The professional looking animated short that has shot to fame in the past two weeks and has been grabbing everyone’s attention, ‘Wire Cutters’ is not made by a professional but an amateur young student who’s new in the animation industry.
Jack Anderson, the mastermind behind this 8:42 minute beautifully crafted short film started making it with a simple thought – Everyone is constantly messing up their connections with people over the smallest things. ‘Wire Cutters’ examines this by following two creatures of logic as they’re forced to make more and more emotional decisions.
Rejected from the directing program at his school, Jack who was really interested in pursuing filmmaking at a school in LA, wanted to put a digital twist in his career and that’s how animation came into his life. He loves the field and has no regrets at all. He graduated from Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University with a BFA in Digital Arts and minor in Advertising.
We at the TheGraphicSlate.com got the opportunity to speak to the new budding talent of the animation industry to know in depth about this short film and his journey.
Thought behind this film…
Starting a story for me is a two-part process. I think I’m unique because I don’t actually start with figuring out the story. I start by figuring out the ‘Mood’ I want to convey. Mood is what differentiates decent directors from auteurs and is what typically elevates TV shows from movies. I just had this vision in my head for a foggy and toxic planet with strong winds and creaky sounds. I imagined rusty robots, long takes and wide landscape shots with minimal music. That was my mood.
I then answer the question: “What am I trying to say?”. This is the most important part of creating a story. Look to a moment in your life that you thought a lot about. If it was something that affected you it is probably something that affected just about everyone else. For me it was a very small moment when I was a kid where I had a falling out with some friends. It wasn’t a big deal and it was a long time ago, but I never really knew what happened. We just stopped being friends. It reminded me that a lot of friendships or relationships just get out of whack from really small things. I decided that precisely what I wanted to say.
So with these two things combined I then found the story.
And the Concept…
I wanted to do something small so that I could do it well. As you notice, there are only 2 characters, 2 props, and a flat location. That gave me the time to create really nice things instead of 100 mediocre assets.
I originally wanted to have the characters look more realistic. Like the curiosity rover or something but then I quickly learned that in order to tell a story without humans or dialogue, I needed to create characters that were able to have some basic form of emotions. That’s how I ended up with two eyes and eyelids.
I actually avoided looking at WALL-E for inspiration at all costs because I knew they would be inherently compared. Let me put it this way: telling a story with robots is very tricky. I think we both realised that if you’re going to do it you need a pair of big eyes to reach the viewer’s soul.
And now the Process…
The process top to bottom was a year and a half. I put over 2,000 hours into it. Over half that time was spent on the story and I went through many revisions. When time came to go into production, I simply divided the number of seconds my storyboards ran (about 500) by the number of days I had until graduation. That came out to about 3 seconds a day. So I would get up every single morning and work until I got the next 3 seconds. Sometimes it would only be a few hours and I would have time to render and composite. Other times I would be working until midnight. I was lucky enough to have a handful for talented underclassmen animate about 30 seconds of the film and build me some fantastic assets. It was a win-win for all. They got hands on experience and it saved me about a month of work. I was also privileged to get my film professionally coloured. A lot of people wouldn’t really expect to do that with animation but I thought it really enhanced the final image.
The softwares used for bringing this story to life are Maya, After Effects and Final Cut Pro. I didn’t have time to really composite, so what you see in the final product is mostly coming out of Maya as a beauty pass. During rendering, metal rays have been used and that took over a cumulative year of continuous rendering.
Major Challenges were…
I had a really hard time making the environment. I needed something that didn’t take a supercomputer to render at the same time I also needed something that looks photorealistic. It just took a lot of problem solving to figure out how to make it look nice.
It was also really difficult to tell this story without dialogue or characters that resembled humans. I learnt that with filmmaking everything matters. Every blink. Every frame. Every camera move. Everything should facilitate telling the story.
The film was made with almost no budget but variably took a lot of time.
I had so much fun with this project that I can’t wait to start another short. I want to try animating humans and having a more experimental visual style. There may be more to the world of Wire Cutters which we can still explore…. we’ll see
More about Wire Cutters
Wire Cutters won the Best Animated Film award at Sonoma International Film Festival and Best Achievement in Animation at the Cecil Awards 2014. It was also finalist in the BAFTA and Student Academy Award.
Though the main intention behind him making this film wasn’t to win so many recognisations, Jack believes that his main motto was to learn to animate and how to tell a story. The fact that a lot of people have liked it has just added a cherry to the cake.
The animated short film has been created by Jack Anderson and to help him with the overall packaging of the film many students have worked in it. Key artists include: Cody Bursch (Original Score), Jackie! Zhou (Sound Design), Jen Re, Erica Robinson, Hunter Schmidt, Justine Stewart, Jacqueline Yee (Additional Animation), Danny Corona, Matthew Robillard, Tim Trankle (Additional FX) and for Cloud FX, coloring and smaller rigging Chase Levin, Bryan and Katelyn Rolan respectively. Bill Kroyer has been the advisor for the film.