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Lucas Martell

Texas, USA

Where did you grow up and what activities did you enjoy when you were young?

I went to a small school in Central Illinois, so I got a chance to do everything from baseball, basketball, to band and choir.  I also spent a lot of time on computers, but at that time there wasn't a lot you could do without knowing how to program, so I spent a lot of time making little video games for me, and my friends, to play.

What were your favorite subjects in school?

Computers, Music, and anything that had to do with creative writing.  When I was in 4th grade I really wanted to be a writer and wrote several short stories.  I guess that dream has come true in a way, since I'm writing scripts for movies.  I also loved band and playing my saxophone.  I actually majored in music in college and still play a lot.

What were your least favorite subjects in school?

I don't remember a specific subject that I hated.  I really wish I had paid more attention in math class, because there's a lot of math in CG animation.  Actually, it is all math.

Did you enjoy drawing when you were young?

Yeah I liked to draw, but not as much as a lot of kids who did it all the time.  One thing that I really enjoyed was making flipbooks.  Little sequences of images that I stapled together so that they moved.  It is the simplest form of animation and I guess that's where I first started.

When did you first become interested in graphics and animation?  What was the educational path that eventually led you to creating "Pigeon: Impossible"?

I think that animation is a combination of a lot of different things.  Acting, music, writing, etc.

Click here to see stills from Pigeon: Impossible

What is your current profession?  Do you make money off of your personal movie projects, or do you use them to showcase your skills?

I haven't made any money yet off of the short film, but I work as a professional animator and visual effects artist.  It's a great way to show what I can do, and it will hopefully lead to the opportunity to do more of my own films.

How did Pigeon: Impossible become such a big project?  How many people participated in this project and what percentage of the work was yours?  Did anyone get paid for his or her work?

It started out very small and gradually got bigger and bigger.  It wasn't designed to be so huge with the soundtrack performed by a full orchestra, but we reached a point where it just really needed that big epic feel in order to work.  In the end, about 100 people worked on the film.  That includes about 75 musicians and 25 people who helped with the story and animation.  No one was paid.  Everyone just pitched in when they had the time, so I'm guessing that I did about 80% of the film myself.  A few people that really helped out a lot were Scott Rice and Austen Menges who did a lot of story work, Christopher Reyman composed all of the music, and Jason Lindsay was one of the key animators who did a lot of the long shots in the movie.

On your website, you give away many tricks of the trade, advising others how best to succeed at what you do.  Doesn't this give the "competition" an advantage?  Why do you do this?

I don't really see it as helping the competition, because the tricks are just tricks.  They help out and provide guidance, but the hard part is just committing to the long and tedious process of actually creating the film.  The whole idea behind doing the podcasts was to get the attention of other people in the animation field, as well as to provide a resource of some of the things we learned by doing Pigeon: Impossible.  I wish that I had had access to something like the podcasts when I started, so it seemed like a great idea to provide that resource for other people.

Is it difficult to enter the field of animation and film?  Have you worked on any large "Hollywood" projects?  Of all the projects you have worked on, which was your favorite?

Animation and film are extremely hard to get into, but that's just because a lot of people are trying to get into the field.  Once you're in it gets easier.  I have worked on a few "Hollywood" films, mostly for Robert Rodriguez.  Sin City, Shorts, and Sharkboy and Lavagirl were some of the biggest ones.  I probably had the best time on Shorts because I was a previs artist.  That meant that I got to come up with ideas for shots and gags that Robert used as inspiration when they shot the movie.  Most of the stuff doesn't end up in the final movie, but it is a lot of fun to see a little joke you came up with make it into the final edit.

How does the Internet and sites such as YouTube.COM, help or hinder someone in your field?  Did Pigeon: Impossible make any money before you posted it on YouTube?  Why did you make it available for free?

I've started making a little bit of money, but it hasn't even come close to covering the hard costs that I've put into the film.  The great thing about YouTube, and other Internet sites like it, is that it provides an outlet to share your work with others.  It is not really a way to make a living, but it is a great way for people to get discovered and move on to making films professionally.

What is the market for "animated shorts"?

There are not a lot of places that show short films in the US, but in Europe and Asia a lot of TV channels show short films.  Film festivals are also great as they give you a chance to show your film to people in the film industry and meet other directors.

What do you expect to be doing 5 or 10 years from now?

Hopefully still making movies!

What advice do you have for readers interested in entering into the world of filmmaking or animation?

The best bit of advice is just to keep making stuff and keep learning.  It's impossible to "know everything" so don't let that hold you back from starting a project.  Even if you try something and fail, you'll have learned more than if you never tried.

In his podcasts and blog at PigeonImpossible.COM, Lucas shares details about animation and the filmmaking process.  If you are into animation and want to learn more, be sure to visit his website.

The following are excerpts from the Lucas Martell FAQ at PigeonImpossible.COM. If you are interested in 3D animation, click HERE to read the complete answers!

What software should I use?

People are so preoccupied with the tools, that they forget that animation is a skill set.  I'd probably recommend that you start out with something simple like Google SketchUp.  It is free and extremely easy to use.

There is no "right" way to do things so just start playing around and when you run into a problem, see if you can figure out how to solve it.  That's how humans learn.  First we scoot, then crawl, then stand, then walk, then run.

Let me rephrase that… what software do you use?

ARGH!!!  You know what, I'm not even going to tell you.  Sorry for being so touchy, but this is the one and only question that rubs me the wrong way.  It's basically like asking someone "What expensive doo-dad can I buy that will make my work good?"  It discounts all of the years (and often decades) that someone has devoted to learning their craft and is akin to saying that you could be better than Leonardo if he would only loan you his paintbrushes.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, there's a story that makes my point.  When I was 9, I wanted to play the saxophone.  My parents looked all over for a horn that we could afford and finally found an old Conn (basic, cheap, student model horn).  I played that thing for 8 years, until I finally started to get to a point where I just couldn't get the sound I wanted out of it.  Before I went to college, we went to the music store and I played every Selmer, Yamaha, and King model that they had.  After playing the student-level Conn for years, the pro-level horns were like butter.  Excellent range, very little resistance, much more in tune... the difference was HUGE.

Do I need to go to school to learn 3D?

School is not necessary, but it doesn't hurt.  If you learn better in a classroom setting, then it might be worth it.  The important thing to remember is that school is like hiring a guide.  They can show you where to go, but you're still going to have to walk there on your own two legs.

What should I focus on when I'm starting out?

It is a great idea to have a goal.  Maybe a picture you want to create, or a film you want to make.  By attempting to do those projects (and probably failing at first) you'll do research that teaches you the basics and the different parts of the process.  You'll also find yourself gravitating towards certain things.  For instance, I love rigging and when I started out, I didn't even know what rigging was.  It was only by doing a project that I got to try out all of the different parts of 3D and see what I enjoy most.  Rigging is the technical part of animation, where you build a control system for your character.  Kind of like mathematical puppeteering controls.

- 6 March 2010


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Last Updated:
6 March 2010

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