8th Mar 2021 | Open Movie | Sprite Fright
Sprite Fright is Blender's new Open Movie, now in development. You can follow progress and updates on the Cloud. In this post we talk to Sprite Fright’s co-director, Hjalti Hjalmarsson. A long time member of Blender Studio, Hjalti’s contributions are too numerous to mention, but include directing 2020's Open Movie Coffee Run and 2017's Agent 327, as well as part of an ultra-detailed character animation course. Here, Hjalti discusses the mindset needed for an ambitious production like Sprite Fright.
Sprite Fright takes place in a hyper-real forest, so tree metaphors are apt. “It’s hard to see the forest for the trees right now,” says Hjalti, describing a time when the team were sifting through dozens of animatics, each containing nigh-endless variations on beats, jokes, and shots. “You don’t know whether to emphasize the horror part of horror-comedy, or the comedy part. Are we getting the balance right?”
Still, it’s all part of the process. Hjalti: “You need a lot of iterations to find out what works and what doesn’t, what still needs to be fleshed out and what can be cut.”
Whether you're working on a tough edit or some other creative task, an artist is always relying on their instincts. Which can be hard: after all, there is no absolute right or wrong in art, and yet you need to make choices. How do you deal with the inevitable doubts? “There are three big things I always try to remember. First off: everybody thinks they’re an imposter. Everybody has this self-doubt, but you just do your best and try to figure it out. I’ve definitely been hired for projects where I think, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”
A second, related point is to remind yourself that self-doubt never truly fades. “There’s this sense when you’re starting out that one day you’ll become good enough. That there’s a particular skill level that you’ll attain, and after that it’s easy. But the reality is that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s all tunnels. There is nothing but tunnels.”
Which sounds dark, literally. However, Hjalti takes the opposite view. “Actually, it’s okay. It’s all a massive learning curve. I’ve been doing this stuff for years and every day I’m learning something new. I always feel like I’m just scratching the surface.”
Not realizing these points can be an issue, especially for some younger artists. Hjalti says, “I feel like a lot of people wait for permission to make things. But if you're inspired to make something, and you can do it by yourself, whether it’s drawing a picture or modelling a character, and you’re really into it, you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. You should be inspired enough to do it. And that is its own reward.”
Luckily, you’re here on Blender Cloud, which has all the assets and training needed to get inspired. And, of course, you don’t have to ask anyone's permission, least of all anyone at Blender. That's because Blender is free for whatever purpose, forever.