It all began with choosing groups, which can be an awkward and upsetting task when clichés and friend groups are created. I am good friends with Niamh Cunningham, and had also done my year’s placement with her at Lamb Films. We had discussed for months that we would like to work together when we got back to University if possible, and that possibility had arrived.
Tyrone Owen’s and I get along really well, and I think he is a super talented character artist and animator, I had worked with him back in first year and we knew we got along, so when he said he would like to be part of the group I was thrilled.
Julie Kane and Blaine Fox, like myself are very timid and will never thrust themselves into a situation, however I had worked with them both before in second year and they both wanted to be part of the group, so that was it, we became a group of five. Myself, Niamh, Tyrone, Julie and Blaine and we called ourselves…V for Piñata.
Creating the Story
Next was creating a story, the only ‘rule’ or guideline we were given was that it must be entered into a festival/competition and so we began researching all the different animation festivals and competitions currently running, after spending a full day doing this we realised we should just keep it simple and apply to one that is actually local, we chose ‘Dingle Film Festival’ in County Kerry, Ireland.
Since we chose a local competition, we immediately thought it might be wise to create a film with an ‘Irish/Celtic’ feel. After researching deeply into Irish mythology and all the stories that come with it we settled on focusing on ‘The Land of Youth’ or as its better known ‘Tir Na NOg’. We spent 2-3 weeks developing this story and storyboards, and I think we all personally liked it.
However, creating this film would mean we would need at least 4 characters and a few animals. Not only this but after presenting we realised that unless you are from Ireland, the chances of you even knowing the story to begin with are slim, therefore it may be a confusing film and audiences would have difficulty following the story.
After this realisation, we decided that we wanted to go with a more modern approach, but keeping an Irish connection in it somehow. Finally, we came to the idea of Irish Immigrants in America. I had been doodling and drew a little house, Tyrone mentioned how it looked like a typical American house and it would it would look lovely with a porch, then he happened to mention that he had been looking into when Irish immigrants moved to America back in the 1800’s and how roughly 10.5% of Americas population claim to be of Irish descent. That was when it clicked. We decided our story would take place on the porch of a little house somewhere in America, and that it would focus on a family that included someone of Irish descent. After a solid few days of story boarding and discussions we landed on our idea.
The story would be set through the eyes of a child and his grandfather. They would be sitting on the porch whilst we can hear the little boy’s parents argue due to the father having to go away for work. Since the grandfather can clearly see that the boy is upset, he decides, in his beautiful Irish tone and accent to read the boy a children’s book that has morals and lessons that tie in with what he is currently going through.
A large section of the film will be seen through the illustrations of the storybook whilst the grandfather narrates it.
Getting to work
Once we finally had the idea storyboarded and an animatic created, we got to work, I spent my time painting and drawing house and environment concepts, whilst Tyrone and Julie focused on character design and concepts. After a few weeks and all concepts were finalised we got into the hard work, I focused on the house and modelled it based off of my own designs which I really enjoyed doing, as I could make sure it looked exactly like I had envisioned. Once happy I continued working on the house and UV unwrapped and textured it.
Tyrone modelled the grandfather character and some assets and Blaine modelled the Child and parents. Julie modelled a few cars and assets whilst Niamh continued doing research, and set up time management plans.
Once all assets and car were modelled they were sent to me to UV Unwrap and texture, as I seemed to be best suited for this task. Tyrone and Blaine textured their own characters, Blaine also rigged all of the characters as he the most skilled rigger in the group, and we wanted it done quickly rather than wasting time and producing rigs that were of bad quality.
Tyrone struggled and asked for my help on UV Unwrapping. Once I sent him a short video showing how I do it, he managed to fly through it himself. I was very proud of him for sticking at it and learning, as I know how frustrating it can be when you aren’t quite sure what you are doing or how to fix a problem.
Once I had the house and assets fully completed, Niamh brought them into the scene and assembled them to create the set how we had pictured. We were then ready to animate.
Working as a team
Team work is a major part of the Animation Industry and our course, and this project was no different. Since I had worked with every person in the group before, I felt at home quite quickly. I knew each person’s skill set, and their personality traits so it made it easier to get to work quickly knowing how to approach each person.
I feel that Niamh tried hard to make sure everybody was doing something that they enjoyed and had a task at all times. She also tried hard with time management, but I feel that as time went by, and we encountered problems the schedule wasn’t kept too as was originally planned.
95% of the time I feel we all worked very well as a group, helping each other when we encountered problems and even learning new skills from one another.
There were no fall outs between the group, only what I can describe as creative disagreements and patience wearing thin from time to time. Overall I think the group worked well together, everyone pulled their weight and produced work, and together we successfully created the film we set out to make.
What went well
What went well in this project, was most things to be honest. We worked well as a team and a great amount of work was produced by all of us. The characters looked appealing, the book was produced both physically and digitally, and we met the deadline successfully.
What went badly
We worked well as a team but I feel our biggest hurdle was in the first few weeks when we just couldn’t get our story right. Creating a good story was our biggest struggle. We knew from the beginning that if you don’t have a good story, the prettiest pictures in the world isn’t going to save a film, so we wanted to think of something good.
We also realised that sometimes if you are in the middle of a project and don’t take a step back or have an outsider’s opinion, you can get confused with what is actually good and what isn’t. We learnt this the hard way, as presentation after presentation it just wasn’t reading with the audience or hitting the mark.
It took completely rethinking and creating a story so far away from the original, before we finally felt we were on the right track.
It took us quite a while to decide to show the ‘fairy story’ side of the film in a children’s book, and in the beginning this wasn’t quite right either. It wasn’t until I teamed up with Julie and we worked together on this, that it finally started to look professional, like would be seen in a real film.
To conclude, I would just like to say that I really enjoyed working on this project, despite taking ill and not being in the University quite as much as I would have liked, I still worked and enjoyed working and communicating with the group.
I got along well with everybody in the group and would have no problem working with any of them again as they all have different talents and skills that are a great asset within any team.
What I have taken away from this project mainly, is to get the story down as soon as possible. Without a good story set in stone, its hard to move on with any other work. Good team communication is key and to have respect for one another even when you on each others nerves, or someone hasn’t been able to produce the work desired, due to skills, illness or for whatever other reason.