Responses by Jonathan Lacocque, founder and creative director; and Clara Lehmann, founder and director, Coat of Arms.
Background: Created by our studio Coat of Arms, O Pioneer is a documentary that celebrates three Appalachians from West Virginia as they embark upon an important journey, one that unfolds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and personal heartache. Weaving narration with archival pioneer footage, candid moments from each subject, poetic vignettes and dreamlike animation, O Pioneer redefines what it means to be a pioneer and asks viewers to courageously champion the pioneer within.
The documentary is currently in its festival run and seeking distribution. It premiered at the Cinequest International Film Festival in California and received an Audience Award. Currently, it is slated to play at the Richmond International Film Festival in Richmond, Virginia, where it’s nominated for a Juried Best of Documentary award; the Mtn Craft Film Festival in Clarksburg, West Virginia; the Louisville International Film Festival; the Rome International Film Festival in Rome, Georgia; and the Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Design core: Our intention with the design of the opening titles was to capture the visual style and romance of western classics through a dusty sepia palette and textures that take inspiration from old maps.
Challenges: Finding ways to include regional features in the 3-D terrain was an early challenge. There were limited prebuilt assets, so we began building the terrain based on references and map data. We also brought real maps from the Appalachian region into Adobe Illustrator to create stylized accents and textures.
Additionally, we had the creative challenge of determining how to represent each of the film’s main participants without muddying the tone and vibe of the titles. Ultimately, we built 3-D models of important elements or tools each character uses or holds a deeper connection to in the film.
Favorite details: Moving into animation, our team wanted to keep the integrity of the design as realistic as possible, and we worked to make the visuals feel cinematic by pairing grand vistas with macro shots and slow camera movements.
Our hope is that we inspire a sense of adventure while disrupting traditional, extractive and often narrow definitions of who can be a pioneer. In fact, we believe the stories in this film redefine the modern day pioneer, giving us all more confidence to see our significance.