Since its release in April last year, Here’s the Plan has received acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the hardships of relationships, as well as its bright and pleasing art style. This 18-minute “short” was animated by a hard-working team of 5 animators, many of whom are or were students here at AnimSchool. I had the great pleasure of interviewing them on their work on Here’s the Plan, and I’m excited to share what they had to say. Our next interview is with Maikoe Alaniz, an AnimSchool alum who is currently working at Peak Pictures on their upcoming web series, Isolated.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! My name's Maikoe. I'm a 25 year old animator from Santiago, Chile. Currently living in Santiago as well. My background in animation isn't really that vast. My first 3D experience was when I started with AnimSchool and prior to that I had gone to university for "animation generalist" classes which mostly involved 2D work, but nothing too far into character animation.
My hobbies are pretty related to animation I guess, I'm big on video-games and I enjoy cooking a lot. I would give my life to defend my cats, but who wouldn't, really?
How did you find out about “Here’s the Plan”, and what drove you to work on it?
I have a little history with Fernanda Frick, the film's director. She used to be one year up in the first university I attended and she dropped out to join another online animation school. Back when she did this, I was terrified to go down that same path so I think around 3 years after knowing about her I contacted her for advice on doing the same sort of move, so we've been in contact throughout the years. When I graduated AnimSchool, I imagine she found out about it through Facebook or acquaintances and contacted me about her upcoming project. Around 5 months after graduating (And going on a well deserved vacation!) I joined the animation team.
What is your favorite aspect of the film?
I really like a couple of shots that I have on my reel, which are shots we had a lot of time to think about and plan so that they would be really meaty. In general, we didn't have much time to really get too thorough but I think we managed to nail a lot of very important moments that I enjoy watching to this day. I personally like mechanics shots a lot more, so the fact that one of the shots is a mechanics shot that manages to tell a lot through body movement is really cool to me. Looking back, I'm really surprised I managed some of those shots, actually. I was extremely inexperienced professionally, but I think I managed to translate my AnimSchool experience into the office well with time.
The film took 2 years to complete; how long did you personally work on it for?
Animation for the film lasted around 8 months if I'm not mistaken, and I worked there for the entire duration. I'm positive Fernanda animated shots herself after we were done with our part of the animation, but I'm not certain as to when or for how long that went on.
What were some of the hardships of working on a short film?
Without trying to get too personal, I was going through some very hard times nearing the end of production that were very similar to the film's main plot. It was a very stressful time for me emotionally so that was an unexpected hardship and something I didn't thought I'd have to deal with.
For me in general everything was also very new. Stuff like dealing with an office schedule or commuting to work were all things that I hadn't experienced before. I'd say it was all very enjoyable but of course it was hard adjusting at the beginning.
What is a shot you worked on that you’re particularly proud of? What was effective about it?
The shot I was talking about before, when Kat removes her shoes and sort of charges past Doug was really effective in setting up a change of emotion. Up until that part of the film, we haven't seen her explore that part of her emotional spectrum and I feel like we were very successful in also telling a story through her body posture and movements without having to put any dialogue or expressions in ("show, don't tell"!). I'm very happy with that shot and years later it's still a very central part of my reel. This past CTN, I got a lot of compliments on it for being a very simple shot (We really didn't have a lot of time to do any shot too in-depth) that was very effective in telling what had to be told. It's a very sort of in-character shot and I like that how that turned out.
(I'm talking about the shots at 14:31)
Were there things you learned during your classes at AnimSchool that you applied to your animation?
Because I was new to animation, AnimSchool quite literally provided me with everything I needed to know to tackle this job. Outside of animation principles, I focused a lot during AnimSchool to maintain the best possible work ethic and I got noticed by that a lot by the instructors. I think that particular skill carried over really nicely to a work environment, and the fact that it got highlighted during AnimSchool really pushed me to take it as something I do on purpose and not something that I take for granted. I always try to be on top of my game and be really active during production work, even if I'm doing something I'm not particularly comfortable with or something I haven't done before. I'll always try to push really hard and keep asking questions and maintain a generally high participation.
Tell us about your workflow for animating a new shot.
I owe my workflow to my course 1 and 2 instructor Matt Doble, really. If I'm doing something for myself/my reel (So no time constraints) I'll usually:
- Research first: Youtube, movies, shows, acting, pictures, etc.
- After I've found what I want I'll generally try to shoot reference or grab reference from my research if it was deep/good enough. I generally skip drawings/thumbnails because I don't trust myself with a pencil, honestly.
- I usually do 3-4 passes of blocking: Storytelling poses where I'll just try to stop as soon as the whole intention of the shot is in the poses. I'll work over these poses to make them as strong as possible and transition over to a second pass of blocking where I'll try to have all the poses needed to make every action and beat work. My third pass of blocking I'll bring the face/fingers/details in so that the entire shot can be read as a blocking, usually in 3s and 2s. The fourth pass of blocking I'll try my best to avoid myself any pains in splining. I'll go over my curves and I'll try to look for opportunities where I can move certain actions to 1s, just so that I have to work the splines as little as possible. Doing quick spline-checks where you move the shot to splines, watch it then go back to blocking to solve issues also works wonders for me.
- for Splining/Polishing I'll usually try to stay as little as possible in here solving issues and try to spend as much time as possible pushing things that I didn't notice before. For me personally a successful shot already is when I enter splining and there's little to no fixing to do, so that I can focus in polishing and making the shot work better in any way I can.
“Get rejected a lot. I personally apply and get rejected by Blizzard and Riot Games every 6-7 months because, if I eventually get in, I’ll have all this path behind me to look back on and I won’t take my achievements for granted.”
What advice do you have for students/grads looking to work on short films or freelance projects?
Honestly, there's so much work to be done that you should be applying for anything you feel like you'd enjoy. I personally didn't really believe in myself, but got told a lot by people that have seniority over me by a lot that I was good. Listen to other people and follow their advice. Get rejected a lot. Getting rejected sort of sucks if you build hype around getting hired somewhere you want, but if you keep getting rejected you sort of get used to it and start opening different routes where you consider things you might not have before that you might end up enjoying a lot. I personally apply and get rejected by Blizzard and Riot Games every 6-7 months because, if I eventually get in, I'll have all this path behind me to look back on and I won’t take my achievements for granted.
Also, don't destroy yourself with workload/practice. It's fine to want to be the best and get hired by a huge studio, but also take your health into consideration. You're not gonna be any good to a studio if you overwork yourself to hell and back. After all, it's a job in the entertainment industry! You gotta stay entertained yourself and enjoy it to make it work.
Thank you so much, Maikoe!
You can check out more of Maikoe’s work here.
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