NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alumnus Anthony Falleroni Talks “Jumpy” and Learning Animation

October 5, 2017

It seems that while earning his MFA in Filmmaking at NYFA Los Angeles, Anthony Falleroni took one of the New York Film Academy’s most cherished values to heart: the commitment to learning by doing. With his background in filmmaking, Falleroni had no formal training or experience in animation, yet that didn’t stop him from creating his own original animated short, “Jumpy” — a beautifully executed story that recently snagged the attention of Vimeo Staffers to become Short of the Week, and was also featured by Vice Creators, Gizmodo, Riot NerdDigg, and more.

We had a chance to catch up with Falleroni to hear about what inspired “Jumpy,” and how he mastered his doubts to take on the challenge of learning by doing in the real world.

NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

AF: From a very young age, I’ve always been attracted to storytelling, especially visual storytelling. I was always drawing, playing video games, or wearing out VHS tapes from constant use. When I reached high school and the question of “what do you want to do with your life” really starts being presented to you, filmmaking really seemed like the only right answer — and my mom and stepdad and family were always completely supportive. I decided to study history and psychology at Carnegie Mellon as an undergrad because a) those topics interest me and b) I felt they were important back-bones to better telling stories about being human. When I neared the end of the undergraduate study, moving to Los Angeles and pursuing an actual course of study in film was the natural next step … which lead me to NYFA.

NYFA: Why animation?

AF: All through my study and NYFA and for many years after that, I was always focused on live-action. As much as I’ve always loved animation and loved to draw, making animated films never really entered my mind because I didn’t have any training (or any concept of how to go about it). I certainly didn’t think of animation as something I could just “do.”  

Then, in around 2013, I had an idea for a story that was all about imagination, that seemed best suited to animation. So I decided to just give it a try and taught myself as I went, along with watching old documentaries of Walt Disney explaining their process, and eventually my short “Blurry” was complete.

In the process I realized that animation allows for a direct translation of my ideas to the screen. There’s no excuse to be made if the story isn’t told in the absolute best, most efficient, and most engaging way because anything is possible — it can’t be blamed on camera issues or inclement weather, etc. And I like that because it forces me to execute, both technically and conceptually, at the highest level I can. Also, paper and pens are cheap.

NYFA: Can you tell us about your film “Jumpy,” what inspired it, and how you worked on it?

AF: “Jumpy” was inspired by many complex emotions, which I tried to convey in the short. Ideas of feeling unsuccessful, of comparing yourself to others, of determination, etc. And so, in thinking about these ideas, the concept of a frustrating video game came to mind. It seemed to be a fun and unique way to explore those themes … and I’m a nerd, so I was excited to create something in a world that I’ve loved since I was two years old (which is when I got my first NES). I had never designed a whole video game world from scratch and the thought of that challenge excited me.

JUMPY | Animated Short Film from Anthony Falleroni on Vimeo.

NYFA: Is Vimeo your primary platform? Can you tell us about your process in distributing your work?

AF: Vimeo is my primary platform, but I also release my work in waves on other platforms. Being primarily on Vimeo also allows me to have “premieres” on other platforms with bigger brands — for example, Vice Creators premiered “Jumpy” directly on their Facebook, which has over a million subscribers and got a much larger audience on Facebook than if I had just uploaded it directly to my own page.

Vimeo also gives you the chance to be selected as a Staff Pick, which I am grateful/lucky that “Jumpy” was selected for — and that brings in a significantly larger audience. In terms of broader distribution, it’s all about messaging people and blogs that would be interested.

With something like “Jumpy,” the video game aspect allows for a really large pool of potential sites that tend to feature gaming-culture stories. So I submitted to many of those outlets (places like Gizmodo and Film School Rejects), and thankfully many of them are responding positively and are featuring “Jumpy.” I also made a BTS video explaining some of the broader concepts I used to make “Jumpy,” and that’s also a really smart strategy to make your content more shareable.

NYFA: Was there any particular challenge in making this short that you overcame?

AF: As I mentioned, I’m not a trained animator, so anytime I start a new animated project it’s a challenge. And again, since having not done a video game-styled animation before, that medium in and of itself was an obstacle.

My main concern was achieving a balance between feeling authentic as a video game and also being emotionally engaging. It can be hard to illicit a connection between the audience and a character made up of a small number of pixels (and who thus can only be so expressive). Overcoming it was just trial and error — playing around with Jumpy’s design until I felt the character worked the way I needed it to and then trusting that instinct.

Animation allows for constant perfecting and you can get stuck never completing something because it can always be better … at a certain point, you just have to trust it and get going.

NYFA: How did you find out that you had been selected as the Vimeo Short of the Week?

AF: When the Vimeo Staff start liking your video, following your profile, and one or more of them comments positively on your video, it’s a pretty good indicator that a staff pick is coming. I noticed all those checkpoints occurring in the morning, so I just kept refreshing Vimeo during the day, suspecting that it was coming and sure enough, it eventually popped up. It’s definitely a rewarding feeling because you know it means more people will see your work, and that’s what it’s all about.

NYFA: What advice can you offer to fellow NYFA animation students aspiring to bring their concept for a short to full realization?

AF:  I’m not sure I’m the best person to give advice on animation since I just make it up as I go every time.  I’m confident there’s far more I could learn from the NYFA animation students than they can learn from me.  If I could say anything to them, it would just be to trust their instincts, make content and not worry about failing. I have done all the animation for my shorts myself thus far and I have no idea what I’m doing — so if they have a story/concept they want to realize, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t just go after it. And if it comes out horrible, then learn from that — examine what worked and what didn’t and start the next idea fresh. I am not endorsed by Nike, but seriously the best advice is just do it.

NYFA: What’s next for you — any projects or next steps you’d like to tell us about?

AF: I always have a million ideas swirling in my head, so simply picking what’s next is a challenge in and of itself. That said, my goal is to one day create an animated feature film. I’ve written a script that I’m very happy with, so my next project may actually be to animate a trailer from that script to give visuals and life to the words on the page — and potentially raise some interest/money/whatever to eventually bring that full story to life.

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Anthony Falleroni for sharing a part of his story with our community.