Airjunkie (United States | 2015, 4 min)

Directed by: Dylan Coburn

A renegade freedom fighter who lives his life on the edge, reveals his legacy, and explains his reasons to live.... and die.


Dylan Coburn directed AIRJUNKIE, official selection of the 7th Annual NYC Indie Film Festival.

NYCIFF: What gave you the idea for this story?

DC: In 2008 I was in LA pitching services work for my animation production studio back in New Zealand. Warner Bros was our major client then, and they laid down the challenge to me, suggesting that CG characters couldn’t perform to the level of hand drawn characters - they didn’t feel it was as believable. I set the studio a task of making an original short, and pulled Jackson from a feature spec script I was writing to be the star of our short film. Firstly - it needed to be short, as I had very little money, but story-wise it needed to be the last thing he was ever going to do, because I wanted him at his most fragile, but not afraid to express himself because it was his only chance – revealing his true spirit to the viewers even though they just met him. I needed them to like him, then something had to happen - something extreme. I knew what I needed, and I knew Jackson and his backstory - so the script wrote itself in a night, and we were all go.

NYCIFF: What were some obstacles you faced when making the short film?

DC: Paying for it! No really - budget is the major obstacle, there’s no question around how to make the film. I stick to good process and people, and I’ve been doing it over 20 years now, and have access to incredible talent - BUT - you gotta pay them.

NYCIFF: What were some challenges with writing and directing your animation short?

DC: I believe that Casting is always the biggest challenge. Not just the Actor/s but everyone on the show - you need to know that your team will go to the end of the earth to make your project the best it can be. This film was animated back in 2009, and immediately optioned by a Hollywood studio, and released back to me in 2012. I then put it back into production and re-designed, re-animated and re-rendered the whole film which finally was complete in 2015. So the whole process has been very long, and a massive challenge!

NYCIFF: Your lead voice actor was incredible! How did you both get in touch?

DC: Neil Kaplan is an amazing talent, and he totally got this character - he’s NYC born and bred! The man responsible for introducing us is the incredible Hollywood Voice Director, Kelly Ward. We’d just worked on a Superman project together and I hired Kelly to Voice Direct this project for me - he sent me some of his suggestions for Jackson and it was Neil hands down. Both of those guys did a seriously good job, and gave my Animators a lot to work with.

NYCIFF: The visual effects were masterful. How did you plan all the end sequence?

DC: Every shot went through Storyboards first, then Previz in Maya. The end sequence was the most difficult shot to get right, but I worked together with the Previz artist Martin Haughey to finesse all the cameras - he’s got a lot of experience on huge films, so he’s used to taking the time that these big shots need, and being super-thorough in the planning phase. I’ve worked with the guy for over 20 years, so he knows how to put up with me :)

NYCIFF: There is such intriguing backstory this is told through monologue. Why did you choose to have the protagonist speak into the camera?

DC: The more elements a Director adds to the equation of a CGI project, the more expensive it becomes. I needed that beautiful “simple” idea which would enable us to maintain a high production value throughout, to ensure that the audience would truly connect with Jackson. A common mistake is to think “more is more” - but when it comes to low-budget/high production value project - less is actually more, because it’s then possible to execute more potently. We have 1 main character, 1 duplicated extra character, 1 Prop, 1 Vehicle and a pretty basic Environment - that’s it. If any part of the production has been let down technically, it undoes the story and exposes itself as what it really is - digital trickery/illusion. I desperately wanted the audience to be with us all the way, so I went for the “less is more” approach to keep the production value as high as possible throughout.

NYCIFF: What’s your favorite part of the film?

DC: When Jackson says… “… so I thought, I better tell someone… hopefully not some government freak, hopefully a normal person… who I am.” I love his little joke that breaks up the intensity. Thanks for the selection, and I wish you all the very best for festival!!