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Fumi and the Bad Luck FootSundance premiere with help from Adobe
San Jose State University Lecturer, David Chai, is an animator director for Thunderbean Animation. He has worked on a variety of projects ranging from educational software, animation for television and video, commercial advertising, to independent films. His studio, Thunderbean Animation, received the Gold Award for best animated television commercials at the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International 2005. To date, his independent films have screened in over thirty-five film festivals internationally, as well as on MTV-2 and ZeD in Canada. His filmography includes 25 Ways to Die (2003), Flames of Passion (2004), Neighborhood Roots (2005), Stoopid Movie (2005), and Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot (2005).
Stephen Schleicher: David you are an instructor at San Jose State University but you are also an animation director for Thunderbean Animation which is your own production company what kind of animation projects do you work on?
David Chai: I have a joint partnership with my buddy Steve Stanchfield in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Steve is a teacher at the College of Creative Studies there, so between classes we take on a variety of projects. Weve worked on multimedia projects, commercial spots, independent films - those kinds of things.
Stephen: So how did you come to teach in San Jose State?
David: I got an animation degree at San Jose, then after spending time at Michigan, I came back and found out they were looking for someone to teach, so it worked out very well.
Stephen: How did Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot come about? I understand it had some help from your students and Adobe.
David: Yes, this is a cool story. Earlier this year, my students worked on a student film and entered it into the Adobe Achievement Award, and because they were finalists, each of the students got to pick three pieces of Adobe software. That was helpful because it gave them the chance to really learn the software. Also, Frank Gladstone donated fifteen stations of the Adobe editing suite to the university. Before that we didnt have anything. By the time the school year was beginning most of the students had Photoshop and the other software they needed to work on this project.
Stephen: Tell me a little bit about the film itself.
David: Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot is about a young girl whose left foot brings her bad luck throughout her life. It gets worse and worse and finally drives her to a point of desperation. One day she realizes the source of all her misery can be used as a sort of superpower that she uses to help save the world.
Stephen: So you were able to use the software at the school and the students helped you out on this?
David: The story is by myself and by San Jose State faculty and a few alumni. The majority of the production was done with the help of current students; some ranging from just young students that arent even in our program to graduating seniors.
Stephen: How long did it take to complete this project?
David: It took 55 days.
Stephen: Did you only use the editing software from the donated Adobe stations? Did you use Adobe Photoshop?
David: We used Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Audition, and Adobe Encore.
Stephen: Wow, you used the whole suite. Did you approach this is as a traditional animation where the cels were drawn in Photoshop, and then colored and built into sequence?
David: It was all drawn on paper, which we scanned and manipulated in Photoshop and After Effects. Then we edited it in Premiere.
Stephen: Did you use any special scanners or automatic feeders to get the cels into Photoshop?
David: We didnt have the equipment so I brought in a few scanners of my own, and some of the students brought their own scanners, and we just taped registration bars to the scanner to set up this makeshift studio.
Stephen: 55 days is very fast. Was the piece transferred to tape or film? What was your output medium?
David: We havent transferred it to film, its only available in digital format. We have it on DVD, Beta SP, and had transferred for Sundance into HD.
Stephen: Did you have to do any additional tweaking to go from a standard definition to the high definition format required by Sundance?
David: We planned on having it available in high-def, so we scanned everything at high resolution. We worked at that size, and then down converted for the DVD.
Stephen: Any problems that you came across or hang ups that you encountered while working on Fumi?
David: There are always little things, but this worked out well because of all the past projects that Ive worked on. And the students knew the systems and those that worked on this project knew that it was a major work. So everything went very smoothly and it worked pretty well.
Stephen: Did you use faculty and staff or was it just students or who did the voices in this project?
David: I did the narration for it and had some students do some of the screams for the Fumi character, and I actually had a few of the neighbor kids come over and do some screams too.
Stephen: But this was still done mostly just at the university?
David: Yes, most of the production was done there.
Stephen: So its premiering at Sundance that must make you feel very good?
David: It premiered on Friday and plays three more times throughout the festival.
Stephen: You have some other films; 25 Ways to Die, the Flames of Passion, The Neighborhood Roots. Have you entered any of these other films into Sundance before or is this the first time?
David: I think I submitted 25 Ways to Die a couple of years ago, but nothings been accepted before this.
Stephen: So this is a big deal for you and the students?
David: Yes, especially for the students. They came in over the summer to work on this project and they had the aspiration and because of their love of the craft, they gave up their summer vacations to work on a good project. So now, fortunately, a bunch of them, with the help of Adobe, were able to come out to the festival. There here now, and were having a great time.
Stephen: Are you sending Fumi to other film festivals?
David: Were sending it out to all sorts of other festivals. Of all the projects that Ive worked on this is the one that has the best story, the best characters, and it just came together really well. Getting it done in time for Sundance was one of our production goals.
Stephen: It screened on Friday night?
David: Its screening with a bunch of other short films from around the world.
Stephen: ?but it hasnt been shown to any other large groups before Friday night?
David: Its been to a few festivals already in Anchorage, Alaska, New York City, and Los Angeles, but this is the first one that Ive been able to attend and watch it with a crowd.
Stephen: How has the feedback been?
David: Its been getting good reception in the festival venue. People who attend are expecting good films and this film is screening with some really great films and so the mood is very positive.
Stephen: For those of us who cant make it to Sundance, where can people see this film?
David: They can find out more at www.thunderbeananimation.com, and also at the Sundance online site where they have a link to watch it there. I think it will be available until June on that site.
Stephen: Sounds like a fun project for everyone involved.
David: I think its amazing that we could have the student participation and what we were able to do with no budget, no funding, and no real equipment in a rundown classroom. I think it is great that Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot is something that can be a showcase for teamwork and animation.
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