Brazilian graphic novel artist and writer Rafael Grampá (“Mesmo Delivery”) turned his powers to the small screen for the first time in “Dark Noir.” The animated short was his directorial debut, a commissioned work for Absolut’s “Transform Today” campaign.
The project was billed as a “co-creation” between Grampá and Absolut’s Facebook fans, who supplied concepts and drawings via Absolut’s Facebook presence.
But when it came to producing the actual animation, Grampá partnered with Red Knuckles, formerly of Passion Pictures, where they had worked heavily with director Pete Candeland.
Rick Thiele and Mario Ucci, co-founders of Red Knuckles and co-creative directors on “Dark Noir” shared some process behind “Dark Noir” with us.
Q&A with Red Knuckles
How did you guys get involved in this project?
Sid Lee approached us about “Dark Noir” in late November 2013 with the intention of making a live action short film with animated characters.
Their main reference was a project we art directed while still at Passion, Gorillaz “Stylo”, in which we turned Jamie Hewlett’s famous 2D characters into 3D animation and integrated them against live action plates.
We eventually managed to convince everyone that doing it fully animated was a good idea.
Did Red Knuckles do all of the CG animation? What about the 2D animation?
Yes. Both 3D and 2D. The main reason Red Knuckles exists is to allow us to work with the artists we admire and a lot of those artists happen to be 2D animators.
So when this project came along, we immediately pitched to Rafael the idea of having a mix of 2D and 3D animation, and he said yes straight away. So then we went after those incredible dudes — 2D and 3D — and they were all up for it, too.
Describe the process of working with Rafael Grampá. How did you work together?
Well, the fact that we are all Brazilians helped a lot. We had pretty much the same imagination, and Rafael is one of the most incredible artists we know (we were fans of him from way before). The visual communication flowed seamlessly.
He would explain the sequences he had in mind by drawing them, and to us, this is the best way to communicate.
Absolut understood Rafael’s persona very well and just let him do what he wanted to do without any interventions. With that, we were blessed with an entire studio of artists creating and making decisions 24/7. That is not something that happens often.
The film has a rich look inspired by film noir. Can you tell us a little about the look development process?
The mood of the film was in there since the first revision of the script. It was impossible for us to imagine the film any other way, so we gathered all the references that came to mind into a mood panel. This panel included “Blade Runner,” “In the Mood for Love,” anything by Christopher Doyle.
We wanted to have eveyone coming in and out of light all the time, engulfed in shadows one second and then showered by light in the next. And if the characters didn’t move on the shot, then we would create mechanisms to make the lights move instead, revealing and hiding.
What consolidated the noir look was the combination of the script with the images.
The official making of video (below) says that Facebook fans had input. What was that like?
This crowdsourcing of ideas was a big thing for Absolut, so we knew that it had to be very well planned out in order to make it work with the schedule.
The hardest ideas to accomplish were obviously posted first. People had quite a small window of time to respond, due to pressing deadlines. Even so, the response we got from it was astonishing. Hundreds of people submitted ideas and drawings that just blew our minds and gave us a completely fresh take on things!
In this case, it seems like crowdsourced aspect of the film was pretty focused. How do you feel about crowdsourced filmmaking/animation in general?
At times, we danced with the idea of crowdsourcing aspects of production like modeling and texturing, but since we had a very tight schedule, we had to keep everything in a very controlled environment.
If you have a project with a more flexible schedule crowdsourcing might work, just as long as the creative direction remains consistent. Still, artists would have to be carefully handpicked.
You guys recently left Passion to start Red Knuckles. How is it going so far? What have been some of the challenges?
Yes, we left Passion in December 2013 after having a great run there, working almost exclusively with Pete Candeland on some fantastic projects.
Red Knuckles started with the idea and the ideal of collaboration. There are many ultra-talented artists, directors, creatives, etc. out there that we want to work with. We thought the best platform to reach and collaborate with them would be via our own studio.
So far, it has been truly incredible. We got to meet those amazing people that we would not have had access to if we were associated with a single production house.
What we have set ourselves to do is a different business model where we want to be an animation studio, an artist’s house exclusively, without attaching ourselves to only one production house or director. That’s where the challenge lies: in making this model understood and needed in London.
But everyone we have talked about this were extremely happy to know that we are out and and free to do some animation. I hope we can show some more cool stuff soon.
Making Of Featurette
Written and Directed by Rafael Grampá
Animation Studio: Red Knuckles
Director of Photography: Red Knuckles
Red Knuckles Creative Directors: Mario Ucci and Rick Thiele
Producer: Monica Domanska
Original story and characters created and designed by Rafael Grampá
Lead Animator: Lucas Vigroux
3D Animators: Giovanni Braggio, Scott Beharrell Bono, Chris Whyte, Magali Barbe, Florian Mounié and Martyn Smith
2D Animators: Adrien Gromelle, Stephen Vuillemin, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Alice Bissonnet, Duncan Gist and Giovanni Braggio
Technical Director: Maïckel Pasta
Lighting TD: Patrick Krafft
Environment Modelling: Florent Rousseau
Mattepaintings: Manuel Dischinger, Ian McQue, One Pixel Brush
Global Facebook Fans:
Scene 1: Adriano Antonini
Scene 2: David Jesus Vignolli
Scene 3: Greg Fenwick
Scene 4: Nina Robra
Scene 5: Anton Kovalenko & Adri Ceesari
Scene 6: Maria Vlad
Creative Agency: Sid Lee Amsterdam
Associate Creative Director: Gill Glendinning & Roger Leebody
Account Manager: Jonah Dolan
Production Company: Jimmy Lee Amsterdam
Producer: Justin Townsend & Ezra Xenos
Voice of Vincent Black: Doug Cockle
Voice of Madaleana Proud: Ajit Sandhu recorded @Stainless Sound
Music Company: Croacia
Music Composer: Marcio Chavemarin
Music Company: Wake the Town
Sound Engineer & Music Composer: Paul Schumpter
Music Producer: John Connon
‘Paper Bones’: Written and performed by Mike Ghost