Case Study: Hasta Santiago

Mauro Carraro talks about his first professional animation short: subconscious reality and importance of second opinion.

Mauro Carraro is an Italian animation director whose last short animation 59 Seconds was in National Competition during Locarno Film Festival 2017 and won Pardino d’argento!, he is regularly invited to be the jury for different festivals and he travels around the world conducting workshops on animation, while sharing his experience of creating his own animation style. Today he tells about his first professional short Hasta Santiago, which has received more than 15 awards at different festivals and is still being selected for screenings.

“After a deep sleep there is a moment when my subconscious is open,  it is a moment to explore a problem and find some new ideas.”

About the film

The story is about Mapo’s journey on the St James Way. On this legendary route he will cross cities and will meet other walkers who do not necessarily carry their backpack …

The idea

“It was from my own experience that I got the idea. Once I went on a pilgrimage to Santiago and it was a wonderful experience to disappear from the world for two months without any booked accommodation and with no plans, just you and nature.  That was when some scenes started to appear to me in dreams and I drew some strips and wrote some small descriptions of the people who I met during the pilgrimage. I collected everything and I was ready to make the film.”

The script

“It took me about 6 months to write a script, though I was not doing just that during this time, as I combined the script with the storyboard. First I drew something, then I went back to the script, it is like some kind of a bridge. Sometimes the idea came from an image, sometimes from the writing. I personally prefer from an image because writing for me is a logical process, however, an image expresses some unique vision, a vision within my soul. Sometimes, I draw something and I do not really know why I have drawn that, but when I am writing, I need to find some logical connections between the place and the character, so everything is too logical. I prefer a more imaginative way.”

“So when I finished the script that was it. I did not change anything as it is too costly to change a storyline in animation. When you are making a short feature you can try shooting a few scenes that you have not planned before, as you are already on the location, it is possible to improvise, but in animation it can be really expensive to do like that.”

The crew and the production

“My first student film was 1-minute-long and it was called Little Step and I made it completely by myself. Working alone is much longer and you can lose the capacity of making the smart choice, it is difficult to look at the project from the distance impartially. However, Hasta Santiago is my first professional animation short and that time I was working with my crew. I was not making animation myself, I had 3 assistants to work with me, I only supervised and gave some instruction to their work. While the animators were working on their task I was doing rendering, compositing and modeling, everything that is not animation. It took us 14 months to finish the film and during that time I was working solely on this project.”

“I was very lucky to work with my producer Nicolas Burlet and he was good at fixing stuff because it was difficult for me as it was not in my language, it was in French and I am Italian. It was more like fixing up, he did not try to change some of the turning points of the film, it was more about the form and, of course, he gave me some ideas, so I am very grateful that we worked together.”

The funding

“That was my first professional animation and we decided to apply for the State Funding. After the producer applied and while we were waiting for the funding, we had already started the pre-production. I think it took about 6-8 months to obtain the funding, though we didn’t have all the money we needed. So I still decided to proceed as it was my first short, I had to start somewhere. The first short is always not that easy to get funding for, because they don’t know you, even if you had some student films made they still don’t know if they can be sure you will finish the film.”

The second opinion

“It is very important to show your work to supervisors or people you trust because sometimes you have seen too much of your film, and you do not have a fresh view on it, you lose completely the view of the project, it becomes part of yourself, but when you show the film to someone else, he regards it from a new perspective and can give you really simple and smart ideas.”

“When I finished the film I gave it to the Artistic Director Zoltan Horvat of my studio to give me some feedback and more fresh look. They usually try to make some scenes more dynamic, cut some seconds, some frames. However, not a lot, as in animation we do not have much rough scenes, we can’t really put new content, because it does not exist or we do not cut content, because if you cut 15 seconds, it is very costly, so we really try not to cut much.”

Music

“I would never forget how we were making the song with the choir le Chœur Voyageur for the film, it was very hilarious. It was the idea of our composer Pierre Manchot that I would also be singing in the choir with 30 other singers.”

“I started working on music way before the edit was done, I had already some ideas when I was making a storyboard and while making 3D animatics we were already talking about the music, so our composer had a long period of time for writing it. I told him the mood that I felt was appropriate and I gave him some suggestions about the texture of the instrument I wanted,and then he gave me three different melodies for one song and we tried to sing it together and change something and then he went back finishing all the stuff we had worked together on.”

How I work

“I usually draw at home, no matter which time of the day. I have some ideas by night during the lapse of time between the deep sleep and the wake up time. I usually have a notebook near my bed and I note my ideas and when I wake up I read them and I know more or less what I have to do. Basically my subconscious tells me the story and I try to use those moments of the dream, though it is not really a dream, it is a time when you are free from your body, it is called a phase and I use it to find ideas. After a deep sleep there is a moment when my subconscious is open,  it is a moment to explore a problem and find some new ideas. I am still sleeping at that time, and it is possible to learn how to use your brain to search for new stories. I don’t wake up and i draw with my eyes closed.”

Over de auteur

Anna Demianenko

Anna Demianenko is a director and producer. She has an educational background on film and TV directing and in 2014 she won the Dovzhenko Film Studio Competition which lead her into making her already award-winning comedy short film debut Keep a Fight. She is founder and General Producer of Marhanets Film Festival.

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