The director of the Spanish Oscar contender gets serious with animation.
Another Oscar-contending indie, Arrugas (Wrinkles), based on Paco Roca's comic, concerns two friends in a retirement home where one tries to keep the other out of the dreaded Alzheimer's ward. Director Ignacio Ferreras discussed the making of his 2D-animated Spanish feature.
Bill Desowitz: This seems like the perfect follow-up to your short, How to Cope with Death. How did you come to make it?
Ignacio Ferraras: This project chose me rather than me choosing it. The producer Manuel Cristobal found the graphic-novel, found me, and brought the two of us together -- ironically, I don't think Manuel had How to Cope with Death in mind when he thought of me for this project, but other work which is not really connected to the theme of aging. I don't know, maybe I'm just destined to make films about this subject.
Working on Wrinkles, I was trying to make a film I would like to watch as an audience; I don't think you can make a film any other way. I also think that all good films deal with a universal theme -- that is precisely what makes them good films, that they take a story, perhaps a very local story, and turn it into something with universal appeal. It's the great power of cinematographic language: it cuts across cultures.
BD: Describe the collaboration process with Paco Roca in terms of working out the story beats and the design.
IF: Paco Roca did all the character designs and I, together with animation supervisor Baltasar Pedrosa, simply went over them to make sure they were as animation friendly as possible. In all aspects of design we were always trying to stay close to the graphic-novel and to Paco's style.
The structure of the film and the development of the sequences is something I did together with my wife, Rosanna Cecchini, from our home in Scotland in relative isolation. We divided the film in three acts and we would try to more or less work the animatic for one whole act before showing it to other people. Paco would then see one complete act of the animatic and would tell me what he thought, suggest changes, pass me additional material for the dialogs, etc.
BD:What was it like animating your first feature? What was hardest? What was most enjoyable? What was it like assembling and working with your voice cast?
IF: I already had some experience working in feature films both as an animator and as a storyboard artist so I had some idea of what I could expect as a director… a lot of stress. The production of Wrinkles had the additional difficulty of being split in different locations, with me working mostly from Scotland, so efficient communication was a big challenge. On the other hand, that also had its advantages: it made our working hours more flexible and it allowed us to work with people who could not have possibly relocated to a single location to work on the film. It also allowed the director to have his nervous breakdowns in the privacy of his own home rather than in the studio -- I'm sure that was better for the morale of the team.
There was also the issue that the original version of the film is in Galician, which I don't speak, so I was working with a Castilian version which then had to be translated, although luckily the length of the phrases is roughly equivalent in both languages.
We had decided from the beginning that we would animate using a temp track and then record the final voices as a dub over the final image. This was necessary in order to fit a one-year long storyboarding process into a two-and-a-half year production; animation had to start on one act while I was still storyboarding and finalizing the dialogue for the following acts, and we did not want to split the voice recordings into three sessions separated by several months. We relied on the fact that in Spain there are actors with a lot of dubbing experience and when the time came they didn't disappoint. Their work, which was done in very difficult circumstances as we were behind schedule and didn't have final image for the entire film when they started recording, was extraordinary. All credit should go to the actors and to Charo Pena, who directed the recording sessions. They practically didn't need any input from me. I also had the help of Angel de la Cruz who is a Galician speaker, since the original version was done in Galician.
BD:What pleases you most about the movie and the response toward it as an adult drama that just happens to be animated?
IF: Well, you've just said it: it is an adult drama that just happens to be animated. That's what pleases me the most, that people recognize it as such. So far people who have watched Wrinkles have responded very well to the fact that it is an animated drama. I think it shows that the two things, animation and drama, can go hand in hand and that animation need not be limited to certain stories or a particular narrative formula.
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and editor of VFXWorld. He has a new blog, Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), and is currently writing a book about the evolution of James Bond from Connery to Craig, scheduled for publication this year, which is the 50th anniversary of the franchise.