The creators of one of the most exciting student films from SCAD AnimationFest 2023 have come together to talk about the film’s history and future.
- The Last Dungeon, showcased at SCAD AnimationFest 2023, demonstrated the innovative work coming out of the Savannah College of Art and Design.
- The Last Dungeon’s filmmakers, including director Alex Young, technical director Kate Meine, producer Andrew Nelson, and visual effects supervisor Ash Brock, shared insights on the film’s development and challenges.
- The Last Dungeon’s technology influenced the decision-making process, particularly in regards to the effects, and the team plans to release a game component alongside the film in the future.
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SCAD AnimationFest 2023 has finally wrapped, and while the exciting event showed off all kinds of new tv shows, movies, and innovating in the animation industry, one of the coolest things that was shown was undoubtedly The Last Dungeon. A special screening of The Last Dungeon was held at the festival, including a Q&A panel with the film’s creators. The exciting short film has shown off the immense innovation coming out of the Savannah College of Art and Design, with The Last Dungeon‘s filmmakers having a lot to say about the film.
While the team behind The Last Dungeon, four members of the team’s crew appeared at SCAD AnimationFest 2023 in order to promote the film. These include the director of The Last Dungeon Alex Young, the technical director Kate Meine, the producer Andrew Nelson, and the visual effects supervisor Ash Brock.
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Young, Meine, Nelson, and Brock were kind enough to sit down with Screen Rant at SCAD AnimationFest 2023, with the three student filmmakers talking about the development of and history behind The Last Dungeon. The four filmmakers touched on the challenges of balancing a busy production with school life as well as what they hope comes next for The Last Dungeon.
Alex Young, Kate Meine, Andrew Nelson, & Ash Brock On The Last Dungeon
Screen Rant: Since you were all students while working on The Last Dungeon, how did you all manage to find the balance of taking this huge undertaking with classes and other responsibilities?
Ash Brock: So I had done a pretty poor job up to my senior year. And I tried, but my goal in my senior year was to go to bed at a decent hour, because I can’t stay up late. And to try to on Saturdays go touch grass, go play Spikeball in the lawn, go play tennis. Yeah, try to get outside, experience nature a little bit, not in the dark room. And I wasn’t always faithful to that. We had our 3 AM nights. That was more enrichment than it was working.
Kate Meine: To be totally honest with you, I don’t know that I bounced it super well, because I dropped intramurals. And I was like, ‘I’m gonna work and I’m gonna sit in the studio until this film is done.’ And I did that for a couple quarters. But I feel like I’ve learned now not to do that. But also, I actually balanced my class schedule, because at SCAD you do like three classes total. And so because I came in with certain credits, I ended up doing three total classes, but I included The Last Dungeon slot as a class. And so I was able to do, essentially a heavy normal quarter for the work, while also being in school.
Andrew Nelson: I had something similar. So, I don’t think you can do two projects at the same time, and have them both be good. You have to make a priority. So I had one of my classes be The Last Dungeon, and that was my main deal. So if I had to wake up at 4 AM, and go to class or whatever, that’s fine. That’s okay. Because I’m not missing out on anything.
Alex Young: I came in at the end of my sophomore year. And so that first quarter, it was just like Last Dungeon. And like, I don’t know what else I was taking, like writing for animation, which that was like, I got to write and then I got to do Last Dungeon. And then there was one other thing. And then as junior year progressed, I did something similar to what they did that fall quarter. I did two classes, and then Last Dungeon on my schedule. And then winter quarter, I did not have an available slot for it. So I was doing three studio classes, and Last Dungeon, which was an interesting challenge to take on over the course of the project. It was definitely a lesson in maintaining your responsibilities and being present for the people that need you. But also, knowing that the people that need you aren’t going to get very good stuff out of you if you are falling apart at the seams. So just getting enough sleep. I’m a chronic morning person. So that kind of awareness, yeah.
So since you all were all working with a student budget and with school resources, was there anything specifically that you wanted to include in the film that had to be changed based on the tech? How did the tech that you were working with shape how the film worked story and action-wise?
Ash Brock: Did we exclude anything?
Alex Young: I think maybe the effects would be the only thing that really the tech drove our decision-making. Because that was one where, initially, when we approached it, we thought of doing 2D effects superimposed over the 3D art. But once we began digging into Niagra, which is Unreal’s effects brain, we were like, ‘Oh, now we can make something cool out of this.’
Andrew Nelson: I think it turned out way better.
Alex Young: It turned out so cool.
Ash Brock: I mean, there’s natural limitations. Like the transition from 2D to 3D. Cameras just can’t do some of the things that the board artists were trying to get them to do, or realistically it just didn’t look right in practice.
Alex Young: Or we would like have to delete the floor to frame it properly.
Andrew Nelson: I wasn’t here for this, but wasn’t there gonna be a game that goes alongside the film?
Alex Young: Yes. So that was one of the one of the upsides of doing it in Unreal was that we would have all of those assets in an Unreal file already, so that potentially students in the ITGM department could take it and program and make it into a playable level.
Ash Brock: One of our artists did do that actually.
Kate Meine: He made Rowan, our main character, playable.
Alex Young: We’re gonna put it on the Unreal Epic marketplace. It’s gonna be online available for download so that. Anybody could do that anybody could make a level out of our assets.
That’s awesome. Do you have any kind of timeline on when that’s going to be available?
Ash Brock: I’m currently cleaning up our file to make it a little more presentable.
Alex Young: It started so clean. And then by the end, we were crying. We were tired. We wanted to go home. It’s like ‘get it in the file.’
Ash Brock: I’m running into some limitations of Unreal because a lot of things are referenced within them.
Andrew Nelson: I say we don’t know.
Alex Young: Eventually.
So since it was heavily inspired by RPGs and tabletop games, was the idea of like having a game component part of the plan from the start? Or was this just something like, ‘oh, it could work, let’s think about it.’
Alex Young: It was something that I think was in the professor’s peripheral vision. And we were just all more focused on making our film. And the accessibility to the game department was a byproduct of our technology, not so much intentional on our part.
Ash Brock: When we’re working on this project, we can’t afford to not focus on the film, like we have to pretty much stay tunnel vision just to get it done.
Right. So the film kind of hinted at a broader world and obviously, as you touched on, there’s a bunch of lore. So can you kind of just touch on the story that wasn’t included in the film?
Alex Young: So our main character is named Rowan, and he is the last man standing of what used to be this huge religious order in this world. I love fantasy worlds that have multiple people groups and multiple different religions, but for all intents and purposes, for the scope of this, like this is THE religion. This was the order. And the Lich King in our film, The Necromancer, he was once like the Pope. He was a leader, he was a paladin, he was good, but he got greedy. He got corrupted by the dark side. And he began to take more than what he was allotted as a person. And that corrupted him. He went down a bad path. All those skeletons that you see those are dead paladins. Those are people that our Lich King massacred. He was like, ‘Yeah, I’m running this house now. Do what I tell you to.’ And Rowan’s parents were like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna get out of that.’ And then they raised their son, elsewhere. And they were like, ‘Okay, you got a job to do.’ And he’s like, ‘what?’ And so when he was young, he set off on this quest, and he met Feydor the elf. And this elf is like 700 years old. He’s watched the religion like grow and change over time. And so he sees this upstart young Paladin and he’s like, ‘Yeah, okay. I’m gonna go see how this plays out.’ And they start to travel. And then they meet Gwen, our dwarf, who she was just like, the protector of this mining village, and she loved her people a lot. But she felt like there was maybe something beyond the mountains that she was missing out on. And so this opportunity presented itself to her and she said, ‘Yeah, okay, I’m gonna take advantage of this. I’m gonna go see what else is in the world. And I’m going to do it for a good cause.’ And so they traveled together for many years. Rowan was 20 when he started out, and he’s like 50 in the events of the film, so they have a life of traveling and working together under their belts by the time they reach the temple and take back the order.
Sweet. So yeah, you clearly have a lot planned out.
Kate Meine: There was a lot behind the scenes.
Ash Brock: So much of that story, we tried so hard to tell it through the environment. The influence of things, like where this rock went in the floor, that’s all influenced by story. It wasn’t just placed randomly.
So since you all have put so much thought in this world, is it something like you’d like to continue in the future if you had the opportunity, or are you ready to move on to something else?
Kate Meine: I think [fans at the panel] wanted a prequel.
Alex Young: If the opportunity presented itself and I could work with these people, then yes.
Andrew Nelson: Last Dungeon Babies, I think is next. Like Muppet Babies.
About The Last Dungeon
The Last Dungeon is a project from SCAD Animation Studios and it is the first student animated film to be created using Unreal Engine, with it being a true SCAD collaboration. Students from many different degree programs worked together on this production, including animation, visual effects, acting, and sound design to build a cohesive, harmonious score and riveting soundtrack to pull it all together.
Check out our other interviews from SCAD AnimationFest:
- Adam Muto
- Ted Ty
- Pete Michels and Andy Ristaino
Be on the lookout for The Last Dungeon from SCAD Animation Studios!