Spy Hop tabbed to for Slamdance festival trailer
In 2004, Spy Hop Productions participated in the Slamdance Film Festival, making a film, "The Rose Laundry," for the festival’s $99 Specials, category. While that film started Spy Hop’s partnership with the festival, this year the organization will see some slightly greater involvement.
For 2006, the Salt Lake City nonprofit will contribute three films to the $99 Specials category and also add another, more significant project. In October, Slamdance asked Spy Hop if the organization could compose the festival trailer for the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival.
Spy Hop jumped at the opportunity. The film is a minute-long Claymation piece that will run before each movie at the festival.
While the trailer was slightly outside Spy Hop’s normal cinematic expertise, the organization which is dedicated to teaching high school students multi-media skills, and which often facilitates film and video projects decided to accept the assignment.
"It’s really just to the point of testing our limits," said Jarrett Reich, the Spy Hop instructor who produced the project.
Reich was given a $99 budget and a little more than a month to create the film. He simply called some former students and set to work.
"It worked out well, because we had [Leif McIlwaine,] an amazing animator, help us build and sculpt everything," said Reich.
With Reich organizing the project and McIlwaine, Jayme Asbeil-Luckau, and Martin Moreno all former Spy Hop students taking on many of the animation duties, the group created the trailer.
While Reich teaches almost all of Spy Hop’s Claymation courses, Reich noted that, in most of his those classes, working with kids between seven and nine, his time and resources are limited. He said he would spend 15 hours with a class working on a three- to five-minute Claymation film.
But for the Slamdance project, he had more time and more knowledgeable workers. Because of that, he and his group could put in a much more concentrated effort, with greater attention to detail and higher production values.
"Probably strictly shooting time we’re talking about 20 hours of shooting time," he said. "[For] the post-production probably add another 15 hours."
The extra attention to detail meant better lighting, more detailed models and smoother animation.
"It’s really almost a test of endurance when you’re doing Claymation," said Reich.
A single shot among thousands might take 45 minutes to set up and light, he said.
Working on such a tight schedule, he noted, the long hours could be tough.
"There were definitely some long weekend times for all of us," said Reich.
The resulting film is a play on the festival’s 2006 theme, Mexican lucha libre wrestling. After doing some research on the subject, Reigh created a storyline. The film shows a match between two masked wrestlers, one a huge juggernaut-type and another smaller, Slamdance-like underdog.
"You can almost think of the storyline of the trailer being sort of a metaphor," said Reich.
In the end, the underdog triumphs.
Reich said the primary benefit of the film would be the notoriety it affords Spy Hop at the festival. The trailer will offer the organization an opportunity to show what it does.
"The greatest thing about this is just going to be its distribution," he said. "It’s going to be seen by a ton of people, and probably people who wouldn’t see it otherwise,"
At the same time, Reich noted, the project also gives some Spy Hop participants the chance to gain some "real-world" experience. In addition to the animation work done by McIlwaine, Asbeil-Luckau, and Moreno, current students Jon Worley, Chris Phillips, Jordan Jones and Hector Zambrano also helped by creating the sound effects and doing the audio work for the project.
Reich said the trailer also has other benefits.
"Doing something like this really helps the teaching process," he said. "I’ve learned plenty of lessons from this."
In the future, he said he’ll be able to take those lessons back to his classes, from his work with Spy Hop in Salt Lake City to possible summer camp classes with Arts-Kids this summer.
Ultimately, the trailer project will help Spy Hop in a variety of ways.
"Really what this was, in our minds, was to test what we can do in Claymation and test our limits," said Reich.
"This is the largest scale Claymation project we’ve done so far," he noted. "Just the fact that we did it and completed it is gratifying."
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