Interview with Paulo de Almada, winner of the Vicon Film Festival

I'm always very curious before I meet someone I'm going to interview because I have an image of who they are based on their work. And, of course, it never matches the reality of the person I actually meet. After seeing “Twisted Murder”, the Vicon Film Festival winner several times, I pictured the director, Paulo de Almada, as a dark and moody person with a Kafka-like wit of the blackest kind. So, imagine my surprise (and delight) when I meet a young, passionate Brazillian man who probably laughed more during our interview than I do in an entire week.

Another pleasant surprise is Paulo's wife, Monica, who came with him for the interview. She is a bright, animated woman who frequently finished Paulo sentences for him. It was a delight to interview them both about the making of “Twisted Murder”. We ended up talking for almost 2 hours and probably could have continued on into dinner. Dark and moody? What was I thinking?

Paulo de Almada and his wife, Monica at the Caioti Pizza Cafe

Paulo has been working in CGI and Computer Animation for at least the last decade. Starting in advertising he moved on to train at the prestigious Gnomon School after winning a design contest for his film “Snail's Tail”. At Gnomon he learned Maya which led him to jobs within the effects industry with companies like Digital Kitchen, Motion Theory and A52, where he has been working since 2006.

It was in October of 2007 when Paulo heard about the Vicon film contest (two months after it was announced at SIGGRAPH). Four months later and right at the deadline he submitted “Twisted Murder”, a funny and slightly, well....twisted black comedy presented with impeccable technique and style. The idea behind the contest was to take motion capture files that Vicon would provide (they are one of the premiere motion capture studios around) and using those motions, create an animated film with them.

 

Our detective makes a shocking discovery

Paulo has a very creative mind and has crafted (with help from his equally creative wife, Monica) a strange, noir detective story that mixes William Burroughs and Mildred Pierce with a dash of Screwball comedy. Created primarily with Maya and After Effects, Paulo used many Vicon motion capture animations, although he adjusted some and created new ones for certain characters and scenes. He is a superb photographer (be sure to check his website) and used many photographs from a Chicago field trip as backgrounds and actual scene elements (be sure to pay attention to the Fresno bar scene). The mix of real photographs and 3d animation is not easy to do, but Paulo's work in “Twisted Murder” is seamless and adds a textured look that is unique. Some viewers might be thinking along the lines of “Sin City”, but Paulo has his own particular style.

 

Twisted Murder Film
(click arrow to play)

 

No wonder the Vicon judging committee (composed of industry professionals) awarded Paulo the cash prize of $10,000, as the film not only fulfilled the contest criteria, but went well beyond it in creating a strange, witty story that takes place in a unique 3d world. And after talking with Paulo and Monica (she did the odd, petulant voice-over) for several hours, it was obvious that both of them loved working on the film. Paulo, in particular, has a perfectionist attitude that is inspiring. 
 

Note Paulo's use of digital photo of the bar composited with the detective character

The slightly edited interview (36 minutes) covers Paulo and Monica's work on the film, how Paulo created certain scenes and his efforts to trim the running time down to the official 5 minute limit. We also discussed his use of the Vicon motion capture files, his background and history as an effects artist. And at the end we talked a bit about his life growing up in Brazil, trip to America and his work at various effects studios. For the future, Paulo wants to direct animation and live action. His goals are to win an Academy award and show at Cannes. Based on what I've seen so far, I think he can do it.

Audio Interview with Paulo and Monica (mp3 format) 

Notes:

-Paulo's website is full of information and samples of his work. Be sure to check out his photograph section; it's great. In addition to May, Paulo works with Photoshop, After Effects, Shake, Nuke, PF Track and Boujou

-Paulo's grandfather, Humberto Mauro, was an important figure in the growth and development of Brazillian Cinema. Some excellent info here and here. You Tube has some selections of his work.

-The Vicon Motion Capture Festival site has information about Paulo's film along with the runner up. You can also find out more about Vicon's work in motion capture, which is amazing.

-A52's minimalist website will give you an idea of the kind of work Paulo is involved in. He tells me that there is a Nike spot he is working on that will be in the movie theatres soon.

-If you are interested in listening to the entire interview (raw, uncut) you can download it here.

-And the music you hear at the beginning and the end of the edited interview is from the soundtrack of Twisted Murder. The music was created by Paulo de Almada.

-My sincere thanks to Monica and Paulo for a wonderful morning of conversation and good food. The restaurant we went to is in Studio City, California and it's called the Caioti Pizza Cafe; highly recommended.


 

Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.

August 4 , 2008

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