There’s a Pranksta on the faculty — find out who!
The PRANKSTA on the FACULTY
I am an SVA Animation and Fine Arts professor, and I recently completed a short film that was co-produced with Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker). The film is called The Halloween Pranksta, and it was primarily shot in stop motion animation. You know, that painstaking process where you construct a tiny puppet, move an arm or a leg a fraction of an inch, and then digitally record it. Eventually, the puppet seems to walk and talk all by itself – in essence, it comes alive. I have worked with actor/ producer/ director / Jedi, Mark Hamill before, and on this collaboration, he created two unique voices for two of my characters (a large tarantula and a python).
This thirteen minute short film follows the adventures of a nasty little boy on Halloween night, as he attempts the “ultimate prank.” When I first wrote the screenplay, my goal was to create a Halloween film from a different point of view. For five decades of television holiday specials, the format has remained virtually the same. They are full of song and dance, happy-go-lucky characters, and everything always ends well. I believe a modern audience is more sophisticated than that, and that we should raise the bar even for children’s films. So in complete contrast to the traditional “sweet” Halloween fare, my film is about a very bad boy who attempts to corrupt his friends. He bullies them into cooperating with a very foolish plan he has to scare their neighbors on Halloween night. Eventually, he fails on every level and learns his lesson the hard way. I guess you can call it a dramedy for kids
It took my crew four years to produce the main character, the Pranksta himself, and it was voiced by SVA graduate, John Mariano (who animation enthusiasts would know from the Animaniacs TV series). A current SVA animation student, Daniel Paolino, also contributed a voice for one of the characters in my film.
I was fortunate to have so many friends to assist me. It reunited my working relationship with Matthew Manning, who supervised all of the stop motion animation, and previously worked with me on “MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch,” back in the day. The storyboards were created by SVA animation professors, Mario Menjivar and Doug Crane. Two former students of mine, and Dusty Animation Film winners, Zack Williams and Steven Cartoccio, also contributed to the animation.
A special shout out to Edwin Pagan, my Director of Photography, for his amazing lighting; Peter Calandra, for his inspiring film score, and to digital artist, Salvatore Coco for his opening title animation and digital sweeteners throughout the film. I am presently using the completed film to pitch a longer version of it as a Halloween TV Special — because, you know, we really need one!