An alien wildlife mockumentary set on a distant planet, 'Planet Tobler’ narrated by Christopher Lloyd.
Hi Aran, thanks for talking to tNC, how's everything going?
Thanks for having me. Everything’s going great thanks! Hope so for you too.
How does it feel to have Planet Tobler be part of this year's ÉCU Film Festival?
It feels amazing. I’m delighted about it!
As an award-winning filmmaker does the attention and prestige of winning awards for your work add any additional pressure on you?
Absolutely. Recognition from your community is always a lovely feeling. Hand-drawn animation takes a very long time to make - 12 detailed and manually drawn frames for each and every second. Because of this you’re left alone, animating for hours at a time. One can start to overthink things..what if this whole film is nonsense, maybe it’s great, maybe it’s crap? I feel at the end of the day as long as it makes you, yourself happy, then it’s worth making. But is Receiving an award or acceptance into a festival is that reassuring pat on the back that says, other people like your work too, which is lovely.
Do you still get nerves ahead of a festival screening?
Yeah! A live audience, full of strangers, and not knowing whether their reactions to the film will be good or fall flat…I find that very nerve-wracking haha. But nerves are good I reckon, so it’s yes, but all’s good.
Can you tell me a little but about Planet Tobler?
It’s an animated alien wildlife mockumentary, set on a distant planet. It’s made in admiration of nature shows but also takes a cheeky interpretation of our natural world where naughty bits and quirky misfits engulf its foreign land.
How did this film come about?
I was drawing a series of characters and environments for a couple of weeks in my spare time. I then started animating them. A colleague of mine walked by and commented on them looking like they’re part of a nature show. There and then I knew I wanted to make a mockumentary based on my favourite series, BBC’s Planet Earth.
"The film was sent to him and he liked what he saw and was up for being a part of it."
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
I have a huge love for wildlife and nature shows. Planet Tobler heavily references the Planet Earth series. It hopefully conveys my passion for wildlife but also portrays how out of touch we are with our natural surroundings.
How important is the collaborative nature of animation when you're working on a film like this?
It’s huge! I animated the majority of this short, but it turned out to be a very time consuming film. It’s a passion film, independently funded. So I would work on this film during my “off hours” after work, late nights, weekends, etc. It took 5 years to complete. But 4 years in I gave up to be honest. Because I didn’t have any money for it I didn’t ask animators to help with it. It wasn’t until a friend wanted to help animate the film with me that spirits were lifted and we arrived at the finish line. Animating alone vs collaborating with friends and colleagues is a game changer and always helpful for motivation. I always reach out to fellow animators now.
Planet Tobler features the actor Christopher Lloyd, how did you get him involved in your project?
Sheer luck really. The film was sent to him and he liked what he saw and was up for being a part of it. I was over the moon!
What has been the experience like working with such a renowned actor?
It was incredible and so surreal. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Lloyd was so chilled out, charming and of course incredibly professional and brilliant at what he does. We did the recording over the phone, calling in from Brooklyn to an LA based recording studio. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet in person but it felt like I was right there. I gave some direction but he took the personality of the narrator to another level. Couldn’t be happier about it!
What was the most challenging part of bringing Planet Tobler to life?
Getting it done. Everything was done in-between working hours, late nights and weekends. Because of this it took 5 years to complete. Within this time my opinions, taste and skill-sets changed and evolved. I ended up doubting if the film was even worth finishing. I reanimated the first half of the film because it wasn’t up to par with the second half. I learned that I shouldn’t have worked on my own for that long with the film.
Thankfully Gavin Little who runs Echolab, a music and sound design company came on board Planet Tobler. He co-produced the short film with me, created the sound design and had Steve Lynch compose original music for it. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I would have had the motivation to get it finished.
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
Not always but within the last 11 years for sure. I’ve always been interested in drawing, art and stories. Once I found out that I could tell stories through moving illustrated images I couldn’t believe it, it’s a huge natural high for me, a very satisfying release.
How much has your approach and style to your work changed since you started?
It’s changed a lot. I’m repeating myself here but since my taste and skill-sets evolved over time, I now draw and animate differently. Planet Tobler is a lot more painterly looking compared to my other works which are more refined and simplistic. I’m still very happy with it’s look and it’s been refreshing to mix it up.
Do you think filmmakers should take more risks with the work they create?
If you’re not a risk taker that’s fine with me, if you are, that’s awesome too. I think filmmakers should make films for the love of. Focus on what you want to share, be it a story or a memory make sure you are interested in, because you’re gonna be working on it for a long time. Focus on wanting to make money and followers after prioritising that.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
keep working on it and it will get finished.
Now you can be reflective, do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Make a schedule and keep on it.
Work with people you respect and trust.
Stay decisive. Once you’ve talked your idea through with a bunch of people and you’ve landed on something you really like, then stay strong and see it through. I find when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen things can get messy, over thought and lost.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
Fun, creative freedom, and a sense of love for nature and animation.