Natasha Cánepa
Natasha Cánepa
Director (USA)
Natasha is a director from the USA. A recent SCAD alumni possessing a BFA in Animation, Natasha Cánepa focuses on Character Animation with emphasis on timing and personalized acting. Among this, she has worked in several positions during production mainly pre-production, motion media, compositing and sound design.
Natasha submitted her animation "Magic Play"

— Tell us a little about your experience? Was it only a film connected or you did/do something else?
— "Magic Play" was my senior capstone film for my animation degree at Savannah College of Art and Design. While I already had experience with working on films by myself like my third-year short Ready to Fight and the fan-animated music video for Boom Boom Satellites's Lay Your Hands on Me, this is the first time where the production was big enough that it not only extended to an year and a half of development but it required a small team of students to finish it. It was a daunting task to do the production mostly by myself but with the help of friends and colleagues, we were able to hold everything together and take on the workload while putting in our own personal creativity in.

— What inspired you to make your short film? How did you come up with that idea?

— I had a few story ideas that I came up while I was on Spring break before pre-production class started and surprisingly, "Magic Play" was the last one that came to mind. Other ideas were a bit simpler in nature with one story being about two old ghosts trying to get along but, in the end, they felt that they didn't have a ton of potential to become a fully-fledged film.
"Magic Play", on the other hand, already had several pages in my notebook dedicated to how the plot would transpire along with the personality and growth of the characters in its inception. However, the kids that were in those notes along with their relationship are completely different from how they ended up on screen with Witch Girl being the only one interested in magic while Wizard Boy was just a kid who was skeptical about it. At that point, it became clear that this will be the concept that I will fully adapt to animation.

—Funny or scary moments on the set?
Probably the scariest moment to me was the pitch presentation that I did with the original draft of the story. While it got greenlit with the potential it had, the pacing was heavily criticized for being slow and boring while the characters were unlikeable especially Witch Girl. She was a tough character to nail down because she is the catalyst of the events of the short but her reasons for her behavior needs to be grounded in reality and make sense for her age and view of the world. In the original version, she was a big bully to Wizard Boy who was just there to cause problems and eventually lead them to danger. And by the ending where she is redeemed, it didn't feel as if she earned it rather than the story expects the audience to automatically forgive her as it came to its conclusion.
Taking the story back to square one, I wanted to laser-focus on how the characters should behave towards each other and how their personalities help develop each other as people. Wizard Boy is a young kid who is used to being secluded in his own room, trying to learn magic by himself, with no one talking to him outside of his mother. With the introduction of Witch Girl, he is brought out of that comfort zone and learns to see other people's perspectives thus expanding his horizons (figuratively and literally) and pushing himself to take risks. On the other hand, she is just a kid who thinks outside of the box and wants to make a friend but her ways of doing so can be seen as dangerous to some while normal to her. And through her mistakes, she feels sorry for causing pain due to her own ambitions and wants to make things better for him.
This carefully-written balance led to a fun chemistry between her and Wizard Boy and in turn a better viewing experience for the audience.

—Tell us how it was to produce your film?

To say that it was a rollercoaster of a production would be an understatement. The concept development class for the film was an uphill battle of getting the story and characters right while doing the visual development all by myself. In fact, the first draft of the screenplay and animatic was received so poorly that I've had to completely retool it in the span of one to two weeks. It was a frustrating yet necessary process because with every fix, I slowly grew to care about the story and wanting to see the best of it. And by the end of pre-production, I have gotten to the state that I felt proud of how it came out.
Production and Post-Production was more or less smooth sailing from there with a trajectory in mind and a schedule that balances several tasks consisting of animation and background painting along with compositing and sound mixing. However, I did receive help in some areas including parts of creature and effects animation and, most importantly, the music which was composed beautifully by Shanae Roberts who was a second-year at the time. To be honest, her work held the whole story together and gave it its own unique personality, something that if absent would have been a disaster.

— Do you have a dream?

— My dream usually changes depending on the path I am in at the moment. I used to dream big like being at a huge animation studio like Blue Sky, Illumination and Disney but I slowly started to scale that down to long-term goals that can be attainable with small milestones that push myself to grow as an artist. Right now, I have ideas in mind that I want to develop as TV series (ideally for streaming services) with each one filled with passion and excitement. It would take a bit to reach to this point but with hard work and strong beliefs, it can be possible.
— Give advice for those who want to make a film, but don't know from where to start?
If an idea pops up in your mind, you should start writing it down on a nearby notebook. If you want to go further, you can sketch out the scenes and characters alongside it. By developing the idea on paper, you establish commitment to it in wanting to see this materialize on the screen. Because of this, it turns into dominoes falling down one by one until you finally get to start proper production. It's not an easy road to this point with the inevitable obstacles taking form of work/life balance and other projects and it will take months to years of finally finishing it but what matters is that this is your own idea that you are proud of how it came out.
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