Deep down in the swamps of Louisiana, the adventurous little girl Evangeline finds a deserted alligator egg and keeps it under her bed, unbeknownst to her father Levon. When the alligator hatches, it becomes her long-awaited friend. However, the alligator soon grows to be a problem for Evangeline...
Director Nadine Schwenk and producer Nina Schwarz talk about the making of their 3D short film. Find out why Nadine loves scaly animals and what Nina had in mind with so-called “modeling parties” in the following interview!
Editorial note: The text below was already published in its original form in March 2020.
I had the idea for EVANGELINE after my gap year. During that time, I traveled through the South of the United States—from Nashville to Atlanta and New Orleans to Austin, Texas. Since I was young, this region has always fascinated me. During my travels I wanted to experience authentic music, people, and landscapes. I visited a lot of concerts and played the guitar with strangers who warmly welcomed me into their midst. I have also always been a huge fan of dinosaurs and reptiles—so basically everything that has scales. While I was in New Orleans, I hiked through the swamps, saw wild alligators, and was even able to hold a baby alligator, which was a fantastic experience for me.
The South of the USA is a region that is somewhat controversial yet has always excited me. Most of the people I know aren’t especially interested in country or bluegrass music nor do they share my love for reptiles; rather, they find them repulsive and disgusting. That’s why I wanted to introduce the audience to this world I love so much.
The challenge was to quickly jump between the different roles. Sometimes you have to talk about the music, then give animation feedback, and then animate yourself, so, you have to quickly adjust to a variety of tasks throughout the day. I had a great team that supported me and we found ways to optimize this process to ensure that everybody could work independently for long stretches of time. The advantage of combining both roles, in my opinion, is that you have a clear vision of the overall movie as well as the animation style, which allows you to make choices with an understanding of how they will impact each other.
One of the biggest challenges for me was to keep the team spirit up. This was quite hard sometimes because we worked on this production for several years. Furthermore, I had to constantly find new team members. In the end, I think, we can say that nearly the whole Animationsinstitut was involved in the production of EVANGELINE. We had team members from all years, which was great because students learned a lot from each other. We were lucky enough also having some team members, like Caroline Kiessling, Daniel Schmucker and Tim Lehr, who stayed with us for a longer time and worked together as a really strong core team till the end.
For me as a producer, it was very educational to be involved in the different steps of a film production. In the end, the vision of the director became a jointed venture. Together, we had a lot of mentoring sessions about storytelling, sound and music as well as technical meetings regarding pipelines or animation. The great thing about it was that we always worked on the synergy between the artistic vision and the technical and production-based practicability.
As a team, we tried and worked with different project-tools. The initial physical notes were quickly replaced by tools like shotgun and FTrack. Tools I need in my current job and use almost every day.
One important thing I learned during working on this film was how to sell and pitch a project. Since we were always looking for new people to join the team, we had to present and pitch the project several times. In the beginning, I always used to be really nervous. But the more often we had to go up on stage and pitch, the more relaxed and confident I got.
Nadine and I had the opportunity to experience Cartoon Movie together. It was a great chance to learn from the veterans of our industry. An educational and unforgettable journey, for both of us.
We had a great artistic team that developed a whole new and individual imagery for our movie: Tobias Trebeljahr as art director, who took care of the house with all its interior and the hunter’s ship. Eddy Hohf was in charge of the character design and Sofiia Melnyk built the swamp and its flora. Together, they created a world that could not be found in any asset-library.
We came to the point where we realized that we wouldn’t have the resources to model each asset by hand. However, we didn’t want to change or lose the imagery of the movie. So, we came up with the idea to organize modeling parties.
They worked like this: We booked the computer lab and invited all students to come and model one asset. We had self-made snacks, like alligator-cookies, themed music, and drinks. Each student who came by could pick one or several assets that he or she liked to work on.
There were even students who had no experience in modeling. But with the help of the others, they learned it during these fun evenings. The modeling parties were a welcome change, even for those students who were working on their own diploma projects.
Since those evenings were such a big success and unbelievably efficient, I used this technique for other projects and tasks as well. For my diploma project FAMILY BONDS, a 2D animated film, we established coloring parties. During those evenings, each participant could pick a shot from the movie and colorize it—no prior knowledge needed. It was a great success as well.
The helpfulness at Animationsinstitut is outstanding. In the end, we are all in the same boat and might need some help at some point.
More about Nina: LinkedIn