Arianne Sutner Talks ParaNorman
DS: Explain your role as producer? What was the dynamic like working with Travis [Knight], the directors and other senior people on the film?
AS: There aren’t very many senior people here. I have Travis, who is a producing partner and also the head of the entire company, and two directors. We don’t have to take decisions creatively to a board or to our distributors because we are independently financed. If we choose not to, we don’t have to go to focus groups. There are no executives at the company that look at the script or challenge you on your creative decisions. At LAIKA, there is really an unusual amount of creative control, supported by someone who wants to push boundaries. So I think a lot of it is that we can push our creative boundaries because we don’t have to go through that other [big studio] stuff.
How do I work with Travis? On this movie, I came in working on development with Chris Butler, who had a script. We started working together, just focusing our energies on making that script better, developing it not in a huge way, not spending tons of money. Then we moved into story and character designs to try to get it green lit. We believed in it and just aggressively went after that, to get it into a position where we could start, where we believed we had a movie with three acts and could really shoot it.
DS: I’m sure there were a number of projects in development. Why this film? Why do you think this film was chosen as LAIKA’s next film?
AS: I think it had a great script. The pacing was all there. We had a third act that worked, almost from the beginning, which is fairly unusual. We had a great hook, a really fun contemporary film, a nice fit to follow Coraline. I think also it just jived with Travis’ taste, kind of a contemporary Scooby-Doo movie. It could push the animation boundaries a little bit more. We could make a bigger stop-motion movie. That was something on our list that we really wanted to do. Pushing those boundaries, creating a feeling of real chase scenes. Besides the character development and all those givens, we absolutely wanted a great chase scene, showing background extensions and crowds, really feeling like the movie’s not sparse but populated like a real town. I think he [Travis] felt connected to the warmth at the core of it and I think that really appealed to him. It appealed to me and I hope it appeals to others.
We were in good shape. We really buckled down and put that script together. Our story beats were solid and we had a character line up that was essentially pretty much what you see now. We really kind of had our ducks in a row.
DS: Much has been made of the new rapid prototyping technology you’ve developed. To me the technology is a means to an end, to serve the story and the creative vision. Ultimately what you guys built and how you used it, the net result is that it shows up in the film.
AS: With the rapid prototyping, people are so interested in the technology, and sure, it’s really interesting. But, what is also really interesting is how we have adapted it to make it work for us creatively. It’s doesn’t make things easier, that’s the popular misconception. It makes the animation better and then hopefully, you’re able to enjoy the animation more and get those subtle nuances. That’s what we are doing it for.
Yeah, we do it for better performances, more subtle and beautiful performances that you can notice. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Travis is an animator on the film, he is producing as well, and he pushes us to do better and better. I’m not working for a boss or another producer, but with fantastic collaborators. We get to push our supervisors and experiment. We still have to get it done, but we are always trying to come up with something new.