Doug Vandegrift

Have you worked on other types of filmmaking such as live action or non-brickfilm stop motion animation?

Yes, My first attempt at telling a story with a video camera was back in 1997 when I got my siblings and cousins together and made a short video about the Civil War. Since I have made several live-action, CG, and drawn animated shorts and hope to go into filmmaking as a profession.

How did you get into brickfilming?

I got into brickfilming, not by looking on the internet, but getting an idea one day to use my life-long hobby of playing with LEGO as a way to tell a story on film. My first brickfilm production was always going to be big. I didn’t even know about “brickfilming” until midway through filming America: Outlawed (Which explains it’s interesting production standards).

What is your favorite part of brickfilming? What about your least favorite part?

My favorite part of brickfilming is the ability to create nearly any story. If you can build it, you can film it! The thing I hate most is the sheer tediousness! It takes a load of persistence and patience! But the outcome is always worthwhile. :)

What software and hardware do you use?

I used my custom built machine to film America: Outlawed. 2 ghz AMD with 512 Mb RAM and 60 gig hard drive. Win XP, Adobe Premiere Pro and Stop Motion Pro for the software. Now, for Pirates, I use my Intel Core 2 Duo Laptop with 2 GB of RAM and 200 GB of hard drive! Win Vista, Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 and same old Stop Motion Pro (which works horribly on Vista).

Let’s talk about America: Outlawed, your impressive debut film. Before America: Outlawed, did make any test animations or unreleased films?

Many people never believe me when I say America: Outlawed was my first attempt at LEGO animations but it’s the truth. Although I have animated by way of stop-motion before. I used to animate action figures but without the use of stop-motion software. No test animations were done for America: Outlawed. The movie was my test animation. :)

How did you come up with the idea for America: Outlawed?

I got the idea for America: Outlawed back in August 2004 when I was talking to a friend of mine in my room about a new kind of film to make. My Western LEGO sets were displayed proudly on my shelves at the time and I joked about making a movie with the LEGO. My friends liked the idea and I wrote the script the very next day!

One of the highlights of America: Outlawed is the voice acting. How did you go about acquiring voice-actors, and what was your process for recording?

I was very lucky in my vocal talent selection because I live in a very theatrically-inclined family. My father has a theater degree and my sister and; a musical theater major. My father just a year before was working with Mark Hamill and Jim Cummings on a game project with Microsoft and has done many voice recordings to see just the right way to create proper emotion for the character. To record I used a “SuperScope” which fed the voice right onto a music CD. After the recordings I simply put them on the computer where they were already in digital format and sounded supurb!

One interesting feature in America: Outlawed is that some of the characters, mostly the bandits, are taken directly from the LEGO Wild West line. Some of the sets from the line are also featured. Why did you decide to use preexisting characters and sets?

With the western film, I liked the idea of “familiarity.” I thought it would be a fun idea to take what everyone knew from the “Wild West” line and make a movie as if the catalog pictures came to life! That was one of the reasons I had such a high production standard. It could not look cheap. Every frame had to be beautiful! And I always film by that standard.

Is there anything in America: Outlawed that you are particularly proud of? Anything you are not so proud of?

America: Outlawed was my first brickfilm and has turned out to be a success which I am proud of but there are many things I know I need improvement on. I’m most proud of the ability the film had to tell a story. Good stories are most important as far as I’m concerned and the characters were also very strong. I’m afraid to mention the flaws because I would hate for the viewer to be “looking out” for the flaws. But I will say that I wish the “pacing” was more solid. But since I no longer have the ability to edit it from its original files it’s hard to edit the film without making it bleed a little. Better to move on.

What do you like about the brickfilming community? What do you dislike, and think we as a community can improve on?

I generally enjoy the brickfilming community. People are helpful and the audience and critics have color and variety. One of the better communities on the internet!

So what’s next? I’m sure most people are aware of your upcoming Pirates brickfilm, but do you have any ideas on what you’ll do after it?

Next? Well yes, my Pirates movie is next. It maybe my last brickfilm for a while because of my plans to move on to professional filmmaking and LEGO. just don’t have a place there. :( I recently put out a trailer to the Pirates film which only showcases some of the cinematography from the film. Pirates will be my biggest brickfilm and may even become bigger than SW: The Great Disturbance. Of course that may not be so. I do hope that Pirates will be a mile stone in brickfilming because of all its aspects of filmmaking. It will have a well thought out story with developing characters along with a fully original musical score. I hope it will lead brickfilming into a semi-professional medium. Here’s hoping!

Any closing words?

Just want to thank you for this opportunity to contribute to the brickfilming community and say, Happy Brickfilming!