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Luka Rukavina • Director of Cricket & Antoinette

“When recording dialogues, I insisted that the actors who were together in a scene had to be together in the room, too”


- We sat down with the Croatian filmmaker to discuss his movie, which is the first 3D animated feature made in his country

Luka Rukavina • Director of Cricket & Antoinette
(© Matej Grgić)

Luka Rukavina graduated in Dramaturgy at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb before attending FAMU’s Film and TV Direction course in Prague. He has worked as a screenwriter for and creative producer of various TV formats, as well as writing articles, film reviews and stage plays. As a director, he has signed his name to over 100 documentary short forms for children and youth TV programmes. He has also directed the dubbing of more than 20 major animated movies in Croatia. Cricket & Antoinette [+see also:
film review
interview: Luka Rukavina
film profile
is his first animated feature.

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Cineuropa: You came to this project later on in its development. How much of the work and what kind of work had already been carried out?
Luka Rukavina: When I joined the project, they were in the early stages of development. There were some conceptual drawings of characters and environments, they had two versions of the script and they’d made a development trailer, of sorts. The project spent a couple of years in “sleep mode”. The original director decided not to continue with it and producer Dino Krpan found me following a recommendation from Bojan Kondres, the owner of one of the studios I was working with on dubbings, and he and various others thought that, because of my education and experience, I’d be a good candidate for this project.

How did your past experience working on dubbing help you with your debut animated feature?
First of all, I’d spent most of the previous five-to-six years staring at animated films all day long, trying to figure out how they were made and what the specifics of this particular form and this particular medium were. So I’d developed a sense of what you should and shouldn’t do. But when we got down to work, when I re-wrote the script with Rona Žulj, we had to go back over it with the understanding that it’s a very specific type of writing. One key thing, for instance, is that the dialogue in animated films is mostly short and snappy; it’s really rare to have more than two or three sentences at a time, and there aren’t any monologues. That’s just one aspect of it. Then there’s its structure, how it introduces characters, different worlds and everything else... It was really challenging to start to imagine those two initially separate worlds and set some ground rules on how those worlds would work, the nomenclature and all the rest, and then to construct the story set within these two worlds, to decide how our characters meet and how the story progresses…

Cricket & Antoinette is billed as the first Croatian feature film to use 3D animation. How much of a game-changer is it compared to 2D animation?
These days, I think that if you were going to work in 2D, you’d need to have a reason for it. Also, anything that looks like 2D is mostly made in 3D and then “flattened”, in a sense. It’s easier to produce things that way; it’s a little bit faster, more streamlined. The beauty of 3D is that it allows you a lot of freedom, at least initially. I explain it as a “virtual theatre” or a “virtual set” where you can create virtual set-pieces with marionettes as characters - we call them rigs - and in that kind of virtual space you can devise any kind of camera shot, angle, dolly track… whatever you want. But when you get to the next phase of actually animating the film, it’s like any other type of animation: slow and steady work, taking care of the finer details, the characters’ reactions and everything else.

You recorded all the dialogue before starting on the animation. Is that standard practice?
It’s how it’s usually done. This is the first time it’s been done in Croatia, or in the wider region, I believe. The interesting thing is that when I started directing dubbings, one of my sound guys told me that what we did was actually “reverse engineering”. So, we cast the actors, showed them sketches and storyboards. We were in the animatic phase, or some such, at that point. We recorded the dialogue and a video of them performing that dialogue. The challenge was editing it, first the audio (which was around two and half months’ work) and then the video. The various elements were then passed on to the animators for inspiration, in a sense, and they used 5% or 10, 20% of it, depending on the animator. All those bits and pieces, and even references to other works, live-action or animated, might have come in handy.

Did you insist on something special from your cast and crew, on a technical and artistic level?
There were some things that were very important to me. For instance, when recording the film’s dialogues, I insisted that the actors who were together in a scene had to be together in the room, too. We had rehearsals, we talked about the motivations and the psychologies involved, but it was important to me that they were all in the same physical space. It presented a few technical challenges: with four or five microphones in a small studio you get “bleeding” between mics, which was a price we had to pay. It was crucial they were all together so that they could act alongside each other and riff off of one another. We also worked on some final bits and pieces: a bit of tweaking, synchronization (sometimes gestures in the film are stronger than their accompanying sentences, sometimes the opposite is true, so we had to “equalise” it), breath work - all those things which bring the characters to life – once again when the picture was almost complete.

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