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9th December 2014
Home Sweet Home
Title of film: Home Sweet Home
Director: Pierre Clenet, Alejandro Diaz, Romain Mazevet, Stéphane Paccolat, Valentin Lafort
Benoit Berthe talks with Supinfocom students Pierre Clenet, Alejandro Diaz, Romain Mazevet and Stéphane Paccolat about their graduation film which has won top praise on the festival circuit

This moving thoughtful road trip based on the American housing crisis is also an emotional reflection on intergenerational friendship bonds. What was behind your decision to explore this subject?

We wanted to make a film about simple and strong things that speak to a wide audience.

The ideas of friendship, travelling and finally death were the basic themes that surfaced during our first pre-production meeting. We decided that the simplest feelings can create the most touching stories, enabling the audience to identify easily with the characters and so the message would have more impact.

Of course the idea of house characters was the basis of the project, but the concept of a road-trip in the context of the crisis “sub-prime” in Detroit and the character and nature of the protagonists of the film followed.

These are things that we worked on during our brainstorming, mood research, and meetings with the tutors.

Images of Detroit’s ghost suburbs were the starting point of the film and these gave the motivational reason for the departure of the houses, and scenically anchored the film in a concrete and known universe.

This short film seems straight out of a big animation studio such as Pixar or Dreamworks whereas it is a student graduation film. Why do you think students from French schools such as Supinfocom or Gobelins are so successful in creating films with such high visual quality?

Well thanks but it’s a little hard for us to be compared with the American giants of animation. When we work in the world of animation we know that there is a gap between their level and ours both in production and experience!

In a school like Supinfocom, the students share similar strong tastes and passions, we want to give the best of ourselves, and that creates an atmosphere of healthy competition among students as well as debate and exchanges.

So for us it is more about passion and student’s investment. One of our advantages in making Home Sweet Home was the common desire to make an illustrative film. We had very talented people in the team who were experienced in illustration beyond the standards required to come to Supinfocom. We also all had the same tastes in terms of animation, story-telling etc…

There were only four of you making this 10-minute graduation film over one year, how did the collaboration work?

Romain was the author who brought the basic concept of Home Sweet Home: “An adventure of houses that move.”

Once the group formed around this concept, as co-directors we were all involved in the pre-production of the film. Everyone brought their ideas and desires during our brainstorming sessions, we thought about the places, the characters and the overall plot of the story.

During production, the work was roughly divided like this: Pierre was in charge of the Pipeline, the modelling and VFXs; Alejandro took care of the characters, concepts, matte-paintings, rigging, the animation and the compositing; Romain was in charge of the set concepts, the matte-paintings, the modelling, the rendering and the compositing; and Stéphane finally took care of direction, animation, the interaction with the teaching team and the sound-design.

David Jurine joined us as an intern in the last months of the production and created discrete but very nice additional 2D FX scattered throughout the film.

The work atmosphere during the production was very good, and as everyone was a kind of a “lead” of his section and we were always listening to others’ opinions.

Music is always complicated to resolve in a graduation film without a budget, how did you find your composer and how did you work with him?

Until recently each group was responsible for their own music at Supinfocom, which gave rather mixed results in terms of soundtrack. Sometimes the results were very successful but there were also some bad surprises.

To overcome this problem, as the music is not (yet!) a part of the course at Supinfocom Arles, a partnership was created with the MAAAV in Lyon, a school of composers. The MAAAV students made a choice after viewing our preproduction work, and they were assigned a soundtrack to create.

Home Sweet Home’s track was created by Valentin Lafort, the choice was pretty natural since he was fond of American music and he played the banjo. Subsequently, we exchanged remotely via Skype, working sequence by sequence.

Before our meeting with Valentin, we already had a temporary soundtrack superimposed on our animatic with songs from major animated films like “Up” for example. We sent him this animatic with these main directions and he quickly offered various original interpretations.

There was a lot of feedback between us because the structure and intentions of the film changed considerably during the year. Some sequences were abandoned, others had to be modified, mixed … But we are very happy with the end result! We also had the chance to meet Valentin for real on several occasions, mostly at screenings of our film at festivals!

This film was selected in a lot of festivals around the world including the Cannes Festival as well as the best animated short at Siggraph 2014. Have these accolades helped you in some way?

Well, in fact, it has not changed much. We had all found a job before being selected and awarded in such prestigious festivals. Therefore, it did not have a huge impact, but it will undoubtedly be a boost on the resume in future job interviews (especially to go to the USA where the requirements for a visa are very high).

What are you all working on currently?

Pierre is in London as a freelance 3D Generalist / FX artist in advertising, Alejandro moved to Shanghai where he is a Concept Artist for Dreamworks, Romain is a Freelance Concept Artist and 3D Generalist in Paris and Stéphane is Lighter at McGuff, still in Paris.

Do you think a new collaboration together would be possible in the future?

Not really for the moment, the fact that each of us have started to work at the four corners of the world does not really help to gather to launch new projects … Fresh out of school, we’re pretty busy at the moment with our personal careers, but hey …. you never know !

Home Sweet Home Co-directors: Pierre Clenet Alejandro Diaz Romain Mazevet Stéphane Paccolat Valentin Lafort