Heads up, boys and girls. The full version of this Supinfocom student film is finally available to us online, after having toured these festivals, and garnered praise and awards. On the official website you will also find precious and beautiful images of colourscripts, posters, and other behind-the-scenes stuff.
I know many of you may have watched it online on Celine’s Vimeo page, but to make THIS post worth your while, I caught up with the team that made this : Antoine Perez, Celine Desrumaux, Francois Pons, and Gary Levesque and present to you a full Q&A. Probably one of the most well-answered Q&A’s I have ever read!
1. What inspired you guys to make the film? Why this story in particular? What other inspiration helped you define the artistic look of the film?
From the beginning we knew we were aiming for drama. The public has an expectation too see 3D films that are funny, gag-filled and cute. Supinfocom supported our decision to avoid this.
We begun with a simple plot, turning an ‘ordinary’ circumstance (a WW2 pilot in his plane, about to crash) into an intriguing story. We wanted to draw out the magic and the cultural signficance of the situation.
Some of our inspirations include David Lynch (notice the zig zag floor?) and Tetsuo from Shinya Tsukamoto. Another important influence is ‘The Running man’ by Neo Tokyo (Manie-Manie), in its portrayal of the dying process of the central character, in his vehicle/machine that’s really been his life’s passion. So we quickly trimmed the fat off, focusing our energy on the characters, not on themes of war/ideological oppression. ditching initial inspirations such as Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ and propaganda posters.
Graphicaly we tried hard not to force our own style, fearing that this would make the film too graphic and not appropriate. On every step we focused on the storyline and tried to build around it. I guess this is why our characters are half realistic, and half stylised. We needed them to be very human so audience will emotionally identify with the charcters, but at the same time they needed to be somewhat magical, feeding the audience’s imagination.
The pilot needed to be able to fall in love with his own death, so we gave the girl Marylin Monroe’s showgirl-attractiveness, and Marlène Dietrich’s seriousness and mental dominance. This combination made her to look a little like Jessica Rabbit—which was another strong influence.
For the pilot, we drew influence from Corto Maltese comics by Hugo Pratt–someone with a strong mind, that won’t simply succumb to death. This struggle had to be a proper fight between a wolf and an eagle! For the environment the influences were art déco interiors. We added fluid, feminine shapes (eg. curtains), to stop it from being too ‘cold’, and to make it feel somewhat personal and alive, as it represented the pilot’s headspace.
2. What tools were used in production? (software,etc)
3dsMax, Photoshop, Pro Tools, Avid, After Effects. For smoke and fire we used afterburn and particle flow. Also, computers…
3. What were the stages of production and how long does each of them take?
Development of the script started really early—two years before the end of the production. But at that time, we were still very distracted by other classes that made up the Supinfocom’s curriculum. So for a year, we developed the script and storyboard ‘part time’. The storyboard ended up taking about a month, so did the 2D animatic.
Also bear in mind that we were learning everything as we go. The full year of prepoduction was truly beneficial, it gave us time to learn from our mistakes. We started full time production the following year: 2 months for the 3D animatic ( many of them! ), 2 months for the design and modeling. The rest of the time was spent on animation, lighting, rendering and compositing. We also missed the train going to our final jury, so we could better finish the movie. that’s 8 hours of extreme stress!
4. How did you come up with the unique look of the fire? How was it created and why did you choose that look?
From the very first storyboard, the fire was stylised with half discs. This was again, Art déco-inspired. Making realistic fire has always been out of the question, for technical and artistic reasons. I don’t think at that time we were determined to make the fire look like this, but that shape became more and more present in film, it was like a trademark. It’s hard to notice, but it’s also on the chair’s back and on the stage’s lights.
5. What are the difficulties you guys came across during production?
We spent a bit of time on the character modeling and design, because we didn’t start off with a definite ideas for the ‘look’ to the film. Yet we knew everything had to be perfectly tailored for the story, including the look. So this made it hard to stick closely to the schedule.
The smoke also gave us a bit of trouble: we wanted it to have a realistic flow and texture, and yet be able to shape it and sculpt it like a more tangible volume. We eventualy gave up on this, but were quite satisfied with how it looked in the end. Also you noticed that the close-up shot were he picked up his lighter looks horrible ! That was the first shot we rendered, and we still can’t bear to watch when it comes up. The ending was also quite tricky, we tried differents edits but we had trouble keeping it simple and powerful: we had several things to say but not much time to do so. The edit you see now was made only a few weeks before the end of production. Every step had its challenges but it was all a lot of fun.
6. How did you four end up working together? Can you list the particular strength/weaknesses that each of you have?
All four of us are complementary technically but also as human beings :
Gary took on most of the animation by himself, he is a dedicated and talented animator. We were never worried by the planning and quality of the animation. Sometimes he was a bit stressed out : during the last days, we remember he temporarily forgot how to use photoshop, from stress! He played an important human role in the team by keeping our moods up. He plays amazing guitar, that’s pretty cool. Should we mention finger-skating ? Oops.
François was the most technical member of the team, allowing us to safely use Visual Effects like smoke and particles, and he built a custom rig for the film. He’s always patient and pragmatic which was good during hard times. He’s a little shy but that doesn’t keep him from being funny.
Céline did alot of different things during the production: modelling, animation, lighting and compositing. However, her main strengh is her ability to plan things. She was the most serious member, keeping up with the schedule, and making sure we didn’t fall apart as a team. She was also very involved in the story-telling and continuity of the film. However, she can get anxious and emotional. And she drinks way too much coke. Seriously, we should have gotten a sponsorship. Why do you think there is a coke bottle in the movie ?
Antoine is really creative and has been very involved in all the pre-production steps, as well as the graphical side of the movie wich is good. He is quite stubborn and that’s a strength or a weakness depending on the situation. He worked mainly on designing, modeling and lighting. However he can find it difficult to focus his mind on a repetitive task. That’s until he finds a new challenge.
7. Will you guys continue to work together? Do you guys have any specific career plans in the near future?
It’s hard to say whether or not we will have the opportunity to do another project with the same team. From the little time we’ve spent in the industry, we have noticed there is not much opportunity for this. On a happier note, Gary teamed up with ex-classmate Clément Soulmagnon to make another short film, which is being made right now in Paris, and they hope to continue directing together. Antoine and Céline continue to work together as a directing duo, and are currently writting a new project. Other than that, we’re still good friends and try to hang together when we have the chance to.