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. We’ll be starting with Diego Oliva, who is a student at AnimSchool currently taking Body Acting, our fourth course in 3D animation.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Diego, I’m from Chile. I started learning animation when I studied at University (I graduated in 2017) but I didn’t learn as much character animation as I wanted to, so I entered AnimSchool and I’m a current student now. Not much professional background except for a few freelance jobs here and there.

How did you find out about “Here’s the Plan”, and what drove you to work on it?
When I was working on my thesis, I was worried because after all the years studying at University, I didn’t learn exactly what I wanted to, which was character animation. So, I tried to find other ways to learn at that time and luckily I heard there was a short film project being made and they were looking for animators. I sent a reel with the few things I had and got an answer saying that I had the job as junior animator. Fernanda (the director) helped me a lot by teaching me about the details of animation.

What is your favorite aspect of the film? (Story, visuals, specific shots, etc.)

My favourite aspect of the film might be the story. I like that it feels personal, and I like how is being told – it could have had the usual kind of couple fight, where they end up divorced or with a lot of drama, but that’s not the story that the director wanted to tell, and I admire that.  

What were some of the hardships of working on a short film?
There are unexpected technical errors that might happen, because it’s a small production and there is a lot to do, but you’re not always sure about how to do it. For example, animating certain props that could need some vfx but you have to come up with a faster and cheaper way (belts, clothes, for example). We worked those problems as a team with the final decision made by the director. I remember that there was a sequence where “Kat” had to take her jacket off, and at the beginning she was going to make that action all in one shot – the problem was that the rig didn’t have any controls for that, and the jacket wasn’t exactly model for that kind of motion, so there was two options: try to figure out a vfx solution with dynamics and all or make a separate rig and animate it frame by frame trying to make it look like is clothing and that the character is moving it. In the end, Fernanda separated the shot into two, one when “Kat” starts taking it off and the next one when she is throwing it away. We never see how she takes it off but the story is told the same way, or maybe better.

What is a shot you worked on that you’re particularly proud of? What was effective about it?

Hmmm, I think it could be nearly at the end of the film, when after Kat breaks down the wall, she and Doug apologize to each other. It was one of the few acting shots I had, (mostly I was asked to animate the close ups of the hands or props etc), and I really liked how it turned out, mostly because I first thought that I couldn’t do it, hahaha. When I watch it, I do feel the connection between those two. I think what really helped was the director’s feedback – she knew exactly what she wanted to tell and how. Because we didn’t have much time to finish the animation, there was no time to take any reference, so it ended up being mostly intuition. (I’m talking about the shots from 16:04 to 16:19)

Were there things you learned during your classes at AnimSchool that you think may have been helpful in hindsight?
I wish I knew more about body mechanics at that time; I think I would have worked way faster and better with the knowledge I get from AnimSchool and the instructors. I do feel that my animations don’t look the same as they did before, even though it hasn’t been so long since I started AnimSchool. I feel that I’ve been learning a lot. I find really cool how not only the instructors but also the students are so willing to help each other – it’s a great community.

Tell us about your workflow for animating a new shot.

Well, I first start with the reference if needed, don’t do much drawing unless a movement is too cartoony for real life reference. I sketch out some key poses I like in my sketchbook and start the blocking pass. I always tried to put as much in the blocking as I can and not get impatient and jump into spline (I don’t always succeed… and then end up saying, oh man, I should have planned that in blocking). I do use tools and plugins – my favourite so far is “Atools”, it has saved my butt too many times already. When getting feedback, I like to write them down on paper, kinda helps me to remember easier, and I draw some thumbnails of what I need to change.

What advice do you have for students/grads looking to work on short films or freelance projects?
Maybe because normally short films are more independent projects, they tend to be more artistic or have a really different direction that a studio is not always allowed so it’s a fun experience (but also a messy one). Prepare for many mistakes, but you will learn a lot from them, and be open to sharing ideas, not only in animation but maybe in other areas that might help the production. Because it’s such a small team working on a really specific project, you end up caring about it more than just another job – you are all in the same boat and want it to work!!

Thank you so much, Diego!

You can check out more of Diego’s work here.

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