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Creator Q&A: Miranda Jacoby

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

My name is Miranda Jacoby, I’m a freelance artist, and I made “Where Can I Live?”

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

Life-long love of animation, learned the industry tools around college, been making animated shorts since. I’m drawn to shape language, biological subjects, and birds in particular.

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

Original. I wanted to do more with the Prothonotary Warbler that appears in my previous short, “In Search Of Birds.” Figured it would be a good way to talk about human-made issues facing birds that I feel many folks aren’t aware of. The underlying themes have been kicking around in my head since I read Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” back in 2013.

Overuse of pesticides has consequences up and down the food chain. The trash we litter tangles and traps. The structures we build, with glass invisible to birds’ eyes, render places unnavigable to them. The monocultures of manicured grass we maintain don’t support much life. Domestic cats, our beloved companions, cause injury and death for many small animals when left outdoors. Human-caused climate change is degrading our coastlines, crowded with dead trees forming ghost forests like grave markers.

Birds of all species are important indicators for how our ecosystem is functioning. Their populations falling is a grim reminder for what will happen to us humans if we do not act to fix things.

For me, my connection to the natural environment started with birds. It is my hope that “Where Can I Live?” will help others form that connection too.

4. What was your process for making your film?

It started with research. The setting of the film is based on various places in North Carolina's coastal plain region, from riversides to peanut fields to the growing ghost forests on our coastline. The Prothonotary Warbler is a migratory bird native to the area.

I also spent time studying the Prothonotary Warbler itself, doing many sketches to try and figure out how to capture the bird’s movement and simplify the bird’s shape.

Character animation was done in Blender using the Grease Pencil tool. Boards, concepts, and background paint were done in Photoshop. Premiere was used for editing.

5. How long did it take to make?

February 2023 to December 2023. Spring was pre-production, early to mid summer was making + updating the animatic and doing a test scene, late summer was rough animation for timing lock and engaging a composer. Mid to late fall was when the bulk of clean up and background paint was done.

Because this was an ambitious project, I introduced a new status to my production spreadsheet: “Can Be Improved.” It’s used when a shot is complete enough to serve its purpose in the story, but I have notes on how it could be even better visually. It helped me balance how much time I could spend on each shot, and which shots I prioritized


Stats: The short is 4080 frames spread across 47 shots, with 34 unique backgrounds.

While this was all going on, my previous short “In Search Of Birds” was having its festival run. Was a bit chaotic managing both projects at the same time.

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

making your short?

Decently so! This was my 4th time participating in this anthology series.

7. What was the easiest part?

Bird. Specifically, the character designs for the ending sequence at the ghost forest. They came together quickly very early on in production, before the Prothonotary Warbler’s main design was decided.

8. What was the hardest part?

Also bird. Animating flight is tough! It’s something I hope to improve on with practice. Su Rynard’s documentary “The Messenger”, which is about songbird population declines, features slow-motion flight footage which was a useful reference.

9. What was your favorite part?

The shot where we meet Death at the ghost forest. The subtle camera pan accenting the reveal, the color contrast between the pink-red sky and the glowing teal eyes, I love it. Shout-out to the short’s composer, Marina Lopez. Her score makes the emotional heft of that moment hit so much harder. The last we worked together was back in 2016, so it was lovely getting to work with her again here.

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

It’s worth trying, you’ll learn more working on it than you would worrying about not being good enough to work on it. It’s gonna take longer than you think to finish, so plan for extra time. I recommend doing a test shot early on to better understand the visual look you’re going for and how long that quality bar takes to achieve per section of frames/runtime. For projects with tight deadlines, sometimes you will have to settle for a shot that’s not perfect, but good enough. Art is hard! Be kind.

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