Kirsten Lepore shares tips with Bollywood filmmakers to beat VFX budget issues | – Times of India

I Am Groot creator Kirsten Lepore is back with her pint-sized superhero Groot, for another mini adventure around the Galaxy. The release of the series comes on the heels of the animation director’s momentous Oscar nomination for Marcel the Shell With Shoes On and her work as a VFX artist on the Best Picture-winning film Everything Everywhere All at Once.
In conversation with ETimes, the director weighs in on her Disney+ Hotstar series I Am Groot being viewed as a ‘filler’ show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking the project into season two without James Gunn and some words of advice for Bollywood filmmakers with VFX budget constraints.

‘I Am Groot Has Tons Of Easter Eggs Linking It To The MCU’: Kirsten Lepore | I Am Groot Season 2

Kristen Lepore, let us begin with what was the idea behind creating this series, I Am Groot?
It began maybe three years ago. I’d had a really great meeting with Brad Winderbaum, one of the execs at Marvel and then shortly after, he sent me the brief for Groot. On the Marvel side, they knew they wanted it to be a show about baby Groot going on these adventures, and meeting new characters and then I got to put my own spin on it and then I was shocked when they picked me for the job, because I feel like I wouldn’t usually be a natural choice for anything Marvel.
They wanted me for that particular brand of weirdness that I think I brought to these. And then, we just had so much fun. We just hit the ground running. And really, any scenario that you drop Groot into, he’s going to be fun to watch. So it was like really a joy coming up with lots of different little places and different characters he can interact with and things he could be doing.
As an animator, what made you most excited about coming back with season two?
This is the first CG show that I’ve ever gotten to direct. Before this, I’ve really mostly just done stop-motion animation. So for me, selfishly, some things are fun to do in CG that you really can’t do easily in stop motion. So I was really excited in season two to do things like the episode on a Snow Planet. I was like, ‘Yes! We have to do snow.’ That’s something that would be so hard to do in stop motion.
Then we got to do this character that’s flying around, and all other things that are really so much more fun to see in CG. So we really tried to take advantage of the medium when we were considering where we were going to be in space and the ice cream truck episode with all the lights. I tried to keep that in mind the whole time when we were writing about what’s going to be really maximised for our medium.

Fans have been abuzz about how this is the first Guardians of the Galaxy series without James Gunn. How is it different this time around?
Oh, it hasn’t been too different. James Gunn would give us occasional notes on things. I definitely got the sense that season one went pretty smoothly and everybody was happy with the short. So I just felt that we had his trust for season two and it was kind of like we got the go-ahead and we were kind of OK to just continue running and playing and having fun and putting this little guy into more crazy situations.
Groot is one of the only few characters in the MCU who has two versions of himself at the same time. What do you think this gives his character the liberty over Steve Rogers or Iron Man?
It’s so fun to see him in different stages. That’s also sort of the fun of the MCU – the possibilities are limitless. You can have them coexist at different times, in different worlds. But I also think it’s a series that’s set in a very specific time. So it is nice to focus on this super fun character who’s very relatable in his mischievousness. I think we all can see ourselves, our inner child in Baby Groot. So it’s nice to focus on those scenarios. It’s nice to see him shine mostly by himself and have it be about him because he’s such a rich character.
What do you think makes this character so lovable and relatable even though he just has one dialogue?
I love that about him. I think one of the things that attracted me towards doing this show in the first place is that it was about a tree who’s a superhero. That is so cool! He’s like this alienoid tree. And I think in a way more people can identify with him and relate with him because he’s not like a specific human of a specific gender or race or anything. So everyone can sort of ascribe whatever they want about their own personalities onto him. I think that’s really wonderful about him.

Fans have been keeping track of the number of times Vin Diesel says I’m Groot since 2014. What’s it like working with him?
It’s amazing what Vin Diesel is able to do in his performance because no two ‘I Am Groot’ dialogues are the same. It really is true. You can’t just swap any I Am Groot in there for another one. That’s just sort of a testament to how great his performance is. Everyone is so specific, that you feel what he’s saying, even though he’s just saying “I Am Groot.”
This series has been viewed more as a filler. Do you think somewhere down the line these shows will somehow tie up to the MCU, maybe even through their Easter eggs?
I mean, there are tons of Easter eggs throughout, I will say that. Like, even from the trailers, there are already YouTube videos that are like finding all these Easter eggs in the trailer. There are tons of Easter eggs all throughout these shorts. So I challenge people to go through and find them. I think there’s even one or two from the first season that haven’t been found yet.
I think it’s just sort of nice to have a character exploration where it doesn’t always have to be unearthing some new revelation in the MCU. He’s just a great character and people have fun spending time with him. It’s great just to see more of him in any context. Another thing that’s worth noting is that it’s the only comedic animated series from Marvel Animation. It’s sort of purely comedic. So I feel very honoured to be part of that legacy; the one getting to do comedy in the MCU.
As a VFX artist and director, how do you deal with budget issues? In the Indian film industry, budget issues are often brought up when compared to the Hollywood standard. What is your advice to directors making such films?
I don’t think I was even privy to what the budget was. I feel like the producers handle it and then I’d never seen numbers. But, there were moments where we came up against some budgetary walls and there’s always going to be a budgetary ceiling, nothing’s ever unlimited. You just have to come up with really creative solutions around it. There were certain things that we avoided showing or approaching a shot in a certain way as opposed to shooting it in another way that was going to be expensive. At the end of the day, I truly feel like it made the show better. I feel like sometimes those budgetary limitations work in your favour because it forces you to be even more creative, apply even more ingenuity to solve this puzzle and also get it cheaper. It’s always a challenge and can be frustrating, but I feel like there’s always a creative solution around it.

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