Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Nick Fulfaro
By Isaak Griggs, Programming Intern
Columbus, New Jersey native Nick Fulfaro recently graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA in Animation and a minor in Screenwriting. Made while in school, Winter Vampire / Summer Humans combines animation and live action to tell the story of a vampire longing for warmth after wasting his summer.
PFS: How did you get into animation?
NF: I’ve always been interested in drawing, as well as in entertaining people. I used to do theater in high school, and that was a big deal for me growing up. But at some point, I realized I would rather draw and animate to tell stories rather than be on stage to do it. Going to the University of the Arts, I got better at telling the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve always had an interest in film, but it’s never been my passion. I’ve just never seen myself as the person behind the camera the whole time. In the industry, I’d rather be able to draw and be able to tell a story in any way possible. If that involves being behind a camera, like with Winter Vampire / Summer Humans, then cool.
PFS: I think you ended up doing a great job combining your art with film in Winter Vampire / Summer Humans, with a lot of thought put into shadows and reflections. What was the process like of choosing where and how to film?
NF: During production, there were certain situations and certain shots where I knew I wanted to tell a joke or develop the plot in a certain way, so I had locations in mind. But later, while I was in the process of animating it, I would realize there was a window in the shot where you should be able to see his reflection, and then I’d have to animate with that in mind. In the scene in the school hallway, there’s a glass wall, and when I was finished filming, I realized you should be able to see his reflection. It wasn’t something I was expecting to have to do, but it helped build the world.
The shower scene is a specific scenario where the character is interacting with a specific object in the real world. A lot of times I can just animate the character and place him in part of the world. But this was a scenario where he was touching things and things were happening because of him. In order to do it, I did two shots: One where just the shower was running and nothing else happened, and then another one with me in it. Then I put the two together. Well, it was much more difficult than just putting them together—but essentially, I took the best parts of both of them so that I could then add the character where I’d been standing. There were shots of me just standing there, in my bathing suit, counting time and knowing I was going to composite myself out in Adobe After Effects.
PFS: Were there any other challenges working with a cast and crew of real people that needed to interact with and create space for an animated character?
NF: That wasn’t as difficult as you might imagine. Most of the time, I was working with acting majors at my school. The character is as tall as I am, so I would act as stand-in so that they could get the eyeline right. It would be more difficult with a shorter or taller character, but for me, I just had to say, “Look into my eyes.”
PFS: Obviously you’re not a vampire, but were there other elements of the story that you related to personally?
NF: While writing the first draft, I kept telling myself that I wanted it to be my story, but also something that was applicable to others. I didn’t want to make it so personal that nobody could relate to it. I wanted it to be somewhere in the middle: half me and half anybody. During the first semester of working on it, I wrote a draft but it wasn’t resonating with people the way I wanted it to. So, I did a whole rewrite. It was always Winter Vampire / Summer Humans, but I reworked it so that the jokes landed a little better, and the emotional beats felt more honest.
I think the most specific “me” moment there is in Winter Vampire / Summer Humans is when he talks about singing “Eye of the Tiger,” because that happened to me in seventh grade. It was something that still haunted me as I worked on this project. I still wanted that moment to be anyone’s moment. For me, it’s singing “Eye of the Tiger,” but anyone else watching could be thinking of something that they did years ago.
PFS: Do you have any other projects lined up for the future?
NF: I’m currently working a lot with compositing animation in Adobe After Effects. Winter Vampire / Summer Humans is created mostly in After Effects, and I’ve learned so much about that program. I’m taking a lot of animation and putting it through After Effects to make it look more finished, as well as putting animations into different live-action scenes. With Winter Vampire / Summer Humans, it was done specifically for the story. There was never a draft where the main character wasn’t an animated character in a live-action world. If I ever do that again in the future, I would want to do it for the story, not just do it because it looks cool. I’m currently in an internship at MOD Worldwide in Philly. I’m a motion design intern there, so I spend a lot of time doing motion graphics. In my spare time, I’m trying to do more shorts—mostly stuff I can add to my YouTube channel and my Instagram account right now. Winter Vampire / Summer Humans took me a year to complete, so I kind of need a break to do some shorter stuff. But I still make sure I’m practicing and getting better at my craft.
Winter Vampire / Summer Humans will be screening on Thursday, August 8 at the Roxy Theater as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.