Herman, The Legal Labrador - A New Animated Australian Film


Latest entry: Entry 32, Friday August 12, 2005

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Entry 1. By David, Tuesday October 1, 2002

I'm going to the National Young Writers' Festival in Newcastle
tomorrow morning. The National Student Media Conference (a gathering of university paper and radio types) and Electrofringe (a bunch of musicians and "new media" artists) are held concurrently with NYWF, so for one week each year, Newcastle is overrun by a carnival of drunken playwrights, student journalists, trance DJs, multimedia designers, comic geeks, zine grrls and other miscellaneous nutbags. I suspect this is an improvement to what the town usually is, which is a depressed-looking place with a lot of pubs and empty storefronts. And only one comic shop.

Since the NYWF will be the unofficial media launch for my upcoming animated short, "Herman, The Legal Labrador" (meaning: I'll be passing around a lot of photocopied "Herman" media stuff), I thought this might be a prudent time to start compiling a "production diary". My producer, Jeremy, suggested I do something like this. He also suggested I put up "behind-the-scenes" production videos on the website, but I'm not sure how much anybody cares about shit like that if the film is not a "Star Wars" or "Lord Of The Rings" sequel.

Production, or rather, PRE-production, started in March 2002, when I started writing the screenplay for "Herman". Now, seven
months and four drafts later, I think it's in a basically workable state. I've also been working on the storyboards for the last few months, and I'm about halfway done at this point. People seem to think what I've got is funny, and I even saw Jeremy laugh at one or two storyboard cards, so I must be doing something right. A lot of goodwill has been generated simply by the title character, Herman. He's pretty fucking cute, which was the idea when I designed him. What I wasn't expecting was that over the past
few months, I've gotten very attached to the characters of Herman and his owner Chuck, having slowly worked up a backstory for them in my mind and on paper. As a result, I get excited about working on the film every time I look at a picture of Herman. His is a story that demands to be told.

The story begins in Chinatown, where a murder is committed in a laneway and a kid called Danny Hoang is arrested for it. He phones his lawyer, Herman, who is a small labrador dog. In the universe of "Herman", nobody really questions the fact that this dog is a respected criminal defense lawyer.

The rest of the film concerns Herman's search for the truth behind
the killing, while at the same time dealing with his frustrated owner, Chuck. Chuck is a not-very-gainfully employed slob in his
mid-twenties who spends most of his time watching TV, mourning the loss of his last girlfriend and being torn up inside by the fact that his best friend and roommate is so much more successful than he is... and is also a dog. Throw in a shady prosecutor, a hot dog vendor, a love interest for Chuck and a bunch of stereotypically villainous villains and you have fifteen minutes of comedy/action/legal drama/romance that will blow the doors
off most animated stuff coming out of Australia today. I'm going to
say that now so that when the time comes to actually put the work in I won't slack off: "Hmmm, I could probably leave that hand motion as it is... or I could fix it and not look like a fuck later on".

Other than writing the script and drawing the storyboards, I have
also been enticing friends to help me out with shit. Jeremy Parker, my producer, was my lecturer last year when I was studying at the Centre for Animation & Interactive Media (AIM) at RMIT. He acts as if he has no idea what a producer is supposed to do, but of course his CV reveals that he's been producing animated shorts (his own and for students) for at least ten years.

Jacob Zhivov is acting as Production Manager, which means that he is supposed to deal with the financial matters that may arise during production. What will actually happen is that he will do some of the shit I don't feel like doing, and I will usurp his role when something seriously important needs doing and I don't want to leave it to others (this, I predict, will be a running theme of the production). For this he will receive a handsome salary. Or will he?

I have applied for a production grant from the Australian Film
to pay for "Herman" to be made. Theoretically,
I could make "Herman" the same way I did my student short, "Shit
Party", which is to say I could do the vast majority of the animating, editing, sound, publicity material and mail-outs myself and not spend five hundred bucks the whole time, but this time around I'd like the opportunity to hire (and pay) a couple actors, and not have to blow all my money on tape transfers, postage, printing, etc. That's why I'm asking the AFC for twenty grand.

If I don't get the money, of course, "Herman" will be made
just like "Shit Party" -- all me, but with friends helping out for
nothing bar the excitement of helping produce a cartoon (?), and probably some kickbacks in alcoholic form. I'm careful, in recruiting interesting and/or talented people, to let them know that, as much as I wanna pay everybody, the likelihood of receiving a grant is small, and for that reason they should not expect any money. Saves disappointment and name-calling later. And besides, everybody knows that I'm good for favours, since I'm a mild-natured doormat.

With or without money, the quality of the film won't change much. "Herman" will be a roller-coaster thrill ride of laughter
and tears, a rollicking good time, expertly crafted, with gorgeous cinematography and deliciously dry wit.

Oh, sorry. Thought I was Louise Keller for a second.


Entry 2. By David, Monday October 14, 2002

Back from Newcastle last week. It was tiring. Didn't sleep much
thanks to train station across the street, small curtains letting light in and stuffy hotel room requiring open window, thus eaten by mosquitoes. Of course it was good fun when the panels and drinking were going on. Spread the gospel of Herman to the good people of Young Alternative Australia. Sold some comics, traded and gave away many others. I hoped to spend the whole trip back to Melbourne reading the bagful of stuff that talents like Ben Hutchings and Glenn Smith gave me, but since our last day there was pretty empty, I went through that stuff like a knife
through flesh in the dead of winter.

Oh, and I sold some Herman T-shirts.

Over this last weekend I undertook the 24 Hour Comics Challenge
championed by Darren Close of OzComics.com -- basically a nationwide attempt at the "24 Hour Comic" originally proposed by
intelligent comics-man Scott McCloud: complete a 24 page comic book in 24 hours. Constant updates were posted on the OzComics messageboard by the many people across Australia (and at least one overseas) undertaking the Challenge. Some neat work appeared up there, although I'm not sure anybody can actually claim to have succeeded. I myself only managed to write and plot the thing -- a tale of Herman, set several months before the events of the film. I'm happy with what I got, though, and I was even happier today when I figured out that it's a 22 page story, and
once drawn, will fill out a whole Herman comic book (along with the obligatory "origins" story -- you just HAVE to have one... it's a comic book, after all). I may get another issue (or TWO!) of Nakedfella Comics done before year's end!

But I should get the Herman storyboards done too...

And what about the website?

And the paid work I'm supposed to be doing?



Entry 3. By David, Friday October 18, 2002

I thought I'd toss in a little basic information as to how "Herman" will be produced. It began with one script, revised many, many times. At this point it's safe to assume the revisions will not end until the film is made. Maybe.

Once the script was beaten into a tender, submissive state, work began on the storyboard. The storyboard, although I'm calling it that, is not a board, but rather a big pile of little index cards. Each card is numbered. Each card features a shot or action from the film, accompanied by any dialogue that might occur at that point:

Once these are done, they will be digitally scanned and arranged sequentially in an approximation of the film's timing, and a rough dialogue and sound FX track will be added. This will form the animatic. Once it's done, a QuickTime version will go online right here.

After that, a team of magical animation pixies will float in thru my window and animate the film with their magic paint buckets while I sleep.

Making Herman, page 2 >>


"Dogs Of Law": The Music Video
Herman, The Legal Labrador Trailer
QuickTime (16 mb - SWEET)
MPEG-1 (10 mb - OK)
"Dogs Of Law" (End Theme From Herman, The Legal Labrador)
MP3 (192kbps, 6 mb)
Buy Herman crap at cafepress.com


About the creator
Making Herman
Latest entry: August 12
Press Notes (PDF)
Herman screenings/awards
The production of HERMAN has been kindly supported by
Next Wave