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16th July 2015
Crash course
Title of film: Isolated
Director: Tomás Vergara
We talk with the Chilean filmmaker Tomas vergara about his CGI hyper-realistic journey through a city on the brink of destruction

Your short film Isolated is so hyper-real you forget that it’s animated. What was behind your decision to not shoot the film as live-action?

When my producer in Chile Ian Mery approached me, he said he wanted to do something we’d never seen before. Creatively and visually, I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted, to make it feel epic and intense, a spectacle, everything but your everyday short. So with the available knowledge and craft, it only made sense to go for CGI like a cinematic game.

Were you involved in writing the narrative and what was it about the story that appealed to you?

My brother Manuel penned the original idea. I guess what appealed to me the most is that when he pitched it, just as he was about to reveal the twist, he paused for a second, pulled a small speaker from his pocket, and continued his presentation as the theme from The Sixth Sense played in the background. So basically, I was sold the moment I saw a speaker out from his pocket. I mean, who hangs out with a speaker in their pocket? I’m talking about a big small speaker. I gotta get me one of those.

What were the most challenging aspects of making the film and how did you resolve them?

To tell a story in a cinematic, epic way with limited resources and talent. There’s no industry in Chile, and the best talent is already hired and well paid. Also, I can’t forget that sometimes the guys that delivered drinking water took forever to arrive. And when you paid, they never had any change. That was definitely the toughest challenge!

Did it take forever to make?

Something like 10 months of confinement. And when I was free from the computer screen cuffs, it was office-home-office, sneaking through the rain, thunder and mud on bicycle. Such a memorable project. Reminded me of the ending of The Shawshank Redemption, but having to go back to the prison cell.

What were the key lessons you learnt from making the film that you will use and develop in future?

Visual storytelling in general, be it camera movements, editing, framing, lighting and making it feel like something you haven’t experienced before. And doing everything to elaborate a detailed animatic, a bullet proof blueprint that’s easy for all the team to understand, almost interpretation free.

Apart from that, the biggest lesson was: Make a mind blowing thumbnail for your video if you want it to go viral.

Isolated is crying out to be made into a feature – is this likely to happen?

More crying than out. Takes time, money and maybe a few trips to LA. But hopefully it will get made.

We notice Daniel Ferriera collaborated on the sound. Small world as we posted a story on him last week!!

Nice short. Though the Daniel I know doesn’t speak Portuguese, and he is a skilled sound designer from head to toe.

VFX must be second nature to you – how did you train?

Lots of projects, lots of trial and error, and just jumping into the sea of ignorance. That’s a good way to force yourself to learn how to make things happen, and at the end of the day we always ship, which is the only thing you can’t not do.

Where do you call home? And is this where you are based?

On my map, South West corner of the planet, Santiago de Chile. From there, go a little south and you’ll thank me later.

What made you move from working in advertising to creating films?

Movies feel to me like a media focused on characters you get to know, emotions you can anticipate and process. On the other hand, advertising is tricky, because the focus is most of the time on the brand and we as an audience can perceive that. So when you can tell somebody is trying to sell you something in your face, I feel nothing but rejection. The same reason poor taste in filmmaking repels moviegoers.

So like everything, there’s a beauty in making it with skill and guts. Both serve a purpose worth exploring. That’s why our partner Carl Grinter from Three Wise Monkeys in the UK guides us on branding, to find balance between these two worlds.

List five inspirations that have connected with you recently – these can be films, music videos, books, architecture, people, anything you like!

People inspire with actions. Those who value and commit time doing something they believe in, those who focus on doing instead of talking, those who are generous enough to give away part of their thing.

Hayao Miyazaki with kindness and craftsmanship.
Chris Nolan with class.
Film characters are no less important: Princess Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind blows my mind every time; Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird landed into my screen wallpaper for a while, as a reminder.
And last but not least, Alan Watts on his series of essays condensed into Does it Matter (very cool for those of us who’ve never explored the theme of materialism).

Isolated film website

Isolated Directed by Tomas Vergara Produced by Ian Mery Written by Manuel Vergara and Tomas Vergara Music by Manuel Canepa Sound by Daniel Ferreira Co-Producer: Ivan Mery