About the film
We both directed short films in the past, but had been focused on our title design business for a number of years. We decided that it was finally time to get back to making another short film!
While searching for a short story to adapt, we knew we wanted to find something that would allow us to combine live-action and animation. After reading dozens of stories, we discovered a short story compilation in a small bookstore in Austin. The final story within was titled “The Horror We Made” by Kevin Wilson. We immediately connected to his unique voice and moments of dark humor, and began looking into his other short stories.
That led us to picking up Kevin’s book titled “Tunneling to the Center of the Earth” where we discovered “Worst Case Scenario.”
Kevin Wilson’s stories take place in the real world, with real characters and true emotions. But he often incorporates an element of fantasy or whimsy… something that slightly shifts the reader into the world of the surreal. And his stories are hilarious.
In “Worst Case Scenario” the main character has the world’s most cynical job: he predicts terrible outcomes for every possible situation. It’s close enough to reality to ground the story, but the needle shifts slightly toward satire because of the ludicrous situations that he describes. We knew immediately that it would be a fun challenge to animate scenes that described worst-case scenarios.
We tried to stay as true as possible to Kevin’s short story. But in order to enhance the visual elements of worst-case scenarios, we took the liberty of adding a scene early on to show how Ryan’s job seeps into his personal life. Inspired by Kevin’s storyline, we made Ryan worry that when his girlfriend Stella gets up to get some more wine from the kitchen, she’ll need to go to the liquor store and meet another guy, ultimately leaving him sad and alone.
There’s actually a slightly longer version of the short film that delves a little more into Ryan’s worried obsession about losing his hair which is prominent in the short story. But we discovered after we were done editing, (and after the film went on the film festival circuit), that it played better with a more streamlined version of Ryan just worrying about being alone.
One of the most interesting challenges of the short was figuring out what sort of graphic style to use for the animations that are created by Ryan’s company.
We decided early in the process to adopt a “corporate” animation style – clean, simple and colorful. We referred a great deal to good infographic design while we developed the style.
And instead of depicting the disasters realistically, we figured a company would do their best to minimize the visual impact of nightmarish scenarios.
The animations mostly adopt an “orthographic” point of view. Simply stated, it’s a method of depicting three dimensions using two dimensions. It’s an unnatural point of view that is widely used in infographic and map design. It creates an objective view of the world that helps make it easier to understand.
Since we are not character animators (we'll leave that to the pros), we made sure that all the character animation looked intentionally simple. DuIK was used to rig the characters, and After Effects to animate them.
We also had fun developing the animations that illustrate Ryan's inner-workings. He visualizes the scenarios as a series of events, one leading to another, and the final outcome being complete disaster.
To help the audience believe that Worst Case Scenario, Inc. is a real company, we created a lot of the graphic elements that a typical corporation would have. There are a number of graphics that appear in Ryan’s office that we custom designed for the short film. One of his walls is covered in graphs and photos. The charts track Ryan’s thinking in terms of the scenarios he is predicting. Here are a few:
We also designed Worst Case Scenario, Inc.’s logo, which is a simplified graphic of a cliff:
And a promotional poster for the company:
And firmly in the "overkill" category, we designed the covers of the reports that Ryan gives to his client:
And in a true act of lunacy (due to the fact it's not prominently seen in the short), we went ahead and designed a few interior pages which our actress saw as she perused through the report:
And no corporate office would be complete without a diploma. In this case, Ryan graduated with a Masters in Catastrophe: