The Adventurous Road to the 2011 CUFF Trailer Apr 15, 2011
By Kevin Lau
This year, the CU Film Festival trailer fell down a rabbit hole. The road to the trailer was a long and adventurous one for co-writer/director Robin Pattinson--what began as an inspiring pitch on paper morphed into four months of labor intensive dedication, a team of twenty collaborators, over 1000 hand drawn frames, all for one and a half minutes. "I would definitely do it again," Pattinson said, while taking a much needed break in Central Park.
For several years now, the CU Film Festival trailer has been an amazing opportunity for a Columbia MFA film student to showcase their creativity to thousands of people in Times Square, at the festival itself, and online through the website. It just so happens that this year, for the first time, a first-year MFA candidate was selected to spearhead the project. "We looked at previous year's trailers to get a sense of how to generate excitement about the festival," Pattinson said. "Then we thought of ways to take people through a story or fable to recreate the experience of going to a short film festival."
What followed was an ode to Alice in Wonderland, a trailer concept that involved live-action sequences, green screen capturing, rotoscoping, and animation. "We were lucky the idea was so concise," he said. "Because some shots had four elements to them, an on-location shot, a green screen shot, computer generated shot, and animation. It was so labor intensive. Sometimes, one part would be done and another part wouldn't, so you had to wait for every aspect, and that pushed us right up to the line in getting it done."
Pattinson, a directing concentrate, credited much of the success to his creative team, the majority of which are first and second year MFA candidates. "Columbia is generally known as a school for narrative," he said. "But it was all people from school that did those amazing things, like those incredible special effects, compositing, graphic design, animation. That has nothing to with screenwriting, these people just had those amazing skills."
Pattinson was extremely thankful for his creative collaborators: co-writer Keola Racela, producer Jacey Heldrich, co-producers Brian Birch, JP Wakayama Carey, Director of Photography Fernando Frias, Assistant Director Avram Dodson, Animation Coordinator Oded Naaman, Animator Benjy Brooke, Special Effects Stian Hafstad, and a host of animators and designers. "If you weren't at film school, you would never be able to make a thing like this for $1000," he said. "We had so many people working on it. Obviously, I owe a lot of favors."
Pattinson, Racela, Naaman, and Andrew Ellmaker, all students, were mainly responsible for the rotoscoping seen in the trailer. "We did every keyframe by hand, 24 frames per second," he said. "It worked out at over 1000 frames for about 35 seconds. All hand drawn."
In addition to student support, the music heard in the trailer was made possible by a grant from the American Society of Composer, Authors, and Publishers. The ASCAP Foundation is dedicated to nurturing the music talent of tomorrow, preserving the legacy of the past and sustaining the creative incentive for today's creators through a variety of educational, professional, and humanitarian programs and activities which serve the entire music community. ASCAP provided a composer for the trailer, along with an orchestra for recording. "One of the best parts of the project for me was the ASCAP scoring session," he said. "When you go into the studio and there's ten, fifteen, super talented professional musicians playing a song just for your movie, it's unbelievable."
The trailer will be running on screens in Times Square through the end of the festival, which promises a different viewing experience of the trailer. "We have eight different screens that can all play independently of each other," he said. "I can't wait for you guys to see it. When the guy flies through the poster, all of the screens in Times Square turn off, and you just see him fall from the top of the building. No one's ever had all the screens in Times Square turn off. If you treat the audience with intelligence instead of constantly bombarding them, when you put your message up hopefully they'll actually listen."
The trailer can be seen online here, in Times Square, and preceding every program of all the festival screenings.