Our Student Animation Festival continues today with My Big Brother, a Savannah College of Art and Design short directed by Jason Rayner. The film toys with the idea of a ‘big brother’ who is not just biologically older, but physically gigantic. The CG short marries the fantastic and the believable, deftly introducing a touch of whimsy into an otherwise grounded universe. The film’s distinctive production design nevertheless retains the low-key charm necessary for the story being told. Every directorial choice contributes towards the film’s poignant, relatable message.
Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Jason Rayner:
I was interested from the get-go in telling a story that introduced a single element of fantasy into reality. The BFG (short for “Big Friendly Giant”) by Roald Dahl was my favorite book growing up, about a girl who befriended a loveable giant who was both a secret to society and an outcast of his own people. It overflowed with creativity and word-play. This along with classic fantasy stories and fraternal relationships (I have two older brothers, average-sized) were all churning in my head one day while sketching in the park. I drew a boy in bed with the covers pulled up to his chin, looking at a teen-aged giant sprawled across a huge bed that was too small for him, taking up half the room. I titled it “My Brother, The Giant”…and it went from there.
TOOLBOX AND PROCESS
I owe a lot to the open source 3D animation suite called Blender. I taught myself Blender when I was young and have used it for illustrations, modeling, etc. since then. It has a very powerful modeling workflow in my opinion. For My Big Brother, most of the modeling was done in Blender, and then the rest of production was completed in Maya, besides concept art and storyboards in Photoshop. Compositing was done in Nuke.
CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED
Certainly the hardest part was directing. I had a small team of other students willing to help, but I had to manage my schedule so that I could use them to their best abilities, and continue to meet with them about revisions. This was an unfamiliar position for me. I had to stay motivated to keep the team motivated, and also communicate my ideas even in departments that I knew less about. The hardest part was lighting all the shots in crunch-time, but luckily I had friends that worked their butts off to make it happen.
I learned so much through making this film. I think the most important thing for me was a better understanding of how much work (and time) animation takes. A few others: writing is the hardest thing ever; films are 70% pre-production; limitations can work for you by turning them into style choices; people doing work for you for free is hard to manage; coffee is a necessary evil.
As previously stated, The BFG was a huge inspiration, as well as living with two older brothers. Also, the artwork of Matthew Lyons and Timothy J. Reynolds, whose work heavily inspired the look of my film. Above all, my friends and professors really kept me going, who for the most part believed in the project more than I did. It means so much to be able to stop by a friend’s place and take a break and do nothing with them in the midst of crunch time. Shows like Bravest Warriors and Adventure Time tended to be my source of creative rejuvenation. I admire them because they have honest characters in a wacky world—they’re action-packed, but driven completely by emotion. Also, the animation and acting of the characters has a sort of matter-of-factness, much like Wallace and Gromit, among others.
WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS
I’m open almost anything; the constant evolution of digital media is part of what attracted me to animation in the first place. My goal is to animate for a team or studio that likes to try new ways of telling stories, whether it’s in short films or features or commercials. I’ve focused on character animation in school, but really enjoy every part of the film making process, both technical and artistic.
FOLLOW THE FILMMAKERS
Filmmaker website: JasonRayner.com
Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generous support of our Presenting Sponsor JibJab, a company that has shown consistent commitment to supporting young and emerging talent. We’d also like to extend a thank you to our grand prize award sponsor, Microsoft.