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10 Questions With Tyler Gooden, Director of 'FC Start: The Animated Film'

In World War II  a team of ex-professional football players now working at a bakery in German-Occupied Ukraine took on a team of elite Nazi soldiers in a match. Despite the obvious danger they faced, the players of 'FC Start' gave their all whatever the cost. Against the odds- spoilers for history- they won.

This event later became known at 'The Death Match' and became legendary even if there's some debate as to what actually happened (and what was later Soviet propaganda). This isn't you average set up for an animated feature by any stretch.. but that's just what independent film-maker Tyler Gooden is working on. Tyler spoke to AFA to tell us all about it!

AFA: We always start with the same question- how did you first get into animation?

Tyler Gooden: I guess the fourth grade, or even earlier, when I would draw pictures of stick figures on pages at the bottom of my math notebook in class. Instead of doing my multiplication tables, I would flip through the pages to watch them kill each other.

The story of FC Start is a fascinating one- how did you first come across the story?

I was in a hostel in Rome. I read about it in a guidebook, and I thought someone should make this into a film. I later decided it should be me.

Are you a bit of a history buff, or was it just this particular story that captured your imagination? Or maybe you're a football/soccer fan?
I saw in the story a theme which I found to be important to express, something that was deep and powerful enough to spend the necessary time to bring it to life. I love history and I played soccer, but neither of these would have been strong enough reasons to sustain.

It's not your typical plot for an animated movie! How did you decide to adapt this story into an animated feature?

Definitely, it's darker and more cinematic than a typical animation with bouncy figures and squishy toes. I originally planned to shoot it live action, but such large budgets and logistics result in unpredictable results and potentially dead-end paths. I decided to just go ahead and make the film instead, since that was the mission in the first place. I can do everything the live action guys wish they had the money to do, and I can do it all in my pyjamas. It's not injected with steroids though, so it takes us longer.

The film is using traditional animation with what you have described as "a painterly style" Has this style always been your preferred medium of did you ever consider using another from- such as stop-motion or CGI for this film?

I just wanted the story to be told. So we are using a combination of techniques. I would rather look at an oil painting by Mian Situ than an overly processed animation still from Pixar. Why wasn't this the goal of computer engineers?

So, if it were up to me, I would be making animations that paralleled my favourite painters. The look, tone, and depth that master painters achieve is what we should be striving to achieve in motion. I really don't know why animation went in the other direction, why everyone follows the status quo to make things so cartoony? It doesn't make sense.

Imagine seeing a moving painting that matched the tone and textures of a Dean Cornwell. The audience would be mesmerised and I would be satisfied. I am constantly disappointed that we are not achieving a look even close to the master painters. And yet, I am still proud of what we have done. The technology just isn't quite there yet, but when I find a great engineer, making animations that have the feel and look of my favourite paintings is what we will find out how to do.

You're funding the film at least partly through selling off artwork, which is a really interesting way of doing it. Did you consider using a more conventional crowd-funding platform (such as Kickstarter or Indie Go Go), or do you plan to in future?

I started selling some signed artwork. I still have a few limited prints available if you want one. Indeed, we will crowdfund again. One of the important lessons I discovered is I want to be able to provide value before I ask for help. Right now, we are working on building the value.

How big is your team on this film?

Very big. A team of giants. Two to four people have done almost all the work.

In terms of using animation to tell a mature story such as this, are there any films or particular film-makers that have been influential on you?

In terms of animators, not a lot. I was very little when I was first exposed to Ralph Bakshi, and so he got first position in my brain in many ways. The first Lord of the Rings was a big part of my childhood, my mom had his illustrations on slides, and I had the storybook before I could read. She was a teacher and librarian, and so I remember taking those slides home one summer and trying to figure out how to watch them through a projector. Those images of the rotoscoped shadowy characters and red backgrounds stayed with me and were very powerful images to me at the time. I see the influence of that in one of our scenes. Damian Nenow's Paths of Hate was an excellent early reference, but we are going more painterly than comic book. I saw Watership Down when I was about four years old, and it still haunts my dreams. Most of my cinema influences are live action directors. They are numerous, and each one of them has a particular trait or skill that I find insightful in making my own film.

What stage is the film at now? Have you got an estimate of when it might be completed?
We are finished with animation, and rounding third base on painting. Lighting is kicked into gear and we are about to dive into our last of the most challenging lighting setups. We still must composite, record and mix sound, some matte painting, and final cut, and all of that. This is for the 20-minute featurette, and with its completion, our assets are built, a prototype is done, we'll have something for the audience to enjoy. With that, our infrastructure is in place to launch the feature. Difficult to say when it will be finished with that, but at least a year. I no longer give exact dates or pretend to know. In the age of the hare, we remain the turtle.

Do you have any advice to pass on to anyone who wants to get into animation?
Live first. Don't get caught up in the technology and the system, trying to get a job, thinking that's what it's all about. Be aware of the templates, and avoid them. Stories come from life, so live deep, and go far, so you imprint unique images in your mind. Learn broadly. Technique should be learned and exercised, but the rats will always race. If you haven't lived uniquely, you have no clay from which to build your sculpture.

Thanks so much to Tyler for talking to us! Visit the FC Start Movie page for much more information, behind the scenes material and updates, and learn how you can get involved. 3% of Every $100 raised goes to Ukrainian relief efforts. You can also follow Tyler on twitter here.