MFAVN student, Rachel Mersky, has been working on an animated project title Spooked. It first caught our attention when we spotted this animated gif fly through one of our plethora of social feeds:
Yeah, it made us stop, too. What is going on here? We had to find out. So we tracked Rachel down and asked her a few questions.
First, check out the trailer:
On to the questions!
What’s the origin of Spooked?
While the script for Spooked has gone through many iterations, the basic concept has remained the same. I’ve known from the start that I wanted to tell a ghost story set in a summer camp. I grew up going to summer camp in the Poconos, and every year it seemed there was a new folk legend about a monster or crazed ex-camper haunting our very campgrounds. My first few years at camp, when I was younger, I was very homesick and very easily spooked- so I was quite affected by these ghost stories campers and counselors would tell by flashlight. It’s really easy to feel like an outsider in a group of young girls, and that’s exactly how I felt my first couple of years. I wanted to embody this feeling of being an outsider, and give my outsider a little friendly redemption in the end.
You’ve been sharing your process as you create the story. What made you decide to do that?
I started this project more or less blind — I spent hours and hours doing research on workflow, the best programs to use, technical specs, and personal experience and tips. I wanted to know what actual people doing very low-budget projects with little to no crew were actually using and what they did to cut corners, make things manageable, and still look good. There are surprisingly few resources for that kind of thing online, so I figured if I chronicled my experience, I could perhaps provide that for someone else who might be looking for the same thing. It also doesn’t hurt to try to get some interest in your project before you release it so people will (hopefully) actually watch it once it’s done.
Now that you’ve done several animated projects, what’s more challenging than you thought it would be about animation?
I knew it was going to be a time-consuming process, but I didn’t quite realize how time consuming. I’ve got a full-time job, and I’ve been working on this animation after work and on the weekends — averaging about 20+ hours a week. Sometimes it can feel like I’m making no progress at all — spending 10+ hours on one single 5 second shot. I’m finally in the home stretch now and seeing it all come together is making it feel worth it, but I think next time I try to take on an animation like this, I’m going to hire someone to help me do some in-betweens or something!
What’s easier than you thought it would be?
I got surprisingly lucky with sound design. My boyfriend helped me record camper “voices” and monster sounds in my bedroom, and I have access to a really good sound library where I got lots of good foley and atmosphere sounds, and I found most of the rest of the foley online for free. I also set up a Premiere file with my animatic and sound design, so as I got each shot finished in Photoshop, I could drop it in the timeline and see how it works with all the other shots. It makes me feel like I’m actually getting somewhere with each little piece of the puzzle.
You call yourself a digital nomad. What does that mean to you?
Originally, I was working freelance as a designer and front-end developer and was literally moving around from place to place, so the title fit quite literally. Now, however, I’ve appropriated it to mean something more along the lines of being nomadic in terms of digital medium — I’ve lived most of my professional and creative life on the computer, and my technical skills are pretty diverse as far as equipment, programs, codes, and internet savvy.
I have to ask this (as annoying as it can be). My curiosity will deck me if I don’t. Once you’ve completed Spooked, what do you want to work on next?
That’s always the question! Right now I’m really interested in merging my interest in filmmaking and animation with my career in web and front-end development by making a web-based interactive film. I actually have been planning on expanding the idea I started in my first-year summer project — a video game that plays you. It’s still in the seedling stage right now but I’m imagining building a replica of twitch.tv or one of those websites where vloggers live-stream themselves playing video games, and having the video game come to life from there and manipulate the user’s browser, interact with their webcam, perhaps even branching out to other devices like their smartphones. There’s a lot that’s going to need to happen for this to come to fruition, including probably most importantly my learning some sort of 3d environment beyond the really basic level I have now, but you asked about what I WANT to work on, so that’s definitely on the list.
Thanks so much for talking to us, Rachel! You do fantastic work and we can’t wait to see the final story of Spooked. Oh, and your idea for the next project is a doozy! We’ll be watching for it.