Logline : A young orphan is guided on a journey through China by a panda guardian, so that she can be united with her parents to be.
My Responsibilities : + Lead Animation (70%) + Animation Supervisor + Previs & Layout + Lead Matte Painter
Yuanfen (2018) Yuanfen is a CG animated short film and senior thesis, directed by Amanda Sparso and produced at the School of Visual Arts (2018). The film was completed in 8 months time and included a team of 30 artists in production.
Leading the Animation Team My primary responsibilities on the film included being Lead Animator as well as Animation Supervisor, working to push and support the other fourteen animators we had on the project, while also leading the animation effort as a whole. Initially, being asked by Amanda to lead and supervise her film and the other animators at the same time seemed like an impossible and daunting task. I had never supervised before, however it was an opportunity I was excited to be given. One of the biggest challenges I found was working on my own shots while simultaneously helping/maintaining the work of the other artists. I was constantly messaging the other teammates, scheduling days to meet in person and review their work, giving feedback and steering them in the right direction for the emotional drive of each individual shot, all while working on my own shots and having so many other responsibilities at the same time. The second most challenging task was working constantly to keep consistency between every shot in the film, making sure there was no visual break or strange change between each artist's shot that would inevitably take the viewer out of the emotion of the film.
Ultimately, although I was challenged and put under incredible pressure, it was an amazing new experience for me to learn from. Being thrown into it made the process of testing and learning as quickly as possible, actually become an extremely enjoyable and rewarding process. I learned so much about being a leader, knowing how to help each person on a team as an individual, and helping others to work well together and build off of everyone around them. It taught me a lot about communication and teamwork, and it was amazing getting to work with so many awesome artists and animators, and bounce off each other's ideas to create the best shots we could, as a team.
Telling Her Story Before the real animation phase began, however, what came first was building the driving story line and laying out the previs/cameras. This was such a fun process to be a part of, as Amanda was telling a real and personal story and it was an amazing experience to be her second in command and aid her in crafting the beautiful story and succession of scenes we see in the final film. Along the way, we found that cameras and compositions/framing were a key in the story as well, so I worked to make sure the cameras kept the film alive when it needed to soar, and quiet when the emotion needed space to speak on its own.
Taking on Unexpected Roles I also had the opportunity to take on the role of lead matte painter. In this instance, I was never originally planned to be a matte painter on the production, however, when the time came for the paintings to be done I could see there were issues in getting across the right look, style, and artists to produce the paintings. While still working toward finishing the animation, I decided to put in additional efforts to help in driving home the matte painting role of the film. I took over as lead, helped bring the current matte paintings together to a consistent style, and finished producing the majority of the film's paintings to the style we felt told the story best. I especially wanted to keep the color story interesting between each scene's paintings to aid in the story's arc. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work on a few other tasks for the production, including film poster/film credits designer as well as teaser trailer editor.
A Memorable Collaboration One of the most rewarding things about getting to work on this film, however, was being able to work with a look development artist and working with/depending on each other to make the film the way she envisioned. From the beginning of production on this film, I worked extremely closely with the director, which gave me the amazing opportunity to give feedback and critique on all aspects of the pipeline. It was an incredible experience getting to work so closely with the director and so heavily on her project that my thoughts and opinions were valued and implemented enough to make a very large impact on the direction of the film.