Bachelor of Animation student Melissa Allen got her first taste of the film festival circuit as a filmmaker this year, when the Ottawa Film Festival screened her third-year film Fists of Finance last month.
Melissa produced the film with a team of Sheridan students under the supervision of animation faculty Jim Caswell. I asked Melissa to share the story behind her film.
How did you come up with the concept for the film?
“When my father retired from his job at the WCB as the Chief Investment Officer, he was able to return his efforts to teaching the Japanese martial art Aikido, and so he started the first Aikido Yoshinkan dojo in the city. I thought his journey had a funny contrast, from office worker to black belt martial arts instructor.”
“The story [Fists of Finance] centers around the greatest Kung Fu master’s accountant and how he snaps one day and uses math power to force his miserly and physically intimidating boss to finally pay the bills.”
What were some of the skills you learned along the way?
“I learned to work in a group, as the third year focuses our assignments around completing a film within a team of 10-12 students. You also relearn with a vengeance the programs Adobe Premier Pro, Final Cut, ToonBoom and After Effects.”
Melissa also learned a little something about being a boss. “Directing seems to be as much a management job as it is an artistic endeavour, where you’re steering a project toward completion as outside and inside influences try to sink the ship, while also contributing artistically to the project. Ultimately, I was just incredibly lucky to have had a team where everyone contributed and improved on the vision and worked hard.”
Tell me more about this team dynamic. How did you produce a film in a group?
“At the beginning of the year we all have to pitch a film idea to the class. I was very fortunate in that my group (each class is split into two groups, randomly selected by teachers) chose my idea. Choosing one idea is not the norm, however, since stories are usually a combination of two ideas popular with the team. Infighting sometimes occurs and the ideas get further revised.”
“Ultimately, I was just incredibly lucky to have had a team where everyone contributed and improved on the vision and worked hard” – Melissa Allen
“Having the founding vision allowed me to write a script and direct the film. As the director, I had final say on early story revision, pacing, editing choices, the general look of the film (the final look was handled by our incredibly talented art director), collaborated with the composer for the right tone and story/music emphasis. I also acted as co-producer of the film, which meant I organized and enforced deadlines, and kept everyone in the loop on Facebook our group.”
“I suggested we run our group like an animation studio, with an art director, lead animator, head of layout, compositor, music editor etc. We all agreed upon the leads, therefore hopefully no egos would be bruised when one person takes charge of a department. A flat, shape-based style that would be easy to animate was used, therefore avoiding ability inconsistencies, which can be visible throughout a student group film. It’s necessary that everyone have a hand in all parts of the film, but in our case our leads in each department would look over everyone’s work to check for consistent style and quality.”
Pictured above: A screen shot from the Fists of Finance short film
Written by: Anne Whitehead, Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design at Sheridan.