Fruitville is an animation featuring fruits as its main characters. We spoke to the director of the film, Lallan Samaroo.
Tell us about the motivation behind the making of Fruitville.
I was tooling around with my DSLR and accidentally pressed the Burst Shot button. Several rapid-fire shots of my wife went off, taking her - and me - by surprise. When I reviewed the shots in sequence, a voice went off in my head.
Voice: Wow. It looks like she is moving. (Everybody has a voice in their head, right?)
Voice 2: She is moving. (Everybody has more than one voice in their head…right?)
Voice 1: Yes, but it looks like she is moving.
Voice 2: I don’t get it.
Voice 1: Look at it, man! A bunch of individual photos. But put them together, and it looks like a person is moving. This is the very essence of cinema. Especially stop animation.
Voice 2: I don’t get it.
Voice 1: Put 24 of these in one second and we got something.
Voice 2: You’re gonna have to do better than that.
Voice 1: Look at that ceramic dog on the table. (Moves dog, takes photo, moves dog, takes photo…) Look at this (scrolls through photos on DSLR).
Voice 2: Whoa! It looks like he is moving towards us! And like he is waiting for something. Cool.
Voice 1: That’s cinema. We made cinema…on this table. What would normally be on a table?
Voice 2: Well, plates, doilies, fruits-
Voice 1: Fruits! That’s it! Let’s make a movie about fruits on a table!
Voice 2: You want to make a movie about fruits on a table?
Voice 1: Yes.
Voice 2: You’re nuts!
Voice 1: We’re past that. (Beat.) Are you in?
Voice 2: Oh, hell yes!
This concept burned me. I felt I could do it. I could create an original: The World’s First Fruit Animation Movie.
As the story developed, clear themes emerged along the lines of fear and ignorance, knowing our place in the order of things, where does plastic fit into the scheme of things? Interestingly, these themes melded into a coherent unity.
Why were these themes in your film important to you to work on? Tell us about how the story started forming and developing for you.
We all question our sanity (ahem, some more than others), the meaning of life, our place in the world. We ask the existential questions of the higher powers. This is central to me. I have pondered this countless times. So it naturally appears in my writing. The environmental question is, of course, crucial to all of us. It emerged naturally in the development of the plot; so it became an integral part of the story.
From the DSLR incident above, ideas started popping up. My process is to feel my characters. I ponder the basic concept and let my characters be. What fruit would be on a table? My Caribbean heritage came into play here. I started to see a mango, a banana, a carambola, others. They started speaking, doing their own thing, getting into trouble (the sanity question again). I saw them; I felt them. I followed them around and wrote down what they did and said. The story flowed. It felt solid, it had legs. When I completed the first draft of Fruitville, I felt it was worthy of production.
Talk to us about how the film went into production and the most challenging or interesting thing about the process of making the film.
My years as a Project Manager served well. I divided all activities into planning and execution. And then I planned everything (budgeting, funding, scheduling, equipment, cinematography, studio, auditions, crewing up, locations, props, music, theme song, post, screenings) to a practical level of detail. I made a firm decision that I would not go into production until the script was completed to my satisfaction, and funding was in place.
Then, I carefully and meticulously executed all of the above.
There were two major challenges we faced in making the film. Firstly, we had limited resources. The Caribbean does not have a large, established filmmaking industry. Much of the expertise, equipment and the many nuts and bolts of filmmaking are not readily available. We had to employ a lot of ingenuity and creativity in solving problems and in just making things work.
Secondly, we were making a stop animation film with real fruit. (Made with real fruit! Isn’t that something?) How would we ensure continuity? This required modeling each fruit and developing a standard for each. Then we had to micromanage the supply chain to ensure we maintained that standard.
Animation is a great teacher. You can’t do take after take. You have to get it right the first time. You therefore must plan properly. You have to know what you want to achieve. You must have your vision clear. Great teacher.
I found it amazing to see that vision come to life, to move from idea to creation. It was a joy to create original Caribbean music. I was in awe that we could produce something which anyone in the world can relate to, but which also gives a taste of the Caribbean. For me, it was a humbling wonder to make Fruitville for audiences to have fun with and maybe even to see a message.
What is the message of your film and who is your targeted audience?
Fruitville is an allegory – using fruit instead of animals – and is imbued with integrated messages. It examines the idea of fear versus reason, around which is wound questions about our place in the order of things and an environmental question about what place we give to plastic. And it’s all done in a fun and original way.
Based on our screenings, “Fruitville” will appeal to a wide audience. Grandmas and kids were tickled by it. Young, socially-conscious people were drawn to its environmental message. Animators thought it was an interesting and brave experiment. Comedy lovers laughed out loud at key points. Drama lovers could relate to the themes expressed. And to our very pleasant surprise, a group of young men (25-35 year olds) loved the innate wackiness of the film.
We think “Fruitville” will give people a good time and will provoke some discussion.
Talk to us about your next film project.
I want to reveal more of the Caribbean to the world. I have two stories lined up. A Caribbean folklore/ horror, framed around iniquities women have had to endure; and a period piece, gently showing what Caribbean life was like back in the day, centered around a boy and a dog.
I have several other full-length scripts, which will be developed later on, some based in the Caribbean, some more worldly.
Tell us about the most fascinating thing about the language of cinema for you.
Its expressivity, range and power. A page or two of a novel can be captured in one shot. Stories, from a humble one-room drama to a sprawling, futuristic, intergalactic epic, can be told with equal fullness though cinema. A good film immerses the audience in a new, vicarious experience, sometimes profoundly. A realized film deeply impacts our hearts and minds, sometimes in unexpected ways. I believe “Fruitville” can do this. I look forward to hearing what people have to say about it.