Monday, July 1, 2013

“Home Delivery” (and 3)

The production of “Home Delivery” has been based on two fundamental stages, one previous to the animation in which the animatics (an animated sketch of the whole film) and character designs were created, and one involving the actual production of the animation itself. Each of these stages lasted approximately 24 weeks.

In order to make “Home Delivery” we first had to convince the author of the original story, Stephen King, of the viability of the project and the quality of the work done by those involved in it. So the first semester of 2002 was taken up with character design, the creation of a storyboard as well as some layouts, which served the American author as a demonstration of the possibilities of carrying out the project succesfully and maintaining the highest standards. The Animatics stage began in September 2003, with the goal of creating the final storyboards, final character and background designs and the preliminary animatics of the whole short, “rough” animatics, which would later be done in 3D in order to adjust the final production times. At this stage, the voices were recorded for reference and to help us adjust character movements.

The next stage, the production phase, began in summer of 2004 and consisted of the final work on the whole animation process: line test, colour testing, etc. With the work done during the animatics stage, the animation stage becomes much more productive since each animator knows exactly which shots will be used, the optics in the 3D backgrounds and the camera movements, so that the animators’ work is not wasted on shots that haven’t been tested first.

It has been three years (2005) since I had the idea of adapting a tale of zombies into an animated short film. Three years. And we have just finished the short. It seems impossible. Three years of work for ten minutes of animation. But that’s the way things are. Everything takes its time, specially animation. Home Delivery is a short story, 30 pages long, that tells a savage social parable and to distil that down to 10 minutes is not easy. That was the first part of the job, of course, writing a short script that held the essence of the story. Doing without episodes and characters, trying to get to the meat of the story. While I was doing this, around January of 2002, I called an old friend who lives in Barcelona, Javi Rodriguez, one of the best illustrators I know, and asked him to help me design the characters, the backgrounds, and the atmosphere of the short film. With all that material and a finished script, I took the next step: I asked the author of the story, Stephen King, for authorisation to make the film.

But there was a small detail left: to find an animation studio and finance the short film. By the time I met Jérôme Debève, Juan Antonio Ruiz, Miguel Martínez, Santi Verdugo, David Escribano, Jota, Antonio Lado, Marga Obrador and other members of La Huella Efectos Digitales and Sopa de Sobre Studio I was desperate: I had spent a lot of time searching for an animation Studio in Spain that was capable of creating a short film like Home Delivery, with the characters drawn in traditional animation and backgrounds created by computer, but to no avail.

Jérôme Debéve and Régis Barbey during the production of "Home Delivery"

I visited a few studios, some of them looked at me as if I had escaped from a mental institution: What is this guy doing? He made a film in the style of Buñuel and Almodovar and now he wants to get into animation. Go get a proper job kid, and don’t stick your nose where it’s not wanted. Others simply declined to get involved in the project through polite letters. By then, I had already started to send letters asking for permits related to the short. REM had answered immediately, granting the rights to their song "It's the end of the world as we know it (but I feel fine)" to the production for free. That's why my meeting with Jérôme and his people, organised by my good friend, Luis Sanchez- Gijon, was my last chance. And they were exactly what I was looking for. They were experts in combining traditional animation with 3D animation, they knew what they were doing, they were the best in the country. So then I asked them for a budget, of course. 200.000 Euros, without counting their own investment. Where was I going to get the money from? They began working on the project immediately, but it was my turn to do my bit, to find the money.

The Sopa de Sobre team working on "Home Delivery"

My production company is small. I could invest a third of the money but I had to find the rest. And the rest was an odyssey. But, one has high expectations: I have a short film project with Stephen King and REM music, who wants to invest? One at a time please! In Spain, nobody. When the first official subsidies started to fall through, I told myself: "Don't worry, this is just temporary".

But after a year of refusals, I started to get seriously worried.

It was obvious that the short wasn't politically correct in Spain, that a zombie story plus animation wasn't what the director generals of culture wanted, so I forgot about that alternative. So I went after a loan. With the investment and a loan I could finance two thirds of the short. I was almost there... But it took a year to get the loan. Miguel Martinez would ask me how the money thing was going every two weeks. We had separated the production payments into instalments, so we could finance each stage and I had invested directly in the first two. With the loan, which finally arrived thanks to the Obra Cultural de Caja Canarias, I managed to pay Early vision of Jack by Javier Rodriguez for another third of the production. But the final third was still missing. At La Huella / Sopa de Sobre work on the short never stopped, but it was done during free time. At several different times, they must have run some considerable economic risks, going over their percentage, taking on reinforcements, working during the times they got a respite from publicity work, working through hours when they should have been asleep.... during two years. There were some really difficult moments. Like when we ran out of money... completely. Neither them nor I had a single cent, and we still had to finance the final third of the budget. That's when Claudio Utrera, director of the Las Palmas film Festival came to the rescue. He brought in some of the money we needed through the Las Palmas City Council.

Then, the Canary Islands Government and the Cabildo de Gran Canaria put in a little more and we managed to close the budget in extremis, abusing Stephen King's generosity. I will be eternally grateful to him for his patience. During the months I spent working side by side with the animators at Sopa de Sobre and La Huella, I have admired their work, I have seen how from a few sheets of paper and some blue pencils characters are born, people who become alive, even if this time it's zombies.

I think I have found friends that last, a group of good people that make art and take it easy. Even during the hardest times there has always been a smile, a "we'll resolve it, don't worry", and, of course, the indispensable after lunch network game of Medal Of Honor... this, sirs, brings people together... So, three years have passed.  Home Delivery has been on the verge of stopping at least twenty to thirty times. Due to a lack of money, a lack of time, refusals from this guy and the other, but we made it. Well, it's only ten minutes of film. Thank you all. We must do it again.

(and so we did, but this is another story...)