Meet Our Studio Interns!

Internships are tricky, just like any other kind of human relationships. You have to find the right match to make it work. 

Our studio operations are small - we have only 2 up-to-date computers. And I am very busy working on 27565 large and small details that make the film, which makes me regard the idea of having another person in the studio as a distraction. That's why we are selective about who we let in the studio. 

The two interns who started to work at the studio in January 2018 - Joon and Frankelly - came to the studio by chance and by the strength of their interview. Their hard work, confidence and competence, as well as their sense of humor made them an excellent match to our studio. 

This is Joon and Frankelly's last week at the studio. They both are graduating from their schools and the internship and I would like to introduce them to you.

Here's a video with Joon. I ask him a few simple questions. If you are curious how he got the internship and what value he sees in it, here're his answers:

Please check out Joon's work on his website:

Thank you!


PS On Thursday I'll post the video with Frankelly



Studio News from John, Part 5

I'm back with another update on the production of "My Love Affair With Marriage".  Last time I took things really easy, I just re-printed what Signe and Sturgis wrote for their Kickstarter update, called "Anatomy of a Set", which was a great breakdown of everything that goes into making just ONE of the approximately 50 sets that will be built for the 150 scenes that will make up this feature film.  (This is a very rough estimate, right now we're assuming that each set could be used for about three separate scenes, but this is just an estimate, and is likely to change.)  

While I was on vacation, my wife and I spent a couple days in Dallas and on our way out of town, we stopped at the famous Southfork Ranch, which is where they shot the TV soap opera "Dallas" back in the 1980's.  Do you remember the Ewings - J.R., Bobby, Sue Ellen, Jock and Miss Ellie?  From 1978 to 1991 (and again on a recent re-boot) these characters lived in a big house on this ranch outside Dallas - but it turns out that they only filmed the exterior shots there, since they didn't have permission to shoot inside the house.  All of the interior scenes were filmed months later, on a soundstage in Los Angeles.  

We were a little disappointed, I mean, we got to see where the Ewings ate their breakfast on the patio next to the pool, but the other rooms of the house didn't look familiar at all.  I got to thinking about how much of a hassle it must have been to shoot this TV show, and to keep track of what each character was wearing, or how they styled their hair, because if a character was seen outside and inside in the same episode, those two scenes were filmed several months apart, and in two different cities, hundreds of miles from each other.  Plus, it seemed like a very inefficient and expensive way to make a TV show, especially since they had to fly everyone from L.A. to Dallas and back, and then keep track of what everyone was wearing every day, for the sake of continuity.  

What does all this have to do with "My Love Affair With Marriage"?  Well, you might think that the easiest way to make a movie or TV show is to start at the beginning, film the first shot first, and the last shot last, like a staged play. And some productions may do that to make things easier for the actors to have real reactions to things, but in most cases movies film their scenes out of order, to either work around difficult actor or location schedules, or just because it makes more sense logistically.  The mysteries of scheduling are probably different for every project, and nobody wants to waste time, money or materials any more than they have to. 

For "My Love Affair With Marriage", Signe is going to be filming background plates for the animation, and since these are real physical sets, with real (miniature) props, it's going to require an incredible amount of organization to keep track of everything.  What if Sturgis builds that hallway scene and they film the backgrounds for two scenes there, and then after breaking down the set they realize that there were really THREE scenes that needed to use that set?  That's a lot of work to have to re-build sets, again and again.  So once that hallway is built, it just makes sense to shoot all of the scenes that use it, and then the set can be broken down and those materials can be used for another set-up. 

Then each scene is going through a number of different phases which involve drawing and animating the characters, doing line-testing, scanning, coloring, compositing and editing.  I'll try to cover these steps as topics in later posts. 

But the point is that we've got to be very careful about what we're doing, because things could get very confusing very quickly.  To make sure that everyone will know what's been done and what hasn't been done, Signe made this chart:  


For every scene from 001 to 150, thanks to the filled-in colors, everyone can now see the progress, what stage each scene is at in the production process.  And slowly over the next two years we'll watch the chart fill up with color.  When everything is green, then the movie will be finished.  

There are a few more sets that have been built recently, in addition to the classroom set that we posted before on Facebook and Instagram, and the hallway we showed you last time.  Now there is also a train car set:


Currently in front of the camera is a carousel in a park with trees:


And the most recent set under construction is what will become Zelma's apartment:


Hmm, I wonder what she pays in rent for that space.  It looks like it still needs a little bit of work.  But at least she's got hardwood floors, maybe she just needs a little bit more furniture, maybe a painting or two would really brighten up the place. 

Every set needs a few props, it turns out, and we now have three people (Margarita, Fiona and Masha) building them, so let's take a look at a few that have been built in the last couple of weeks.  Some of them are self-explanatory, while others are a lot more mysterious....

In addition to the small carousel horses, we now have this larger black horse: 


And this large cat's head, which looks like it's eating a television set - but that's just an image on some paper.  


Here are some rocks - (whatever you do, don't put them in your pockets...)


And this looks like it might become a bathtub, but you never know...


This person looks like he's got a split personality - 


And here's a big fellow with spiky hair, carrying a suitcase and another bag:  


And here's a rather bleak tree, with no leaves: 


But wait, what are those things around the tree that look like bones?  Ah, that would be a life-sized skeleton kit, which Margarita began assembling on Halloween, coincidentally.


I like to call him "Mr. Bones", after a character in the Star Wars: Aftermath novels, but Signe's been calling him "Good Will", which I think is a reference to the guy from the music studio next door who plays a lot of music very loudly.  Sort of like wishful thinking.  Anyway, Mr. Bones is almost all assembled now, and he looks like this: 


I can only imagine what might happen if someone in the building across the street should happen to look over into Signe's studios, like with a pair of binoculars or something, and see Mr. Bones lying on the table.  What would they think is going on over here?  

But what IS going on here?  Why does an animated film need a real (OK, fake) skeleton on a table?  What does this have to do with marriage?  I've read the screenplay, so I have a few theories but I think most people will have to wait to see where Mr. Bones will appear in the final film.  Stay tooned...

Studio News from John, Part 2

I'm back with part 2 of my look behind the scenes at what goes in to making an independent animated feature.  Last time I talked about getting grant money and running a successful Kickstarter campaign, but what comes after that?  What happens after some production money comes in?  

I think most people might be familiar with the plot of "The Producers", where a Broadway impresario and his nebbishy accountant raise a ton of money to produce a play, then realize they'd be better off in making the worst play ever, and keeping all the money when it fails.  As tempting as that may seem, thankfully the world of filmmaking is not like that.  I imagine that there's more of a responsibility to spend the money wisely, because now that there's a community that has expressed interest in contributing to a film's success, the real-life producers now have a renewed determination to make the best film that they can. 

Some of the Kickstarter rewards packed up and ready for mailing...

Some of the Kickstarter rewards packed up and ready for mailing...

The first few months after the Kickstarter campaign were spent mailing out as many of the rewards as possible.  I've seen other campaigns take months or even a year to start sending out rewards, but Signe wanted to get going on that right away.  So some of the pledge money that came from Kickstarter went to creating the reward items and buying mailing supplies and postage.  Then it was time to focus on production, getting things into a higher gear.  

The "LOVE CARDS" that were part of the Kickstarter Rewards sent to backers.

The "LOVE CARDS" that were part of the Kickstarter Rewards sent to backers.

Most of the money raised on Kickstarter was spent on recording the film's soundtrack, which will be a combination of spoken dialogue and songs.  So there were costs for recording studios, sound engineers, the composer's fee for creating the songs, and then the actors' fees. Some of the cast members were based in Los Angeles, so that meant travel expenses for Signe and Sturgis to supervise the recording of their parts, as well as the costs of a second studio and recording engineer in California.  

Signe Baumane and Sturgis Warner during the West Coast actor recording sessions.

Signe Baumane and Sturgis Warner during the West Coast actor recording sessions.

The production went through the Screen Actors Guild to secure the best possible voice talent for "My Love Affair With Marriage". (I could probably write an entire blog post about dealing with SAG, that should probably be my next topic...) And part of hiring union actors means payroll taxes, contributions to pension funds, workers compensation insurance, and so on.  I'll get into more detail on this next time.

Sound designer Jeffrey Roy during the voice recording session at 3rd St. ADR in Santa Monica.

Sound designer Jeffrey Roy during the voice recording session at 3rd St. ADR in Santa Monica.

18 actors recorded their roles in April 2017 in New York, another 6 were recorded in May in California, and the last two in June and August.  Signe and Sturgis were on hand for the entire sessions, to give the performers direction and the background information about the story to get all of these pieces of dialogue right, and then came the task of assembling all of these pieces into a soundtrack, much like a giant jigsaw puzzle. 

It took several weeks of working with editor Arjun Sheth to select the best takes and put them together with the temporary versions of the songs composed by Kristian Sensini (who also created music for "Rocks in My Pockets") but as a result, it seems that the film's English soundtrack is nearly complete. (A Latvian version will come later...)  

Editor Arjun Sheth putting the best dialogue takes together at Final Frame.

Editor Arjun Sheth putting the best dialogue takes together at Final Frame.

It's a little strange to think that right now, you could listen to the whole film of "My Love Affair With Marriage", and not see anything.  Film is a visual medium first, but the sound also plays an important role, and I guess you've got to start somewhere, right?.  Now the arduous task of creating images to go with all of these sounds can begin, but that's a good thing to talk about next time.