Guilherme Marcondes is back at it again, this time for BBDO New York and the Ad Council’s beautiful new campaign for Autism Speaks, the autism advocacy group.
Bringing his ever-evolving mixed media approach, refined art direction and eye for detail, Marcondes and the São Paulo-based Lobo team used 3D animated characters composited over stop-motion scenes to create a lovely and whimsical film. Packed with visual metaphors, the short tells the story of Jacob, a real boy who has a mild form of autism.
We caught up with Gui to find out a little bit more about how the film came to be.
Q&A with Gui Marcondes
How much creative freedom did you have? Was the brief fairly open?
The brief was fairly open in terms of visual style, they just wanted something that had a “tactile” feel to it as opposed to cel-animation or glossy CG. The script was already pretty tight, and I loved it. It was less about freedom to do what you want and more about a project you identify with immediately.
What was the thought process behind the decision of mixing CG and stop motion? What was the process like?
It was one of those cases where the constraints of the project actually presented an opportunity. Ideally, the agency wanted to do the whole spot in stop-motion, but the schedule didn’t allow it.
I am mostly a mixed-media director, and I love using different techniques for different aspects of the film. Lobo has a big CG team, and they have their own shooting stage and motion control rigs. It was just the perfect match between our artistic vision and the production process that was adequate for the project.
The environments were the hardest part of the process, because they were so complex and layered as I had envisioned them. It was impossible to create style frames in the time we had.
It is always hard when you have to get to the agency with a bunch of loose references and say, “Trust me!” It is even harder when you are working with them for the first time.
There was a lot of anxiety, but I have to thank them for the trust they had in us. Our art director/set designer did an amazing job, and when everyone saw the miniature landscapes through camera for the first time, you could sense the relief in the room: “We got it!” After that, things went smoother.
How long did it take, start to finish?
A couple of months. A really tight schedule for something like this. We had a crew of over 50 people to pull it off.
Did you run into any problems along the way? How did you deal with them?
Oh yeah, but mostly the usual stuff.
I think the biggest scare was when one of the robot arms we were using to create a 180º move short-circuited in the middle of the night. It took us the whole day to set up the motion control, and we were already behind our schedule.
It was 11pm when we were finally shooting that scene. Then, we heard a spark and saw this puff of smoke coming out of the robot.
Luckily, we have a very talented robotics specialist, whom we had to wake up in the middle of the night to come over the studio and build us a custom rig on the fly, just for that scene. It actually worked better than the original arm, but we finished the shoot at 7am.
It’s not everyday that you get to do a project like this. Was working on it important for you personally in any way?
Yeah, for sure. I think I can speak on behalf of the whole team on that one.
We were lucky to be presented with such a creative brief — and one that matched so well with our best qualities as a production company. It was just perfect for us.
Personally, I had the opportunity to direct a specific style of mixed media film that I love, and I rarely have a chance to do it in a commercial context. It is also stimulating for a director when you are allowed to balance playfulness with darker and moodier tones in order to reach deeper emotional notes.
Did you have any contact with Jacob throughout the process? Has he watched it? If so, how did he react?
Yes, it all started with Jacob.
We spent a whole day together. We were shooting the final sequence of him coming home, but we did much more than that. We had a chance to play together, talk, makes jokes. We tried to keep the shoot as comfortable for him as possible, so I could have some real interaction with him. Besides that, we had long interview with his mom, so she could tell us about her experience. (You can see that briefly in the behind the scenes video above.)
All of that was absolutely essential for the project. I can’t really pinpoint an exact moment where this shows in the film, but I believe it is everywhere. His personality was always on my mind when making directorial decisions of any kind. I think the more obvious examples are the way the main character looks and the behavior of his animation, his reactions to the environment around him.
We recently had a special lunch for Jacob’s family at BBDO, where we showed them the film for the first time, and they liked it a lot. I was very anxious to see their reaction! It was also great to meet Jacob again and thank him and his family for being so open with us.
This last year we have been working on building up Lobo NYC’s portfolio, and I think we couldn’t ask for a better project to display what we can do. Now, we are working on few different digital projects and hopefully we will do our first VR project soon.
Learn more about autism from Austism Speaks.
Agency: BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer – NYC: Greg Hahn
Executive Creative Director: Matt Macdonald
ACD/Copywriter: Mark Anderson
Senior Art Director: Bianca Guimarães
Director of Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Group Executive Producer: Julian Katz
Senior Producer: Whitney Collins
Music Producer: Melissa Chester
Managing Director: Kirsten Flanik
SVP, Account Director: Sarah Parkinson
Account Manager: Sarah Albertelli
Account Executives: Michelle Brandow, Sigourney Hudson-Clemons
Creative Executive Producer: Loic François Marie Dubois
Executive Producer: Sergio Salles
Producer: Matschulat Aguiar
Concept Artists: Felipe Jornada, Antonio Soares Neto
Storyboard Artist: Antonio Soares Neto
Type Designer: Marcello Righini
Editor: Marcelo Teixeira
Flame Artist: Carlos Campos
Executive Producer: André Rosa
Line Producer: Maria Antunes
Director of Photography: Alexandre Elaiuy
Robot: André de Souza
Stop Motion: D. Lee Peffer II
Production assistants: Alice Monterosso, Marcela Biasi, Mauro Lúcio da Silva, Thiago Anzai, Oswaldo Esposito, Renan Campos
Art Director: Fabiana Fukui
Set Design and Props: Daniel Faccioli, Carmem Guerra, Borys Duque, Laura Stankus
NYC Live Action Crew – Line Producer: JD Davison
Director of Photography: Vince Vennitti
Production Assistants: Ian Korer, Alden Nelson, Larry Robinson
Sound: Taylor Roy
CG Director: Olavo Chagas
3D Modeling: Ina Carolina, Rafael Segnini, Marcel Nilo, Henrique Dan Fuzitani, Olavo Chagas, Felipe Bassi
Rigging: Vivi Adade, James do Carmo
Animation Supervisor: Helio Takahashi
3D Animation: Marcio Nicolosi, Rodrigo Souza, Daniel Alvite, Jannaina Bonacelli
Animador Trainee: Renato Crescenti
Texturing: Ricardo Riamonde, Henrique Dan Fuzitani, Ina Carolina, Olavo Chagas
LookDev: Henrique Dan Fuzitani, Olavo Chagas
Render & Lighting Supervisor: Henrique Dan Fuzitani
Lighting: Henrique Dan Fuzitani, Guilherme Rizzo
Technical Support: Cadu Pennachin, Thiago Herrero, Weslley Oliveira
R&D & Pipeline: Giovanni Meneghel, Rosenio Pinto, Claudia Fujiwara
Executive Producer – VFX Crew: Guilherme Correa
VFX Director: Caio Montanari
Post-production coordinator: Rogerio Alves
Post-production coordinator assistant: Marina Ricardi
VFX assistant: Bruno Chiodi
Composite Artists: Filipe Maya, Rafael Zierhofer, Sergio Jacobina
Colorist: Carlos Bumbiers
Cinematographer: Andreia Demarchi
Real models: Marcos Perassollo
3D Lighting & Rendering: Luiz Junior
Post Production: Danilo Atanazio, Paulo Amaral