Turn on the Light – The Steve Sinnott Foundation film

We’ve had a busy 2013 at The Canyon so far and are getting to meet lots of exciting people at film festivals, around Pinewood Studios and at various productions that we are working on. Al updates us about a recent project that began with a very inspirational person.


Keeping it in the family

When Steve Sinnott, a colleague and dear friend to my Dad, and indeed to our whole family, tragically passed away 5 years ago, those who worked closely with him were driven to start The Steve Sinnott Foundation in 2009, basing their work on the objective to achieve the Millennium Goal of an education for all the world’s children.

This being a modern charity with an emphasis on their online presence, it was inevitable that video would play a part in their work from the start. It was with honour that we at Turtle Canyon Media were able to produce a short piece about the official launch of the charity and we have been honoured recently to work again with this magnificent organisation to create their latest film “Turn on the Light”.

The film was born many years ago by Graham Clayton who had this to say about it’s conception:

We were looking for something that would tell a short story building to an inspirational message of the power of education and knowledge, illustrated by a transition from bleak lonely isolation through a moment of kindness and support to the light of education and innocence. That would be followed by stills illustrating aspects of the Foundation’s work and conclude with a message below the Foundation’s logo ‘Turn on the Light. Teach the world.

“Production was for us trouble free and the end result perfectly realised our objectives. Our ideas were skilfully developed and added to. Working with the Turtle Canyon team was very good humoured, interesting and stress free. Their choice of Sydney Stevenson to play the teacher was ideal. Sydney captured what we wanted perfectly. Her smile as the dark overcast morning, turned to a bright day with the children was exactly the image of liberation through education that we had hoped for. Working with them all was a great pleasure.”


In late 2012 The Steve Sinnott Foundation found itself in the position to commission this work finally with the goal of being able to use this simple and powerful message for some time to come. We were tasked with bringing this film to life effectively on time and on budget. 

The biggest challenge initially was finding a school who were willing to get involved, when we finally did, the deadline for the film’s premiere at the NUT conference had become alarmingly close so we were all very thankful that Headteacher Manjit Bringan of Whitehall Infant School in Uxbridge was so accommodating and flexible in allowing us access to not only the school but her year 1 “Ash” class for the key scene at the end of the film.

Because of the time-constraints now upon us, we decided to alter the traditional production process somewhat. Whilst storyboard artist Victoria Mather worked on the storyboards, based on my shot-list  I composed the music for the finished film and then designed the motion graphics for the end of the film. When both motion graphics and storyboard were ready, I timed these to the music and finalised the score… before we’d shot a single frame. We went a step further, effectively “editing” the film before we’d filmed anything, timing the edit to the individual storyboard frames instead. When the time came to shoot the film, we knew exactly what shots were needed, where and for how long, it’s not often on a project of this size we would have the opportunity to do a complete pre-viz, but out of necessity it worked very well indeed.


We shot the film over 2 short days at the school in Uxbridge. Early on in pre-production I wanted every shot in the film to have a slight sense of movement, gliding toward it’s conclusion, this plan worked very well thanks to a lovely bit of kit from FloatCam. Friend, collaborator and downright awesome actress Sydney Stevenson gladly stepped in to play the role of “Teacher” in the film and despite some initial and uncharacteristic nerves was naturally brilliant with the class of excited 6 year olds that faced her on day one. Syd said of the experience:

Standing in front of an audience or camera is easy compared to a class full of six and seven year olds. I have the utmost respect for teachers who can not only hold their class’s attention but inspire young minds to learn in a creative and imaginative environment.

We even got the opportunity to do a short Q&A session with the class after filming where we addressed such insightful questions from the pupils as “Why did you make us do it over and over again?!”


Once shooting wrapped, we had a mere 3 days to complete all post production on the film, and as it happened, we did it in 2, thanks to the fact that we’d pretty much done all post in the pre-production phase!

We are very proud to have been able to put this film together and hope that it has a profound effect on those who watch it, it’s a simple story, a simple idea but one that carries with it a huge hope for the future of something that should be very important to us all.

Turtle Canyon Media are full-service production company with more than 10 years’ experience in video and film production, working with clients from a wide range of sectors and producing video content for a variety of media including broadcast commercials, music videos, short films, web promotions, communication films, documentaries, viral videos, events and training videos.


The Steve Sinnott Foundation


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