Logline : An unconfident artist must inspire a wide-eyed little girl to see the beauty in her sketch before the bus reaches his stop.
My Responsibilities : + Directing + All Animation + Lighting (80%) + All Compositing + Previs & Layout + Story/Concept + Prop Rigging + Matte Painting
Dear Alice (2018) Dear Alice is a CG animated short film and senior thesis, directed by Matt Cerini and produced at the School of Visual Arts (2018). The film was completed in 8 months time and included a team of 15 artists in production.
Crafting My Story Dear Alice was the first project I have ever Directed and Lead Animation on. I knew it was going to be more challenging than anything I’ve ever worked on before, but I also knew it would be my first great opportunity to tell a story of my own and make the film I wanted. I made sure that the whole way through production to keep the film’s style and story completely true to myself and the kind of films I love. For me, story was absolutely everything. I knew I needed to make the film look, move, and sound good, but story was above all the driving factor for my film.
My ultimate goal was to pull at the heartstrings of anyone watching, to make them shed a tear when Alice felt completely abandoned, or crack a smile when Alice lit up as Anthony nodded for her to give it another try. I spent two whole months crafting the story, the timing/pace, and character arcs, while simultaneously storyboarding and working on the previs and layout to make sure the cameras and composition of each individual shot pushed the emotional arc at each moment.
Art Direction / Building My Team The next big step in production involved the rest of my team and the beginning of my experience as art director. For the next month or two, I went back and forth with my concept artists, modelers, shaders, texture artists and riggers to reach the character design, build and final look I was going for. We also spent a long time on color keys and color design to make sure that all assets and the world our characters lived in felt complementary and worked to push the character arcs and the story further. I spent some time here also helping to create some concept work and modeling background assets.
After modeling and look dev were complete, the rigging phase began. And while our rigging team worked on the characters, I spent this time rigging up the props and environment to accompany them.
Animation / Problem Solving As all of those assets neared completion, it was time I really started digging into the heavy amount of character animation I had on my plate as I continued to animate the film in its entirety. Here is where one of the biggest challenges came in production, as I soon realized while animating that the character rigs had far too many issues to be able to cleanly and successfully animate without noticing weighting problems. I was so worried of what would happen to the animation, but thankfully, with the help of my mentor Thaddaeus Andreades, and my team of riggers, we were able to clean the issues up. It took three months of constant back and forth between the five of us, but eventually we got the rigs to a good enough place that the animation phase could move forward. And although I was over a month behind on the deadline because of these hold ups, I was able to complete all shots and move forward.
A Wild Crash Course Now here is where the next biggest challenge arose. As animation was finally completed, through a hectic few months of team problem solving and revisions, I was left completely distracted from the fact that production was coming to an end and that naively I had still had not found a lighter or compositor to bring onto the film! Nervously, I decided to take initiative and tackle the final hurdle head on. I spent the next, and last, four weeks of production on what I refer to as my ‘crash course on lighting and compositing.’ Thankfully, I had my mentor and two great friends on the team to help expedite the process by teaching me a whole lot about both. One of those friends actually helped as well by taking on 20% of the lighting with me, while I took on the rest. Once I was ready, I raced through the post production and was able to complete the film as I had hoped for it to look and feel in the end. I even found that I actually really enjoy lighting and compositing through the crazy experience, and I hope to work more towards furthering those skills.
As far as the final touches to the film, I also took on all matte painting for the film, as well as tasks such as poster/credits design, teaser trailer/film editing, and co-script writing.
The Most Rewarding Experience In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better team of friends, artists and mentors to work with in creating our film. It was an insanely challenging project, but such a rewarding experience as well. I learned so much more than I ever thought I would within the time frame. I picked up new skill sets that I love and hope to advance in, I was able to animate and direct a film completely on my own, and I was able to tell my story exactly as I hoped it would be. This film means so much to me, and getting to experience this with all of my friends is something I will never forget.