Shane Acker Talks 9 and Beyond
A new era in animated storytelling begins with the release of 9 on 9/9/09 (from Focus Features). Shane Acker, the celebrated UCLA alum, whose imaginative 9 short was nominated for an Oscar, has been hard at work for the last four years or so making his post-apocalyptic CG adventure into a feature. How 9 got set up is fascinating. It was first shepherded by producer Jim Lemley (Wanted), who got the short to super agent Mike Simpson, who then approached Tim Burton, who helped set it up at Focus. Then Lemley approached his directing partner, Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch), who was helpful with, among other things, recutting. Acker tells us in this exclusive interview about his experience making his feature debut with Starz Animation Toronto, as well as his recent artist in resident gig at The Gnomon School and two upcoming features he's trying to set up.
Bill Desowitz: How did you first approach making 9 into a feature?
Shane Acker: When I made the short, I really didn't have a longer form script or idea, but I did have a lot of ideas about the world and the backstory to help me design the short and the characters. We just kind of started there, relooking at all those ideas I had behind the short and how those characters came to be and what happened to the humans. And then started cracking the door open a little wider and tried to piece together a story from that. But this was my way of diving back into another four years of a project that had already taken me four-and-a-half, with the possibility of who these other characters are, who the other numbers are. They are just suggested in the short.
SA: Yes, exactly. And that's a lot of fun, both in designing the characters but then trying to figure out who they are, and their personalities and who their maker was: a Geppetto/Oppenheimer-like character connected to the downfall of humanity and how they represent a new beginning and vessels for the human spirit to carry on in this world. And that they're all facets of that one individual personality/identity. They're all inclined in different ways, so they all have different strengths and weaknesses. And through this coming together, they form the whole -- they put together the individual once again.
BD: And where did you set up your animation initially?