As much as we loved your first film for James, All I’m Saying, this video, Dear John, has more depth and craft – what has changed?
I think there are two reasons for that. The first is that my thinking has changed in the past two years. I’ve got to know and accept myself better therefore I see more of the real people around me the way they really are. That gives me a different focus on what’s important to express.
The second reason is that there was much more time to make this video, a bit more budget and as a result of those two I was able to put together a team of four people. Fortunately James and their label realised that they would get better quality videos if they started to organise in advance. The first music video was made in three weeks (from the first idea till the final video) and I did it mainly all by myself. This time I started to plan and make designs much earlier and I had two months for the actual production. With the team I could aim for the highest possible quality.
How did having assistants working with you change the project? Was there a different dynamic to your creative process than when you worked by yourself? Also what was the impact of having more time to create the film?
Despite the extremely short deadline making All I’m Saying was a very intuitive, almost meditative project with lots of improvisation (which I love in general). I reached a really high level of focus. For Dear John I had a lot more time, a lot more ideas, and a lot more input – both creative and technical which made the whole project more complex and ambitious.
I had ideas on many levels: story, animation style, visual approach, character performance. With the help of Joseph Wallace I was able to work out a more complex story structure, he also helped me with the animation and together we really pushed the quality of cinematography which made Milán Kopasz’s beautifully detailed sets look even more amazing on the screen. Adding to that came Attila Bertóti’s fine touch to the 2D hallucination parts to make them fit better in the stop motion world.
I couldn’t have achieved all of this if I was working alone but it was also more difficult to plan and direct the film during production as I had to prepare the tasks for the guys every day (make designs, storyboard, arrange the sets and lights for shooting the scenes, keyframe the 2D animations…etc.)
Did you have a choice about which track to use and if so why did you choose this particular track?
Thanks to our earlier successful collaboration I was honored to be able to choose from three of their songs early on. I immediately fell for Dear John because it is very playful and has a good rhythm and energy. It was later on when I started to Skype with Tim Booth that I realised how sad the lyrics were.
What did your initial conversations with Tim Booth from the band focus on? Was he involved in the process or could you let the film evolve organically under your own direction?
He told me what the song was about and what inspired it, then he just threw images and ideas at me that came into his mind and then he left me in peace… I wrote down everything and started to think of the kind of story I could make for Dear John which was very difficult as I had all the freedom in the world and a big contrast between the music and lyrics. I collected interesting images and ideas that slowly turned on my imagination.
Was your visual narrative in direct response to the lyrics? And what was behind your decision to set it in this particular landscape?
In the beginning I had a snappy colorful vision in my head up until I understood the real meaning of the lyrics. It is talking about leaving a long lasting relationship, but there are mainly feelings expressed with metaphors and hardly any ‘actions’. So I took the essence of that feeling and built it in the story I came up with. As a start I had a boy and girl character in mind but the core idea came from one of my older drawings of myself where my arm is turning into a tree branch. Then the whole story started to build around that transformation which became a new metaphor of what the song was about.
Did you make the puppets and sets?
I designed and made the main puppets (boy, girl, cat & seducing flower). Interestingly the cat was inspired by a drawing that my little sister drew when she was four. Milán Kopasz made most of the sets based on my designs and I had a bunch of sketches of the evil flowers whom Joseph Wallace brought to life. He also made many beautiful small plants for the undergrowth in the forest scenes.
James, Dear John
• Directed & designed by Péter Vácz / petervacz.com
• Story / Animation / Puppets / Cinematography / Edit by Péter Vácz & Joseph Wallace / josephwallace.co.uk
• Sets / Composit by Milán Kopasz
• Additional 2D animation / Effects by Attila Bertóti
• Lighting equipment lent by Bálint Kolozsváry
• Post production (Flame) by Truss – Coffee & TV
• Produced by Sam Hope – Picasso Pictures / picassopictures.com
• Produced with the support of the Council department in Essonne and European Film Festival in Essonne
• Shot on Canon 60D with Dragonframe