#18: Hanky Panky Prep I
When I first thought of making an animated film, I called Ani, an old internet friend, and vomited my idea: it’s a film about weddings, inspired by a conversation on I Said What I Said (from 120:05), 2D, maybe stop motion, the story told from the perspective of a lady getting wed, colourful animated scenes to highlight the peculiar details. I wanted to know how much to expect to spend and how long it might take to get it done.
From that conversation, I learnt a few things:
- Animation/film making is expensive. It costs a couple millions to make even a 1-minute feature.
- The length of the film is the most important determiner in costing.
- To put it bluntly, you’re not ready until the script is done.
- Even with everything in place, it takes a few months to make a film.
I called another filmmaker friend, 88 to get a second opinion and he said pretty much the same thing. He also recommended some animators to me. Finally, I called TMXO to get an idea of sound. I was probably going to have to contract a studio, but hopefully, the animator might be able to direct it. For the first time, I heard about the word foley, the reproduction of everyday sound effects in films.
I decided to postpone making Owambe because I realised I’m not ready for it. For something as culturally important as weddings, the film has to be perfect, and I can’t do that yet. Considering how little I know about animation, I don’t believe I can execute what’s in my head with peers.
So, sitting in the car with my friend listening to her aunty accuse her of being a lesbian, I decided that Hanky Panky was the film to make.
As I mentioned in December, I went with Chuks to animate the film because of a Keke napep video from 3 years ago. He’s the head of animation at a company called DisruptDNA but also does side projects.
I wrote a plot and sent an email to him on the 17th on November. He responded about a week later and we got on a call. Off the bat, he sounded like someone I wanted to work with: soft spoken, enthusiastic, engaging. Definitely had to have some experience working with people.
I set up the project on Basecamp and invited him to it. I got my friend Daniel to join as director and invited a few other people to help with feedback. The project was officially starting.
First thing to do was get as much of the actual conversation. My friend sent a long voice note detailing the call including screenshots of chats that happened after. This would come in useful for the script.
I’d spoken to another friend Jessica to help write the script. We’d discussed it a few times, and so she had context. On December 7, we officially agreed for her to start. It took about four iterations to get to a final script and I offered to pay but she refused. (If you’re reading this Jessica, I’m going to pay you when the film is done whether you like it or not).
With this done, I shared with Chuks. I also asked for a general overview of the animation process to get a sense of how things’d go.
Chuks responded with a note in Basecamp detailing the steps involved in making the film and all the people involved in each process. He also shared a PDF explaining some of them.
- Character Design: Conceptualize the individuals
- Environment Design: Architect the world of the film
- Foley/SoundFx/Background Music: Make it sound great
- Storyboarding: More or less a comic book for the film
- Animatics: Visual preview before production
- Colour Script: Animation and lighting preview
- Asset/Prop Design: Random stuff to fill out the location
- Composition and Video Editing
- Motion graphics
About 7 people will work on this animation with him across these 10 processes, including a project manager. I met some of them over a call recently to introduce myself and ginger them to make the best film of their lives.
We agreed to split the film into four phases. In the Prep phase, we complete the character design, environment design and voice acting. These will serve as fodder for the Design phase, where the storyboarding, animatics and colour script cement how the film plays. In the Build phase, we make the animation, motion graphics and mix the sound. In the Polish phase, we make final corrections and compose the final outcome.
I paid 1 million to get the first phase started and we closed for the year.
A lot of the references I had for the film were random videos I liked on the internet, so Chuks counter-shared some references and asked for feedback:
I didn’t like the Georgia Commute style very much. I found the geometric style too commercial and emotionless. I see Hanky Panky as a bit of an art film, and I wrote to make him understand this. If I had to choose from his references, I’d go with Zadnar Iftar Time.
I strongly believe the animators should use whatever style is most natural to them, so I’m not specific about it. However, I want the style to be natural, detailed and textured; not edgy, rigid and plain. He later sent me some more promising illustration samples.
Apart from the script, something else we had to provide for Chuks was character profiles. His team needed one to figure out what the characters should look like and Daniel did a killer job of this. It was incredibly detailed, very useful for designing the characters and was helpful for giving feedback on character design. Here’s an early sketch of what that translated into:
There was some early confusion about where the movie should be set. The actual event happened in Phase 1, so that’s what I originally wrote in the plot. Chuks, on the other hand, inferred from our chats that I wanted identifiable Lagos landmarks, so he was thinking Lekki-Ikoyi bridge (😂).
To resolve it, I opened it up for conversation. Most of the actual event happened around Centro mall, I thought Admiralty might work, but the winner suggestion, from Daniel, was Falomo junction. I put together a short note on how the location might play out and shared it with the team.
This is also very much in progress, but here are some rough sketches:
I’d agreed to handle the voice acting to get a true sense of the running time for the film and 88 recommended a studio called VSonics. I reached out to Kolade Morakinyo on January 13 and he responded some hours later to let me know they charge 60k per studio hour for recording, not including editing. From experience, he also advised that voice-over artists charge at least N50k per “Standard Script” — (in advertising) — which is usually 30 to 45 seconds long in word length.
In December, I’d discovered a friend of a friend who could help with the voice acting, Oshuwa. Most recently, she acted in Smart Money Woman. After procrastinating for weeks, I finally emailed her on Jan 20 and she agreed to help. She asked a few questions and we settled on Jan 28 for recording.
Eventually, Chuks decided it was best I handle all the sound in the film, so when I’m over at Vsonics later today, we’ll have a conversation about what it costs to mix sound for the film. Here’s a sample of their work:
We’re still deeply in the prep phase. Both character and environment design are still ongoing and will take some time to complete, but there’s enough good feedback there. I’m excited to see how voice acting goes and what changes we make to the script.