Earlier this year Sam Taylor & Bjorn-Erik Aschim, in association with The Line, brought us the unique and eerie film, "Everything I Can See From Here", which easily became one of my favorite short films of 2013. Here Sam has answered some of my questions about independent film-making, animation, and design. Enjoy!
How did this project initially come together? Was it always your intention to work on a film together or did one of you approach the other with an idea and go from there?
Bjorn and I lived together at college and spent a lot of our time developing ideas for projects, but before we had a chance to get anything made we both got a job on the film, The Illusionist, which was being made by Sylvain Chomet in Edinburgh. A few years later, we sat down to discuss how were going to go about making a film finally. I had a kernel of an idea and the drawing of the alien. Bjorn disappeared and came back with some stunning concept images, and it all started coming together. We storyboarded it completely collaboratively.
The Alien creature is great! What influenced the alien's design?
The mask is very similar to a Balinese puppet mask I saw in The British Museum. Other than that it just came out of aimless doodling.
This film took around 2 years to complete - spread out over evenings and weekends - was it a struggle to find the time and energy to work on it? What kept you motivated and from losing your initial vision?
We'd never made anything of our own before this. I think we both felt we needed to do something creative like this, at least once and see it through. I'm personally quite a stubborn person, so I knew there was no chance I was gonna stop. There were definitely points where I think we wondered what the hell we were making and why, to some extent I still feel like that. But we've known each other for a long time and we've spent years talking about the kind of things we like in animation and the kind of things we want to make, so that was always a touchstone.
You made a very deliberate decision in choosing to produce the film in a vertical format. What made you decide to work this way?
It was back when Bjorn was doing concept paintings and all the best ones were portrait rather than landscape. We figured out that it was due to the fact that a lot of the action takes place along the vertical axis, so we went back and redid the animatic with the new format. I'm really happy with it. People are watching films on all kinds of different devices and screen sizes these days. Games and app developers don't feel constricted by canvas sizes in the same way that animators and filmmakers do, and this is just because they are a newer field with fewer established conventions.
Can you briefly mention which software was used to create this film? Was any part of the production done without the aid of technology?
We did some of the initial sketches and storyboards on paper, but the rest was all done digitally. We had so many people involved in different places, that it would have been logistically complicated to do it any other way. We discussed using paper for about a minute, then decided to use Flash. The backgrounds were down using Photoshop and Painter. Comping was done in After Effects. 3d was Maya.
What's been the most enjoyable part of making this film? Did you learn anything valuable about yourself or the process from the experience?
I've learned a few things about working with large versus small teams. We had a huge amount of very talented people working on our film, and we were incredibly lucky that they offered their help for free, but managing such a big team was very time-consuming. Its not a simple mathematical calculation of more manpower = quicker turnarounds. Quite the opposite. Anyone working consistently in the same room with us were at least twice as productive as the diaspora of animators and cleanup artists desperately squeezing in a few drawing here and there in their spare time between work and life. I think we'd keep the team much smaller next time. And hopefully try to pay people.
Thankfully the internet and social media make it easier to garner an audience and raise money for independent animation. Unfortunately, though, the online fundraising aspect is still a remotely new concept for many people and kind of hit-and-miss for filmmakers looking to earn money. What has your experience with online funding been like and do you have any plans to distribute the film in a way that can earn more money? (For example: pay-per-download or DVD sales?)
I think the Kickstarter model is a very good one. Finding your audience, and doing your marketing before the film has even been made is a very interesting concept to me. Its particularly well suited to geeky things like animation. I have funded a few kick-starters, and I feel so excited to be a part of it each time, I'm always going back to check if they've met their goals yet. It only really applies to people who already have a following though. It would have been impossible for us to try and launch a Kickstarter before making this film , but we are seriously considering looking into it on the next project.
I had a lot of fun watching your film but was also a little unsettled by it. Was there anything, an emotion, a concept, or otherwise, that you wanted the audience to take away from the film? (ex: All dogs should wear cute shirts?)
If we had a message I'm not sure what it is. The film is about loneliness, awkwardness, miscommunication, and trying to make new friends. We also talked a lot early on about that kind of sinking feeling you get when you're playing a game and then someone gets hurt, or starts crying, and all of a sudden, very abruptly, things become serious.
Do you have any advice for young filmmakers looking to create their first films?
I don't feel in any way qualified to give out advice after having made one seven minute film, but the one thing I can say finally enabled us to get anything done was the point at which we stopped waiting for an opportunity to come along, and just got on with it ourselves. As an animator you no longer have to wait for any funding body of institution to sanction anything. The resources are there if you can find the time.
Will people be able to catch your film at any festivals in the near future?
Yes. We have submitted to a bunch, and have been accepted to a few. We put the film up online as soon as it was done though, so we're still waiting to hear back from lot of places.
What's next for you? Do you plan on making more films or is something else in store?
We are making a very short piece that we plan to release in mid-June. We are also working on this Kickstarter idea, and a bunch of other things. Plus trying to make some money.
Everything I Can See From Here can be viewed HERE—Don't forget to donate to the Tip Jar!
Follow Sam on Twitter: @samtaylor_anima
Follow Sam's Blog: samtayloranimation.blogspot.ca