I’m sure the sight of a room full of people all hunched over a monitor, waiting for this tiny cat to respond to the various ridiculous noises people were making, would be quite amusing. Even the cleverly concealed bits of tuna hidden all over the room [and the actress] didn’t work.

So, as is often the case, it just became about thinking on your feet. I think I had to drop about 50 percent of my shots and hoped that I had covered it enough to make it work in the edit with what I had.

As with a lot of short films, lack of time and money were also two of the other biggest challenges. This usually has a knock on effect with everything else, and that was definitely the case with this film especially. There was literally no “budget”, as Andy and I were paying for the whole thing out of our own pockets, so that always cranks the pressure up slightly.

Luckily for us, our lovely producer Chloe Fernandes managed to work wonders with the budget we did have, and make savings where she could, despite the usual unexpected costs. It was still touch and go though right up to the last minute – we had gone over what we could afford, and couldn’t get anyone to step in and help us, so we had to just make the decision to go ahead with it and hope we could save some money down the line which thankfully we did due to a few cost saving favours. (See credits list).

So all in all, even though it is only a two-minute film, it was a pretty tough process, but enjoyable nonetheless.

What are you up to now?

As we speak, I’m working in Berlin for a couple of weeks.

I’m also actively trying to get funding for a 15/20 minute short film that I’ve written, again with Andy and his creative partner Joe Williams. I think it’s a really nice idea – it involves Poland and Chuck Norris though, so it may not be the easiest sell.

Apart from that, I will be mostly waiting for that next interesting commercial script to come my way, so I look forward to that as always.


Director: Sam Huntley
Writer: Andy Preston
Producer: Chloe Fernandes
Director Of Photography: Richard Lonsdale
Camera Assistant: Richard Vine
Sound Recordist: James Everett
Editor: Kevin Palmer / Ten Three
Colourist: Simona Harrison / Prime Focus
Sound Design & Mix: Phil Bolland / 750mph
Music Composer: Tom Russell / We Write Music
Online Editor: Chris Dart
Woman: Priscilla Gray


Sam Huntley’s acknowlegements:

We were also incredibly lucky with the post production on the film, again having to rely heavily
on favours from friends and colleagues.

Ed Hoadly at Ten Three very kindly stepped in and hooked me up with Kev, who I really enjoyed
editing with. To an extent the rythmn of the film was dictated by the fact that I had had to
drop so many shots, so luckily Kev was patient enough to go along with that while we figured
out how to make it work.

Lesley Queen at Prime Focus was amazing as always and helped us get out of a few tight spots
with various technical issues… again, due mostly to lack of time and money.
She also introduced me to Simona Harrison, who did a really great grade for us which added to
the feel I was trying to achieve.

Phil Bolland at 750mph, who I have worked with before, did the sound design and mix which I
think really lifted the whole film, and Tom Russell at We Write Music, wrote and composed a
piece of music for me, literally in a few hours I think, which was amazing as we had an insanely
tight schedule.