Exclusive Interview with Director Hasraf Dulull

20 09 2011

Director and Visual Effects Artist Hasraf Dulull talks about his career in video games, music productions, commercials and of course the film industry including his short film FUBAR: THE REDUX EDITION!  Click thru for our chat with the multi-talented Hasraf Dulull.

Here is our chat with Hasraf.

1.  I always like to start out by asking Where are you from and where do you consider home?

- I am from London UK.

2.  Can you tell me how you got your start in Video Game Animation at places like Deibus Studios?

It was when I was at University I did a degree which required you to get a 1 year placement, most of the people on my course ended up at CAD companies or doing some basic design runner jobs.. I wanted to do something much more exciting and ground breaking at the time  - Video Games.  It was at the time when Playstation 1 was fresh and there were tons of games in developement on the hardware pushing the graphics… and I remember then seeing Metal gear solid which was like a hollywood movie but in a video game! thats when I then started doing pre-rendered game cinematics which was called FMV back in those days.

3.  You were developing in a time period when we saw a lot of technological changes both on consoles and with software and tools.  What moments stand out to you as game-changers that really helped you expand your own abilities as a programmer and director for numerous projects over the years?

I think it was Metal Gear Solid 2 by Konami on the playstation 2.. it totally blew me away! it was cinematic, action packed game play with stealth!  it was like if James Cameron made a video game!!  I always loved movies and did my own animation etc but when I saw that game I knew it was possible to carve a career in film making using Animation tools and technology… and it was only getting better every year!

4.   It seems like you were working on film, music, graphic design and even marketing all along your career.  What projects or Studio moments stand out to you during your early years in the early 2000s? (for example your work on Battalion Wars?)

I think it has to be when I ran my own CG studio up north in UK ( I set that up after the games industry in the North of UK was going downhill.. a bad time for small developers.. and I happened to work in one of them that shut) and was doing animation for music promos and corporates but using high end visuals effects.. in the evenings I would then work on my own small project.. I did a short trailer called “The Chase”, I attended an Autodesk event and there was a “show and Tell session” but one of the presenters could not make it.. and I over heard they were looking for a presenter to show off work ASAP.. and so I volunteered as I had the DVD of The Chase with me anyways… nervous as I was.. I did the presentation and played the short trailer.. and it got a standing ovation and was asked to play it again, then autodesk asked to use it for their marketing campaign.. I then got offered a Job at one of the biggest game developers/publishers in Europe: Codemasters to lead the team in creating action packed Cinematics and Marketing promos for their driving games…

5.  How did you get into Rotoscoping for films and can you talk about working on such big film projects as  Elizabeth The Golden Age, 10,000 BC,  Narnia, HellBoy II, and of course The Dark Knight?

Back in those times if you said you worked in games and applied in film, they would see games industry as a separate industry whereas today the two blend in really well as games use the same tools and high end quality of craft and technical knowledge required in film work (particles, normal map creations, high poly modelling, motion capture, scanning etc).

I knew I wanted to work in film when I saw Batman Begins and I said to my partner I want to work on the sequel if they make one! (several years later I ended up working on The Dark Knight – one of the proudest moments in my compositing career).   I started off doing roto and paint at The Moving Picture Company and then ended up moving into compositing mainly because I had already shown my compositing skills when doing complex rig removals and my knowledge of Shake.. from there it was upwards as Junior compositor to Compositor to lead compositor and then to Compositing Supervisor which lead me to becoming a Visual Effects Supervisor.

6.  Can you talk about the differences in working on film projects, video game projects, commercial work (like for Coke-Cola), and music projects?

To be honest its all the same in terms of craft, technical and creative workflows.. the only difference is budget and schedule.  With music videos you have very little time to do some very ambitious things! and usually work on them putting in crazy hours mainly for the love of the music track or directors work… I did loads of music promos at Partizan as well as co-directed some with Little Red Robot in San Fransisco with my good buddy Seth Shevosky who is now Exec Producing my short film :Fubar – Redux Edition.

7.  Can you talk about working at Partizan and did that help push you further into wanting to work on your own project?

Working a Partizan allowed me access to see how directors worked and I worked with great directors on music promos and commercials.. and because of the small nature and tight schedule its usually very intimate and you are compositing with them next to you.. also educated me in the world of agencies and clients and producers..

8.  HaZ-VFX and Fubar are obviously big steps for you in making your own projects.  When did you realize it was time to start up HaZ-VFX and what are your goals for the company?

HaZ-VFX is my trading name (as im a freelancer) but also a brand for me, as everyone knows me as HaZ and I love VFX :)  But i started it up as a way to keep on supporting independent projects like short films and indie feature films while working on the big hollywood blockbusters.  These indie projects  didnt have huge budgets but needed visual effects done to the tight budget but in a smart way to keep production value high.  Also working on those indie projects kind of ground me and allows me to appreciate the film making side of things which you dont often get while working on those big movies doing vfx in a dark room in a big facility…

But also working on those indie projects in my spare time also clocked up my IMDB credits and experience as  Production Visual effects supervisor and Producer which at the end got me gigs on high end broadcast projects like America – the story of us as well as Feature Films… so yeah even though indie projects are often low pay or no pay at all… it paid off as it carved my visual effects supervision career (in terms of on set supervising).

9.  How did the idea for Fubar come about and why cats vs dogs?

Well originally it was suppose to be a short war film told in the style of La-Je-Tee with actors and photography… even had casting sessions and everything.. but i had this gut feeling this was not original and would be compared to tons of war films.. I wanted to something that would be fun to watch because I had fun doing it!  then one day I was going though some of the casting images of an actor (i made them do marine poses etc) and I notice the agressive behaviour of the actor (dean jagger who ended up doing the VO for the trailer and becoming a good mate of mine) and i looked at my cat tiggy looking pissed off with me for not feeding him.. i snapped a photo of Tiggy with my iphone and then opened up photoshop and put Tiggys face onto Deans face and painted on some uniforms and a gun and graded it etc.. and viola!!  it looked cool! it looked real and not comical.. yet had a cinematic and hard hitting feel to it.. it was like black hawk down told in the vain of George Orwells Animal Farm (which is one of my fave books!)… from there I developed it into Fubar!

10.  Can you talk about the addtions from the 8 minute cut to the REDUX 20 minute version we are anticipating?

Well I dont want to give away too much as not even my editor and sound designer knows whats in store for them yet.. but all I can say is you are going to be treated to an epic battle sequence in the same intensity as Saving Private ryan and some cool visual techniques to draw the audience into the viceral action and emotional impact on the battle field and of course pushing the Motion Comics style much more further. There are scenes which didnt make it in the current version such as the Weapons Manufacter – Wolf Industries which gets a mention in the news report in the current version… in redux we see the shady deals between the weapons manufactures and the politicians.  There is also an alternative ending which I can not say as in the current version I left it open with the cat preseident being pissed off with the dog president.. but there was a much more sinister ending I originally planned…  and lastly there will be much more intergration with the score music and visuals to create the emotion as apposed to relying on voice overs…  similar idea and reasoning like the voice over removal decision in Bladerunner :)

11.  Why Kickstarter and how have you liked the way things have gone so far – as of sending this email you are within $44 of making your minium!!!

A friend of mine – Paul Trillo had his film funded from Kickstarter which lead me to check the site out.. I then saw several projects funded but what interested me was not the fact you get funding.. but the fact it was all crowd source funding based around community spirit….  to me that meant you really had to work hard to promote your project to convince the world and audience to fund the film rather than some executives in suits in a studio.  It meant your film was going to be made and funded because the audience wants it and believes in it!  all this marketing and PR and fund raising has been a great learning experience for me (i just do visual effects remember!) and I have had a blast doing it!  and cant wait to do it again!  at the time of doing this interview – Fubar – Extended Redux edition is 103% funded!!!!  with 3 days left to go! woohoo!  :)

12.  What made you use the great H.G. Wells quote?

It was so relevant with what is going on in our world.. and I wanted the film to start off with an anti-war message before the audience gets thrown into epic battle scenes!

13.  Can you talk about the ways you captured  gun fire, fire itself (from gunshots, explosions, etc), and blood?

Being a visual effects artist in feature films I had access to loads of vfx elements shot for compositing.. the film uses still images of those elements and then animated in compositing by keyframe animating the manipulation of the fx images such as muzzle flashs and even blood and also retiming footage of vfx elements such as water splashes to give it a slow mo motion comic feel mixed with the 2D action.

14.  Why choose Cats and Dogs?  What about the actual choices of breed like Doberman?  Will we see other animals or breeds of cats and dogs in the Redux version?  And WHY DID THE DOGS HAVE TO START WAR!?!?!

One of my favourite books of all time is George Orwells- Animal Farm. I loved the idea of using certain animals to depict the chain of command politically. With Fubar I chose specifically Cats and Dogs as they have always been territorial animals but at the same time reflect certain characteristics which makes them stand out from one another. Each of them have their strong and weak points yet they both strive for territories. I used that to create the world of Fubar and the metaphor of what’s happening around us today with the military, government, war, media and politics.    
You will defo see more breeds of dogs and cats in Redux edition of fubar, which is why as part of the Kickstarter campaign I have asked pledgers and people on facebook to submit images of their cats and dogs to be featured in the film.
Well it looks like the dogs started the war but remember the dobberman president wanted peace it was the military generals (bulldogs) that went behind his back to attack… in redux you will see a more clearer reason for this.. and hey those cats are not so innocent too as you will see in some of the new scenes in the film…

15.  Music wise the soundtrack is quite amazing, can you tell us more about the choices you made there?

Luis Almau – an audio maestro!  theres a good story on how he joined the project.. he worked in the same studio as the editor – Deelan Sital.. one night Deelan was editing the trailer with some temp music .. and he walked past and watched it and loved it and asked to be involved…. the rest is history!  Luis totally got it and he plays guitar, piano etc and them digitally mixes it up to create this amazing epic like sound track!..  The ending track is called “the End is Nigh” which seemed fitting for an end credit track to fubar and is by an upcoming artist – Breakbeats Son who knew Deelan andI heard some of this tracks from Deelan and though this guy is talented and needs exposure, a few conference calls and chats and the then went away and remixed the track for the end credits .. he did a Fubar remiix of the track!

16.  Script Wise what have you and Geof come up with for the Redux version?

Cant say.. but there was loads of dialogue which was not used which is going to be put back in now that the scenes will be made.. but there is alos dialogue which will be removed too..

17.  What is next for you with FUBAR and then outside of it, project wise?

Well there is the distribution of it… I have several distributors already interested in it..so that will take me a while to do with all the PR and Marketing.. thats me wearing the producers hat!  I already have another project brewing up ready for when Fubar – Redux edition is released :)  all i can say is yes it involves crazy gun totting bunnies and car chases!…

FUBAR – Extended Redux Edition Kickstarter page.

Haz VFX.


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