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'The Rise of SuperMouth' is a hybrid live-action animated comedy adventure. How did Daniel Cohn create this film using a $50 app?

How Filmmaker Daniel Robert Cohn Used a $50 Apple App to Create “The Rise of SuperMouth”

It’s not every day that an independent filmmaker gets the opportunity to direct an epic superhero film. So when Daniel Robert Cohn was approached by the owners of the successful dental franchise, The Super Dentists, with the opportunity to write and direct a blockbuster-style movie to help launch their new company SuperMouth, Daniel jumped at the chance.

“The Rise of SuperMouth” is a hybrid live-action animated comedy adventure that follows a group of dental superheroes on a mission to protect smiles throughout the galaxy.

Cohn explains, “As a filmmaker, the challenge was how do I make a Marvel-style film with Pixar-quality animation on a tiny fraction of the budget of any superhero film?”

“I had just come off of a successful festival run of my music video, “The World’s Gone Nutz” in which I had filmed real-live squirrels from my yard, using the lawn as a green screen, and set them in a digitally-created squirrel world in order to tell the entire story of 2020 through song ‘in a nutshell’. I thought perhaps if I expand on the same technique, I could create an even more elaborate world of superhero dentists.” So how did he pull it off?

Cohn continues, “The basis of the technique I used stems from my childhood in which my first video camera was attached to a VCR by a 50ft cord. I was confined to the house so I utilized all sorts of household items to create elaborate sets in my basement, including an airplane cockpit with a muffin tin as dashboard dials, the interior of the Millennium Falcon utilizing pool filter hoses as the guts of the ship, etc. The technique was so effective that it helped to win me a four-year scholarship to the School of Visual Arts, where I expanded on the technique further.”

“My college roommate Chris Prynoski, the founder of Titmouse Animation (“Frog and Toad”, “Animaniacs”, “South Park”), and I would raid the dumpsters behind Hasbro toys in Manhattan and grab all of these unique materials, and toy parts and use them to create sets for our films.   As years went by, visual effects and production design became more and more digital so I thought to myself, why not use that same kind of thought process and apply it to the digital world?”

Enter a new style of filmmaking that Cohn calls, “Junk Art Compositing”.  According to Cohn, it’s his way of actually designing full sets and scenes within a compositing program in order to create more artistic freedom for an individual artist like himself and directly impact the final result. By scavenging through thousands of 3D models designed for video game use that are made available by talented artists across the web on sites like Sketchfab, he developed a “virtual junkyard” of materials and was able to use it to build elaborate sets and create big studio production design on a “very tiny post budget.”

What made the new style possible was a powerful compositing program called Apple Motion that flies under the radar in the movie industry. The program costs under $50, and uses a unique type of 3D file called USDZ, which was created by Pixar and pushed out by Apple in 2018. It allowed Cohn to drop in virtual 3D objects into the film project, light them and move them around in real-time. Render times were fast, eliminating the need for the expensive render farms that are often used by studios to create a lot of epic rendered imagery.

Cohn elaborates, “The greatest part about the technique is that you can paint with light and flares and integrate the characters into the set in a way that makes compositing much more seamless and artistic.”

For “The Rise of Supermouth”, Cohn and his production team executed 240 visual effects plate shots in three days working at a green screen studio in Burbank. The rest of the film was shot over three additional days on location at a house in Santa Clarita. Cohn grabbed all of the elements he knew he needed based on his extensive shot list from the actors from various angles. He then built the entire world around those performances. There are over 450 fully rendered visual effects shots in the 35-minute film. At least 75% of those shots were created and composited in this way. A tremendous amount of the stylized lighting was also done in Apple Motion. For each of  the animated characters Cohn performed in a motion capture suit and some parts of the character animation were done in Apple Motion using his unique style of character puppetry.

One of Cohn’s animation mentors, Mark Spencer, a Final Cut Pro and Motion consultant and trainer who has authored or co-authored 6 books on the software, glows about Cohn, “In my 24 years of working with these Apple apps, I’ve never seen anyone push them to the limits like Dan does in such an innovative way. He’s a total MacGuyver using ‘paperclips and glue’ not just in real life but also in post production, using Motion as a design tool and simultaneously as a compositing tool. It’s quite incredible.”

As Cohn plans for his next feature film, “You Have Arrived” with Academy Award-nominated Laurence Mark (“The Greatest Showman”, “Dreamgirls”, “Jerry Maguire”) and Evan J. Cholfin (“Shinobi”, “Altered Beast”, “Higher Power”) producing, he plans to evolve the technique further, integrating it into pre-production in conjunction with virtual sets like The Volume.

Laurence Mark says of Cohn, “From being impressed by the first script of his that I read to recognizing more recently his incredibly innovative style of filmmaking, Dan proves to be a true talent, and it’s exciting to be working with him on his next film.”

Cohn’s producer and manager Evan J. Cholfin, whose body of work as a producer and executive includes film & TV for SEGA and development on Academy-Award-nominated films “The Irishman”, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, and “Moneyball”, adds, “As soon as I saw ‘The World’s Gone Nutz’, I knew I had to work with Dan. He’s a pure artistic genius, with not just visual talent as a director but he’s also an incredible writer that brings humor, pathos, and soul to everything he creates. This is just the beginning of our journey together.”

“The Rise of SuperMouth” stars Joe Chambrello (“9:11: Lone Star”), Jack De Sanz (“Strays”), Nova Gaver, Jack Brenner, Rachel Wirtz, Kayla Robinson, Natalie Polisson, Jared Fleming, Daisy Isles, and Acston Luca Porto.

The film is executive produced by Dr. Kami Hoss and Richard Tiland, written and directed by Daniel Robert Cohn, and produced by Evan J. Cholfin, based on a story by Dr. Hoss, Cohn, and Cholfin. 

About Daniel Robert Cohn

Writer/Director, Namaste Pictures

Daniel Robert Cohn (“The World’s Gone Nutz”) is an award-winning filmmaker who created a new style of production he calls “junk-art compositing”. After successfully gaining world-wide distribution and a prime-time network television release for his first feature film, Cohn went on to write screenplays for Universal Pictures, Constantin Film, Robert Cort Productions, and Gold Circle. He is planning a feature film called “You Have Arrived” with Academy Award-nominated Laurence Mark (“The Greatest Showman”, “Dreamgirls”, “Jerry Maguire”) and Evan J. Cholfin (“The Unseen”, “Higher Power”) producing.

About Evan J. Cholfin

Evan J. Cholfin is a producer and executive who has developed, packaged, sold, and produced film and television for nearly two decades. He worked in development for Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”). Projects during his tenure included Academy Award-nominated films “The Irishman”, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, “Moneyball”, and the Emmy-nominated HBO series “The Night Of”. Cholfin served as Head of Development and Production at STORIES, a joint venture between SEGA and Hakuhodo DY Group, developing film and television based on their video game IP, and now runs his literary management and production banner LUXHAMMER, where Cohn is repped.

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  • Dear Dan,
    I just can’t tell you how proud,pleased and awed I am by your fantastic production.
    You are so tremendously talented and I love you so much!!!

    September 7, 2023

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