A small idea can sometimes go a long way. When Classical Animation and Foundation Visual Art & Design grad — also now an Entertainment Business Management student — Sheryl Vedamani first conceived of the idea for her animated final project, a conversation between two friends about dealing with a zombie apocalypse, she couldn’t have known it would one day lead to her winning the Teletoon Pilot Project, $10,000, and a trip to the largest animation festival in North America.
News of her win was announced over the weekend on Teletoon at Night, and Sheryl was kind enough to carve out time in the chaos to answer a few questions.
First of all, congratulations! Tell us how this came about.
Sheryl: Thank you! I sent my short film in on a whim thinking there was no way of winning and that it would just be another place my film was on the internet. I actually forgot all about it until I received an email telling me I was one of the five finalists in the competition. I finally convinced myself that even if I didn’t win, I’d rather lose knowing I had tried my best than if I lost and always wondered what would have happened if I HAD tried.
I then started to inform my friends and family of the competition and proceeded to post the link to the five finalist videos in all the sites I was a regular at. It was great because it got more people involved in picking out their favourites and also gave a chance for people who were curious about the process of classical animation to ask questions. Then one day I turned on my computer and opened my email account to find a message titled “Teletoon at Night Pilot Project: Congratulations!”. I didn’t end up opening the email for a few minutes because I just sat there, staring wide-eyed at my computer screen.
Where did you get the idea for the short? How did you go about developing the story?
Sheryl: I’m a pretty nerdy person. I tend to spend a lot of my free time on the internet, playing games and watching sci-fi films (when I’m not watching animated movies frame by frame). We had about a week left to finish off our first storyboards and leica reels for the class pitch day, but I hadn’t come up with anything good. I had thrown a few story ideas around about animals and children and monsters and so on but nothing had really stuck. I was starting to get nervous. Then at two in the morning, three days before the pitch, I woke up with an idea – or rather, a punchline. I stumbled out of my bedroom to my desk to find a pen. I scribbled down the words “zombies, sister mom douchebag, epic lolz, axe, bat?, weapons?” on the corner of an old assignment sheet and went back to bed.
I had 3 days to do the boards, make a recording of myself doing the dialogue on my cellphone and throw it all into a leica reel in time for the presentation. Luckily I made it. It was rough around the edges – a mess of doodles, a horrible audio recording – but the audience laughed at all the right spots and applauded at the end, so I guess that meant it was good. Worried by the warnings our teachers gave us about how everyone started off loving their film and ended up hating it by the time they get to the clean-up stage of animation, I decided to make it interesting for myself by making the zombies in my film my classmates and one of my teachers (Senior Instructor Dieter Mueller).
It worked. I loved working on my film. I even got all my friends in my film to voice all the zombies. Well, all except Dieter. I had my friend Rob do an impression of him. I sort of hoped he wouldn’t find out that I turned him into a zombie until the actual showing of my film at graduation.
Can you tell us about your decision to take Entertainment Business Management after finishing Classical Animation?
Sheryl: Well I did the Foundation Visual Art & Design program and discovered how I really loved the creative and planning portions of making both animation and live action films. As the time to choose our preferred streams grew closer, I had a meeting with Ted Jones, the Head of the Foundation department, to help me figure out what I would be best suited for. I decided I was more interested in animation so I took the Classical Animation program.
During the program, however, I became more confused. The creative part of me was definitely being fulfilled and I felt I was really learning a lot, but I still wanted to handle the planning, business, and marketing side of things. I talked to a few people about my future in the industry and how I might have a better chance of starting my own animation company in the future, be a production manager in a studio, or be a successful artist if I knew how the business side of everything worked. I then decided that going into Entertainment Business Management after Classical Animation would probably be worth the time and money for me.
Any insight you can give us on the show as it develops? What’s going to happen to these two characters?
Sheryl: They’re best friends and roommates who love games, sci-fi, and the internet, so there will be a ton of references for the nerd/gaming community. This show idea is sort of based on just their friendship (or bromanship) and how approaching life in a way that would normally work in a game or on the internet can, in fact, only end badly if attempted in real life.
How about some advice for aspiring animators?
Sheryl: Remember, you’re not Frank or Ollie yet. There’s still room to improve so be sure to ask for help. Whether you think you need it or not, get some feedback and advice. Sometimes you get so close to your work that you don’t see it from the audience’s perspective anymore and you either overlook something or spend too much time on details that aren’t very important.
You can find Sheryl right now at the Ottawa Animation Festival, on from September 21 to 25. And if you’re there, visit VFS at “Table C”.
Also, be sure to check out her winning short Great Minds Taste Alike on the VFS YouTube channel, or right here on the VFS Blog.