Jesús Orellana is not your typical filmmaker. He never went to film school. His first short film, Rosa, has toured some of the biggest international festivals and in just one week has been seen by over 200,000 people online. We can debate the merits of the story, but we can’t deny the impact it’s had. Jesús has gone from being an illustrator who’d never made a film to a highly sought-after 3D animation director in just over a year. He shares with us a few of his thoughts and what inspired him to do what he did.
It has always been my dream to make movies. I’ve never been to a film school, so one day I just decided to make a short film and learn with the process. That short became Rosa. I did it animated because, alone and with no budget, it was the only way to go.
I love creating worlds. For me, the first step is always to create the world and then find the right story within. With Rosa I purposely stepped away from the usual post-apocalyptic desert/desaturated scenario and created something with a lot of color where nature has the starring role. Being such a strange setting it was important to have a simple narrative structure that could be followed universally without dialogue and at the same time was exciting and entertaining.
Rosa visually emerges from every work that has inspired me since I was a child—from films like Blade Runner or The Matrix to Japanese Manga/Anime masters like Oshii, Otomo, Kon or Miyazaki. I think this is the natural approach for new filmmakers.
There’s some killer action in the film. How did you plan the choreography?
I planned the entire short film as live-action instead of animation. After the script, I made a rough storyboard divided in scenes and just started to make shots. A lot of them were improvised during the CG process—moving around the virtual camera and finding interesting angles with the editing in mind. For the action scenes, I took as a reference a ton of Hong Kong action films—I’m a huge fan. I was also extremely limited by my animation skills, so the editing was a crucial process to achieve a good result. There were a couple of minutes cut off in the final cut of the film—that’s of course pretty much a crime for an animated film. The good part is that the short has a great energy and also feels like a live-action film.
When I first started I had absolutely no idea about animation or video editing, so as a graphic-novel artist, the plan was to make a smaller 2D short film with drawings and very limited animation. Then I started experimenting with some 3D software I used previously for reference in my drawings. I did some rough animations and was very happy with the results. The rest was a lot of tutorials, time, and hard work. I worked on the short full-time, all day, all year. The first six months were mainly a trial and error process.
The equipment was nothing fancy, I used my computer and software I already had. For the CG, I used a combination of Blender and Daz Studio. The renders were heavily post-produced to achieve the look I wanted. I used my experience as an illustrator to work every shot like a painting with lots of layers and details. It was hard work but ultimately very rewarding. Hardware was an old 2003 iMac that died during the process and was replaced by a Mac Pro during the production.
The intention has been to release Rosa online for free since the beginning. I wanted Rosa just to be seen, and of course nowadays the best way for that is going online for a worldwide audience. I entered a few selected film festivals to gain some exposure and attract more interest in advance of the online premiere. I think this mixed approach is the best way to go, having a limited festival run and going online during the same year. The endless festival route with hundreds of selections has little sense today in my opinion. I must say I was very inspired with your article on the launch for Thomas Beale Cipher, it was very revealing when I first started the distribution.
Right now I’m exploring all avenues and opportunities to develop Rosa as a live-action, feature-length film. The plan is to expand the world and mythology of the short into a feature. The short film is just a small glimpse of what’s in store for the film, it’ll take the world of the short to a whole new level.