Gabe Askew (Hornet) is no stranger to Motionographer. We posted his first break-out project here, an unofficial music video for Grizzly Bears “Two Weeks” that seemed to garner more interest online than the official video.
Since then, he signed with NY-based production company Hornet and has been developing his storytelling chops. His recently released short film, “Goat and Aaron,” shows the same penchant for tactility as his other work, but it contains something new for Askew: character dialogue.
We caught up with Gabe to get some insight into the process behind the project.
Q&A with Gabe Askew
The look for this short is beautiful. It seems to be the result of mixing many different techniques. Can you talk about the techniques you used?
Each shot began as an individual watercolor painting. I then projected that painting onto geometry and broke it up into sections in CG. I layered on additional textures and applied different shaders to create an abundance of materials.
I used Vray where I found it really easy to take a material from cloth to glass to wood without much effort. In post, I applied some real dust and grain, which I shot against black. I shot it towards the sun and trees so that the exposure seems to “swim” a little.
The world you’ve created for the short is brimming with lovely textures. What was the thinking behind building the world with such a tactile quality?
My aim was to create a look that you couldn’t easily figure out at first, thus the blending of illustration techniques and real materials like wood, fabric, glass, etc. One of the goals was to have a bit of confusion both narratively and aesthetically, so that the viewer has to fill in the gaps and make assumptions on their end.
Where did the storyline come from? Is this related to a personal experience?
It’s sometimes hard to drive yourself to finish personal projects without anyone giving deadlines or goals. I find that if I create a work about someone in my life as a gift to that person, it gives me a goal to work towards.
In this case, I chose my brother and so the project became about making a statement about a relationship. My brother is eleven years older than me, so he has always been somewhere between a sibling and a father figure. The story is based around a real event, but I removed the conflict from the narrative so that the story was about the brothers’ relationship and not whatever the event was.
Tell us a little about the characters. Who are they and how did you go about creating them?
They are based on the teenage version of myself and my older brother. I was pretty anti-establishment (anti-establishment teenager? You don’t say!) so that character has some Satanic symbols involved in him. You see this in his scarf and his name, Goat.
I tried to make my teenage-self proud. The characters were modeled by Erwin Riau at Hornet, who put his own style into it. He’s kinda thin, has muscular arms and that comes through in their look.
This is your first short film, but you’ve done several other short form projects. How was “Goat & Aaron” different from your previous work?
This is my first attempt at a straightforward narrative with a script, dialogue, etc. I was learning as I went and since the project finished, I’ve learned a lot more about writing.
Looking back, the structure isn’t as strong as it could’ve been, but I’m happy with it. The concern with my previous music video work is that the message is too vague. When people watch Goat & Aaron, they still feel a bit lost yet they seem to get the message, which is simply that these brothers are there for each other.
What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
The writing was most challenging. I rewrote the script from scratch several times. It is a medium I haven’t worked in before. It is exhilarating though. In visual mediums, I’m used to spending sometimes months trying to create something simple, but in writing you can create and destroy worlds in moments.
Is there anything you would change, given unlimited time and resources?
It would be cool to rework the structure of the plot; it sort of has the feel that it was cut from a larger story. But of course that would mean redoing the piece in entirety. Visually, I’m very happy with it though.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing more. I have written a feature and I’m writing my next short, it really is fun. I am also working on a kid’s book/app with author Marty Geren.
Keep your eyes peeled for some commercial work launching from Gabe tomorrow.