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Creator Q&A: Abbie Bacilla

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

My name is Abbie Bacilla, I’m a motion designer and illustrator, and I made "Spacepup."

2. Give a brief history of your experience creating art and animation.

I’ve been a professional motion designer for five years, mainly working in the tech industry. But I like to make little character-focused gifs and films in my free time. I made a micro-film for the GIPHY Film Fest in 2018, but I always wanted to do a longer-form short. This is the longest film I’ve ever created.

3. What inspired you to pick the story you chose? Was it original or an adaptation?

It’s an original story! I adopted a dog in October 2020 – Ernie, a chihuahua mix – and the film was inspired by the anxiety that erupted from being a new dog mom while working from home. There are a LOT of things that can go wrong when you own a dog.

4. What was your process for making your film?

I gave myself 9 months to create the film, and I mapped out every single month. I already had character designs and a finished script in January 2022.

The rest of January was creating the storyboard and designing the backgrounds in Cinema4D and Octane.

In February I created the animatic with temp music and sound so I could communicate tone and pacing.

March through June was the meat of the process – I focused on creating the character rigs (a trial and error process), character animation, and animating the backgrounds when needed. I also adjusted the animatic to fix pacing issues.

Once July rolled around, the film was 80% done, so I sent the film off to Wesley Slover and his team so they could start on the sound and Jen Pague could start on the music process. While sound was happening, I revised the animation and added extra little bits and pieces where I could while keeping the timing, including redoing some of the background textures.

Finally, September was the finalizing process, combing through the film with a fine-tooth comb and fixing continuity errors or anything else I would’ve missed previously.

If I were working on this film full-time, I could’ve finished it in 4-5 months, but I had to juggle a full-time job and previously-scheduled events (weddings, mostly). Most of this work was done after-hours on workdays, on weekends, and PTO days, with plenty of dog walk breaks in between. :)

5. How long did it take to make?

Including concepting and writing, about 9 months. (December 2021–September 2022). I jokingly called it "my baby" to my friends and family.

6. How experienced were you with narrative and story-based projects before

making your short?

Not particularly experienced. I wrote stories a LOT when I was in middle and high school, and took screenwriting classes in college, but I’ve never created any narrative-based film projects over 30 seconds.

7. What was the easiest part?

Designing the characters was the easiest part. I LOVE character design, I would do it full-time if I could. I even put a twitter poll up to see which spacesuit I should dress the space girl in! Even if the poll voted for one of the other two, I probably would’ve chosen the middle because it was the simplest to animate.

8. What was the hardest part?

Designing the 2D characters to look good with the 3D backgrounds. I thought giving the characters cool-toned gray suits would make them stand out from the warm desert planet background, but the values were off and needed levels and curves and effects and everything. I learned a lot about compositing for animation, but I wished I created a color map in the storyboard process.

9. What was your favorite part?

Pushing the characters’ facial and body expressions. I did a lot of theater in my teen years, and making the characters emote and express in a believable way is so rewarding.

10. Do you have words of wisdom for anyone who might want to create an animated short of their own?

Have a realistic goal, divide those goals up into smaller goals (month by month, week by week, day by day), and give yourself as much time as you need. Life is going to get in the way, so make sure you can work around that. I knew I had to make this film with a full-time job, so I gave myself extra time to avoid burnout. It made my process longer, but it was worth it. Tackling a big project is much more attainable when you divide it into daily/weekly/monthly tasks!

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