The Backstory of my 2D-Animated Short Film “TREP”

In this episode of the Expat Animator, I’m going to talk about the history of my animated short film TREP. I’ll also talk about why I made TREP, the making of TREP, TREP’s previous life online with Google Video, TREP the graphic novel, and why I am uploading it, in its entirety, to my YouTube channel next week.

TRANSCRIPT:

In this episode of the Expat Animator, I’m going to talk about the history of my animated short film TREP. I’ll also talk about why I made TREP, the making of TREP, TREP’s previous life online with Google Video, TREP the graphic novel, and why I am uploading it, in its entirety, to this YouTube channel next week.

History of TREP
I created the character TREP in the year 2000 while traveling in Costa Rica right after I graduated college. In the middle of the four months I was there, I ended up sick in bed for a week with what was probably dengue. So I tried drawing to get my mind off my misery. That is when I first created the TREP character.
It would be 2 years later before I started work on TREP the animation.
I knew I needed a lot of time to do that. That’s why I decided on returning to Costa Rica, because I knew I could live cheaply while I worked on my short film.
Then I talked 2 of my college friends into joining me. The idea was we would also film the year long trip and make a documentary out of it.
So, I returned to Costa Rica with my two friends from college in early 2002. Scott Sederholm to film the documentary and edit the animation. And Justin Agresti, to help me with audio, sound effects & music.
One side note about this trip. We initially stayed with my friend Eric, who had recently moved to Costa Rica from the Virgin Islands, and later on would become the co-creator of my animated series Traveling Gringos.

Why I made TREP
Around this time there was a full page ad on the back of an issue of Animation Magazine for an animated DVD for sale. This DVD was an independent animated short film called “Understanding Chaos” that was created by one person, Terrence Walker. If you never heard of him, you should track him down and watch that film. His website is still up at studioartfx.com. I bought the DVD, and I loved it. This is what inspired me to make TREP the animated short. I even named TREP’s alter ego, Terrence, after him. I couldn’t believe one person animated the whole thing. Now, Understanding Chaos was animated in 3D and rendered to look like 2D animation. I wanted to try to do the same thing but using 2D animation.

Making of TREP
The making of TREP took me nine months of working on it full-time. Then another two years of part-time work before it was finally finished. I had quit my first real job at an ad agency as a graphic designer to take the nine months off, with the specific goal of working on TREP.
Why Costa Rica? The cost of living there was still relatively cheap in 2002. My goal was to take a year off, but my money only lasted nine months. Maybe if I had squeezed out a whole year I would have finished TREP in 12 months instead of the three years it took me. Regardless, I did eventually get it done. To this day it is still one of my projects I am the most proud of, even though the animation is pretty bad by todays standards. Remember, I animated this in 2002 with pencils, paper, a homemade light box and a portable scanner. Not exactly the tools I would choose to use today if I were to make a sequel.

TREP online
When TREP was finally finished, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I mean, it was 22 minutes long. Probably too long for an animation festival. And probably too short to sell as a stand alone DVD. I didn’t know what to do. Internet video was just becoming a thing. YouTube didn’t exist yet. This was the end of 2004. Then Google Video launched in January of 2005. I can’t remember the exact date but I decided to upload it to Google Video pretty early on. My idea was to get some eyeballs on it. I think I had it up for about 6 months before it got 50 views. I was pretty bummed out so I decided to take it offline. I decided to try the indie DVD sales route and did eventually find a distributor with Jonathan Morken’s Apprehensive Films. But I had mentally moved onto other projects by then, including animating Traveling Gringos.

TREP the graphic novel
I have since gone back to the TREP character, but this time around I wanted to create a graphic novel. So I reworked the story a bit and expanded on it into a full color 80-page graphic novel. I posted that online for free with Webtoons in 2015. That maybe why you even know of TREP. Well, it actually started out as an animation. I’ve recently decided to post that original animation online once again, for the first time since it was on Google Video way back in 2005. This time on my YouTube channel and I will be posting it next week in 2020. For everyone who purchased a DVD of TREP in the past or paid for a digital download, I want to say thank you for supporting independent animation.

Why post TREP now?
So why have I decided to post TREP for free now? I recently posted a video called “Three Reasons Why You Should Show Your Animations For Free”. It was while I was making that video I knew it was time to put TREP back out there. Even if the quality is only 480p! I am going to take my own advice. So keep an eye out as it is ready to launch and will be coming out next week. Thanks for listening. This has been Patrick the Expat Animator. See you next time.