So a while ago a film critic sent me an email interview about my film which screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF 2009), but it’s been almost a month since and I haven’t heard from him and chances are, that interview won’t be published. But, I figured I own the copyright to my answers to his questions, so I’ll omit the questions, and you can figure out what the question was. I feel it’s a pretty good collection of thoughts about “Her Lion’s Jump” and I had a good time positively reminiscing about my work to someone else… so see it here and then scroll down to learn more about the film:
Her Lion’s Jump” is a film about Sandy, a girl whose mother scolds her due to her failing grades and her fascination with nature, and that affects her very deeply such that she loses confidence in herself completely. But, an unexpected visitor named Fred, a huge talking lion, appears before her window and asks for her help to take him back home. It is through their serendipitous meeting that Sandy learns she is worth more than her mother had thought of her, and it is this lion who helps her take a leap of faith in life, or rather “Her Lion’s Jump.”
Yes, this is my first film at VIFF and I’m incredibly honoured! “Her Lion’s Jump” has screened in many festivals in the US and Canada, and I’ve attended a few, but unfortunately, it pains me to say that I won’t be able to attend VIFF. I am after all, an independent artist working in animation, and I just can’t afford to attend. Sorry Canada! But I do love your country!
Well, it’s ironic that my film is scheduled in a program called “It’s not Anime” when it is because of anime that I think I got into animation in the first place. I’m a huge fan of anime, but more specifically the works of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki from the 1970’s and early 1980’s. There was a certain mood and intent from both a technical and story perspective in the works they did then that greatly influenced me to make a film with those sensibilities; but I didn’t want to simply copy what they did, but rather take what I felt when I watched their works and express it in film.
When I was around 10, my response was philosopher. By 14, I wanted to be a musician. By 18, an animator. Now, as I’m nearing my thirties, I don’t wanna grow up anymore.
This was my thesis film project at the UCLA Animation Workshop graduate program. It took me about 3 years (altogether, but with breaks in between) to produce the film from start to finish, and following the Animation Workshop’s motto of “one person, one film” I wrote, directed, animated, designed, and produced it almost entirely by myself. I had some help with post-production from my lovely fiancée Donna and dear friends who gave me a lot of their time for free to provide some help with sound and voice talent. The score was composed by my brother Marcel and another dear friend Richie Kohan, and performed by themselves and their friends.
Since the mode of production wasn’t particularly complicated, and I had done a film prior to this one with a similar technique, the challenge wasn’t necessarily in how to make it, but rather to make it good. And since I just had myself to refer to in terms of taste or quality, it was very challenging. I’m usually very hard on myself.
The film was done using conventional methods of hand drawn animation with pencil and paper, and computer coloring and compositing software. Mostly off the shelf software, with a few exceptions, and whatever other resources the UCLA Animation Workshop was able to provide me in order to produce the film. It was entirely produced at the Workshop’s studio facilities. As for the style, I really love how old Japanese Animation has a great texture to the drawings; by today’s standards that would be considered just “dirt” but I think it is that texture that makes that animation so alive and unique. So I just used pencil for both animation and clean up, to maintain that texture that hand drawn animation has.
My film has mostly been screened at children’s festivals, and unfortunately the kids are a little too shy to ask questions, so unfortunately I don’t have any that particularly come to mind. Adults however have asked me whether anyone has approached to make a feature version based on this short, to which I replied not yet… but I have thought about it and there is definitely a bigger story to tell with these characters.
As I’ve said before, my greatest inspiration for getting into animation is Japanese Animation. It’s something I grew up watching with as much exposure to, if not more, than Looney Tunes, or Tom & Jerry, so it feels very close to me, even though I didn’t grow up in Japan, but rather in Brazil. As for the follow-up question, like I said before, the works of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki have inspired me greatly to do this film, particularly Panda Kopanda, Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. I never tire of those films.
I think as an artist working in animation, one ends up wearing many hats, and it almost feels like multiple careers in one. But, outside of that, maybe I’d go become a musician, or writer. I think any profession that deals with characters, stories, and emotion would really interest me.
I’d love to work (again) with Shane Acker. He was a great mentor and director to work with while I was a story artist on the feature film “9” and since we both came from the UCLA Animation Workshop, he was very enthusiastic about me making my thesis film. He definitely asked me the right questions when it came to story, and it made my film better, so I am incredibly grateful.
With the way communication is these days, there is definitely a lot more criticism written, and so the landscape is saturated. Conversely, that saturation sometimes favors smaller films or productions because it seems there is always an audience, no matter how small or niche it is, and it becomes vocal and sometimes quite powerful when seen through the internet.
I don’t know… I’m just happy that it’s been playing in theatres, period.
Come for the laughs, stay for the tears?
Perseverance. Believe in your ideas, believe in your art. My old animation teacher Dan McLaughlin was very adamant about students owning their films at the UCLA Animation Workshop, and I really respect him for that. I’m paraphrasing here, but he used to say once we completed our films that “no one can take that away from you.” I think “Her Lion’s Jump” was made very much with that sentiment, that no matter what criticism you get for your ideas, or whatever people may want your ideas to be, there is a place inside that is entirely ours, where our ideas lie, and no one can take them away.
Princess Mononoke. I really love that film, so I’ll try and restrain myself from writing an essay here, but the film contains such powerful characters and ideals and complex social structures expressed in unique and sincere ways, without feeling stereotyped or thin. It also shows a very realistic portrayal of love for others in a very fantastical an unrealistic setting. It portrays flawed human beings with contradictions and morals, living in a world of amoral animals and nature, and trying to cope with that amorality. That expression of life is truly touching and brings me to tears every time I see it. I think Miyazaki still has a lot to say about the world, and I do hope he continues to tell his own stories. He seems to think in very grand terms, so I wonder if he’ll express it in another epic film.