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Adoration and Perseverance: Louis Heinberg’s ‘Day Dream’

Colgate sophomore’s ongoing passion for Bag Raiders’ ‘Shooting Stars’ culminates in charming first film, an animated music video, and spot at Animation Day in Cannes.

Every once in a while, a short email message slips through the gauntlet surrounding AWN’s editorial triage, resting shoulder to shoulder in an inbox with the seemingly endless barrage of big studio notices all screaming for attention. Try as best we can, sadly we miss out on many great pieces of work because of the simple fact that even with educated eyes, aggregation tools, email filters and a trigger-finger delete key, we’re still vastly outnumbered by the incoming flow of digital messaging. Great stuff always seems to quietly slip buy.

But, because we have no lives and are up at all hours of the day and night, we do manage to catch quite a bit and do our best to spotlight interesting new stories, artistic voices, visual perspectives, or something unique we just find compelling. One such email came in last month from a young filmmaker by the name of Louis Heinberg, asking me to take a look at his music video, Day Dream, which had been selected for inclusion at the May 18th Animation Day in Cannes. The film, his first, is a live-action / animated short revolving around a song he first heard as a shy young kid – a quick glance at the short, the backstory that demonstrated his passion and perseverance, his determination to “one day find a way to make this film,” seemed so simple yet so compelling, that it warranted a closer look.

The song in question is ‘Shooting Stars’ by the Bag Raiders, which has mesmerized him since he first heard it in 2009. According to Heinberg, who just completed his sophomore year at Colgate University, where he’s majoring in English with a minor in Film & Media Studies, “I still remember hearing ‘Shooting Stars’ from the speaker of a friend’s radio in the summer of 2009, and I instantly fell in love. I was a rather introverted kid growing up, and I loved to listen to music and stare out the window on the bus ride home from school. I couldn’t properly put into words the way ideas formed in my mind, but with each listen a fantasy was slowly born. I would constantly obsess over this story in my head, which only matured and developed through the years.”

As he grew older, his desire to bring that vision to life though film was tempered by the realization that he had neither the equipment nor talent to make that happen. That was the case until last summer. As Heinberg explains, “I was working at my childhood sleep-away camp in Maine. This is where I met Mitchell [Zemil, head animator], the camp’s animation counselor and my partner in crime, in a cabin full of 9 year olds. We became fast friends and it wasn’t before long that I realized his incredible talent. Soon after the summer ended, I reached out to him with the idea and full script, and we were instantly on the same wavelength. It’s still baffling to me how nearly identical the finished video is to the great fantasy that had grown in my mind all these years.”

With a script in hand, Heinberg and Zemil began work early last September, with a finished film released on YouTube this past April 30th. Zemil edited the song using Audacity – the live-action footage was shot in 1080p on a Canon HF G20. Close friend Orlando Gil edited the film using Final Cut Pro. Backgrounds, created by Stephanie Han, as well as the characters, animated by Zemil and assistant Connor Halleck, were created with Photoshop and composited in After Effects.

Looking back at the project, Heinberg explains that the biggest challenge was clearing the music rights. “The biggest hurdle, undeniably, was obtaining the licensing rights to use the song. I wanted to be able to share the film with others without risk or worry about copyright issues. For weeks, I searched for the rights holder. Finally, I came to Universal Records Publishing Group, and exchanged emails with senior coordinator of Film & Music Travis Williams, who was fantastic in helping me obtain the license.”

Heinberg also notes that the other major challenge was the logistics of the live-action filming. “With the video taking place in New York City, I had a rough time dealing with transportation from Colgate University, which is no less than 4 hours away on a good day,” he remarks. “We could only afford to dedicate one weekend to drive down and get it done. We prayed for perfect timing, and everything went relatively well, but it was very cold and windy. There was actually one moment where the camera was blown off the tri-pod, and I caught it mid-air, which can only logically be explained through divine intervention. The weather was so cold that by the end of the shoot, everyone was near frozen.”

The film represents a true collaboration of young filmmakers determined to push ahead despite many obstacles in their path. Concludes Heinberg, “I'm eternally grateful to those I worked with and I hope this to be the first of many such collaborations. They helped make this dream a reality.”

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.