Award winning writer, Tom Weston, moves into the director’s chair for the animated adaptation of his short story, There be Monsters! Tom’s previous work includes the screenplay, fission, which was selected as a finalist at the 2008 London Independent Film Festival, and which is scheduled to be published as a novel in early 2011. Tom’s other works include the Urban Fantasy novels, First Night and The Elf of Luxembourg, collectively known as The Alex and Jackie Adventures. Currently, Tom is writing the third book in the series, titled, Feathered: being a fairy tale. For more information, visit Tom at his web site, http://www.tom-weston.com.
When did you first get involved with iClone?
We go way back – to version 1.5, I think. In fact, it’s almost like I’ve come full circle now, because the reason I got iClone in the first place was because I had a script for a ghost story, which I thought would make for a nice little animated film and we took a look at everything which was on the market back then to see if a film could be made without a budget or army of animators –iClone was the only one that came close for a neophyte such as me.We didn’t make the film, but I did use iClone to make a short test animation of the film’s ending. And it was seeing the beauty of that animation that made me realize the story I was trying to tell was much bigger than I had first imagined. So I shelved my plans for a rewrite of the story. That story became my first novel, First Night. But I think it was seeing that test animation fromiClone which inspired me to write a better story.
So you set aside iClone and turned to writing?
Turned to writing, yes; set aside iClone, no. What I try to do is
tell stories. Today, there are several platforms for telling stories: the printed word, sound, visuals. I named my production company tom weston media, so that I wouldn’t be limited as a writer. For me, it’s ‘Here is the story and here is the appropriate platform for telling that story.’
I should point out that in the interim, we found iClone to be a really versatile piece of software. We began using it for all manner of projects – business cards, posters, web menus. The book cover design for First Night was created in iClone. We wanted to create a Boston skyline based on the locations featured in the book, rather than the real thing; so we downloaded models of individual buildings from the Google 3D Warehouse and created our own skyline in iClone. The software worked really well for that.
And with There be Monsters! you found iClone to be the appropriate platform for the story?
The story came first, but as soon as I had written it, I knew that it would be the first animation to come out of the company and I knew that iClone was still the only software we could seriously consider.
We do keep tabs on the software out there – we have several in house, so we know the pros and cons of most of them, but iClone remains the only one which allows me to work as a director on a film set would work; to think in terms of characters and costumes, sets and camera angles. With the competition, it’s as if I need a PhD in physics just to create a still image, let alone an animation. And then there is the rendering time.
I don’t know how iClone works its magic, but the real-time rendering is amazing. To be able to create a scene – and it may be a 30 second scene – but to do that in real time, to run the animation, make a change in lighting, run it again, make a change to the camera, move a character, add a prop, change a costume, whatever – to do all that in real time and then be able to say ‘OK that’s a wrap, print it’ – and to do all that in a fraction of the time it takes the competition to render a single frame – I’m impressed.
But as you said, all software has pros and cons. Do you feel you that using iClone was a compromise on There be Monsters!
I’ve seen work produced by various software packages. Some of it is amazing – well beyond my capabilities – but I think that credit for that must also go to the artists. I’ve seen equally stunning work produced from iClone. Great art is dependent on the artist, not the tools. I think a lot of people, when they use software, whether it’s iClone or not, underestimate the artistry and assume that it is simple to duplicate. And they get frustrated when they don’t.
When it came to There be Monsters! we chose to go in a different direction. We were never going to emulate the animation or photorealism of a Pixar full length feature. We just don’t have the artists, the budget or the time, even if we had the software. If I had wanted to create that type of animation I could never have even started the project.
Instead, we played to iClone’s strengths. In iClone, we were able to create the characters and sets very quickly. We were also able to use iClone to create the Storyboards. And then we were able to turn the Storyboards directly into animations, with no wasted effort.
Production Stills (Facebook)
There be Monsters! is a 9 minute animation. How long did it take to produce?
Our narrator, Tony Impieri, finished the voice-over of the story in April, 2010. I had done some preliminary work on the characters and sets before then, but no animation because I wanted his interpretation of the story to set the tone. We wrapped up the project in November, 2010 and started to submit to the Film Festivals in January. So in total, the project took about 7 months. We were juggling this project with a couple of others, so the actual real-time effort spent on the film is less than that.
I assembled the animation, but I would like to point out that in the time-frame allowed to us, nothing would have been possible without having off-the-shelf models and motions available to us from Reallusion and Reallusion’s community of content providers such as Alley, Bigboss and Shygirl. Having those resources at hand were indispensible. And as I indicated, the content providers are the real artists in the world of There be Monsters! so I take my hat off to them. This is their animation as much as mine.
There be Monsters! will now be screened at several film festivals.
Yes, we got the ball rolling with an acceptance to the 2011 Worldkids International Film Festival in Mumbai, India. What’s really exciting about that is that There be Monsters! will also be shown to children around India as part of the Worldkids Foundation’s ‘Lessons in the Dark’ program.
Closer to home, There be Monsters! will have its world premiere right here in my home town of Boston, on April 16th at the Loews Cineplex / AMC on Tremont Street, as part of the Boston International Film Festival, April 15th to 24th. So I am even more excited about that.
And then I’ll be making a trip to the west coast and Santa Monica for the Edgemar Short Film Festival on April 28th to May 1st at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, California.
If anyone reading this is going to be attending those festivals, and whichever others we are lucky enough to be selected for, I’d love to hook up and talk iClone.