Thursday, 23 June 2016

The making of 'Falling in Love'

A short preview clip from 'Falling in Love'

'Falling in Love' is a 2016 animated black comedy short film directed by Giacomo 'Jack' Ghigo and produced by me at Falmouth University. The film took around 8 months to complete (excluding the time Jack spent himself developing his initial idea) and had a crew of 20 students.

Initial schedule
The film was greenlit for production in September 2015 after Jack pitched his idea at the Poly theatre in Falmouth to an audience of animation students and an industry panel. At this stage Jack had a rough outline of the story, character concepts and early draft of the animatic. With the deadline for completion set for May 2016 my initial production schedule was as follows:

This chart relied heavily on loose estimates as I did not yet know how long certain processes would take and how exactly the pipeline would run but it was a helpful starting point. Items such as the script revision and animatic were particularly uncertain as these could potentially require many revisions before the director and lecturers were happy. I was willing to be very flexible with the pre-production stages as long as production could be started a week or two before the Christmas break. The course required that each student film had completed a 'vertical slice' or test shot to show at the pre-Christmas course screening.

Thanks to Jack's hard work on the script and animatic we were ready to move into production a few weeks before Christmas. He was also hard at work creating character turnarounds for the animators to reference. Of course the script and animatic would require further alterations throughout the project but we were confident that these could be worked into production with minimal disruption.

Shot breakdown & costing
Next up for me as a producer was to create a shot breakdown from the animatic.

In total there were over 90 shots in the animatic. You can see on this chart that the crew began to grade the difficulty of each shot to animate. I used this information to put together a costing for the project.

I put this chart together by breaking down the stages of production required (i.e. keyframing, inbetweening, colouring etc) and estimating how long each stage would require. I then calculated how many crew hours we had (most crew were only available one or two days a week) and whether the amount of crew hours covered the amount of hours required. Initially Jack had been confident that him and 2 or 3 other students could work extra hard to complete the film but this 'costing' proved otherwise and prompted us to enlist more 2nd and 1st year students to our crew.

Tracking form
The final chart to create before production started was the tracking form. 

(All green now that production is finished). I updated this chart regularly throughout production to show what was assigned, completed or approved and also if any shots had problems. 

You can see from this chart that many of the shots had multiple stages to go through before being completed - some such as backgrounds could be done out of order but mostly the shots went through the following stages in order: layout > keyframes > clean up on keys > inbetweens > final clean up > colouring > shadowing > vfx. 

Different crew members handled different stages - for example, James White and Leigh Juggins keyframed many of the shots, whilst Jack cleaned up the majority and Dan Bowhay concentrated on colouring. Chris Lewin and Rob Owen did all of the VFX for the film. 
My job as producer was to assign shots and to keep the pipeline running smoothly so that no bottlenecks appeared and that shots were passed correctly between crew members. 

Vertical slice

The vertical slice was a test shot taken from the middle of the film that could be used to check how the pipeline worked which was essential for me to create a more accurate schedule, tracking form and costing. 

Communicating with crew
Crucial to this project were the weekly crew meetings in the animation studio. These meetings helped me to keep track of process and provided a weekly milestone. Jack could provide feedback and see work in progresses. For a more complex project I can see the benefits of having a crew meeting every day. 
We also used Facebook and Google Drive as tools for assigning shots, giving feedback and staying in contact. Partway through the year we received an induction to Shotgun production software which I would try to use next time as it seemed very effective. In general our crew were very reliable and hardworking, often working in the animation studio everyday whereby it was easy to stay in constant contact with them. 
Sound and music
From the beginning Jack was keen to have a strong soundtrack to the film as he felt this had been a failing in previous student animations from Falmouth. Initially he wanted to try recording sounds himself but after meeting a sound design student at Falmouth University - Freddy Houghton-Connell - we realised that it would be much better to make use of his expertise. Freddy was incredibly professional and we arranged multiple briefing and feedback sessions in order to get a great soundtrack. 
Jack managed to enlist a musician from outside the university - Ashleigh Blackledge - who also did an amazing job composing and recording music for the film.

Deadlines and pressure
One of the most effective strategies I found as a producer was to create 'false deadlines' whereby I gave a deadline to crew that was slightly before the real deadline. I also kept the pressure on throughout the project - even when things were going ahead of schedule just in case any unexpected problems arose that would require more time. 
These strategies really worked, so much so that Falling in Love was finished on schedule with spare time to improve shots that Jack wasn't quite happy with and also gave our editor Sophie Rippington ample time to work on the final edit. 

Of course, non of this would have been possible without the hardwork and dedication of the crew, huge thanks to everyone who helped create this film:

- James White
- Leigh Juggins
- Giacomo Ghigo
- Sophie Rippington
- Sam Humphreys
- Luke O'Sullivan
- Thomas Poole
- Robin Neylan-Francis
- Lucie Zix

- Dan Bowhay
- James White
- Leigh Juggins

Shadow Artists
- Emi Morgan
- Katie Wyman
- Giacomo Ghigo
- Prawta Annez
- Sophie Rippington
- James White
- Leigh Juggins

Clean up
- Giacomo Ghigo
- James White
- Leigh Juggins
- Krissy Ewins
- Anni Kaikkonen

Background artists:
- Giacomo Ghigo
- Megan Ryder

- Rob Owen
- Chris Lewin

- Ashleigh Blackledge

Sound Designer
- Freddy Houghton-Connell

- Sophie Rippington

Production Assistant
- Midnight Sparkle

- Leonie Isaacs

- Giacomo Ghigo

The next stage for Falling in Love is the animation and film festival circuit. For this reason we cannot upload the full film online for some time. I've submitted the film to many animation festivals already with the hope that it will be screened to worldwide audiences. I will keep this blog updated with any festival news in this regard! 

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