In the Hot Seat: Q&A with Director Janet Perlman

August 26th, 2008 by Kathy McManus

Perlman’s RP film on office etiquette was inspired by her own 9-to-5 experiences.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Janet Perlman is a little nervous about going out for lunch.

The director of  Hot Seat came back from a break one day to find that her perfectly decent office chair had been replaced with an imperfectly indecent one.

Broken. Alarmingly fuchsia-colored.

So low to the ground it wouldn’t roll.

But where some people find irritation, Janet found inspiration. In this case, the chair switch-a-roo was the genius genesis for Hot Seat's industrious rabbits, who must come to terms with their own carrot-and-chair calamity.

Don’t worry about Janet, though. She traded in her broken seat for one with a better fit—the director’s chair.

Responsibility Project: This film clearly focuses around the notion of office etiquette – why did you choose this topic?

Janet: The office is an environment that everyone can identify with, and a good setting for animation. Rows of cubicles with unrelated people (or rabbits) who have to interact can lead to interesting conflicts.

Responsibility Project: How long did it take to make this film, from start to finish?

Janet: Development of the idea, and working out the story kinks took about six weeks. The animation, coloring and backgrounds took about six months.

Responsibility Project: Can you walk us through the process?

Janet: I started with rough sketches of characters and the environment, and a written story treatment. I then developed the story, along with the central characters, and from there drew up a storyboard. The frames were scanned into the computer to create an animatic, which had each scene timed out, and a few sound effects. From there all the animation was drawn right in the computer using a program called "Toon Boom". Backgrounds were created in Photoshop, and the scenes were colored and combined with the backgrounds in Toon Boom. I edited as I went along, retiming and reworking the scenes as needed.

Responsibility Project: How many different people were involved in the making of this film?

Janet: Four other people helped with coloring, animation and backgrounds. Everything was done over the internet, with the work being done in Los Angeles and Montréal. There were several others involved in digital compositing and sound.

Responsibility Project: Why did you decide to use bunnies as the main characters?

Janet: I guess I was just in a rabbity mood. I think the rabbits fit nicely into the office environment.

Responsibility Project: What do you hope people will think or feel after watching this?

Janet: I hope that people will have fun with the silliness of the story, but also recognize that the situation is not so different from real life. Maybe they will wonder what they would do in a similar situation, or think about being considerate to their neighbors. Maybe one of them is the one that took my chair and will feel remorse.

Responsibility Project: What project are you working on next?

Janet: I am finishing a children's book called “The Delicious Bug”, which is based on the film Dinner For Two also being shown as part of The Responsibility Project. I have been developing an adult animated series called "Penguins Behind Bars"– a dark and funny prison series featuring a cast of vixen she-penguins. Hopefully it will be picked up by broadcasters and we will produce it.