Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Self-Interview: "Hick!", My Day Job

I don't currently earn an income. I haven't for ages now. I'm lucky enough to have a primary breadwinner in my household so I can concentrate on raising Sera, taking care of our home and pursing my hobbies and interests.

I do however have a self-imposed day job and have been working for the same company now on the same project for coming on 4 years. I have no boss, which most people would like, but I don't earn anything either, which most people wouldn't find as nice.  I'm at my computer for several hours a day working working working.

The project is called Hick! and it's an animated 3D short film.  It's an on line collaboration with artists from all over the world and me at the helm. What I get out of it is much needed help in the creation of the works, what they get is feedback, exposure and work under a director. Everyone is a volunteer and adds what they can for as long as they can and then moves on. What follows is an interview with the part of my person that is the artist, filmmaker, director and producer of the project:

Q. Back in 2009, why did you first decide to create an animated short film?
A. In the summer of 2009 I had just finished Animation Mentor, an online intensive character animation school based in San Francisco and was trying to figure out what to do next. I'd been interviewing for animation jobs here in Milan with little success. The 3D market here doesn't call for specialisation of that kind and instead hires 3D generalists, which isn't what I wanted to do with my life. I went to Annecy, France for their annual animation festival that June and realised tat although here in Europe there weren't the huge studios like Disney or Pixar, I could still be an animator on a smaller scale and on my own terms. I was inspired!  My brain started churning for an idea for a short.

Q. Where did the idea eventually come from?
A. In all honesty, I don't know! I was in an airport in transit back to Montreal for the summer and suddenly the whole film came to me in a flash. I had a half hour and wrote it out right there in the departures lounge. It's changed very little since.

Q. Did you always plan to invite other artists to collaborate?
A. It's a huge undertaking to create an animated short film.  At first I planned to do it all by myself but the script wasn't really conducive to that. The film has 13 characters in it which means 13 times the development resources were needed. Also, right from the start I was pretty specific about how I wanted it to look, and I'm neither a character designer nor a rendering specialist. I knew I would definitely need help sooner or later.

Q. And how did you find that help?
A. Online! The Internet is a marvellous thing! Soon after I started production I started to look for my character voices. I found them on Voice123 which is this amazing site to find voice over artists looking to expand their portfolios. Then I found my character designer, Lorenzo Milito, on facebook through friends of friends. He was brilliant in bringing the characters to life.  After that I stumbled upon Devils, Angels & Dating which is a similar online contributer's film and its director Michael Cawood gave me some tips on how to get started... including how to use Dropbox for file sharing and Ning for network communications with all the project members.  Help can be found in loads of forums as well. It's important for me to keep up on the recruitment side of the project as well as the production side to keep everything running smoothly.  Today the project boasts 252 members, though not all are active.

Q.What stage are you at now?
A. It's an exciting phase for the project as we're finishing up the 2nd round of character rigging, getting through the texturing phase and finishing all the scene layouts. It's hard to put dates or time-scales on the project as it's all volunteer based. I don't feel right giving strict deadlines, but so far it seems to be working out ok.

Q. Have you ever been discouraged?
A. Almost every day! I find the hardest part of this project not being the actual work but the motivation. It's hard to wake up and put yourself in front of the computer every day when there's no one to check what you're up to and there's no check in the mail! There are only 2 factors keeping Hick! alive. One is that I feel I have a moral obligation to all the artists that have worked with me and dedicated so much of their precious time and the second is that I believe in the content of the short. I have become friends with the characters, as wacky as they are, and without my constant trucking on, they won't ever really come to life.

Q. What will happen to Hick! when it's finished?
A. I'm hoping to submit Hick! to animation festivals such as Annecy.  Maybe we'll win a prize or two. In my dreams, having worked on this film will lead me to writing and producing others. Maybe Hick! could be picked up as a series.... who knows?

More on Hick! and my journey as a film-maker to come. Stay tuned!


  1. sounds awesome! good luck with your film! now following! :)
    please visit!

    1. Thanks Juliet,
      I need all the luck I can get! Your blog is wonderful!