The World's First Global Film Festival

Fire In Cardboard City

Directed by: Phil Brough

Country: New Zealand

Time: 8:47

Synopsis: When Cardboard City catches fire, it's up to an energetic fire chief and his brave deputies to save its citizens from the encroaching flames.

Fire in Cardboard City...the title says it all. Where did this idea come from?

I had made a short clip for a feature called Star Wars Uncut where people from all around the world could remake Star Wars 15 seconds at a time in any style they wanted. I used cardboard to recreate the opening shot of the Star Destroyer flying overhead. It was all made using 3D software and composited using Adobe After Effects. Then I began building a city from cardboard and initially was going to have a giant robot rampaging through the streets shooting and decimating everything. I discussed this idea with my business partner Matt Heath and we came to the conclusion that rather than having a robot destroying and burning everything to the ground, fire would be more fun and a lot more simple.

Fire in Cardboard City is infused with energy. How do you do that in an animated film?

I am a huge fan of action and genre blockbuster films. I also wanted to keep the camera shots grounded in a real world sense so the cameras never fly off in an impossible way. I looked at all my favorite actions scenes and tried to follow the pacing and framing of these. Most of the character animation is done using Motion Capture. This meant the characters have a real world sense to them too and not a lot in the way of traditional squash and stretch animation.

Was the approach to the film obvious or were there some options that were considered and rejected?

Once the aesthetic was established, it evolved into Fire in Cardboard City quickly. As mentioned, there was originally going to be a giant robot attacking the city. There was an earlier script which was far more talky and with more characters but in the end action was the the way to go.

I understand the film was made on a minimal budget and has had some wonderful success. It's a hell of a calling card and a testament that "Idea goes a long way."

We did have a small budget: $10,000 NZD. This did not last long so I had to spend any spare time - between working on animation for ads and TV shows and any other jobs I could get - making Fire in Cardboard City. Other ways we got around budget problems was by using a program called IPI Soft which utilizes Microsoft Kinect for the Motion Capture. We also used something called Perception Neuron which is another cheap but very effective way to do Motion Capture. The voice actors are all crew and friends and the children that appear are my kids and the kids of Orlando Stewart, one of the two producers on the film.

Is there going to be a "Flood in Cardboard City?" What's the future for the concept? Are you hoping to turn it into a feature film or a series?

Flood in Cardboard City would mean simulating a lot more CG water which is a total pain in the butt. I am currently working on a short form show for New Zealand with Orlando and Matt called Welcome to Cardboard City. I am also working on a feature script so I can hopefully have something to do once I finish work on the show.