My career started in Graphic Design right before dropping out of college. That love for visual design has carried me through my entire career. I am very passionate about combining things I’m curious about and creating art with it. This can be an animation film, an illustration, or a feature film.
In 2013, you directed A Boy and His Atom, a stop-motion animated short film created by IBM Research scientists. The movie holds the Guinness World Records™ record for the World's Smallest Stop-Motion Film. How did you get involved in this project?
At the time I was living in NYC and working with a production company. The way it works is a client, in this case IBM, works with their advertising agency, in this case BBDO and they look for director that can execute on their idea. BBDO had the idea of creating an animation using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope. They knew that in the past, scientists had composed images using individual atoms. This would require pushing that technique to the extreme. I was invited to pitch my vision for the film among other filmmakers and was lucky enough to get it. That’s how the adventure started.
What exactly does it mean to direct a film with a STM? Did you get a chance to play around with the STM equipment?
The STM is an extremely complicated and extremely technical piece of equipment. The scientists let me move the joystick once, but they let kids touring the premises do that, so it was unrelated with my skills. The film had to be executed by the scientists. They were the animators. It was an exciting journey that started with findings ways of communicating my artistic ideas and transferring them to the technical language they needed to operate.
Your website lists a wide variety of professional interests and experiences including film, commercials, two books, and drawings. Did you also have an interest in science before making A Boy and His Atom?
Science is a big inspiration for my work. I found that basic science is no different than poetry.
Conventional animation can be incredibly time consuming. Animating by moving single atoms around using an STM must be even more so. How long did the process take?
The scientists spent 6 weeks nonstop animating the atoms. It’s an incredibly time consuming process. Exponentially slower than a traditional animation.
The thing I love about the boy in the film is that despite the fact that he’s made of only a handful of atoms, he’s remarkably expressive. Was that difficult to achieve?
Extremely difficult. We had to balance the character design and the story with the amount of operations the scientists could achieve in the timeline. A more complex character would have meant more pieces to move and more time that we didn’t have.
What’s harder: directing carbon monoxide molecules or directing people?
For sure Carbon Monoxide molecules. People renders themselves in motion!
On your website, the description of your book, Been there, done that, states,
A similar thing is true in science. We’re naturally curious and ask questions about the world around us until we reach a certain age. Do you have any advice for readers on how they can recapture that sense of creativity and curiosity we all had when we were younger?
One hundred percent! I truly believe that everyone, not only artists, have the duty to reconnect with child-like curiosity, this is the engine of great engineering, entrepreneurship and art.
Last question: You’ve directed a film made of nanotechnology. If you had to hire a nanobot to do a job for you, what job would you hire it to do?
Given the amount of work that takes, I would hire nano bots to bind to my adenosine receptors to prevent my neural activity to slow down making me feel tired. They would be the perfect substitute for coffee!
Nico, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! If you'd like to learn more about Nico, visit his website at www.nicocasavecchia.com.
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