Minkyu Lee Talks Adam and Dog
DS: What were the biggest challenges you faced making this film?
ML: Do you have an hour?
ML: Just kidding. Oh, wow! The challenges definitely never stopped. I would pitch the story, some of the visual development designs along with some of the storyboards, to a bunch of different animators. I wasn’t expecting them to participate. I was just looking to hear their thoughts. What they felt about it. Give me some kind of feedback.
With many of the animators, their feedback was, “I like it and I would love to animate a scene for it.” I was so grateful and thankful for the entire crew. They animated for free for me! They all volunteered. Take someone like James Baxter, who is in my mind one of the greatest animators living today, who certainly has done some of the most iconic scenes in animation history. He is an animation giant to me and to a lot of people. He didn’t ask for anything. He said he would love to animate a handful of shots in it. It would be a challenge.
Because we had no budget, we didn’t have a producer. I acted as the producer. But on this film, I learned that the director and the producer really can’t be the same person. It requires different parts of the brain. You can’t have two right brains to get this done. I am definitely never going to do that again. The hard part was trying to take off my director hat, put on my producer hat and try to get this film done logistically while not paying people and not working with tight deadlines.
ML: I can’t force them to work more. It all depended on their free time and how much they felt like animating. So no budget, no producer, those were probably the biggest challenges. The light at the end of the tunnel was always very elusive.
DS: Last question. As we discussed, the film’s religious theme is certainly open to a lot of interpretation. In many circles, people’s religious faith is perceived as a weakness and religious-based themes in entertainment are frowned upon. Have you gotten any criticism regarding the film’s religious theme?
ML: In terms of direct, straight up criticism, someone telling me after watching this film that they didn’t like it because of its religious overtones being too strong, no, I haven’t. I mainly received those kinds of comments in the beginning of the making of the film. As you know, I wrote the story while I was at CalArts. CalArts is an incredibly liberal school. My film directing teachers are wonderful, awesome people. The film would not be at the level it is if it weren’t for the film directing teachers at CalArts. But I remember pitching it to them as a project and as a potential thesis and they raised concerns. Because of the religious theme, they wondered how many festivals would accept it and how it would be perceived in the film world where people might write it off simply as a religious film.
DS: I would have agreed with that concern.
ML: It wasn’t criticism. It was a concern they raised, wondering if that was going to happen and that I should think about that aspect. I certainly appreciated the feedback. It was definitely on my mind. But this is the film that I wanted to make and so I made it.
DS: One last question. How did you react when you heard you were nominated?
ML: It’s settling in little by little by little how my life is kind of different now. I’m getting all these meetings. I have a bunch of projects that I’m developing now that I really want to get off the ground. Meeting with people who could make that happen has been much easier because of the nomination.
But the moment I found out I was nominated, I was just really happy. What immediately came to my mind was everyone who helped to make the film…their faces popped into my head. I’m not joking. We had a slumber party at one of my crew members’ house and it was a little nerve wracking, checking the nomination list. Once I saw my film there, I was so thankful that my crew was there going through this entire process with me. The whole reason we had that slumber party was so that if we didn’t get nominated, we could all wallow together in sorrow and disappointment. It wouldn’t just be me alone. So I was just really thankful to my crew when we found out. It was a happy moment.
Dan Sarto is editor-in-chief and publisher of Animation World Network.