Interview with director ARIANA BOLAÑOS GUEVARA

  • Tell me a little bit about your work. How did this film come about?

Afterglow is a 3D animated short film made as a graduation project for Veritas University. It was made with a cartoony cel shading a esthethic as a way to optimize render times, to be able to be made by one person. 
This short film was made basen on 2 personal life events: – I lost one of my high school friends. He had leukemia. He was an inspiration for all his classmates. – I lost my older brother in 2017, he had cancer too. I learned to appreciate life a bit more when I saw him fighting for his own life. I wanted to let people know how fragile life could be, and teach them to appreciate the chances they have to follow their dreams before it is too late. 
I made the short film using all the cinematography knowledge I had to let people know that moral lesson as clear and strong as possible. Also I wanted to show in a very natural way the daily life in my country. To let people know that dramatic life changing events not only happen in the places movies show. Latin American regions have pretty cool stories to tell. 

  • What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

The 2 life events mentioned above were the main inspiration. Esthetically speaking, Disney’s short film Feast, was a good inspiration. I wanted to create empathy with the characters with simplified shaders. 

  • What was the hardest scene for you to film?

There was a shot were Liliana, the main female character, arrives to a bus stop, after the bus already left. And she throws a little tantrum meanwhile Manuel, the other male main character, approaches her. It is one of the longest shots, and I had to synchronize both characters actions so it felt credible that Liliana isn’t aware that Manuel is there. So I had to animate Manuel doing something while she had her tantrum, but it had to be something neutral in order to keep the attention in her. 

  • What were the biggest challenges you faced making this film?

Since the beginning of the film I was making some optimizations to avoid having problems with render. I think render is one of the biggest issues when making 3D animated content. And it was a bigger challenge being a student, alone in the project, and with no budget. So I tried to make as simple shaders as possible, and tried to have everything under my control. Still, near to the end of the project where I had to render, the version program I was using (Maya) had some bugs with the render setting I had, when trying to render in another computer. So, no render farm worked completely. I had to render the entire project in two computers at my home. Thanks to the early optimization and the esthetic I chose. All the project was rendered in one week. 

  • Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?

Yes, but I didn’t know being an animator and filmmaker was a thing. I always wanted to tell stories. I wrote a lot, and illustrated those stories, all by hand. I was that high school weirdo. Being from a Latin American country, the digital animation is still making it first steps into the world industry. So no one tells you when you’re a teenager that you can be an animator. In fact, I imagine that telling your parents that you want to be an animator should be one of their worst nightmares. 

  • As a filmmaker, how important is the collaborative process for you? 

Very important, mostly in animation. It is extremely hard to produce alone. Depending of what you’re going to produce, you always need guidance of another person. If you’re going to do an animated short film about cars, for example, you’ll probably need a person with knowledge in that are. Also, if you have more people collaborating with a project, it gets done sooner and your mental health is better. 

  • Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?

Follow your filmmaker dreams, no matter how weird or crazy your idea is. Investigate a lot, think out of the box and never cease to amaze. As I read once, I don’t remember where, “Aspire to inspire before we expire” 
Also, optimize. Always try to prevent. In animation, everything can fail. You have to work super clean and organized to avoid as much problems and possible. 

  • What are you currently working on?

As my work in Relish Digital, we’re producing the web series Kindi kids. As a personal work, right now I am in the early stages of a narrative video-game I want to make, I am solving the plot. It has been hard to start, but I hoping to have the determination to keep going. Will let the world know when it is out some day. 

  • What do you hope people will take away from your film?

Same as my advice. Follow your dreams, find a way. Work clean and organized. Try to never lose that determination and passion to create. Once you lose it, it will be extremely hard to create or to have it back. Find something that identifies you and let the world know what you create. You’re greater than you think.