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A sci-fi short film about a futuristic thief and his accomplice, a robotic dog.
20 backers pledged $1,500 to help bring this project to life.

About

Intercept : A Sci-Fi Short Film project video thumbnail
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$1,500

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Who Am I?

My name is Jordan Gestring and I am a graduate student studying animation and VFX at Clemson University in South Carolina.

I am passionate about telling stories through film, and in the past few years I have developed my experience in many aspects of production.

Here are a couple of small projects that I have worked on in the past few years, showcasing my experience working on live-action as well as fully computer animated productions:

What's This Project About?

I have always been passionate about live-action filmmaking and it's inherent challenges. However, this had not really been explored or taught within the graduate program I am in; most productions focused on fully computer animated projects. So for my Master's thesis, I chose to develop and direct a short film integrating live action with CGI.

While I hope that this project will encourage future students in this program to explore live-action visual effects, there are also a number of challenges that I plan to focus on.

One of the characters is a fully computer generated robotic dog, and this will have to be detailed enough in appearance, animation, and lighting in order to appear integrated into the live-action environment.

Live-action filmmaking also carries physical limitations which can be ignored in fully CGI animations, and it is always an interesting challenge to find creative ways to "cheat" what is physically possible.

I am also passionate about the creative potential in sci-fi visual effects design, and will be integrating that into the "futuristic" nature of the short.

Beyond collaboration with students in my own department, I am also working together with students and professors in Clemson University's Performing Arts department. I have held auditions for actors, and am also working with sound designers, composers, and lighters.

Story

The short film is a near-future, sci-fi story which follows a high-tech thief and his accomplice, a robotic canine. Together, the pair infiltrate a high-tech storage facility, but the heist ultimately forces the thief to face the consequences of his greed in a high stakes escape.

Character Concept Art
Character Concept Art

Character Design & Fabrication

I have been working on various aspects of the character design over the last few months, sketching out ideas, planning the details of the mechanical pieces, and developing detailed character designs.

Initial Character Concept Sketches
Initial Character Concept Sketches

Digitally, the character is built in 3 stages: modeling, rigging, and surfacing.

The 3D modeling is being accomplished by a fellow graduate student who is currently working as a professional modeler for feature films, and has graciously volunteered his expertise.

I am rigging the character for animation, as well as developing the shaders and surfacing. Other graduate students have also volunteered to work on the texturing. 

By only having a single CG character in the short, it can be refined to the level necessary to integrate it convincingly into the live-action plates.

Production Schedule

For the last few months I have been working on pre-production for the short as part of an independent research course, which will be finishing up in December. This has involved:

  • Story & Character Development
  • Visual Design
  • Digital Character Modeling, Rigging, & Surfacing
  • Actor Auditions
  • VFX Research

The production itself will take place from January-May 2016. This will include:

  • Shooting & Editing
  • Character Animation
  • FX
  • Compositing
  • Sound Design & Scoring

The production has to be completed by May 2016, as a graduation requirement, and that is my hard and fast deadline.

So Why Kickstarter?

I already have access to both software licenses and rendering hardware, through a combination of the resources provided by the university and the fact that many professional production software companies offer educational and non-commercial licensing.

By partnering with the Clemson Performing Arts department, I am also able to collaborate with student cast and crew on a volunteer basis.

However, in regards to equipment, for past live-action projects I have always utilized whatever was easily and affordably available, usually shooting on cheap camcorders or DSLRs with mostly DIY home-made accessories. While I am fully prepared to shoot this film using my currently available resources, I would like to push the production value of my film just a bit further with some slightly more advanced camera equipment. And so I am looking to Kickstarter to fund the rental of this equipment for the duration of shooting in January 2016.

Budget

My goal is to reach $1500 in order to rent the equipment I would like to be able to use for a month of shooting. A month is the safest duration, allowing for time to familiarize the crew with the hardware, be flexible around volunteer schedules, and still allow wiggle room for reshoots, if needed.

I have budgeted for the rental of a single Blackmagic Cinema Camera, with appropriate equipment, in addition to other minor expenses incurred on a live action film set.

Risks and challenges

Filmmaking is a complex endeavor and requires extensive planning, though the challenges of every production are unique. As such, in addition to my planning I am also prepared to adapt and be flexible when problems arise. I have worked on and completed other production projects, and have extensive experience with creative problem-solving in overcoming challenges.

Overall, the scope of the story is fairly compact, which reduces the complexity of shooting. The setting is restrained to a single indoor environment in order to manage many potential issues of production; this way the shooting isn't subject to weather or time-of-day limitations, and the environment can be much more tightly controlled.

Beyond the shooting, there are still the technical challenges of animation, lighting & rendering, FX, and compositing. While every production's challenges are unique, I will be drawing on my own experience with all these aspects of VFX production as well as the experience of others.

In addition, other student volunteers have stepped forward to assist with aspects of production, which will help distribute the workload.

Even if I am unable to obtain funding through Kickstarter, I will still be moving forward to create this short. However I'm hoping to have the opportunity the expand the quality of the production with more professional equipment.

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    Producer credit on the film
    (Optional opportunity to to appear in the film as an extra, travel costs to Clemson, SC not included)

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Funding period

- (29 days)