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Interview with director Sacha Brauner

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that animation is your way of telling stories?

When I was a kid, around eleven I think, there was this guy in my French class who was making comic books. When I first read them, I was really impressed and fascinated by this ability of telling a story through drawings. It seemed so easy, all you need is a pen and a piece of paper. That day I discovered that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life: invent stories and tell them with my drawings.

  • What exactly is the job of an animation director?

The responsibility of an animation director towards his film is the same as a parent towards his child. You have to take care of it. it’s a 24/7 job, you think and question yourself about the content and the form of your project day and night. It really never ends.  It is a very multitasking position, you need to keep an eye on every part of your project: script, storyboard, animatic, animation, music, sound design etc. When you work with other people, you are the captain and you have to lead the ship to its destination. Therefore your ideas and the way you communicate them with your team should be very clear and inspiring. They need to fully understand what you are aiming for in order to help you.

  • How many people are involved in creating an animation like yours? And could you tell us a bit about their roles, the flow of the team?

Jeux à la mer is a student film and I worked mostly alone on this project. However, I decided to work with a composer, Yale Song, who composed the music score of the film. It was an interesting experience. He started composing at an early stage of the project which gave us a lot of time to find the right atmosphere.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your animation? How did that lesson happen?

The most important lesson I had during the creative process of this short film was to only select the material I need to tell this story. My goal was to give space for the audience for interpretation. To achieve that, I had to let go a lot of scenes and elements and only show what seemed really essential.

  • What is the process in creating an animated character?

Normally it is quite a complicated process which involves a lot of personal experience so that the character seems real. It’s a little different in Jeux à la mer. You don’t really get to know more about the background of the protagonist nor what his ambitions are. He just happens to be there, hanging around at the beach, playing on his own. His story is meant to be experienced rather than understood. I wanted to create a character in which everyone could recognize her/himself and invite the audience to search for a meaning of that little boy’s actions by digging in their own memories and experiences.

  • 2D Animation vs. 3D animation what are your thoughts on this endless battle?

Personally I’m more charmed by 2D animation. But I believe there shouldn’t be any battle. Both can bring their own contribution to cinema and art more broadly.  However I do think it would be a shame if 2D animation had to be « replaced » by 3D animation for financial reasons.

  • What does your animation workflow look like while animating? Tell us a little about the tools that you are using. What are your preferences? Methods? Plugins? Techniques?

When I start a project I ask myself what would be the most appropriated way to express my idea. In Jeux à la mer, the environment plays a big role. I wanted to find a technique that evokes in a very accurate way the grey atmosphere of the North Sea. In the beginning I tried to make some backgrounds on 2D animation softwares, But it wasn’t very convincing. So I drew and painted on paper with a mixture of water and ink. The texture of the paper combined with the way the ink was randomly spreading on the paper seemed the right way to portray wet sand and seawater.The characters and some other elements are animated with TV-paint, a 2D animation software. Because I was mainly working on my own, I tried to find a very economical way to animate. To tell the most with very simple movements and gestures. Like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said: less is more.

  •  What do audiences want? And is it the animator’s role to worry about that?

There are different phases during a creative process. I think an artist should worry or not worry about his audience depending on which phase he’s in. In the early phase of your project you have to fully focus on what you want to express through your work. It’s a time for investigation but also for all kinds of experiments, to tryout different approaches to tell your story. At that moment you have to keep a very open mind and can’t think too much about the audience. Having the feeling you need to give a feedback could block you in your researches.Once you found what you want to talk about you can start thinking about how to tell it to the audience. The audience wants to be entertained but also inspired. It’s the filmmaker’s job to fulfill this. The act of creation is also about generosity. You are making something with the intention to share it, otherwise it is pointless.Of course making a film isn’t only about pleasing the people who will see or judge your work. An animator has to worry about his audience but shouldn’t lose control on the choices he makes.In conclusion I would say: before your work inspires people, you should be inspired.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Film festivals are a great opportunity to share and discover films. They are necessary because they are a place where artists and audience can meet, share and talk about their passion, rarely happens out of this context. They also give a chance to new generations of artists to show their work.

  • What is the most difficult part for you about being in the animation business, and how do you handle it?

I just graduated and started working so I can’t really say I have encountered major issues or difficulties yet. However, I would say it is a challenge to have plans on the longterm. You constantly need to find new projects to work on, to adapt your approach and to save some time to work on your own projects.