Owl House Studios: An animation studio inspired by Helen Martins

This video was created by Jessica Cope, an animator and animation director. She created a short animated film titled The Owl House as part of her degree. The story is based on her visit to Helen Martins’ Owl House, inspired by the feeling her visit left her. She also started an animation studio named Owl House Studios.

Watch the film here:

The Owl House from Jessica Cope on Vimeo.

More about Jessica

Jessica Cope (33) lives in the United Kingdom where she works as an animator and animation director. “The very first film I made was at University and it was my final degree project called The Owl House. To my surprise I got a 1st for the project and was awarded the Helen Rose Bequest Award!

“This is also where my animation journey began. I mainly work on animated music videos, but before that, I worked on Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’ and ‘Postman Pat’. It seems that I have now caught the interest of a lot of progressive rock artists. My work is considered quite melancholy and dark so I guess this is why I am approached to work on projects that usually have quite sad narratives.”

Although Jessica now lives and works in the UK, she grew up in Johannesburg and lived in South Africa for 14 years before moving. “I absolutely loved living in South Africa and wish I was still there. I currently live in a small town in North Yorkshire, called Harrogate. Ironically it is considered the happiest place in the whole of the UK! It also seems to be the best place to live in my line of work at the moment.”

Visiting the Owl House

Jessica doesn’t recall the exact date of her visit to the Owl House, but she figured it had to be around the age of nine. “We were passing by and my mom had a little book of things to do so my sibling and I don’t get too bored on the long drive to our destination.

“We stopped in Nieu Bethesda and visited the Owl House. I remember the feeling I had as I walked around Helen’s house. It was beautiful, yet very sad and it had a very creepy feeling to it as well.

“I was amazed by the sculptures and the crushed glass painted on the walls. Even at the age of 9 I could tell that this house had a lot of history and was also hiding something very sad. It was not until I was at university, 12 years later, when my dad told me the full story about Helen. My memories of the place then suddenly made sense. I thought it was a very sad tale on how she met her demise and I wanted to portray her story in my degree film.”

The story-line for her short film

The original narrative Jessica wanted to portray was based directly on Miss Helen’s story and she tried to write something that followed her life quite closely. “The more I worked on it, the harder I found it to write. I became very depressed and I kept hitting dead ends with the story. It was very hard to write her demise as well and I started thinking about abandoning the idea completely.”

She changed tack and decided to focus more on the “feeling” that she had gotten from the Owl House and to try and tell her own story about this mysterious lady. “I eventually ended up writing The Owl House, the animation, which covers loneliness, the ageing process and loss. It incorporates the haunting feeling that I felt when I stood inside Helen Martins’ house.”

Her project not only lead to later work and a very good mark, but was also nominated for a Scottish BAFTA, a huge honour for any animator!

Owl House Studios

Jessica has since started her own animation studio and named it Owl House Studios. “Nobody has ever asked why I chose to call the company Owl House, but I quite like that it is a tiny piece of my past growing up in South Africa. I tried all sorts of names for the company, but nothing else seemed to fit!”

Although Jessica has only visited Nieu Bethesda and the Owl House that one time, followed by another when she was working on her university project, she has always wanted to return, but living in the UK has made it difficult to visit again.

“I do hope that I may visit it again sometime to remind myself of the feeling I got as a child that inspired me so much later in life,” she said.

3 thoughts on “Owl House Studios: An animation studio inspired by Helen Martins”

  1. Wonderful!! I love the feeling of loneliness and desperation, the loss and insight into Helen growing old. Well done!

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