The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by sponsor JibJab and their strong support for emerging filmmakers.
Clocking in at a brisk eighty seconds, Sun of Beach by Natan Moura is the shortest film debut in Cartoon Brew’s 2013 Student Animation Festival. Moura made the film as a graduation project at Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada.
Every year, we receive numerous student film entries that are under two minutes long, but few of these micro-shorts exhibit the storytelling and filmmaking discipline that accompanies Moura’s film. Moura understands the value of not just every second, but every frame in his film, and uses it to his advantage. He uses his precious amount of screentime to put together a complete film with a character who has an arc and a story that has a beginning, middle and end. Moura communicates his ideas with a fun, bold visual style that seamlessly combines computer animation and hand drawn techniques.
Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker:
During the making of my film I came to think of it as a kind of tribute to my childhood. I moved from Brazil to Canada at a young age and being on a beach has always been a magical place for me. Over the years, playing with my two very young brothers has brought me back to my own childhood and shifted my focus to more playful and whimsical stories. Like most of my ideas, it came to me at three in the morning while doodling. The the final story eventually came together when I was able to spend time observing people on the beach while living in Los Angeles the following summer.
My film was a 2D and 3D hybrid done in Flash and Maya and composited in After Effects. I was interested in experimenting with a more graphic 3D aesthetic. I felt like a flatter environment made the story more playful by bringing the sun closer to the people on the beach. This was mostly achieved by using an almost orthographic perspective in Maya and eliminating 3D lighting all together. The lighting effects were done in After Effects where they wouldn’t ruin the flatness I was going for. I also animated the smaller characters in Flash to more easily control their design. The entire film came together as a single After Effects file with over 300 layers! How the program didn’t crash is beyond me.
The most important thing I learned is how to edit a story into only the essentials. It’s not something I believe needs to be done for every story but it’s a worthy exercise. Some of the best structured stories I’ve seen are commercials, simply because they have to hold your attention and have no time for anything but the basics. When I completed my first animatic at three minutes it was clear that my idea only needed a minute and that every second had to be justified. I think it’s important to not only ask yourself how long a story needs to work effectively, but also how much of someone’s time your idea is really worth.
In the earlier stages of story development I rewatched the film Before Sunrise and was reminded how effective a sustained shot can be in bringing the viewer into a story. Many people I talked to discouraged me from this limitation but I thought it would add a sense of realism to my film and also help maintain a flat aesthetic. I really believe that picking limitations is the most liberating thing you can do creatively and it couldn’t have helped me more in this case. I later decided to add a single cut to emphasize the tipping point of the story.
WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS
I enjoy animating first and foremost but this early in my career I still feel there is much exploring to be done. While filmmaking was originally what attracted me to animation I see a lot of potential in new alternate forms of storytelling. I’ve recently become interested in the interactive possibilities of stories primarily in games and apps. Working at JibJab over the past couple of months brought me closer to programmers for the first time which has inspired me to think of stories from a different perspective. Being able to experiment and problem solve is what keeps things exciting for me and I hope to always have that kind of flexibility. [EDITOR’S NOTE: When Moura’s film was selected for inclusion in the festival, we were not aware that he had recently been hired by the festival’s sponsor JibJab.]