NYC-Based Filmmaker Carlos Ferrer on Creating an Elaborate Fan Film Set in a Neglected Fictional Universe

It’s been a little over two years since New York City-based filmmaker Carlos Ferrer finished his first feature, Retina, in which a young woman takes part in a medical study and winds up being injected with a microchip that programs her for a terrorist attack in New York City. [See previous coverage in StudioDaily.] Now he is back with “Gargoyles,” a four-minute live-action fan film based on Disney’s Gargoyles animated TV series, which aired in the mid-1990s.

Ferrer grew up watching Gargoyles and has always dreamed of making a fan film that could bring the story to life in a different way. As he did with Retina, Ferrer made “Gargoyles” on his own, using Maxon Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro while tackling everything from writing, directing and producing to editing and post-production, including creating visual effects.

C4D screenshot

Still from "Gargoyles"

To get the look he wanted, Carlos Ferrer used a combination of motion-capture and hand-animation for the scene in which Goliath grabs the motorcyclist off his bike.

Here he talks about the making of his new film, the pros and cons of doing everything himself and how he’s working to promote and distribute Retina.

StudioDaily: Reactions to your first film were really positive. What’s happening with that film now?

Carlos Ferrer: I’m working with a sales agent who has helped me get international distribution for Retina. It’s taking time, but more people can finally see it. It was just released in Scandinavia, and I am looking forward to it being released in several other territories, including China, Japan and the U.S. later this year. You never know what’s going to happen when you make a movie. It’s exciting, but once it’s out, it takes on a life of its own. (See the Retina VFX breakdown here.)

With the exception of background footage of the East Side Highway, the film’s chase scenes are almost entirely CG and were rendered in Octane. Have you been working on “Gargoyles” the whole time you’ve been promoting Retina?

Yes. I worked on it on and off for a little over two years. I’m surprised a live-action film hasn’t been made yet, really. Gargoyles is such a great story, I wanted to see what it would look like myself, and I thought my modeling and animation skills had improved enough that I could try it. Motion-capture and live-action have come so far, I think there is no better time for a Gargoyles movie and I wanted to get this fan film out there to get people thinking about it. As a filmmaker, I think you often make films that you want to see yourself. It would be a dream come true to get to direct a Gargoyles film.

"Gargoyles" film still

Ferrer used C4D’s Voronoi Fracture tool to create the cracked texture on the stone version of the main Gargoyle character, Goliath.

Why are you so passionate about Gargoyles?

Gargoyles began as an animated series, not a comic book. And they were different from most superheroes because the stories were about more than just saving the day. They were very human stories for all ages about things like accepting others, and [their] themes touched on history and mythology and literature. The gargoyles were creatures that lived in medieval Scotland a thousand years ago. Their leader’s name was Goliath and they were stone during the day, but they became warriors that protected Castle Wyvern at night.

C4D screenshot

"Gargoyles" film still

Ferrer modeled Goliath in Cinema 4D, paying particular attention to his eyes. “If there is no life in a character’s eyes, you can’t connect with them on an emotional level so getting his eyes right was really important to me,” he explains.

A spell is cast upon them and the surviving gargoyles are turned to stone until they later wake up in modern-day Manhattan, where they vow to protect the people of New York City. My fan film begins in Scotland 1,000 years ago but then quickly moves to Manhattan, where a villain is being chased by police on a motorcycle and Goliath intervenes. I wanted to do something that would excite people, whether they are familiar with the series or not. The film is only four minutes long, so I needed to do a lot in that short time.

Explain your process for making this new film.

After Retina, I never imagined that I would do another project on my own. But this was a passion project and I didn’t have money to pay people, so I did it myself. I started by going around New York City and filming as much as I could, and then I used Cinema 4D to bring what I shot to life in 3D. I sculpted the gargoyles myself because I couldn’t find existing 3D models that were a good combination of cartoon and live action, and I wanted them to be recognizable to fans of the show. I composed the music. I did everything, and it was a struggle because as a fan of the animated series, I wanted the film to be realistic in a powerful way and I knew I couldn’t do it complete justice because I am a filmmaker, not a VFX artist. But I feel comfortable with what I was able to do because this gives people a good sense of what a Gargoyles live-action film could feel like.

You seemed to show a lot of Manhattan. What was shot and what is 3D?

I did shoot a lot of what I needed, but the action called for showing a lot more of the city, so I built a 20-block radius of Manhattan inside Cinema 4D. It was great because I was able to get shots that would be nearly impossible to get otherwise, like following Goliath, the main gargoyle, as he flies throughout the city. Rendering took the longest for these city shots because there was so much going on with all the cars moving around and lights and trees and lots of details that make things look super real. I used C4D’s physical renderer for these large scenes with tons of detail, but if I was rendering something small, like a gargoyle, I used Octane and then I combined the elements during compositing.

C4D screenshot

"Gargoyles" fiml still

Modeling a 20-block area of Manhattan allowed Ferrer the latitude he needed for chase scenes and aerial shots that included wide swaths of the city.

Do you have your own render farm?

I used a Mac and a PC that I custom built for rendering with Cinema 4D’s physical renderer. For the Octane stuff, I used an Amfeltec PCIe Expansion Cluster, an external cluster with multiple GPU video cards. It worked beautifully because C4D’s native physical renderer relies heavily on memory while Octane is all GPU, giving me the ability to render both at the same time.

How did you create a highway chase scene with no budget in Manhattan?

I got so lucky because I went down to the East Side Highway one night to do some shooting and they had blocked off a long span to do some work. I got my camera out and got as many shots as I could without any cars. I used those for background plates for my animated cars and that motorcycle scene. I already had the motorcycle character set up and then I matched any real footage I had with CG as closely as I could. One of the hardest things to get was the movement of the motorcyclist because it was hard to get the wheels on the bike moving correctly. I used [C4D’s] Xpresso to get the wheels on the bike and the cars to turn and also to create controls for the character, so anything he would do on the motorcycle I could animate in Cinema 4D.

C4D screenshot

"Gargoyles" film still

Without a budget or actors, Ferrer managed to pull off an intense opening chase scene that is almost entirely CG.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing three screenplays right now, two features and a short film. I am not sure what will come first, or if maybe something else will come up. Maybe someone will ask me to direct Gargoyles. That would be nice, but I know that’s a lot to say. Hey, I can’t help but dream, right?