Behind-the-Scenes of IAA Winning Short ‘Whack Jobs’ with Gavin O’Donnell #Interview

Our Dublin-based 2D Designer Gavin O'Donnell, along with his classmates from Ballyfermot College, recently picked up the award for Best Irish Animated Student Film at Animation Dingle for short film 'Whack Jobs'! 

We chatted with Gavin along with writer & director of the short Joshua Hogan about their roles on the dark humoured 'Whack Jobs' and what was involved behind-the-scenes:

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Who was involved in creating “Whack Jobs” and what were your roles on the short?  

Gavin O'Donnell: I was co-art director alongside Joshua. I was also involved in storyboards, background design, animation and compositing.

Joshua Hogan was the writer, director, character/ background designer.

Lucia Lusvarghi was storyboarding lead, animation director, production manager, tech supervisor and compositing.

Owen Wynne was animation director, composting director and background designer.

Lee Connolly was character designer and animator.

How did you come about the idea for the short? 

Joshua Hogan: Whack Jobs was an idea that stemmed from 3 months I spent in the States working in a summer camp that was filled with unbelievably wealthy kids. These kids were beyond spoiled, and when visiting day came around and I got to see the interaction between child and parent, it was very apparent that some of these parents did not particularly like their children as much as one should.

That's when Whack Jobs came into my mind. What if one of these parents got pushed so far that they couldn't take it anymore? What were their options? Could a child be that awful? How far was a parent willing to go? Hitmen dressed as cartoon characters seemed like the most entertaining option.

Can you explain a little about how you created the film? 

In our final year of Animation in BCFE our class was required to pitch a short film each. The tutors selected their top 3 with the writer being the director of the project for the year. From there the remaining students listed their favourite films to work on. The tutors tried to assign a balanced skill set of students to each project.

It was October by the time this was all said and done, leaving around seven months to produce the short. We jumped straight into nailing down the story, creating moodboards, concepts, and following this, storyboarding. All of the work was divided up by people's strengths as much as possible.

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What were the biggest challenges involved in making it?

Thankfully we had a team that had a varied and strong set of skills so everyone got to work in their favourite areas, producing their best work. The artistic level we wanted to reach for the project was ambitious and we only had seven months to create the film. This meant we needed a very strict schedule. Luckily, we had Lucia who had previous work experience and knew how to create a fitting schedule for the project.

The year was very self-directed and each student needed to be quite self-disciplined, working most days and nights throughout the year. We tried to meet in college most days of the week to help each other, collaborate on ideas and challenges.

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What advice would you give to anyone else creating a short animation?

Make sure that your story is nailed down as soon as possible. If the writing falls into your pre-production time it can have a pretty bad knock on effect.

Working with a team with a varied set of skills allows you to really focus on your particular area of interest and expertise.

Stick closely to your schedule as much as possible and leave a couple of weeks at the end for any fallout.

Be open to ideas and feedback.

Don't get attached to anything, sometimes you might have to leave things out of the project that you really liked.

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What advice would you give someone considering getting into animation?  

Animation is such an amazing area to work in, there are endless possibilities. Within animation there are countless fields to specialise in; storyboarding, writing, concept/visual development, 2D animation, 3D animation, rigging and modelling to name a few. People sometimes refer to animation being a genre but animation is not a genre. A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. It can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film or a kids fairy tale.

If you're looking to get into the field, start trying to teach yourself from the resources online. There's Schoolism where you can learn about everything - character or background design or even storyboarding - directly from industry professionals. Ctrlpaint has a free video library that teaches you everything you need to know about getting started in Photoshop, studying habits and mindset. College is also great for learning the fundamentals but my advice would be not to solely rely on college or any one tutor. Learn from everywhere and everyone that you can and form this into your own vision, no single person holds all the knowledge. 

Finally, Artstation is a great website to look at as an industry benchmark. A lot of people can get demotivated when looking at exceptional work. You have to realise the work you're looking at probably took thousands of hours of practice to reach. That artist was once in your shoes. When looking at this work try to use it as inspiration!

You can view more of Gavin's work on 'Whack Jobs' on his ArtStation!

Anahita Tabarsi

Anahita is Brown Bag Films' Digital Marketing Manager and drinks more than five coffees a day...

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