Archive for January, 2010

Director’s Notes interviews Eddie White

On independent film blog ‘Director’s Notes’, blogger Mirabelle  interviews Eddie White on all things Cat Piano and animation filmmaking. Have a listen to the podcast:


CP screenings in the US & Canada

The Cat Piano will be screening at a number of festivals in the next few weeks. Watch this space for specific screening times.

Spokane International Film Festival – Jan 28 – Feb 7

Event: Animation Showcase

Time: Sat Jan 30, 12:00 Noon

Location: AMC Theatres

Victoria Film Festival (Canada) – Jan 29 – Feb 7

Event: ConVerge

Time: Saturday Feb 6 – 2:00-5:00pm

Location: Renaissance Books

Cinequest Film Festival (San Jose) – Feb 23 – Mar 7

Event: Shorts Program 4: Animated Worlds

Time: Tuesday 2 March 9:30-11:08pm, Friday 5 March 7:00-8:38pm

Location: “Camera 3”, 288 South Second Street, San Jose, CA (map)

Chicago International Movies and Music Festival – Mar 4 – Mar 7

Event: Screening with “Of Montreal: Family Nouveau”

Time: Friday 5 March 8:00pm

Location: Heaven Gallery

Ashland Independent Film Festival – April 8 – 12

Event: Animation Shorts Program

Time: Thursday 8 April 6:40pm, Friday 9 April 9:40pm, Sunday 11 April 3:40pm

Location: Varsity Theatre 3

TCP wins Flickerfest

Last night, The Cat Piano won the “Yoram Gross award for Best Short Animation Film” at Flickerfest 2010. Eddie is in British Columbia at the moment, and recorded this acceptance speech for the ceremony.

Cat Piano Q & A

Animator Hamish Downie, who is developing a pilot for an animated series emailed us a few questions about the making of The Cat Piano, and making a TV pilot. We’ve answered his questions below and wish him the best of luck on his series.

Hamish Downie: I noticed you have Nick Cave narrating The Cat Piano. On YouTube it seems that many people found it through him. How important is it to have a star? Couldn’t a Shakespearian actor done the job? If having a star is paramount, what was the process like finding the right star? How did you approach them? At what stage of development was the project?

Hugh Nguyen: We wanted Nick Cave to do the narration mainly because we felt his voice and body of work lent themselves really well to the dark story we wanted to tell. It’s film noir so there’s lots of depravity, told in beat poetry which was the language of a tortured and disenfranchised counter culture. Nick Cave was perfect. There’s no doubt that many of his fans discovered the film on YouTube from their interest in his work. One of the powerful aspects about the Internet is its referential power in helping people connect easily with their interests – Nick Cave fans will stumble on a short film he narrated online, and in doing so bring it to the attention to more of his fans. But this also applies to people interested in other aspects of the film. Early on when we made the film available on YouTube and Vimeo, traffic came from “furries” sites, and animation and design focused sites.

We approached Nick Cave through our Producer Jessica Brentnall, who was able to contact him through his agent in the UK. At that stage, we had locked down much of the style of the film and the final look of the characters, as well as developed the storyboards. We put together a pitch document to Nick with the poem, artwork, and the directors’ vision of the project and why we felt he was an ideal narrator for the film.

HD: A lot of the big films film the actors as they record their voices. Did you do this? How important is this?

HN: We didn’t in this case but wish we had! It’s useful reference for the actors to use when putting the performance into the characters but not essential. It is used a lot more in feature animation than television animation. In can be useful when recording dialogue, where vocal performance has to match the animation, however as our film was narrated (the Poet never “speaks”), it wasn’t as necessary.

HD: Do the actors need a storyboard when they record their voices? Or is the script enough?

HN: All voice actors are different, but I think it helps to make as much of that stuff available to them should they find it useful. A storyboard and animatic were ready by the time Nick Cave recorded the narration but I think a few colour drawings of the character were enough to gauge the style.

HD: Why did you decide to go through a funding body? What are the advantages over self-financing? How did you find the right funding body?

HN: Initially, The Cat Piano was a self-financed passion project between the two directors of the film. This has advantages in giving you complete freedom but at the expense of key resources like time and personnel. As a self-financed project, the team were working on it in their spare time after hours and on weekends, which slowed down the film when their work schedules got busier. From reading an early blog post on the production of The Cat Piano, the film was initially anticipated to be finished by early December 2007. It wasn’t completed until over 12 months later!

Eventually, there was growing interest in our studio’s work and we felt that The Cat Piano was exactly what we needed in showing the world the style of animation we wanted to make, and so we sought funding to finish the film earlier.

We actually had 2 investors on the project: the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival (BAFF) and the South Australian Film Corporation.  BAFF is an interesting festival in that it invests cash into a slate of film projects. However, this meant that the film had to be completed in time to premiere at the festival. The timing of BAFF was also good in that it allowed us to have the film ready for many of the festivals we entered the film into. BAFF and SAFC had both previously invested in two of our previous short films, and so they were the perfect partners to have on board.

How much of The Cat Piano used CAD? Why did you decide on 2D hand-drawn animation rather than 3D? I read that Hayao Miyazaki believes that there should only be about 10% computer graphics on any of his works. What are your thoughts on this?

The interesting thing about animation is in spite of all the technological innovation that has occurred, good animation hasn’t necessarily become less labour intensive! Computers can now be used to wide range of animation styles. We hope that through our work, people see that “CGI” and “CAD” doesn’t have to be “3D”. We had animators drawing frame-by-frame animation using Wacom tablets directly into Photoshop. So although everything was “computer aided”, we used wholly traditional techniques. Computers are just tools like pencils and brushes. Good animation will always come from the wielder of the tools. The use of the tools should be used to the extent that they are required to achieve the look the director is going for. Sometimes that’s 10%, other times in 100%.

If you were making a short as a showcase for funding a larger project, such as a TV Series, how important do you think the quality of the animation is? Should the story hold all the weight, or should the animation be as polished as the intended TV Series?

We used to pitch TV series concepts a few years ago and developed pitch documents and pilots with the same level of polish as the intended series. The feedback we consistently got was that our visuals were fantastic but the development of the story and characters weren’t as strong. We just didn’t have the experience that TV producing veterans had of developing a series and putting it together into a “Bible” (we have currently optioned one of our TV series concepts to someone who does!).

If you look at the short animated clips that were used to pitch Family Guy, King of the Hill, they didn’t match the quality of animation that their first episodes had. The Tracy Ullman shorts that evolved into The Simpsons weren’t as polished as the first half-hour episodes either.

What’s important is to show how the ingredients – the characters, situations, story and humour will all work together to make something worth committing the money to make and market 26 x 22 minutes of animation. The “Family Guy” pilot does this quite well, but by then MacFarlane had made and pitched a couple of Larry pilots which would have helped him to nail the visual style and formula.