Italian director Nicola Piovesan had a script from award-winning English screenwriter Matt Willis-Jones’ that he wanted to turn into animated short. But, for his Estonia-based Chaosmonger Studios to make a niche project like the English-language, cyberpunk cartoon “Robot Will Protect You,” public money wasn’t an option.
And, on Monday night the director hit his primary goal, a modest €8,000 ($9,500 USD). He has since passed his first of four stretch goals.
The new project is not Piovesan’s first-go at the cyberpunk genre, and not the first time he has financed through crowdfunding. In fact, “Robot Will Protect You” is a prequel to his 2017 live-action short, “Attack of the Cyber Octopuses,” a dark-humored adventure in a dystopian future where a masked figure rages against the machine of a technology-drunk society with an army of his own drone-like, laser-wielding octopuses.
Nor is it the first time that Piovesan has teamed with Willis-Jones: they previously co-wrote a web series titled “Life Sucks! But at Least I’ve Got Elbows.”
The English-born, Mexico City-based writer behind “Robot” has enjoyed a long blockbuster-filled career working in the visual effects department on films like “Batman Begins” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” but is now refocusing his efforts on other creative outlets like writing.
In “Robot,” Tina, an important character from “Cyber Octopuses,” is the primary protagonist. Set 17 years before the first film, Tina is a child in a world where intimate love has been replaced by a digital alternative available in cyberspace, forcing the government to incentivize procreation. To that end, each new child born receives a free nanny-like robot to aid in the rearing process.
We get a glimpse of the relationship between Tina and her robot in the trailer for “Robot,” as well as an idea of the look, sound and feel that the project is going for.
“I love the fact that in animation your only limit is your creativity,” Piovesan said of his move back to animation for this project, “compared to live-action where the budget is often a limit for your ideas.”
According to Piovesan, budget concerns are significant when working in niche genres like cyberpunk. To that end, he has typically relied on, and had success, using crowdfunding to fill his budgets.
“Can you imagine me asking for public money for a film called ‘Attack of the Cyber Octopuses’?!” he joked. “Getting funds through crowd funding also gives me lot of freedom on the final product, without compromising my artistic choices.”
He also discussed how technology has aided in creating an animation entry level that would have been impossible a generation ago.
“Technology has made things much easier,” he said. “Overall I’m using techniques that were available in the late ‘90s. Now thanks to faster computers and internet, things that were only possible for major studios 20 years ago can be done by one person, or by a small crew of people.”
Citing Miyazaki as his primary influence, Piovesan says that his ultimate goal with this project is two-fold: Create something with images that the audience won’t forget, and make it enjoyable for all ages.
“The story will have difficult topics and is set in a dark and rainy world,” he explained. “But there will also be a lot of funny moments and sweetness – plus a gloomy world through the eyes of a kid. The big challenge is to find the right balance between those funny moments and the very sad ones.”
The short is scheduled to finish over the summer before heading out to the international festival circuit, and will eventually be made available on digital platforms and Blu-ray.