September 29th, 2015
Hi Jack! Thanks for taking the time for this Q&A. We wanted to know more about you. Where did you grow up? How did you enter animation?
Thanks so much for letting me speak with you! I grew up in Minneapolis but attended Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in the Los Angeles area (where I made the film). The reason I entered animation is because I realized storytelling is a fickle beast. I had a lot to learn and a lot to prove as a young filmmaker. So I decided to make learn animation (specifically making animation without dialogue or human characters) so I could learn how to tell a story visually.
Wire Cutters is a superb short film & really stood out because of its impeccably imagined details. What was the pre-production process like while making it? Can you take us through how the different aspects, like sound design and music, became part of the process.
The whole process took about a year and a half. Half the time was all preproduction. That was really helpful to make sure my story worked before actually moving into production. After that, it was a fairly monotonous but amazing experience of slowly turning the whole project into animation. I did about 3-4 seconds a day.
Sound and music were an integral part storytelling and something I know little about. I was lucky to recruit an amazing crew. Cody Bursch, my composer, is a friend dating back to high school who's just raw talent. He recorded the whole score on his laptop with just a violin. We wanted something that felt classically western at heart but also has a kind of rough sound. Jackie Zhou!, my sound designer, did a ridiculously good job as well. Lots of the robot noises came from a broken camera lens.
The moment the two robots enter the film, you know exactly who they are just by the way their bodies moves. How did you come up with the character animation? Did you base their movement on any creatures or things you had seen in real life?
For the little robot I mainly followed the mannerisms of my little dog. Dogs can communicate so much with subtle movement. The big robot was more about mimicking clunky machinery. The summer before this project started I was working with a lot of farm equipment. I thought each of the devices had a lot of personality so I used that as reference.
You also wrote the story of the film. How does writing the story for a 3D animation short differ at it’s conception from live action? There are obviously some things one can do that other cannot, but how much does that enter your mind while conceiving of this world.
First, from the beginning I wrote the project based on my technical limitations. I made a movie about robots because robots are easier to animate than humans. And I also wanted to keep my assets minimal. 2 characters and 2 props. That way I'd have the time to do them well.
Next, the film was never actually written down. All storyboards. It went through 3 major revisions. Thousands of drawings. What I liked about that is I knew that if an audience would understand my crappie storyboard drawings then they'd definitely understand a the movie fully animated.
How big was the final crew on the film eventually? How long did the project take from inception to completion?
About a dozen students. They were extremely helpful at making me finish on time. Overall the process was a year and a half.
Wire Cutters has been very popular on the internet, seen it reach many publication and best of lists. What do you think it is that people are responding to?
I was so surprised to see it went viral. I didn't think anyone would watch a 9 minute movie online. I think the reason is because it doesn't have a happy ending. Everyone goes in expecting it to be a Disney film and then it gets dark fast.
What is your opinion about short films in general?
I love them and wish they were more commercially viable. It has been a blast to attend short film programs this year because they always instigate such thought provoking discussions after the screenings. It's so hard to tell a story in just a few minutes though.
Who are your influences? Are there any animators working today whose work you respond to?
I pull from more live action directors like Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Thomas Anderson, and The Coen Brothers.
We can’t wait for your next work! What are the projects you are working on now?
Thanks! This film has led to opportunities I didn't expect. Right now I'm flirting with a bunch of bigger projects in the animation and VFX space. I can't wait to make another film.
Wire Cutters was our film of the week at ShortFilmWidow. You can watch it here.