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StoriesZack Pullano ’19, Art & Design

Digital Filmmaking Major Joins Forces with Animation and Design

We sat down with Zack Pullano to talk about how he collaborated with students from the design and animation departments on his final senior movie, “Know Your Roll.”

students on set with boom mic, camera, and spotlights

Asking for Help Pays off for Pullano

In their final year of school, senior film students in the Lesley Art and Design Digital Filmmaking program are assigned their final senior thesis film, a project they have been building up over the course of their study. The films are completed for the end of the spring semester in May and are shown at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, outside Harvard square. Filming often begins early in the fall semester or earlier in the summer, as many seniors recruit underclassmen peers and friends from both the film department and other departments across Lesley Art and Design. The collaborative process brought together friends from graphic design, illustration, and animation for Zack Pullano's final film, "Know Your Roll," where he had to use his own expertise and interests and also ask others to share their own for his film to be a success.

Can you give a quick overview of your film?

“Know Your Roll” is about a young man who plays a fantasy tabletop role-playing game with his friends. The protagonist dresses up as this character in real life, he has a vivid imagination where he and his friends exist only in a fantasy realm. Things change when he meets a woman and assumes he has to change in order to be with her.

Where did the film’s premise come from? Did your initial vision change as you began shooting?

I’ve always liked games; whether it be card games, board games, or video games. Growing up, my family was really into video games and I fell in love the minute I picked up a joystick.

Originally, “Know Your Roll” was supposed to be about video games instead of tabletop games. The protagonist would talk to his friends over an internet chat platform (i.e. Steam Chat, Xbox Party Chat) while playing in this fantasy realm. They would spend most, if not all, nights playing a game that I had created. However, due to time constraints and a lack of knowledge on my end, I wasn’t able to create my own video game. So the film shifted into something more doable.

The premise of the film comes from a similar experience in my life. About three years ago, I met a woman who I thought didn’t like video games. For a while I thought I needed to drop them to be with her and I considered it. This film is a re-imagining of sorts of the relationship. I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say the film reflects an ever-present love for my girlfriend, as well as gaming.

students on set with boom mic, camera, and spotlights
Zack (far left) on the set of his film, "Know Your Roll"

Which projects for the film did your design and animation peers work on?

The design department did something beautiful with my film. I wanted a board game that was a more visual Dungeons and Dragons. Design students, Raine Farrin '18 and Michael Coleman '18, came up with a fully functional game called Mythical Mastery. Their work included a name, logo, game board, and wrote a rule book for the game. I even asked Emily Gonzalez '19 from the illustration department to create art for the manual.

As for animation, I asked Brandon Hatcher, an alum from 2018 (who also happens to be my roommate), if he could model some fantasy creatures so I could place them in the film. He created a two-headed dragon and an army of goblins for the scenes where the protagonist and his friends are in their imaginary world. Within a month, both the dragon and one iteration of the goblin were modeled and just needed to be colored.

camera recording a scene of person in hallway


What was it like collaborating with peers outside of digital film?

Honestly, at first it was pretty stressful. I had no idea who dwelled upstairs in the Lunder Arts Center, so I was pushed out of my comfort zone when I decided to ask them for such a monumental favor. I needed a real helping hand, without each and every one of them this film wouldn’t have been made. Everyone who was a part of production met and exceeded my expectations.

What do you enjoy most about the film department?

If you ask anyone in the film department what their favorite part of this program is, they would all give you the same answer: the sense of community. That’s one thing I think the film department does best. Whenever I find myself wandering around Lunder or U-Hall, I find that most art classes are quiet and everyone is doing their own thing. In film classes, nothing gets done if you try to do things on your own. Everyone in digital film relies on each other. During production, problem after problem kept arising, but my peers, who are really my friends, kept me from breaking down! They seemed to have a remedy for every issue and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of them.

film class filming at school with camera and lighting


While it is rewarding and fun to be a part of other people's films, it's a lot of work. I certainly could not finish my film without the support of my classmates. We are all involved on each other's set right from the beginning of freshman year, so we get to know each other pretty well over the four years together. It's hard asking my classmates and friends to give up so much of their time and energy without being able to offer much in terms of compensation. I wish there was a system in place to offer additional credit or a stipend for the shared hard work and dedication to all of our projects.

Out of your classmate’s work, which film or other work are you most excited to see?

That’s really a tough one. All of the seniors’ films are very ambitious in their own respect, from things like shooting in a Stop & Shop to filming in a retirement home. All of the films deserve recognition. However, if I were to choose one, it would be Sean Peloso’s “Grana”. Not only is Sean’s story incredibly solid, it was also shot on location in the New York Adirondacks. The film is also the only other film in this program (to my knowledge) that uses 3D animation. I want to see how the animation melds into his footage. I’ve seen bits and pieces of his footage but I am really excited to see all of his hard work come together into something awesome!