First, let me say right off the bat that being under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), I am not allowed to discuss any of the specific of the movie. What I will discuss, however, is the progress made and what I’ve been up to with the production.
When I finished working on the My Little Pony Movie, at the end of July 2017, I informed Grid Animation (the current holder of the Saga of Rex option) that I was starting on the movie full time on September 4th. After Skyping back and forth with Grid’s CEO, we started working out a schedule. We decided that I would hire 4 storyboard artists to work with me for 5 months, while I create the temp score for the film and turn all the storyboards into a fully timed and articulated animatic of the film.
By the beginning of September, I had reviewed over a hundred applicants and selected what I considered to be the top four storyboard artists of the group.
Unfortunately, the negotiations quickly started falling apart in terms of our budget. I was informed that we would not be able to stay on budget with the crew I selected and the time planned for the storyboard/animatic. After a lot of back and forth, I proposed to Grid that we should elongate the schedule to allow me to storyboard and create the entire movie’s animatic by myself. They agreed and I sadly had to inform my four candidates of the new direction I was now taking.
Up until the end of 2018, The Saga of Rex Movie will be a solo act. This has always been my wish but in the context of a financed production, I didn’t think it could be an option. I’m glad I was able to reach a deal with Grid Animation. This way of creating the film will ensure the true authorship of the project.
The Animatic is the stage where I’m figuring out the essence of the movie: layout, timing, animation poses, FX block-ins, etc. I intend to have a solid blueprint of the film by the end of the year. After that, if everything goes to plan, I’ll be moving to Europe for 18 months for the full production.
Since September, I’ve designed the characters in the film that are not in the graphic novel. I've constructed an epic score for the film using licensed music, which I’d selected from hundreds of pieces I’d been listening to specifically for that purpose for the past five years. The full score is truly gorgeous and one of the best movie temp track I’ve ever heard. It was built using nearly 50 pieces of music, cobbled together in a seamless manner, just like I did for the music of the short film. The rights for the score have been cleared by Grid so it could technically be the actual score if we ever decided to go that route.
Once the score was completed in November, I took the screenplay and turned it into my first iteration of the animatic. This means that I created a full-length video of the movie with paragraphs of the screenplay on the screen, perfectly timed to the music.
By the end of November/ beginning of December, I started storyboarding the film using Storyboard Pro. Although, I liked what I could accomplish with the software, I thought I could get even better results by setting things up in Toon Boom Harmony, where I was able to create more elaborate camera moves, rough layouts and animation poses. My animatic is completely choregraphed on the music and demonstrates a precise guide for each scene. For me, this is where 80% of the directing happens. As of now, I have created a quarter of the film in this rough form, and I’m on target to have the entire film done that way by the end of the year.
Although it made me sad at first not being able to hire the initial storyboard crew I selected, in a way, it has been a blessing in disguise. The film is evolving completely in tune with my vision. It looks and feels the way I want it to. I’m not sure I’d have been able to extract such a specific vision from a storyboard crew. This is not your typical animated film, it’s an auteur film. And I believe that with true auteur projects, the more the auteur does, the better.