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The Independent Critic

 An Interview With Marcelo Meijome 

  • Tell me about "North & South"
    North & South is an animated short that was created as my senior thesis project for my bachelors degree in Computer Graphics Technology at IUPUI. Doing an animated short was always sort of my end goal to cap off my undergrad degree. I started the project around January of this year when I started my final semester, and finished it back at the end of April and presented it to the faculty and class. I knew I only had about 4 months, or more realistically about 3 and a half months, to do the project. This meant I had to really plan out my timeline for the project, work smart, and get good feedback early. I had already designed a character in a previous class that I really liked, so to quicken my progress, I decided to use this character instead of creating an entirely new one. I already had the character 3D model done and textured with all the materials from another class as well. After that I tried to create a story around the character, his personality, the way he looked. My original story was a little too big for the short timeline I had, so about a month in, I tweaked the story and simplified it into something I was more confident I could finish on time. The story ended up being about a little boy that lost his toy plane up in a tree, and his plan to sled down the hill and off a ramp to try and get it back. From there started storyboarding, then modeling the set and texturing it, adding lighting, animating the character, rendering the images, and then putting it all together in editing and compositing. The project took me through pretty much all areas of the production pipeline to create a 3D animated film.
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  • Can you give me a bit about you? Your background? IMDB has this listed as your first film....Correct? What got you started in film?
    I just graduated from IUPUI with a bachelors in Computer Graphics Technology. I started at IU Bloomington though, as a Fine Arts major. I've always liked drawing/cartoons/video games, so I think that's what got me to study animation in college. Being able to basically create any world you want, telling a story in that world, and then being able to share that with people all over the world was really appealing to me. I kind of grew up all over the place, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Indiana, and also in Argentina for 6 or 7 years, so I try to bring some of my experiences from my life into my characters/stories. This is technically my first short film. I did create a 2 min short in my first 3D/animation class about a vampire cat, and I was happy with the end result when I had finished it. Looking back on it now, it looks bad, but seeing how big of a jump it was from my first time doing a film and still learning 3D to my North & South short is really amazing. Seeing my progress from my first short around 2008 to my thesis film in 2010 is really encouraging and I'm excited to see how much more progress I can make in another 2 years.
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  • What attracted you to this story for your film?
    My original story was about this boy moving from the south to the north, and experiencing snow for the first time. It ended up being too complicated to finish in a short period of time, so I simplified it. I got the idea for the new story one day when I was driving to school. It had snowed a lot recently, and I saw kids sledding down the hill, so I thought it would be cool to have him sledding down a hill. Then that turned into him sledding down the hill for a reason, to get his toy back. I had wanted to add more backstory to the character, like maybe the toy that he lost has a lot of sentimental value, maybe it was given to him by his dad or a friend before he moved. Unfortunately I wasn't able to incorporate something like that. I still like the story that I've created though, the story is more in the style of an old disney cartoon or a looney tunes cartoon. The character has a purpose, and tries to complete a task, but there's not necessarily any kind of hidden meaning in the story. I guess the story is more about the adventure of this kid and his plan to get his toy back.
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  • What were some of your biggest challenges in putting this film together?
    I faced a lot of technical challenges putting this film together. This was my first time using the 3D program Maya on such a big project, so I was kind of learning it while making the film. This meant I was constantly doing research on the internet to try and figure out how to do certain things and do research for specific techniques or challenges that I knew I would run into further down into the project. Overall though, the biggest challenge throughout the making of the whole film was just the time constraint. By the last week I was sleeping 3-4 hours every night!
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  • Are there any lessons you learned that you will take with you into your next project?
    I learned that all the pre-production stuff you can do, stuff like storyboards, sketches, color studies, it all helps a lot further down the road when you get on your computer to start working. Without all that planning, I would be lost on the computer and it would take me even longer to get the project done. For my next project I would like to be able to spend even more time in the pre-production stage because it ultimately makes your whole project much better.
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  • Heartland is a great festival for shorts...how important are film festivals for a film like yours? Does it mean more having it be local? I'm assuming you were familiar with Heartland?
    Festivals like Heartland are really great for short films. It gives a lot more people a chance to see a film that they otherwise may never have seen. I think it can create a lot of exposure for the film and for the artist. Putting the short up on Youtube or Vimeo is fine, but there's something special about seeing the film in a big theater with a bunch of people. The great part about this festival being local is that it means I can easily go to my screenings and participate in the festival. I was familiar with Heartland before I submitted my short, but I didn't even know they accepted animated films. I had seen a post on Facebook from a Heartland rep on a animation/motion graphics user group (MG Collective) that I'm a part of saying they were looking for animated films for the festival. That's when I applied, not really expecting that I would get accepted.
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  • How did you get interested in film?
    I think I got interested in film through cartoons originally. Growing up I watched a lot of cartoons on TV, the classic Disney movies like Robin Hood and Lion King, and a lot of the Pixar movies. As I got older I developed an interest in live action film as well as animation because I really like cinematography. I started analyzing and picking apart camera shots/movements from films by some of my favorite directors like Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Coen brothers, Kubrick. I try to apply a lot of classic live-action cinematography principles to my 3D animation work because I think it adds an element of reality even though it's animated. If you look at Pixar's movies, like UP and Wall-E, they are not cartoons, I feel they are on the same level or above many of the films released every year.
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  • How has the festival circuit been so far? Any projects coming up? What's next?
    Heartland was the first festival I submitted to. I wanted to submit to some other big animation festivals like the Ottawa Animation Festival, the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival, and a few others. By the time I finished my short though, I had already missed some of these deadlines. I may submit the film next year, or maybe I'll already be working on another film by then! I have been working on another short film project with a group of graduate students at IUPUI for about a year now. My role is in animation and camera layout. The film is called The Red Kite and I believe it will be shown at the school this December and then submitted to festivals next spring.
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  • Who are some of your inspirations?
    Some of my inspirations are definitely the people at Pixar like John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird. I also get a lot of inspiration from Wes Anderson's movies, I really like his directing style. Other inspirations in animation are Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli, and animators classic Disney animators like Glen Keane and Eric Goldberg. Some more inspirations come from artists like Matisse, Warhol, Cezanne. I'm also constantly online looking for new inspirations from all kinds of different artists, painters, animators, filmmakers, musicians.
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  • Assuming this is your first film, it's pretty big to get it in Heartland...You really provide hope to up-and-coming filmmakers. What did your family/friends think when your film was selected?
    I think my family was even more excited than I was when I told them it got accepted. They really liked the short when I showed it to them after I finished it for school. They've been pretty supportive with what I decided to study and do for a living.
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  • Where do you go from here?
    I'm doing some contract 3D work in the Indy area right now. I also just started AnimationMentor, an online animation school where you are paired up with a mentor that is a professional animator at studios like Pixar and Dreamworks. I'm really enjoying the program so far and I think it will take my animation skills to the next level. After that, I hope to one day be able to get a job working on movies at an animation studio like Pixar/Dreamworks/Blue Sky. I think having my film shown in festivals is a good first step to getting exposure and networking with other people in the industry.
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  • Anything else you'd like to add?
    Making the film took me 4 hard months, but I hope everyone that sees the film at the festival enjoys watching it as much as I enjoyed working on it.
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Marcelo Meijome is the director of the delightful 3-minute animated short North & South, An Official Selection of the 2010 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana. A recent graduate of IUPUI, North & South is Meijome's first "official" film and is having its world premiere at Heartland.

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