The Channel 4/Netflix co-production began its six-episode run on the UK channel in early April.
Executive producer Melanie Stokes explained why she was so moved by Lottie Moggach’s debut novel and its depiction of the isolation of teenage life. The joint MD of Kindle Entertainment felt there was only one writer to do the project justice.
Balloon Entertainment co-founder Bryan Elsley is best known for his work on E4 teen drama Skins. Stokes pitched the book to him at a TV festival in Galway, and both shared an enthusiasm for the assured young adult tone of Moggach’s powerful tale of a strong young woman’s friendship and courage.
It was Elsley’s idea to translate the book’s chat room activity to avatars in a virtual reality. To achieve this, the production team had to create and then integrate a VR gaming experience into the narrative of a television series, which is when Axis Animation became a key player in the development of Kiss Me First.
Axis is based in Glasgow’s Skypark and has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2000. The workforce numbers almost 200 and it works with some of the biggest names in gaming and TV. Co-founder and CEO Richard Scott explained how animation director Kan Muftic responded to the challenge and created the virtual reality where much of the story unfolds.
The panel discussed how different the development was from the normal drama process. The actors first worked together in a VR studio and their movements were mapped to the 3D world being created by the Axis team. With no traditional crew, costumes or set, it was a strangely intimate and emotional experience.
Bryan Elsley described the process: “One of the most rewarding things about motion capture is that it’s like working in the theatre. You’re in a room and the cameras are nowhere and everywhere. It’s immediate in a way we’re not used to in film and television.”
Kiss Me First’s two exec producers, Stokes and Elsley, explained that Axis had all the skills it required in Glasgow, adding that being able to have conversations in the same time zone was hugely important during a successful production process.
Audience questions prompted responses on the complexity of the production and discussion of the concept of the “uncanny valley”, which meant character animators had to be careful not to make their creations too lifelike or risk the audience rejecting them.