What if the Space Needle came to life? When Dan Orme-Doutre’s son wondered aloud what the iconic beacon on the Seattle skyline would be like to ride around in, the idea for the short “The Midnight Tourist” was born.
The film, which will be part of the first session of the Seattle Shorts Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m., may just be the first animated flick to give the Space Needle a starring role.
Orme-Doutre, who produced the short, and director Koray Kocaturk spoke about the process and the challenges of making an animated short.
What role did each of you have in the production, and how did you get involved?
Dan Orme-Doutre: I had this story in mind, my son had this story idea and then I wrote a short story and then, after trying to figure out what to do with it, reached out to some folks about how I would like to try to do an animation piece….
And so through various means I got a hold of Koray, who I know from some other adventures…. And we sat down one night and kind of collaborated on it, and Koray became the director. He helped direct the art direction and the look and the story and what-not.
Koray Kocaturk: Dan came to me with the idea, and I always enjoy hopping on new projects — a chance to do some 2-D — and we met; we talked. He had basic ideas, and I had some input on everything, so that’s where the roles kind of came from…and we started moving forward with it.
How does this compare to some of the other work you’ve done?
Kocaturk: As far as 2-D work, it’s definitely the biggest I’ve ever done. I did a couple-second animation tests in school, and I played with a program here or there afterward but didn’t have anything large or really show-worthy — it was really just personal practice.
Besides that, I was working as a stop-motion animation teacher at the time as well, so I had a lot of animation going on.
Orme-Doutre: I think the key here was that neither of us had done a short like this before. I’ve never done animation; I’ve done a lot of short films and short videos and what-not…but I’ve never worked with artists in this capacity, and so it was really nice working with Koray and his team…. And we banged it out in about six months.
How long did it take to make this film, not only including the creative process but from the initial idea?
Orme-Doutre: The piece actually had longer elements to it; there was a lot of dialogue, but then working with Koray, we decided, let’s cut out the dialogue; let’s make it really visual and very sound-driven.
So then we sat down around January/February, and before that, I was sitting on this for about a year and a half, because originally, I wanted to make a children’s book out of it….
But in talking with Koray, he had some great pre-visualization drawings…and we kind of went from there, and we decided to draw a line in the sand that said, we’re going to be busy from here until June (2014), and let’s finish it because when summer hits…. So we had six months to do this.
And we both work, so this is kind of a side job, a side project. And Koray brought in some great artists to help do some coloring, as well of some of the Seattle skyline — which, of course, now has changed after a year.
What kind of challenges did you face as you were putting this together?
Kocaturk: Well, one of the big challenges was I had obviously not put anything this large together before, and so part of it was figuring out what programs would allow me to work at that length to animate in, because everything I had done in college was just actual 2-D on paper and taking pictures.
And then, afterward, I played with Photoshop. But I didn’t feel like that was a tool strong enough, so I did some research on that front and really just sat down and constructed a brand-new pipeline…. So I essentially had to find a way to put the piece together before it existed, and then work through figuring out how to animate it.
So I did basic animation and then inking it and then coloring it and then compositing it back all together. And I had someone helping me with the colors, so I had to work with them — it was my wife, so that was easy enough — and then I worked with another friend that lives in another state that does a lot of city work, so I was giving him pictures of Seattle to help me along with that…. It was a lot of figuring out new processes and working out all the kinks along the way.
Orme-Doutre: I’d say one of the creative challenges that came up was, “What does the Space Needle sound like if it moved?” We knew that we didn’t want the child to have any dialogue, and we wanted it to be an audio-rich piece.
And for the first month of going through audio and audio effects, the sounds came out too Transformer-ish and too Iron Giant-y, and we wanted something different, and so I brought in a music supervisor…to help figure out what that sound would be and worked with the mixer and the composer in this case to come up with something unique and different.
And believe it or not, the Space Needle actually does have lines — they’re just warped and different, so when the two are talking, they’re actually responding to each other…. So that was a challenge in trying to figure out what was the right sound — making it not too robotic but making it more lively.
Out of the hundreds of submissions they received, how does it feel to be included in the Seattle Shorts Film Festival?
Kocaturk: It felt amazing!
Orme-Doutre: It’s super-amazing, yeah. Our first premiere was the Northwest Film Forum last year, and that was awesome. We had an L.A. Children’s Festival showing, as well.
There was a few other ones we submitted to, and it just didn’t land in there, and we were kind of bummed. And we just kind of kept it going, like, let’s keep submitting.
And then Seattle Shorts came up — hadn’t heard of that before — and I thought, “Wow, this is awesome,” and “Why not submit it?”
And it was great to hear the enthusiasm from that team about, “Wow, this is all about Seattle, and it’s really cool and it’s really different,” and so we really appreciate that.
Kocaturk: And one thing that was really nice was, while I was working on it…[my wife’s] dad was always telling me, “Yeah, you should do something for children…because you have these skills; you have this vision. I think it’d do great.”
And so I started working on this and thinking, “Oh, yeah, it’ll be a great surprise for him”…. And then, unfortunately, he passed before we finished it.
So being able to have it entered into something like this, like being chosen out of all those videos, I think is the type of thing he would have been really happy for, and you know, it’s a good sign, I guess.
Orme-Doutre: It’s a great sign, and there’s a lot of talent out there. I mean, there’s so much amazing talent, and it’s just nice to be up.
And we just really want people to see this and sit back and have a laugh and enjoy this Seattle-scape that exists in the boy’s mind.
What does the future hold for your creative endeavors, and will you be partnering again?
Orme-Doutre: We’ve bounced some ideas around, kind of waiting to see where this goes and what could take off with it. We still need to make a website for this, which would be nice, but we’re definitely working on some other endeavors not related to this.
But I’d like to go back and do some more children’s stuff. It’s something that my wife has said that, “You should do,” and I really enjoy it.
And I’d like to maybe even premiere this at maybe the Seattle Children’s Museum or something of that nature for kids, because I think it would be fun for kids to see this. There’s a lot of spirited-kid attitude in this, a lot of “What if?”
Kocaturk: I’m going to have a kid next year — she’s going to be born in February, so I definitely think more kid projects to work on and then show her later on are a very strong possibility.
For more information or tickets to the Seattle Shorts Film Festival, visit www.seattleshort.org.