Robin Hays wants us to Post No Bills
Making its online debut on shots, Hays' adorable short tells the endearing love story of Noodle Boy and Miss Fortune. We chat to the director about how a wall of posters became her working canvas.
Thanks to the Toy Story franchise and, frankly, our own childhood imaginations, we all know what happens to toys when we leave the room. But what of the mascots and avatars that adorn unnoticed posters?
It's with this in mind that director Robin Hays brings us Post No Bills, a super-cute and incredibly well-realised short telling the love story between Noodle Boy and Miss Fortune. Tracking the former's journey to his sweetheart before an unsuspecting painter wipes their worlds away, the film's sparkles in it's attention to detail (the different textures and lighting states as Noodle Boy travels between posters is astonishing) and the development of its endearing 'leads'.
Having already picked up accolades at film festivals around the world, and in the early stages of being turned into a feature after Hays became a finalist in the Coppola’s American Zoetrope screenplay contest, we grabbed some moments with her, before she posts more bills, to chat about its creation.
Where did the concept of Post No Bills come from? How did it develop?
I came up with the idea when I was in New York about ten years ago.
I’m a big fan of street art and while I was walking around checking out all the walls plastered with stickers, flyers and posters I imagined if some of the characters came to life while we weren’t looking, like the childhood concept that our toys come to life at night.
Noodle Boy changed a bit from the original sketch but not too much. Miss Fortune, however, was more challenging. Turns out fortune cookies are very strange shapes.
I thought it could be a fun little film although I didn’t know anything about animation and so I let the idea sit…for a decade.
Above: Noodle Boy sketches
What were the initial steps? How did you come up with the character designs?
When I came up with the idea I pitched it to my friend Andy Poon and he sketched up a version of Noodle Boy. But then the idea and Noodle Boy went into a drawer.
Over the years Andy kept reminding me of Noodle Boy saying that we should bring him to life. I finally listened to him and applied for some financing and that got the ball rolling.
Noodle Boy changed a bit from the original sketch but not too much. Miss Fortune, however, was more challenging. Turns out fortune cookies are very strange shapes. That being said, I think she’s cute and Andy did a great job with all the characters.
Above: A carousel of poster types and Noodle Boy designs.
The texture and animation style of the film varies from poster to poster. How important was it to make those distinctions? Was it tricky?
That was really important because the wall needed to feel as real as possible with a lot of variation and texture.
Andy and I worked with a few graphic designers including Matt Heximer of 10Four Design to make sure we had a different vibe to each the posters.
The tricky part was making sure that each poster felt different but to also make sure that there was also an overall cohesiveness to the film so it didn’t feel jarring.
We also worked with closely with our DP Trent Opaloch to create the right lighting scenarios in each environment.
How was the process of creating the film? How long did it take you?
The process was so much fun! We were lucky enough to have Atomic Cartoons come on board.
I’m very grateful to all the amazing artists and our animation producer Daniel Roizman who worked so hard on the project. It took about 8 months.
Above: Concept art for the film.
What was the most challenging aspect? How did you overcome it?
There is no dialogue in the film because I wanted it to be universal.
It’s tricky though, because you risk people not caring about the characters and they need to care or the film won’t work. ;
The tricky part was making sure that each poster felt different but to also make sure that there was also an overall cohesiveness to the film so it didn’t feel jarrin
The animators did a great job of illustrating the characters emotions with small nuanced looks and movements.
Since there is no dialogue having an amazing score was crucial to assist in creating the emotional connection to these characters. Andrew Harris did a fantastic job, we’d worked together on commercials and shorts in the past and he also scored a feature I directed.
Above: Some early storyboards.
How long did it take to refine the film to the version we see today? Were there many variations along the way?
The original script was a little longer with a few more posters but with our short film budget some of the posters had to be cut. That was tricky because there are so many awesome poster options.
Once the script was locked we created storyboards and a rough animatic. The final film didn’t change too much from the animatic.
The ending is inspired by the fact that I let this idea sit for ten years because I was afraid of something I didn’t know how to do.
You must be pleased with its festival success. What have been some of the key moments along the way?
Of course it’s amazing to be accepted to respected festivals but a highlight was being invited the Ajyal Film Festival in Doha, Qatar.
It’s really neat that the film been well received by people of all ages around the world and is always nice to hear that the people enjoyed the film.
I don’t want to give anything away but the ending is inspired by the fact that I let this idea sit for ten years because I was afraid of something I didn’t know how to do. If I hadn’t faced my fears and tried something new this film wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be speaking right now.
My hope is that the take-away is to try something new and do something that scares you a bit because you never know what can happen!!
Above: Noodle boy with different 'haircuts'.
What's up next for you?
I have a couple things cooking including working on bringing the Post No Bills feature to life.
The feature script I wrote based on the short was selected as a finalist in Coppola’s American Zoetrope screenplay contest.
There are some really fun new characters that I can’t wait to introduce and, of course, more posters!