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14th December 2018
The Comeback Kid
Title of film: Graduation film: Comeback Kid
Director: Ian Robertson
Production Company: National Film and Television School
Ian Robertson used to make music videos that we loved to showcase on 1.4 and then he went quiet. We talk with the unsigned director about his decision to go to film school and learn the art of narrative longer form.

We’ve always loved your work, from the early animation days through to your live action music videos for Oliver $ & Jimi Jules, Duke Dumont and Dizzee Rascal. So what prompted you to go to film school when you were already being picked up for exciting work? 

I think I went to film school out of frustration.  After some early success in music videos I had a long period of not winning any pitches, my music videos weren’t turning into commercial work and I when I did win a promo I was given one day to shoot the thing which I found pretty unfulfilling.  Then I got accepted to do Directing Fiction at the National Film and Television School and I saw it as a good opportunity to take a break and develop my long form filmmaking.

How would you describe the last few years at film school – do you feel your work has changed and of so in what ways?

Film school was really intense, but great.  You make four shorts on the trot in eighteen months so it’s non-stop! I met and worked with so many super creative people, so that automatically elevates your work. A big revelation for me was writers.  Coming from promos I was used to writing myself, but I realised that I much prefer working with a writer on scripted work.  I like having a bit of distance from the material; it helps me see the bigger picture.

Excellent grad film – how did the narrative come about?  

Sam Steiner, one of the writing students at the school, pitched an idea about a child who is the reincarnation of a cuckolded man and it was one of the silliest ideas I’d ever heard, so I knew this was the story for me! I really wanted to take this seemingly bonkers idea and treat it with complete sincerity to create a complex tone with buckets of dramatic irony. 

I’m really inspired by films like It Follows and Timecrimes.  They have outlandish concepts but the characters take everything completely seriously because it’s very real for them of course. Suddenly you can have a film that’s both silly and dramatic and I love that!

What were the main challenges of shooting the film?

Casting young actors is always a challenge.  For the protagonist, Hugh, we looked at a number of 16 year old actors but they couldn’t quite deliver.  I scoured Spotlight for days and days and eventually came across Tom Cawte, who was 21 at the time but very experienced in theatre, and he had these big innocent eyes and I knew he’d make the perfect Hugh!   

It must have been a tricky role to play because he spends much of the film acting on impulses that he can’t explain, but he totally nailed it.  There was a really amazing team behind the film, so apart from the usual filmmaking struggles, it all went remarkably smoothly! 

What have you been up to since graduating?

I’ve been trying to build my commercial reel by working directly with agencies.  I did two social media spots for IKEA with Mother London; one of which was stop-motion animation, my first for five years! And I’ve been developing a couple of dark comedy features and a TV show in the background.  I’d love to get back into music videos too, especially now that I have other irons in the fire.


Ian Robertson


Comeback Kid, short film

Director: Ian Robertson
Writer: Sam Steiner
Producer: Nathan Craig
Cinematographer: Jon Muschamp
Production Designer: Ana Martínez Fernández
Editor: Zsófia Tálas
Sound Recordist: Kirsty Wright
Sound Designer: Michalianna Theofanopoulou
Composer: Hollie Buhagiar
Colourist: David Sheldon
1st Assistant Director: Ewan Stewart
Costume Designer: Sophie O’Neill
Make-up Artist: Coral Todd
Title Sequence: Bijun Zhuge
Title Sequence & Thumbnail Design: Dinamitalight

IKEA, Hooray

Director: Ian Robertson
Producers: Nathan Craig & Adam Rae
Lead Animators: Luke George & Adam Watts
Cinematographer: Jon Muschamp
Editor: Zsofi Talas
Composer: Hollie Buhagiar
Sound Designer: Michalianna Theofanopoulou
Production Designers: Kat Hawker & Jade Mortimer
Production Designers IKEA: Marie Tenglund & Clotilde Passalacqua
Gaffer: Max Halstead
Spark: Luis Santos
Assistant Animators: Justin Smith & Joana Silva
Animation Riggers: Robin Jackson & Tim Warren
Food Stylist: Katy McClelland
Colourist: Dan Moran
VFX: Matt Moyes
Edit Assistant: Mdhamiri Nkemi
Runner: Oskar Brock

ECD: Hermeti Balarin
Creatives: Georgina Brisby & Marcelo Duarte
Head of Mother Studios: Mike Clear
Agency Producer: Kate Congreve
Production Director: Emma Davenport

Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E, Need U (100%)
Lead Actor: Rique
UK production Company: Offkey Creatives
US service Company: Doomsday
Producer: Sarah Tognazzi
Executive Producer: Steve Whiteley
Line Producer: Paul Bock
DOP: Cale Finot
Art Director: Jeremy White
Prosthetics: Hugo Villasenor
Stylist: Bex Crofton Atkins
Editor: Thomas Grove Carter at Trim
Grade: Houman at the Mill
Commissioner: Caroline Clayton

Oliver$ & Jimi Jules, Pushing On
Director: Ian Robertson
Producer – Corin Taylor & Brian Welsh (US)
Executive Producer – Nathan James & Tamsin Glasson (US)
Production Company – Colonel Blimp
DOP – Pablo Berron
1st AD – Travis Knight
Choreographer – Tamara Levison
Art Director & Stylist – Alexis Johnson
Editor – Peter O’Donovan @ Final Cut London
Colourist – Houmam Abdallah @ ETC
Commissioner – Caroline Clayton