Making and directing a short film was a truly enjoyable experience. Of course it was frustrating and challenging at times, but to be able to create something meaningful is very special. Since its completion, our film ‘I AM DYSLEXIC’ has been very well received by festival audiences, both for its subject matter and animation style. It’s very rewarding to know that our film not only made narrative sense to other people, but also that audiences empathised so strongly with it. This experience has definitely built my confidence ready to move onto new projects, and maybe onto a solo-directing job in future.
And finally, here is some advice I have for students contemplating making their own animated films. There are pros and cons to having a large crew. The positive thing is that you can share work between more people, therefore aiming for a more ambitious project, and (in theory) keeping work hours more manageable. The downside is that it makes it harder to maintain style consistency and monitor everyone’s workflow.
Whatever the size of your crew, always create a contact sheet, with phone numbers and email addresses. Have multiple ways of reaching your crew in case of emergencies, and to chase up less reliable crew members (there will always be some).
Live action references are extremely helpful when you are animating. It’s not the sort of reference that you have to follow frame for frame, instead use it to understand the natural flow of movement. You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them. I have always found better results when I work with live action reference.
Another piece of advice is to always leave a lot of room in your production schedule for compositing your film. Especially so if you are working in mixed media, like we were. This was a mistake we made, as we didn’t leave enough time for compositing and missed our deadline because of this. I’ve heard that this mistake is made in many student film productions.
Very importantly, if you want to submit your film to festivals, start saving up for those festivals as soon as possible. There’s no painless way to say it – festivals are expensive. I started saving up for festivals in my first year of university (that’s three years of saving). Without entering these film festivals, we would never have had the opportunity to have ‘I AM DYSLEXIC’ screened around the world.
Ultimately – if you’re going to spend this long working on an animation, make sure it’s something you’re enjoying, or when you feel you’re starting to lose interest, remind yourself of why you first loved your project. This might be controversial, but I honestly believe animation is such a time-consuming practice, that you should make sure you are enjoying and learning from the experience. Characters and stories reflect your moods. There’s always a way to stay motivated. No project will ever be perfect, but the only projects where I felt the creator was truly disappointed were the ones that were never finished.