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Daniel Martínez Lara on Changes

Spanish animator and head of Pepe-School-Land Daniel Martínez Lara talks about the making of the short film Changes.

Martínez Lara became interested in 3D animation while he was studying filmmaking, and afterwards ended up working for a while at renowned Spanish company REM Infográfica (which was founded in 1996 by Javier Reyes, José María de Espona and Jorge Martínez Reverte). At that time he started producing his own short films and created the character Pepe, who would later show up in various issues of 3DWorld magazine. Copi, the main character of “Changes”, is related to Pepe in many ways and follows the same minimalist aesthetic (Pepe was originally conceived in plasticine, and maintains a certain likeness to the material).

The Interview

What motivated you to start working on “Changes”?

After doing freelance jobs for a couple of years and spending another three working at Ilion Studios every cell of my body was screaming at me to start working on a short film, ideas kept piling up in my head. I had been doing a few tests and animations, but I felt that it wasn’t enough; I wanted to tell a story with a beginning and an end.

How did the script come about?

Of all the ideas I was considering, the one that I liked the most and felt was more approachable from a practical point of view, was an idea from a comic book by Quino (Ed. Note: "Quino" is the signature name for Argentine humorist Joaquín Lavado). I found an idea that I thought was very appealing to turn into an animation.

When was the first time you got to read a book by Quino?

Well, that happened due to my older brothers (there’s six of us), and it was a book of Mafalda. I recall that I enjoyed reading it, but that was pretty much it. When I really began admiring Quino was when I got older, and discovered the other books by Quino, those that don’t focus on any particular character and deal with the more general subject of the human condition from a surrealistic and cynical point of view.

Quino is without a doubt an acute observer of human nature and the distortions produced by the "modern world". Why did you feel identified with the themes you’ve chosen for your short among all the ones that Quino deals with?

Because it’s a subject that hits too close to home, something I’ve given a lot of thought to; follow a path laid by others or choose to create your own. I’ve reached the conclusion that both possibilities in life are equally good, as long as one makes his choice freely and in a conscious way, and that’s what the short film is about. Sometimes we think that we are choosing, that we are actually changing something, but after a while we realize that we have only managed to make superficial changes. And after the novelty wears away, everything remains the same.

Which other sources of inspiration have influenced your work, besides Quino?

I really enjoy the classic animated cartoons from Warner Bros., they have a certain cynicism that I like a lot. I also enjoy the work of French comic artist Edika.

Why did you choose to continue using a non-realistic, minimalist aesthetic ("expressive simplicity" according to your own words) in "Changes".

Because that economic aesthetic allows me to focus on the story and characters, which is what I’m really interested in. It’s a legacy from comic artists, they only tend to draw elements that are relevant to a story. I think it’s important to know how to identify those elements and once you have them all that you choose to add afterwards will be of great help to embellish the story, but not essential.

How did you go about finding the music for the short? What led you to Wim Mertens’ compositions?

Once I was working on the storyboard, I began to "open my ears" in order to find the music for the short. During my search I remembered listening to Wim Mertens’ work and I recalled that he had certain musical pieces that could fit nicely with "Changes". So much so that I found three musical scores that complemented the short well, but I had to settle on one. I discarded the one I found less promising but it was difficult to pick between the two left. I liked them both, the two of them contributed different things to the visuals, one being lighter, the other more intense. After much pondering on the issue and carrying out a survey among family and friends that didn’t help much in clarifying things, I decided to post both versions on the Net and let people vote for their favorite. And that’s what I did. The lighter version won with 75% of the votes, so that was the final choice.

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