Nearly everyone working in visual effects and post production wants to be a director and make their own film, but its about finding your niche and the right time to do it.
In my case the time was now, and my niche was to put a spin on the typical films featuring cats and dogs. Instead of the typical cute and funny direction often associated with cats and dogs, I put them in an action packed, political war drama with a visceral high concept direction which has been described by press reviews as “Animal Farm Meets Platoon.”
I am currently working as a Freelance Visual Effects Supervisor on several high profile broadcast shows and Feature Films, while in the Promotion and Marketing phase of my short film Fubar Redux – an epic motion comic film about a political war set in an alternate reality with cats and dogs.
I have always wanted to work in film since the age of 12 when my dad put on a VHS copy of the film Bladerunner. I remember being totally blown away by it. I would make small mini models of cityscapes out of paper Mache and with a cylinder fixed to my eye move it around to act like a camera.
Over the years I have worked with some amazing people from artists, vfx supervisors to creative directors and producers at various visual effects facilities and studios worldwide.
So when it came to me venturing into directing and creating my first short film I knew it had to be visual effects driven.
I am heavily into 2.5D compositing; this is basically cheating 3D in a compositing environment as apposed to going into actual 3D CG cameras. I was one of the earlier users of The Foundry’s Nuke, so I had a good relationship with them as I was often demo’ing the tool for them in productions I was involved with.
So I approached The Foundry with an idea for creating a short film entirely inside of their powerful compositing tool Nuke and emphasizing on the 3D space inside a compositing tool. I did some presentation boards and tests, and presented this to them in late 2009.
I immediately received support from Matt Pleic and Richard Shackleton (Senior Product Managers) at the Foundry. They were key in me getting all the support I needed from the Foundry to make this short film. I developed a visual style which would work well with the technology but also served well with the story telling of the film too. This style was – Motion Comics.
Motion Comic Cinema
Motion comics are basically cut down animated versions of each comic book frame using cut outs from the artwork to create parallax and depth with each shot. Examples can be seen on the Bluray of “Inception” with the ‘Cobal Story’ or on the Bluray of “Predators” which have several motion comic stories which didn’t get covered in the film and of course there is the Watchmen animated comic DVD.
What I wanted to do was to use my VFX compositing experience to take motion comic cinema to another level with extra depth and production values but still keep the core principles of motion comic story telling. With 2.5D compositing this opened up a range of possibilities to push the motion comic visuals with better animation, more depth and cinematography yet treating each shot like a comic book frame, or panel with good pacing, framing and action. I wanted to get away from the usual static like animated action or comic book drawn visuals you get in most of these motion comics. I wanted a photography based visual look to the film.
I then did a presentation at the 2010 International Broadcast Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam as part of a “show and tell presentation” for the Foundry using Fubar as a case study. So I cut together an early trailer of the shots I had done and made it look and feel like a hollywood film by bringing in my good friend Deelan Sital who works at Picture Production Company in Soho (cutting trailers and promos for feature film marketing) and Luis Almau on the Audio and score to help package it all up with the intention of it being a nice glossy result from a technical demo presentation of Nuke.
The trailer was well received as I had people from the audience coming up to me, asking when the film was going to be released, and it started getting press and media attention online with people starting to give quotes like “Platoon meets Animal Farm,” this completely changed my schedule and purpose of the film from being a technical vfx piece to a short film.
So I started putting a story together and brought on a writer friend of mine – Geof Wolfenden who i’ve known for years who also writes a lot.
One of my favorite books of all time is George Orwell’s- Animal Farm. I loved the idea of using certain animals to depict the chain of command politically. With Fubar I chose specifically Cats and Dogs as they have always been territorial animals but at the same time reflect certain characteristics which makes them stand out from one another. Each of them have their strong and weak points yet they both strive for territories. I used that to create the world of Fubar and the metaphor of what’s happening around us today with the military, government, war, media and politics.
I released the first version of the short film: Fubar on September 2011.
Yet again I was taken completely by surprise over how successful it was in terms of feedback and coverage. It was getting reviews and press attention from Vimeo, short of the week, VFX forums as well as short films forums. It was getting bigger than I anticipated.
I remember thinking to myself that It is fantastic that the current version of the short film is getting massive exposure and attention from audiences and press worldwide, and as a result of this overwhelming success I felt it only right for me to take advantage of this opportunity to finish and release the film as Fubar Redux. I guess you could say this is a similar angle with Ridley Scott and his Final Cut version of Blade-runner or Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse now – Redux Edition.
So I looked at alternative ways to fund the extended redux version. I heard about Kickstarter.com from a friend of mine who got his animated short funded that way.
I liked the idea of crowd-source funding rather than the traditional route of getting funding from a film council funding board etc, because I wanted to own and keep all the rights to my film and do what I want with it, no long processes of interviews and paper work, but more importantly getting the audience to believe in the project rather than funders who sit on a board.
The idea – if you are a fan and like the current short film and want to see the full extended version as it was originally intended for but due to lack of funds and resources the production had to be cut down to 8 minutes, then please pledge and fund the Extended Redux Edition. But even for people who were new to Fubar, it was not a big risk as they could watch the current version as a preview knowing what to expect and more before pledging funds towards it.
This was also my first foray into crowdsource funding as a producer/director. So I was very excited yet scared. One thing I learnt is you have to put so much work into pushing your crowdsource funding via social media and word of mouth. I manage to raise $6.256 from the pledged goal of $5K. This was enough for me to pay the editor and audio guys and for marketing and PR costs as well as additional vfx support work I needed to make the final cut of the film.
I didn’t need much funding since I was doing ALL the shot creations and animation myself, but there were some elements like the motion graphics of on screen displays that needed doing and rendering out as elements for me to put into Nuke, so I had some help with that as well as the extensive amount of rotoscoping required for the DSLR photography I shot for the miniatures (posed marine models, tanks, helicopters etc) and of course the cats and dogs.
But the point was, I was able to gain so much interest from the fans and new audiences of the film to allow me to make the extended redux edition. The power of Social media is amazing! And is definitely the future for indie film making and distribution.
Following the same vfx support model I used for the first version, this extended redux edition has Visual effects technology support from Peregrine Labs (the developers of the powerful depth of field plugin – Bokeh), Gen- Arts (the award winning Sapphire plugins used for years on big movies) and Shotgun (the asset management tool system used in most of the major facilities worldwide). Just like the Kickstarter Pledgers, the new technology sponsors gained were based from the success of the original version which meant for them less risk and knew what they were supporting and its potential.
In fact having vfx technology support not only allows me to have access to these tools for free (which usually costs thousands for a license) but also free exposure with their marketing team.
For example: Siggraph 2011 which is attended by thousands of people including studios, producers, tech companies, artists worldwide, Fubar Redux Trailer was screened and used as a demo in the event to show off Shotgun’s new asset management tool using assets from the project, and The Foundry had work in progress shots from Fubar Redux in its Sizzle Reel screened in their large booths.
Sound / Audio
One of the many things I learnt from this project is Audio is of equal mportance as visuals. Being a visually driven director I could have easily left audio as a last minute thing, but I am pleased that I didn’t, because the amazing audio work created by Luis Almau and Henning Knoepfel not only completed the film to the high standards I was aiming for but it lifted / enhanced all the animation, visual effects and style of the film to another level.
It was very important to me that the film is packaged and presented using the same vibrant, lush visually stylish world of Fubar Redux.
I have seen many film promotional material which look great but don’t reflect the film itself or I see really bad/ cheap posters which put me off watching the film.
So I teamed up with two amazing designers known as The Design Studio For Film (TDSFF) and worked with them in designing the branding for Fubar Redux, who also served as Executive producers on the film too.
Instead of them creating fresh key art from scratch or interpreting their visual marketing direction of the film, I provided them with High resolution imagery of renders from the film and a colour palette to work from.
The guys then took this and brought in their film marketing design experience and talent to the mix to create key-art for the website (vimeo-pro powered site, tumblr, twitter, facebook etc), Promotional material, the film title Logo and even the all the typography used in the film (chapter screens, start and end credits) and any material being used in the campaign.
I was now armed with the finished film, promotional material and the online launch strategy which had a consistent, well thought out design and branded look across everything.
Fubar Redux was released on March 25th 2012 with a first initial campaign push via Social media (Facebook, twitter, LinkedIN etc) and has been accepted in various Festivals including Cannes 2012 Short Film Corner and this years FMX Animation festival in Germany where I will also be doing a presentation on it after the screening.
I have 6 months blocked out in my schedule to push the Promotion of the film hard via social media, festivals and events and even though it is hard work – I love it!
London-based Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull is a visual effects supervisor for film, broadcast and commercials. HaZ is also director and creator of the epic motion comic short film – Fubar (www.fubar-movie.com).