This month, we interviewed Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding, founders of Lupus Films. To celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary, we spoke about where it all began, what makes Lupus Films special and what the future holds for the team.
Sandwiched between a betting shop and a dry cleaner on London’s bustling Upper Street stands a red front door. Enter through it and climb up some narrow stairs and you come to a place where magic happens. For this unassuming entrance leads to the headquarters of Lupus Films, producers of some of the most memorable and enchanting animated creations of the last 20 years. From much loved TV specials such as The Snowman and the Snowdog,We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Tiger Who Came to Tea to beautifully hand-crafted feature films such as Ethel & Ernest and Kensuke’s Kingdom, Lupus’s exquisite films and series have enchanted viewers and critics in living rooms, cinemas and festivals around the globe.
Lupus Films was formed by Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding in 2002 and has since grown to become one of the UK’s leading film and television production companies. Best known for high-quality family entertainment, Lupus Films works regularly with the finest talent including world famous authors, actors, directors, animators and composers. Lupus Films has developed an international reputation for beautifully crafted film adaptations of classic works of literature which have been seen in cinemas and on major broadcasters and SVOD channels worldwide.
So how did all start? Camilla Deakin explains:
“Ruth and I first worked together at Channel 4 in the arts and animation department. We always got on so well and had similar tastes so it made sense to set up a company together. When we first started working together, we realised we went to the same school (Pimlico School on Lupus Street in London) so we had a lot in common. Our first production was called Little Wolf’s Book of Badness and the word for ‘wolf’ in Latin is ‘lupus’ – so Lupus Films felt like an appropriate name.”
“We have six full-time staff as well as a few regular part-time staff, plus the two of us. When we are in production, we also engage freelancers which increases the numbers considerably. I think we are currently employing around 60 people across two productions.”
What makes working for Lupus Films so special?
“We love the people who work in animation and the amazing creativity that we witness every day,” says Ruth Fielding. “When you are working on a big animation project you really feel like you are part of a big family, especially as there are lots of people we like to work with regularly who have been part of the extended Lupus Films family for many years. Despite all the responsibilities of running a studio and the stresses of production, we can honestly say that we have never regretted setting up our own company for a single moment. We still enjoy each other’s company and always try to remember to have fun and we hope this rubs off on the people who work with us.”
In 2013 Lupus Films received a prestigious Vision Award from the British Film Institute to develop a slate of feature films. The company’s first film produced with the support of the BFI, Ethel & Ernest, had its premiere at the London Film Festival in October 2016, followed by a UK-wide cinema release, its US premiere at the 2016 Palm Springs Film Festival, and a transmission on the BBC to great critical and public acclaim.
Lupus Films is also renowned for its half-hour animated TV specials, a number of which have been among the UK’s most highly watched shows. In 2012 The Snowman and The Snowdog was seen by 11 million viewers when first broadcast on Channel 4 at Christmas, whilst in 2016 We’re Going on a Bear Hunt attracted 8 million viewers and was the highest rated show on Channel 4 for four years (since the broadcast of The Snowman and The Snowdog). For Christmas 2019 Lupus Films released a hotly-anticipated adaptation of the best-selling children’s book The Tiger Who Came to Tea which was the second highest rating programme of any genre on Channel 4 all year and went on to win an International Emmy ® Kids Award.
In 2017 Lupus Films was a recipient of Creative Europe slate development funding which has led to their current slate of productions:
“We are currently in production with a feature film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel Kensuke’s Kingdom which is looking fantastic and is due to premiere in 2023,” says Camilla. “We are also in production with a new animated pre-school series for a major streamer and in addition we have a number of feature films, TV specials and series in development with various partners, including an animated feature film about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, Las Dos Fridas, directed by Paloma Baeza; an adaptation of the best-selling Molesworth books written by Geoffrey Willans and illustrated by Ronald Searle, directed by Uli Meyer; and another about the life of Parisian icon and Man Ray’s muse, Kiki, written and directed by Peter Dodd. We are also working on a new Halloween special with co-producers Dream Logic, called The Ghastly Ghoul, which is directed by Kealan O’Rourke. Despite the challenges of the last two years, we can honestly say we have never been busier!”
This Christmas, Lupus branched into live action with their festive movie A Christmas Number One for Sky Cinema. Does this mean they’re doing less animation?
“We will never stop doing animation as it is our first love, and we are busier than ever developing new animated projects,” explains Ruth. “The live-action Christmas movie came about because we were working with producer Robert Chandler on some development projects and he happened to show us an idea he’d come up with and we loved it, so we offered to option it and develop the script together. It was a really heart-warming story in the best tradition of British rom-coms and ultimately, we are in the business of telling stories and entertaining people so it’s not so different developing a live-action film to an animated one. The main difference is the schedule – apart from the scripting, the whole production of our live-action movie took place from start to finish within six months which was a very strange feeling!”
What challenges does Lupus face in the coming months?
“I think the biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is that the boom in production has led to a lack of good available crew,” says Ruth. “There is a lot of competition for good animators at the top of their game. In addition, the double whammy of Brexit and the pandemic led to a lot of animators leaving the UK, which means we can’t use them if we are relying on the UK tax credit as part of our financing. But we are investing time and money into new training initiatives to make sure there is plenty of new talent coming into the industry who have the skills to work in a professional environment on long-form productions.”
What have been some of Lupus’s highlights over the last 20 years?
“Making TV Special The Snowman and The Snowdog and feature film Ethel & Ernest with author Raymond Briggs was an amazing experience,” says Camilla. “He is so incredibly talented and such a wonderful person to collaborate with. Visits down to his crowded studio in Sussex are always a treat. I will always cherish meeting Sir Paul McCartney and finding out that he was going to write an original song for our film Ethel & Ernest. He was extremely generous with his time and even phoned me a few times for a chat!”
Ruth Adds: “Well talking of pop stars, working with Robbie Williams, Don Black and David Arnold on the song for The Tiger Who Came to Tea was a massive treat for me and I think winning an International Emmy for the same film must be my all-time career high. However, when I look back over the last 20 years, I think Camilla and I have had most fun at some of the European pitching forums like Cartoon Forum with all our friends and work-family in the industry, doing what we do best, pitching and putting together finance for great shows and having a lot of fun whilst doing that.”
So, what’s in store for lovers of Lupus Films’ productions over the next 20 years?
“We will never lose our passion for telling well-told stories through beautifully crafted animation,” says Camilla. “We will continue to search for classic and timeless projects that we can craft into films that will stand the test of time and that people will want to watch over and over again.”
Ruth adds: “I’m looking forward to growing the Lupus Films family and working with many more talented directors, producers, writers, artists and animators and making timeless content that can entertain both us and our audiences.”