Going North & South with Marcelo Meijome

Going North & South with Marcelo MeijomeWhile at IUPUI I never had the chance to meet this man, but I can’t wait to shake his hand. One of the degrees students can work at at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology is 3Dgraphics and development. 3D graphics never impressed me that much, but I became good friends with a few guys who did enjoy working in three dimensions. But this year one of the students took those skills to a new level. He has created a short film in 3D titled North & South. This film has been entered into the Heartland Film Festival and stands a good chance at winning. Having only seen the trailer, I am confident this film will fair well. I have never been to the film festival but I know it is filled with only the best work in the industry. I took some time to get to know the man that created this short film, and it is my pleasure to introduce you to Marcelo Meijome.

Before we get started, how do you pronounce your last name?

(Thinks) That’s hard to say through text. (Laughs)  I’ll try though.  It’s pronounced mei-ho-meh; something like that!  The J is like an H in Spanish.

You started at IUPUI in 2006. Did you eventually get that degree?

Yeah, I got my degree back in May of this year.

What was your major at IUPUI?

I was in the Computer Graphics Technology program on the animation track.

Why not IU? Or for that matter, why not PU?

I actually did start at IU and was there for a year as a fine arts major where my focus there was more on design/drawing/painting.  Then, decided to transfer to IUPUI to a degree in CGT because it was more technology based and I felt the degree was more general where I could learn a lot of different areas.  For me, this kind of degree would be more applicable to many different jobs, from web design to animation, than a BFA in fine arts.  I still like painting/drawing a lot though, and I think the one year I had as fine arts major gave me a good foundation for doing similar things, but on a computer.

How long have you been involved with SIGGRAPH?

I’ve been involved in SIGGRAPH for about two years now I think.  I got involved after Zeb Wood taught my first animation class and he was one of the heads of SIGGRAPH at the time.  I started going to some of the callouts and meetings and have been going to most of them since then.  It’s helped me a lot by getting me good connections and meeting a lot of cool people in the industry and also cool students.  I’ve been to the national SIGGRAPH conference last year and this year, and it’s a great experience to learn a lot about 3D and animation that I recommend everyone in this kind of major should try and go to.  I was a student volunteer for the one this year in LA and it was a really great experience.

Please tell me you are working on a Mac.

Yes!  I’ve been a Mac user for about seven years now I think.  My first Mac was an old iBook G4!  There’s nothing wrong with PC, especially since programs like Maya and Photoshop are pretty much identical in both, but I prefer to work in OS X just because I feel I can work faster and I’m much more used to it.

You worked on the Indiana Motorsports website redesign back in 2007. How did you manage to get hooked up with that so early in your career?

I think it was because my professors got to know me and my work early on in my academic career.  I remember my professor, Dan Baldwin, telling me about the project.  I had to interview, and was lucky enough to get to work on the project with some other cool students.  I’m still good friends with many of the students I worked with for this project.  After this project, I got a few more opportunities to work on projects with Dan as well, and I feel it’s helped me to get used to what it’s like to work on real world projects with real deadlines.

How was is it possible to pick a track at IUPUI?

I liked doing animation the best out of everything I think.  I guess that’s what led me to doing an animated short for my senior thesis project.  I really like to tell stories, and in animation, basically any story is possible if you have the time.  I’ve also really liked classes I had on storyboarding where I learned a lot of cinematography, like what different camera angles/shots mean.  I’m always watching movies and breaking down what I’m seeing, thinking about the camera movements/shots.  I think some of my inspiration in directing style from my short came from Wes Anderson movies.  I’m a big fan of his movies, especially Rushmore, and the way he tells his stories.

I taught in Poland as well. Did you have a good time overseas?

Poland was awesome!  All the Polish students gave us a huge welcome and treated us like their best friends.  We got to see a lot of the country, the culture, the people.  It was a really good time, and it reminded me a lot of when I lived in Argentina.  I got to travel to Germany and Italy after that as well.  So… besides missing my flight back home… the trip was great and I wish I could go again.

Tell me a little bit more about your experience working with The Red Kite.

I’ve been working on The Red Kite animated short for a little over a year now.  My role on the project is in animation and camera setup/layout.  I got involved in the project when Zeb Wood was looking for animators for the project.  I ended up using the work on this project towards my senior group capstone with a few other classmates (Vance Vaden, Jason Smith, and Wei-Te Wu).  It’s been a great experience and I think it will be shown and appreciated in a lot of different film festivals. I look forward to having it finished and letting people see it after working on it for so long!

How excited are you about North & South?

I’m pretty excited to see the short playing on the big screen!  I’ve watched it so many times already and had worked on the project for so long that I’m kind of tired of it actually!  I’m glad that my work on the short paid off though, and I’m always happy to have even more people be able to see the film.

Tell me more about North & South. I want the whole story; don’t leave anything out!

North & South started as my senior thesis project.  I had about one semester to complete the project, so I knew it was going to be a difficult task to pull off.  I tried to work smart and plan well to be able to get it done on time.  I had created a character in a project for another class, which had kind of started as a caricature of me.  Then in another class, we had to model and texture a character, so I decided to use the one I had already designed.  When it came time to do my short, having this character all set up saved me a lot of time.  Since I had a character, I began to build a story around him.  My original story was a lot longer and different than what I ended up with, but about a month and a half in to the project I had another idea for a story that would be shorter and faster to pull off.  It was going to be about a boy that lost his toy plane in a tree, and his plan to sled down the hill and off the ramp to try and get it back.  While working on the story I was getting a lot of ideas for camera shots and started visualizing in my head what I wanted it to look like.  During that time I started doing a lot of sketches and storyboards, then modeling, texturing, lighting, animation, compositing.  I was lucky enough to have Zeb rig my character which saved me a lot of time and allowed me to concentrate on other parts of the project.  By the week before the project was due, I was sleeping around three hours a night between this project and finals, but seeing people enjoy and my professors happy with my project was worth it when I screened it for my thesis presentation.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be to work on making movies at an animation studio like Pixar/Dreamworks/Blue Sky.  I would like to work doing animation or layout at one of these places.  Being able to work on films that provide entertainment and good storytelling to millions of people would be amazing!

What version of Photoshop are you currently using?

I’m using CS5, but during my time in school I actually went from CS for a short while, to CS2 for a little, to CS3, to CS4 for a while, and had CS5 the last semester.

How do you stay up late at night when you have a tight deadline?

I like to drink coffee usually, but sometimes I need the kick of an energy drink, like a NOS!  I also like to listen to music while working late, helps me stay focused.

You are on Facebook. You are also on Twitter. How do you think social media has changed your profession over the last few years?

I think I’ve gotten to know people I may never have known and get connections I might not have gotten otherwise because of social networking sites.  Actually, someone from heartland posted on one of the animation user groups I have on Facebook that they were looking for animation entries for the festival.  I guess you could say Facebook is what got me to submit my short to Heartland!

Your short film has been entered into the Heartland Film Festival. What does that feel like? Tell me all that is going through your head, as we get closer to the festival.

I’m really excited to see it in the big screen, on the same theaters where I go to see the big Hollywood movies.  I’m kind of nervous about how it will look because a giant screen is a lot different than a computer monitor, not just in size but also in color.  Hopefully it looks and sounds good and I’ll see lots of my friends and family there.  I almost want to use my iPhone to record my short on the big screen while I’m there, but I don’t think Heartland would approve! (Laughs)

When can I see the full feature?

The full short is playing on four different days during the Heartland Film Festival in a collection with other shorts.  I believe it’s shorts collection #3 for those that want to go see it.  I will probably then put up the short online on Vimeo/YouTube after the festival is over.

Who is your favorite artist?

For music, Daft Punk is my favorite.  I’ve been listening to their Discovery album since 2001 and it’s still my favorite!  For fine art I was always a big fan of impressionist painting that captures a moment quickly, like Matisse/Cezanne/Monet.  I also like a lot of more modern art too.  For movies, some of my favorite directors are Wes Anderson, Coen Brothers, Kubrick, Miyazaki, Paul Thomas Anderson, and lots of the Pixar guys like John Lasetter, Pete Docter, Brad Bird, and Andrew Stanton.

I love the movie poster. I will assume that you designed that too?

I designed the movie poster to be sort of abstract, but instantly recognizable after someone has seen the short.  I also wanted it to create interest in the short for people that hadn’t seen the film yet.

The soundtrack for the trailer is great. How did you decide what to use for the soundtrack?

I think the music in the trailer is the same as the one from the short.  Originally I had used a music track from Fantastic Mr. Fox for my thesis presentation.  After that I had my friend Vance Vaden start to create an original score for the film.  He had just started when I submitted to Heartland though, so I ended up using some really great free creative commons music I found on a site dedicated to creative commons music.

How long have you been working on this thing?

I spent about four months during my spring semester working on this project.  After I graduated I have probably spent another couple of weeks working on tweaks and polishing a bit.

Are you already working on another film?

I’m still working on Red Kite, which is almost finished.  I also just started going to AnimationMentor, an online animation school.  My mentor for my first class is from Pixar, and the program has been great so far.  Hopefully as I have more time open up, I would like to work on another short film while learning advanced animation from AnimationMentor.

What do you do for fun when you are not sitting behind a computer?

I like to watch movies and play games!  I’m usually in front of some kind of TV/computer even on my free time.  It’s what I grew up doing and what I really enjoy.  I think originally I got into doing CG because I wanted to make video games one day.  I also like to browse the Internet, check reddit/Amazon/Twitter.  The times when I’m actually outside I like to play soccer/tennis, do stuff with girlfriend and friends, go to the pub, that kind of stuff.

Your blog seems to show a lot of your progression as an artist. How often do you post to your blog?

I try to post a few times a month on my blog, and at least once a month.  I feel that if I keep posting on my blog it keeps me motivated to do more work so I have new things to post!

Do you study other work as well or do you just get all your inspiration from within?

I get inspiration from all kinds of different things.  Movies, music, games, books, work, school.  You can get inspiration from anything I think, sometimes you just get that right moment that gives you an idea, but it could happen anywhere!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Working at an animation studio, continuing to create short films in my spare time, and also coming back to IUPUI to give talks or help out other students with advice with what I went through in school.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

Hopefully my short film and my character will be remembered by the people that watch the film, and I’ll be known as the guy that made that film.  They probably will forget my name, but if they remember the character and the film, that’s good enough for me.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

I really do enjoy making films and telling stories through animation, so I hope that everyone that sees the film enjoys watching it as much as I enjoyed creating it.  You can click here to buy tickets and go see my short!  See you there!