Q&A with Mighty Coconut, Creators of the DUST short “OceanMaker”
“OceanMaker” has quickly become a fan favorite on DUST. With incredible animations and a refreshingly unique story, “OceanMaker” captivates viewers without using any dialogue. With just facial expressions, you can feel the desperation in the courageous female pilot as she battles pirates for control of the last remaining source of water: the clouds.
While this short film is entertaining, the story behind its creation is equally unique. Rather than coordinate with an animation team spread throughout the country, director Lucas Martell proposed an interesting offer. Having spent 5 years on his first animated short film, director Lucas Martell knew “The OceanMaker” would require a team of professional artists, and that the most efficient use of their time would be to have everyone working together in the same location.
Rather than a typical studio environment, production was moved to a small island in the Caribbean. Lucas’ pitch to the crew was simple: “If you’d be willing to work for deferred payment, we’ll cover the costs for you to travel and live in a tropical paradise.” The result was much like an artist’s retreat. In just 7 weeks, the crew of 8 finished nearly half of the film using nothing but laptops.
Not a bad work meeting.
Learn more from the Mighty Coconut team below in this Q&A. Make sure to visit their website, MightyCoconut.com, to learn more about this awesome studio and the other projects they are working on.
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in?
I don’t think that OceanMaker is a world that anyone would want to live in, although we are currently expanding on that world to show something that is far more nuanced than a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
I think I’d be OK with living in the Oasis from Ready Player One. Not the stacks, but I think the idea of a super-realistic massive online metaverse might be something I actually see in my lifetime.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
I’m going to go with William Adama from BSG. If only I had Edward James Olmos’ voice…
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
I know this question isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, but we’ve actually been developing a couple of games and spent a lot of time exploring AI driven storytelling to help with dynamic, branching narratives. I’m by no means an expert, but having been down that road I can safely say that I have absolutely zero fear that computers are going to take any jobs away from writers/directors. AI is great for many things, but creative storytelling is not one of them.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
Easy, the entire original cast of Star Trek. They might not be good basketball players, but I feel like it would be an entertaining game.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I went through a phase where I forced myself to write down five loglines every day, and one full synopsis every week. Most of the loglines were terrible, but the synopsis were decent and I got a few solid scripts out of it. Ever since doing that I’ve found that I can pretty quickly “sniff out” a bad idea and either cut bait before spending much time on it, or fix the underlying issue so it’s not a bad idea. The trick is having enough different ideas that you’re not just going with the first thing that comes to mind.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
The writing process is typically the most isolating part because I have a hard time getting away from it. The story is always playing through in my mind and trying to figure out how to solve problems or figuring out what happens next. Directing/Producing has it’s own challenges, but it’s a little easier because by that time the path is set and it’s just figuring out how to keep things moving forward.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
That’s interesting because it’s something I hadn’t actually considered. My films have all been computer animated, but the stories I tend to tell feel much more analog. I think the major reason is that digital stuff doesn’t work particularly well on screen. One of the underlying ideas we used for OceanMaker was that you can’t really fix digital equipment by hand, so everything reverted to older, more simplistic analog devices. That was also the justification behind replacing all of the jet engines with propellers. Jets don’t handle sand well and are more difficult to maintain without the right equipment.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
We spent a lot of time researching aircraft for OceanMaker, particularly with a visit to the airplane graveyard in Tucson, AZ. We wanted to capture that rusted out, patchwork look by mixing and matching different pieces. Putting the top wing of a PBY Catalina on the body of a Grumman OV-1 created this awesome-looking biplane that helped it stand out and differentiate the planes.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars, Phillip K. Dick, Dystopic and Post-Apocalyptic. Even though we do all CGI, we actually try to integrate as many practical techniques as possible because it helps trick the brain into not feeling too CGI. Especially cameras… even on all CG shots I like to feel that there’s a real, heavy camera being moved around on some sort of crane, or attached to a chase plane in the case of OceanMaker.