It’s the holiday season, and while we’re all thinking about our families and what makes them crazy/great/unbearable, it’s nice to be reminded that everyone else’s family is crazy/great/unbearable, too. Enter William Caballero’s adorable/heartbreaking/uplifting short How You Doin’ Boy? a presentation of voicemails from Caballero’s ‘buelo (lovingly called Granpa) as he tries again and again to connect with his grandson. His accented English, with which he often struggles, highlights the problems of communication –- the barriers between grandson and grandparent are technological, generational, linguistic. And then the end makes you feel fuzzy.
Ahead of his broadcast premiere, we spoke to William Caballero about his process in creating How You Doin’ Boy? and whether he kept the delicately-crafted Granpa dolls.
Your grandfather sounds like the best. What was it like growing up with him?
“Through the magic of editing, I made the short film seem like I’m the worse gran’son ever.”
Caballero: My Grandfather was always a hilarious, yet loving figure in my life. His booming voice and Spanglish accent was particularly awesome (Whenever he sneezes, it sounds like he’s shouting ‘bullshit!’, and he calls biscuits, ‘bisquick’). Besides his quirks, he would always be there for me, to drive me to the library when my parents were at work. I would be in the library for an hour or two, and he would just sit in the car, sitting on his phonebook (he’s only 4’11”!) on the passenger seat waiting for me. In short, he was always a supportive part in my life.
Why do you miss all his calls?
Caballero: Sigh… I get this one a lot. I actually do call him back quite frequently. He just gets so angry when I miss two of his calls in a row! But… through the magic of editing, I made the short film seem like I’m the worse gran’son ever. LOL.
What made you want to create this piece?
“The Gran’pa in the film is actually 25 miniatures that are 3D modeled, printed, and hand painted at 3 inch scale.”
Caballero: I wanted to create something I never seen before: a short film about a Latino grandfather using the pioneering technology of 3D modeling/printing. I’m always examining current creative trends in the film world, to make sure any new project of mine is the exact opposite. I want my work to not only resonate with audiences, but also stand out in a market dominated by generic scripted indie films. Most importantly, if it doesn’t challenge me creatively/thematically, it’s not worth it.
Do you still have the little granpa maquette?
Caballero: The Gran’pa figures used in the film are actually 25 miniatures that are 3D modeled, printed, and handpainted at 3 inch scale. Chang Kim, my amazing collaborator, modeled all of the poses of my grandfather using the software Zbrush. It took him several hours to create Gran’pa, starting with essentially a 3D ball and digitally sculpting it the way one would sculpt clay. These were then passed on to Seth Burney, our 3D printing specialist who printed each one in polymer resin. Finally, my wife and I hand-painted each one using acrylic paint. In short, each of the 25 poses took about eight hours to complete.
How’s your real granpa doing?
My grandpa is doing pretty good. I’m home for the Thanksgiving holidays and will see him pretty soon. Most of the time, he sits at home alone watching his gospel shows. It takes him a little bit longer to get to his phone nowadays, but he does pick up. His last name is Muriel, and instead of saying hello, he says, “Muriel Kingdom Residence speaking?” I can’t take him seriously when he says that. LOL.
Have you shown your family the film?
Caballero: Yeah. They all think it’s pretty funny, and plans are already underway to make some videos featuring my Gran’ma later in 2015.
Your film Seed Story also deals with tiny things. What is it about this perspective that appeals to you?
Caballero: I like telling big stories using small figures. The idea of pushing the scale down to miniature, really makes you focus on the story, and it automatically makes the story feel more lonely and introspective. I also like working in this medium because I can control more aspects of production. I always prefer working with small intimate crews. I get very anxious when I have to direct actors, and prefer to take my time. The best thing about working with miniatures, is that you don’t have to worry about actor’s diva demands and union rules for the crew!
What are your plans for this project?
“I like telling big stories using small figures.”
Caballero: Well, more immediately, the film will air on NUVOtv on Thursday, December 4th at 8pm. I was one of four filmmakers chosen for the NUVO Point of View showcase, for emerging Latino filmmakers. I was flown to LA a few weeks back to be interviewed by Jane the Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez. It was a great experience, and I can’t wait for you all to see the interview and my film!
In addition, I am creating a webseries based on the project. Called Gran’pa Knows Best, the project allows viewers to ask Gran’pa questions using social media. If selected, I actually call him up and ask him these questions, which later become hilarious shorts about 2 minutes in length. I plan on launching the project in early 2015 and posting a free video a week. No word on the URL for this new website just yet, but you can check my website at wilcab.com for more info on my projects.
The webseries Gran’pa Knows Best is currently airing on HBO Latino.