That's how I found my second roof in Montreal. It all started on the 22nd of February 2017 with an email from Elise Simard; subject: as long as I got my friends.
Astroplastique is Claire Blanchet, Fred Casia, Eva Cvijanovic, HyunJin Park, Parissa Mohit and Elise Simard - all of whom met through the corridors of the National Film Board of Canada in Montréal. This free-form collective is seeking to create fertile grounds for collaborative, animation-based work, and is always in search of new ways of telling stories. Astroplastique thrives from highlighting individual talents while putting special focus on community and taking care of each other. They also have a long history of creating content for non-fiction work and enjoy adding a touch of magic to everyday life. Following in this path, Astroplastique is curious to explore virtual and augmented realities, emergent and interactive narratives and serial content
Back to Montreal after about 9 weeks, I'm back at the light table this time as animator on a new, fresh projet. Kinshasa is a short animation film directed by Éléonore Goldberg and produced by L’embuscade. Éléonore is a director, comic artist and writer whom ّI got to know thanks to our collaboration on my installation project at M.A.I.
My final weeks in Montreal during 2017 were dedicated to a 6 week residency at the cinémathèque Québecoise. I was working on a new idea for my next film which is another short animation. I was accompanied by Pierre Hebert in this writing process. Pierre is an experienced filmmaker and producer. I personally got to know him through his writings on moving image on his website before I discover his other works.
Every production has a grey phase and mine was not an exception. One of these days I decided to cheer myself and the team up and took some of my massage gadgets to the studio. Animators suffer from a lot of back, shoulder and hand pain. I'm aware that this is not a unique problem reserved to animators but it's only animators who are able to think of something called a storyboard and eventually come up with the idea of something magic to relieve their pain. It took me a few months to attract other animators' attention to these objects that really do magic.
Now that I'm documenting these lines, those objects are in a box at home because I moved out my stuff from the production studio. Their six-month séjour at a studio full of animators and the interactions they evoked, proved us that there is an actual need for this kit in any animation studio. Also I encourage every animator to equip him/herself with a small suitcase of at least three pieces of these tools.
I'll be more than happy to discuss the instruction of this must-have package which is branded as:
Animator's Pleasure Kit
BTW, me and Kathleen decided to make a promotional video for this brilliant idea. Due to lack of energy and the urgent need to finish the animation of "Une visite", I can only present you a sketch of the storyboard. For this episode, we chose the finger massage tool which is named Finger by finger.
During the spring 2017, Kathleen's mission on this project reached to an end and "Une visite" welcomed Ehsan Gharib for a few weeks to help with some last-minute inking. Ehsan is an animation filmmaker, photographer and a great compositor. He joined our team right after finishing his film DEYZANGEROO.
A month later, Elise Simard joined us and we started the final phase of the image creation, the compositing. Elise is also a filmmaker I know from long time ago through the NFB. She is a visual magician and was the first option I had in mind for this phase of project. We started experimenting with the footage we had and it took us a bit of time to get to a visual recipe for the film. The photos I've taken from the paper-photo sets to create the city's visuals had a sharp digital finish which wasn't the look I was looking for. It took us a long time to take away this clean layer and make these images fit with the interior scenes which were all done by hand-drawn animation. Elise was also joining us right after finishing her latest film Beautiful like elsewhere.
For celebrating the end of 2016 and 1395, we decided to turn some of the project's scrap paper into sketch books and give them to each other as presents.
Although I was the one who designed the characters of "Une visite", I realized was the least flexible about their alternative life and the potentials they had outside this story. I always drew them as they were supposed to appear in specific scenes. No other life beyond that was of any interest to me. The animation team's approach was more dynamic though.
The end of September is Ottawa time. We decided to arrange a trip to the Ottawa animation festival. A weekend full of cinema time and conversations about movies. When you talk about cinema around food and drink, the conversation gets mixed with life, no matter how hard you try to make it otherwise. That's what movies are about and that's what I like about attending festivals with good company.
On the last day, we had a brunch with animator friends at the Ottawa market, and we took our last walk before heading back to Montreal. If you go to a bazar you'll find all kinds of characters you need for your story. Sometimes you don't need any more characters for your film, but the characters you already have fade into the crowd and remind you of what you need to do when you get back home. During the last moments of this trip I saw the phantom of the woman in my film at the Ottawa market. She was moving in the wind in her long floral dress.
In September 2016, I had my first post-production meeting with Ottoblix, and that opened my eyes to the amount of inking and masking and coloration needed for this film. Both characters have an open form which make this process even more elaborate. I fully underestimated this step when we were planning the production. This revelation made me decide to clean the white table in the middle of the space and prepare it to welcome the new member of the team, Lori Malépart-Traversy.
Lori is a talented animation filmmaker and a wonderful woman I got a chance to know thanks to this project. Our first meeting was very brief and easy and we simply talked about inking and masking images. As we moved along she got involved more and more in the film and helped me establish a solid workflow for the production and image process. Her particular attention to detail and her discipline took a heavy load of work and worries off my shoulder. She became a hand I was missing!
Now that I'm writing this post, her film "Le clitoris" is going viral all over the world. If you haven't watched it yet then click on this link and
Bon Film! :
Back to Montreal I started putting everything together to create the visuals for the city. Here are some notes and sketches.
One of my passions is observing and playing with images of supposedly ugly buildings in cities. I take photos of them, and then modify the details. Then I arrange them in different backgrounds and I mix these elements with other urban environments taken from elsewhere. These imaginary cities and compositions don't exist in reality but they are very believable. The best buildings for this type of project are those that are not aesthetically significant, those that are not necessarily ugly but there is minimal design thought behind their existence. They are invisible.
Tehran is a good city for this kind of observation, as it is full of buildings which have been built based on pure personal taste. I'm writing down two moments that inspired me at that phase. Though they seem very irrelevant to each other, they played important roles in the way I treated the city I designed for my film.
An on-site, daily observation:
Two years ago, when I was working on this pictures, my family decided to go for a full renovation of their apartment. In the evening my father used to visit the site, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by a neighbour. Based on the neighbour's taste the design could have comletely changed. The morning after, my father, convinced by Mr. neighbour's arguments, would convince the contractor to demolish a newly constructed wall and remount it a couple of meters further back. This conversational, community based design, pictures a dynamic that exists behind the construction of a lot of neighbourhoods and a lot of residential buildings in Tehran. I call it chit-chat architecture.
An artistic observation - Museum style:
While I was documenting visuals in Tehran, I went to an artist talk with Nicolas Grospierre, a swiss artist who was invited by the New media society. His talk was among other things about a series of photos created by him using segments of photos from buildings which existed in reality. the subtly recreated buildings in his photos which dont exist in reality were manifestations of his critisism of modernism in architecture.
This article resumes well his approach in his projects: