Your film for Maestro’s Darlin’ Celsa, taken from the band’s album Mountains of Madness, is a rollicking good marriage of image and music. How did the idea for the narrative come about?
The lyrics helped a lot, since it’s the story of a boy madly jealous of a girl named Celsa, presented to us by the band as a “crazy nymphomaniac”… The retro accents of the song made us think of American college prom nights, and the idea of an old yearbook came pretty quickly to set up the scene. We loved the idea of a grown man still frustrated decades later by his high school obsession, resulted in virtually killing the entire prom and staff of his former school. It reminded us of the obscene and bloody drawings a child tends to do on the faces of people he hates on his classroom photo!
Like your other films, everything feels very considered. Please tell us about the creative process – Was everything planned out in detail?
Not really.. Once the idea accepted by the band, label (Tigersushi) and production company (Slowdance), we just started to realize how much work we had to achieve in less than two months. First, we needed the portraits. So we set up a little photo studio in the back of our office, and within one month, we dressed, shaved, combed and shot a hundred of male friends, friends of friends, family, perfect strangers, and friends of the label including a dozen artists from the French electronic music scene. Meanwhile, we had to find a way to animate all these pretty faces to their inevitable deaths…
It must have been a huge exercise in patience with the amount of post involved. As directors did you oversee the post or did you actually create it yourselves?
Well since it was a tight budget production, and mainly because we enjoy doing things our own way, we did all the post production ourselves. It was actually quite convenient in a way, because we could adapt the animations with the narration and editing all along the process. We struggled a long time to find a satisfying animation style; we started with a friendly bloody cartoonish style, which slowly evolved day after day in a more realistic design. Although it was important not to be too realistic, so that the viewers understand these are actual animated photographs and not filmed portraits.
Technically what were the major challenges?
For this particular project, the shooting consisted in a few scenes written down, and the rest was almost completely random shots of the comedian’s hands turning empty pages at different speed. We gave him directions like: “Here you discover the girl for the first time”, “Here you feel kind of nostalgic”, or “Here you are REALLY losing it”, desperately hoping to have enough raw material to complete a three minute long video!
It made us work in a really weird way, doing everything at the same time — editing, animating the portraits, integrating them into the yearbook’s empty pages (which was a nightmare by the way).
It was interesting though because usually we like to plan everything and this time we really couldn’t given the short time and budget. So the film kind of constructed itself along the way and we had complete freedom to modify anything, since it was mainly depending on the post that we did ourselves.
Are there any hidden jokes in there?
Since we had to create a whole yearbook piece by piece, we sowed here and there a fair amount of little hidden details, including references to films and tv shows we love, like South Park, Friends, American Beauty, Louis CK… Also, Celsa is supposed to be the only girl in Mount Madness Academy, but we hid one other girl who really wanted to be in the video…
Parachutes, the directing collective you set up soon after graduation, has been running now for a good year in Paris. Are you working on individual projects or do you all bring your strengths to the table for each project and collaborate together?
We work together on each project, conception-wise at least, but our first year was mainly commercial projects that we don’t share a lot as Parachutes. We actually have a few personal projects that we worked on lately, but we have to find a good opportunity to have them produced — maybe another music video?
As a collective how do you know when you’ve cracked it? Is it gut reaction? Did you scrap any sequences in Darlin Celsa that you felt didn’t work?
It was our first real open brief since we created Parachutes and we really wanted to use that opportunity to do something we never did before. We worked day and night on this project and we really started to lose objectivity. At one point, we started to ask our friend’s opinion and adjusted some of the scenes that didn’t work, scenes not understandable enough, or sequences with so many details that you ended up seeing nothing at all…