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Creator Q&A: Miranda Jacoby

1. What is your name, what do you do, and which film did you make?

Hey there, I’m Miranda Jacoby. During weekdays I’m a Production Coordinator, by weekend I’m a Freelance Artist. I made “Prince, Princess & Dragon”.

2. What experience do you have creating art and animation?

Let’s see...I was born and will eventually die. Hmm, that’s probably too brief. Well, I drew a lot as a kid, watched a gosh-dang-ton of cartoons, took an interest in digital art as a teenager, learned a lot of animation tools in college, and now I’m here.

Big contemporary inspirations for me are the works of artists Nadya Mira, Olivia Huynh, and Inbal Breda, as well as a ton of short films posted online from Gobelins L'École de L'Image, the National Film Board of Canada, and a variety of other places. I encountered these influences around high school, and they’ve stuck with me since. (Also a nod to the many games, books, films, festivals, art galleries, and all the forms of animation I’ve been lucky enough to experience over the years that I can’t possibly recount the entirety of here.)

I love shape language, wordplay, stories that have their own internal logic, biological subjects, a sense of silliness, and birds.

3. What inspired you to pick the story you chose?

Initially I wanted to do something with a witch, a bird, or Baba Yaga and her house on Chicken’s Feet, but in the end I decided to play with the classic fantasy trio of Prince, Princess, and Dragon.

4. What was your process for making your film?

My big goal was to challenge myself with different kinds of lighting, both how it affects color, and all the extra layers needed on characters being hit by light and casting shadows. I also wanted to keep it short and visually consistent. I created a style frame whose quality bar I aimed to hit. (It’s pretty close to a 1 for 1 of the shot of the first time we see the Princess in the tower.) A weakness I tend to have when working digitally is to default to bright and saturated colors, so I limited my palette by choosing colors based on a palette of oil paints.

Pipeline-wise it had some similarities to a previous short I’d made for Loop de Loop’s “Breakfast” theme (the short was also called “Breakfast”): timing, for the most part, being done in Flash/Animate, with clean up and color in Photoshop. I bounced around between those and Premiere, which was used for the animatic and the compositing of the final shots with their backgrounds and light/shadow effects.

It took something like 20 minutes for me to do clean up on a frame on this production (in this pipeline clean up is also color), so I tried to be very deliberate about exactly how much a character needed to move to sell a motion or hit a particular story beat. This became very crucial towards the end of production, since I had to balance starting a new job with finishing up frames.

5. How long did it take to make?

Let’s see…I did the storyboard around the tail end of March, so I’d say total production was about 3 months.

6. How experienced were you with narrative and story-based projects before making your altered fairytale? I’ve done a couple of narrative shots before, mainly through college. Lots of self-contained projects with tight deadlines. What was most useful coming into this with that experience was my sense of how long it takes me to do certain tasks with certain tools. I’m very familiar with scope creep and how to keep it in check, which can be hard when you’re working on a personal project. (Since, ya know, you want it to be the best it can be.) I try to frame it as: What’s the quality I can reasonably make, and be happy with, given my current resources?

7. What was the easiest part? The Prince’s design. It’s pretty much the same as it was in the initial storyboard.

8. What was the hardest part? The light and shadow passes, particularly, dealing with the light and shadow layers during the color phase. There’s a lot of them, they pile up, and they can cause things to chug. 9. What was your favorite part? There’s a few: (***Spoilers if you haven’t seen the film yet.***)

-The way I was able to make the light play off the Princess’ face when she makes her decision and gets up from her bed, as well as the overall feeling in the build-up to her jump.

-Making the title a stealth joke by not using an Oxford comma.

-And, of course, getting to see the finished film screened was pretty great.

10. Do you have words of wisdom for anyone who might want to create an animated short of their own? Yes, many. It’s really easy to underestimate how long the animation part will take. It helps if you do a little experiment before-hand as a proof-of-concept, to test out what you’re trying to do and get a sense of how long all the parts take. Make a lot of short things. Some will work, some will fail, but you’ll always be building your skills when you make something. Find people that care about your growth as an artist. My screen direction and the color on my moonlit scenes wouldn’t have been nearly as good without the critique and feedback I got from my friends on my short. Also, credit where credit is due to Jane Wu: I’d heard about TTaT before-hand, but it was seeing Jane present her storyboard at a “Bring Your Own Animation” event (hosted by NYC ACM SIGGRAPH) that gave me the confidence to sign up for the anthology.

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