'25April' NZ's First Animated Feature Film

04.13.2016

We interview Flux Animator (and AC graduate) Shannon Fahey about his work on NZ's first animated feature '25 April'. 

'25 April' is an innovative feature documentary created to bring the story of the New Zealand experiences at Gallipoli (Turkey) to life for a modern audeince throuhg a reimagined world. 

Based on war diaries of those who served the film offers unique perspectives on the first world war.

Shannon tells us about his experience working on the film and the challenges he faced. 

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What part of the production did you work on?
I headed the 3D Lighting/Rendering department of 25 April. My team's job was to take a grayscale 3D shot from the animator, texture it (every shot needed to be textured uniquely), light it according to the storyboard/2D Artwork, and render it in a way that made the compositors life easier.

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What was different about working on a feature film compared to say advertising or television animation?
The sheer time spent on the project is probably the greatest difference. We started pre-production mid-2013. We didn't finish for another 2 years. Spending that long in a project is quite a different experience to the few months you typically spend on a television series. The project seeps under your skin. You have the time to connect to the work in a way you can't with shorter projects. Being able to take time to appreciate a shot - nudge a camera half a pixel here, push a highlight 2 degrees further to just hint at a shape - it's a luxury few animators get. Everything gets a little more care, a little more polish, and in turn you end up a little more proud.

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Are you excited to be working on New Zealand’s first feature animated film?
Totally, and not just because this was the first animated film produced entirely in New Zealand, but also because the film has such a rich Kiwi connection. There's a great amount of pride that comes with telling a story as near and dear as the Gallipoli Campaign. There's also a huge responsibility to treat the story and the people with the respect they deserve. Nobody outside of NZ/Australia could have produced the film we made, because nobody else has the connection to it that we do. I'm immensely excited to have been a part of it.

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The film really makes a statement by injecting colour in an era that we as viewers have mostly seen in black and white, was there anything else about the art style that appealed to you?
The mixed media of 25 April was immediately daunting and exciting. In any one shot we could have 3D animation, motion capture, particle simulations, 2D artwork, After Effects animation, Toon Boom characters, Traditional animation... the whole thing was about making a documentary/graphic novel/war movie using any tool necessary. To top that off, it all started with the artwork of Colin Wilson, who is the artistic director for the film, (and a well-known kiwi comic artist). Having his 2D work as the benchmark made it all the more important that the melding of all of these mediums not only worked, but sat together beautifully.

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Did the impact of working from material inspired by true events get to you at any point?
Definitely. When you work on a film, or a series, you can't help but connect with the subject. And in this case the subject could be intensely disturbing. Right at the start when we produced our first treatment of the film, (kind of a proof of concept) I animated a shot of a crow flying menacingly towards camera. It was obstructed by a whole lot of other crows, flies, and chaos. It was a cool shot, but when I watched it in context with the dialogue - "...the cawing was crows. The crows fed off the corpses..." - it dawned on me that this horror scene was taken from the diary of someone my age. Here I was drawing it, and this guy had actually lived it. I think being the same age as these boys gave me unique connection to the film that I mightn't have had if I worked on it in 10 years’ time. It gave me a little more of an appreciation of my life, and that can only be a good thing.

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Now that you have a taste for feature animation are you looking forward to working on more feature animation?

Totally. I'm at the start of my career in animation, (5 years in) and it would seem New Zealand is finally beginning to recognise animation as an important and viable way to tell our stories. While there is a lot of really great kiwi content being animated (Tiki-Tour, Wiki the Kiwi, Barefoot Bandits), a feature gives you the unique ability to develop and tell a story with a depth you just can't pack into 22 minutes. I think, and I hope feature animation will be very much a part of my path in this industry, and I couldn't be more excited about that!

You can see the film '25 April' on Anzac Day at the Rialto and tickets can be booked here. If you'd like a taste of the film beforehand, check out the trailer below.


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