Nice Shoes Creative Studio’s lead compositor Adrian Winter and colorist Sal Malfitano recently helped filmmaker Robert Rugan and producer Molly Mayeux, bring Rugan’s short film Danny and the Wild Bunch to life.
The short film stars Rob Tepper as Danny and Nora Zehetner as a children’s book author who is told that her new manuscript needs to be ‘darker,’ but when her revisions enrage the characters in the book, they come to life to make some changes of their own.
The main challenge for the Nice Shoes team was to integrate the animated characters from the Danny and the Wild Bunch book into a live-action world in a believable way. Winter, who worked with Rugan when both were at Superfad, encouraged the director to bring the film to Nice Shoes for the final composite and color grading to seamlessly marry the two worlds.
“Robb and I hit it off immediately when we worked together at Superfad. His creative choices are always very strong right out of the gate, but he also lets the artists play and experiment,” said Winter. “I proposed to Rob that we could bring the entire project inside Nice Shoes Creative Studio and incorporate the color department into the project pipeline. This would allow us to work on color and comp in tandem with one another and allow me to work on refining shots up until the very end of our working window.”
“Adrian was my first and only choice for lead compositor. He and I have worked on multiple projects together now, and on every one of those projects, he has taken what was there and elevated it,” said Rugan. “In my mind, a shot isn’t finished until Adrian puts his eyes on it.”
The workflow Winter and Malfitano employed between After Effects and Baselight factored in the film’s tight delivery schedule, as Rugan’s film festival deadlines were looming.
“We decided to conform and maintain the cut inside the Baselight, which allowed me to tweak and revise the grade as Adrian provided me with newly comped shots,” explained Malfitano. “The process really became a back and forth between us, and later in the process he began supplying me shots with mattes for specific parts of the 3D, which really aided me in the grade.”
“On set, director of photography Pete Konczal and I worked to tell a visual story where the look changed dramatically from bright and cheery to dark and spooky in a very short amount of time,” said Rugan. “Plus, on top of that, we were inserting animated characters into live action. So there were a lot to juggle. Sal’s grade really brought the whole thing together. It’s seamless.”
The short screened at the Bahamas International Film Festival, Indie Memphis Film Festival, Atlanta Shorts Fest, and picked up wins at the Las Vegas Film Festival, Catalina Film Festival, Asheville Film Festival and LA Underground Film Festival. Following the film’s festival run, Rugan has made Danny and the Wild Bunch available for all to see on Vimeo, where it has been selected as a Staff Pick.