RIK SCHUTTE: INSIGHTS FROM A BLENDER ANIMATOR
Jamie speaks with Rik Schutte, the visionary director behind Blender's latest open movie project, 'WING IT!' This short film, crafted entirely within Blender, introduces a captivating 2D animation style that showcases Blender's true versatility. Rik is no stranger to the world of animation, having started his feature film career in the Netherlands working on 'The Little Vampire', he then moved on to SONY, where he contributed to the creation of 'Small Foot,' and later, took on a key role as a lead animator in the OSCAR-winning animated masterpiece, 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.'
[Jamie] Hey Rik.
[Rik] Hey, hey, hey, hello.
[Jamie] Hello, how's it going?
[Rik] Good, how are you?
[Jamie] We're all good this end, Rik. Thanks, man, and appreciate your time. Can you please introduce yourself?
[Rik] So my name is Rik Schutte, and I am the director of Blender's latest open movie, "Wing It."
[Jamie] Can we talk about how "Wing It" came about and how an animator at Blender gets into the seat with the director's hat on?
[Rik] So we finished "Charge," which was, I would say, semi-realistic. Ton Roosendaal, the founder of Blender, always comes up with these crazy ideas, like, "What if developers are cats and the artists are dogs?" It's an analogy for two different species that have to work together, and that was the starting point for us to make a movie that represents how we work at Blender. We have two departments at Blender: the development department, which creates and maintains Blender, and the art department, which pushes Blender to its limits.
[Jamie] That's how I imagine it is at Blender, is this right?
[Rik] Yes, this is how it is, even during the project. Making a movie feels like you're flying a rocket that's going down, and you need to find a way to prevent it from crashing. That's where the story started. Everyone at Blender was able to pitch an idea. It was initially mentioned as an in-between project but grew beyond expectations. I pitched a three-minute version, and everyone loved it. Then I went to the producer, Francesco CD.
[Jamie] You've got to go and check with the people with the money first, right?
[Rik] Yes, 100%. So, I mentioned to him, "I have this one-minute version," because I realized that the three-minute version wouldn't fit our timeline (the movie was supposed to wrap around April, but it's now September). So, I proposed a one-minute version as a pitch, starting with the dog and the cat conflict and the rocket launch. Francesco liked it, and that's how we got the green light for the longer version.
[Jamie] So, talking about pitching "Wing It" to Ton, what were Ton's first reactions?
[Rik] In the first pitch, the solution to fixing the plane involved using an add-on package, where the dog would open it up and use a steering wheel.
[Jamie] Like a Blender add-on?
[Rik] Yes, like a Blender add-on. Ton didn't like that because it suggested that Blender wasn't capable on its own. So, that idea was a no-go. We had a few different beginnings and endings to try out. Eventually, I came to him with a version where the rocket doesn't crash, and he loved it. He was relaxed about it.
[Jamie] It's funny because we've all been there when we think Blender's about to crash, and we're like, "Blender, don't crash!" Blender can't crash. What's it like landing that first pitch and seeing it greenlit? It must be amazing to see your idea come to life.
[Rik] You know, I didn't really know what I was getting into. I did the writing, storyboarding, and editing. In Blender, we have a small team, so one person wears multiple hats. Finding the balance between directing the team, being firm about ideas, and being a cheerleader is essential. You want people to be excited and maintain high morale. Initially, it feels like it's just one guy making storyboards and half-baked jokes, but as the team joins, you work together to elevate the story, characters, and everything. When you see how it's going to look at the end, and the music comes in (live orchestrated), it's a whole different experience.
[Jamie] Did it turn out anything like what you had in your head when you first pitched the idea?
Did it? Watch the full episode to find out! Plus industry advice and process insights to creating and directing a blender short film.
(Watch The VFX Process here)
BUILDING A COMMUNITY - DISCORD
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