Film animators might just think differently than the rest of us.
In 2012, Austinite Lucas Martell invited filmmakers and artists to a working retreat in Belize to work on a short animated film about the importance of conservation. Three years later, “The Oceanmaker,” a post-apocalyptic film, has been screened at more than 25 film festivals across the country and, for the first time, will be available for free on Earth Day, April 22, on YouTube.
The way this film was made starts with the production process, a bootstrapped collaboration in a setting people don’t normally go to create animated films. “I couldn’t afford all the artists I needed,” says Martell, “so instead I decided to bribe them by moving all production to a small island in the Caribbean. I call it the ‘destination production’ model.”
For almost seven weeks, eight people huddled into a large house in Belize with nothing but laptops, a script and their imaginations. All of the filmmakers volunteered their time and talents in exchange for a unique opportunity to collaborate in a remote setting on a project that resonated with all of them. From that retreat, the Austin-based animation studio Mighty Coconut was born.
“It was a fairly black and white decision,” said Michael Cawood, one of the filmmakers who took a chance on the retreat. “It was like, yes, this is the right time, the right circumstances and …. when are you going to get a chance to do something like this again? — so go for it.”
“On the surface, it might sound like we took a vacation, but the entire team worked incredibly hard during the trip,” says Martell. ”Everyone was so passionate about the film that we sometimes had to force people to step away from their computers and go to the beach. My producer/wife Christina Martell even went so far as to schedule what was jokingly referred to as a ‘strict regime of fun’ where once a week we did a big excursion: snorkeling, sailing, cave tubing, Mayan ruins and several others. It turned out to be a great balance. We worked hard, we played hard, and we accomplished more in seven weeks than I did in two years on my first film.”
Once the film was near completion, Martell upped the creative collaboration factor by recording the score composed by Chris Reyman with a live 60-piece orchestra, something independent films rarely attempt.
“After focusing on comedy for years, I was really drawn to the idea of doing a film that could tap into something deeper and more dramatic,” Martell explains. “There are few animated films that strive to rival live-action in terms of emotional complexity–our goal with “The Oceanmaker” was to achieve an extremely mature tone without sacrificing the heightened sense of scope and design that animation allows.”
On April 22, Mighty Coconut is partnering with Earth Day Network—in conjunction with the Department of Education, NASA and Alliance for Climate Education—to distribute “The Oceanmaker” on Earth Day as part of Climate Education Week. Through this partnership, Mighty Coconut will distribute the film across a network of 100,000 schools.
The film will stream for free on YouTube on Wednesday, April 22, but viewers can also purchase a copy for $1.99 with a dollar from each copy sold going to Earth Day Network’s Canopy Project—a program that plants one tree for every dollar donated in order to help communities, especially the world’s impoverished communities, sustain themselves and their local economies.