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15th December 2014
Lost in animation
Title of film: Tourist, Illuminate
Director: Nicolas Ménard
Fresh out of the RCA, Nicolas Ménard creates a metaphor for miscommunication in a relationship for the band Tourist. Benoit Berthe talks to the just-signed-to Nexus new director

You have established yourself as an animation director after making a few successful personal short films (See in Related Content). Did your creative process change much working for a commissioned piece?

It was a refreshing and interesting challenge to work on a short film in a commissioned context. When I made my short films at the Royal College of Art, I had a lot of time to change my mind and refine my ideas.

Since the deadline for this music video was extremely short and the resources very limited, I had to rely on a lot of technical tricks to try to do something that would hold together within the given restrictions. So I separated the song in three parts: POV walks, objects breaking, and artists performing. That way the viewer had enough content to engage with the music video until the end. The goal was to use repetition without feeling that it was too repetitive.

What was behind your decision to use a first person narrative point of view for this film and does it draw on your own experiences!?

The narrative in the film is very light. You can easily ignore it and simply enjoy the visuals. That’s what I was going for.

The letters in Korean tell a story of hatred and honesty at the end of a relationship. I wrote the letters in English, and asked a Korean friend of mine to translate it. I have no idea how it transitioned to Korean (I had a few complaints from Koreans on Vimeo & YouTube!). Personally though, I’m pretty happy with the idea that some of the communication was lost in translation. It happens, you know, in relationships with bad endings, when both parties are blind to what the other is saying.

This is the original text for the first letter. A bit harsh:

This morning
I would have fold you
Chuck you in the charity bag

And an excerpt from letter that unfolds infinitely:

I dislike your family
Especially your mom

Fun stuff!

Your animation process is also quite unusual, you animated all this film frame by frame on Photoshop, can you tell us more about this process and the reason behind it?

I don’t like the quality of the line in Flash, and I don’t have the money to invest in a bigger animation suite… so Photoshop was the right tool for the project. A few of us independent animators out there are starting to preach Photoshop as a main animation tool. It’s a good choice if you have an SSD hard drive (otherwise the timeline is very slow).

For me it streamlines the workflow of jumping from Photoshop (Animation) to After Effects (Post) to Premiere (Editing). And I’m also used to it because I did my last short films using that method. You need a bunch of custom actions to support your workflow though, otherwise it’s a real pain in the ass.

What were the major challenges of this production?

The main challenge of the production, I would say, was time. I had to design so much content in such a small amount of time. I ended up working most evenings and weekends during the five weeks we had. That’s five weeks from pitching the concept to the final render. When you’re exhausted, it’s hard to see clearly and to believe in what you’re doing. Self-doubt and the bad habit I have of hating everything I do were especially painful during that project!

Technically, we were working in 4K. I’m pretty happy we did it, but I know my mate James Hatley, who animated on the film, had a hard time with the PC he was working on. And this comes back to using Photoshop with an SSD for animation. If your hard drive is too slow, you end up losing a lot of time.

Nexus Productions signed you fresh from graduating from the Royal College of Art. How did you meet them?

Nexus contacted me for the first time two years ago, when I was still in Montreal. I had just finished my BA and soon would be on my way to London. Once settled in the big city, I had a coffee with Chris O’Reilly. At the time they were already interested in having me direct on a freelance basis. But I told Chris I wanted to focus on my studies and he reassured me, telling me to take my time. So a few months before finishing the RCA I signed with them.

I’m a big fan of the other directors there, so it’s pretty inspiring to work in the same building.

Do you have some new animation short films coming soon?

I’m slowly trying to start a new short film for the Late Night Work Club Volume 2. It will be a very short piece, about 2m30s max, hopefully. I’m also working on a new music video, of a smaller scale this time, and using crayons. Another project I’m working on is for an exhibition in Paris, involving small modular characters made out of wood. So quite a few things are going on. I’m still not sure how I’m gonna fit all of that in my schedule, but it should be fun!

Credits

Production Company: Nexus
Direction and Design: Nicolas Ménard
Executive Producer: Luke Youngman
Producer: Beccy McCray
Production Co-ordinator: Natalie Henry
Editing: Nicolas Ménard

Animation Crew:
Nicolas Ménard
Anne-Louise Erambert
James Hatley
Isaac Holland

With thanks to:
Lara Lee, for translation

Track: Illuminate
Artist: Tourist feat. Years and Years
Label: Polydor
Commissioner: Emily Tedrake & Jacob Robinson