Rains: post-Sundance interview with NFB Animator David Coquard-Dassault

Thursday, 11 February, 2010

Rains - David Coquard-Dassault

Rains is an award-winning NFB animation by David Coquard-Dassault. Rains is most recently screened at the 2010 Sundance film festival. In the eyes of this reporter, it is a stunningly and beautifully drawn (pencil-drawn) piece of animation.

Since I speak no French, the following is my email interview with David (links, additional notes and emphasis added).

Kempton: The rains and water look absolutely realistic. May I ask how did you do it? Did you film artificial/real rain and then composite on top of your beautiful pencil drawings?

David: The rain was generated using After Effects. I drew a few pencil lines: the impact of the rain on the cars – the ripples in the puddles were animated by hand – then, with the software, we multiplied and randomly dispersed them at the rhythm we wanted.

Because of the different contrast values and textures of the various shots, the rain was very hard to handle. It disappeared against some backgrounds; against others, it was too obvious and washed out the pencil. We had to create different kinds of rain for each shot and co-ordinate them all to create the downpour.

Kempton: The story is beautiful told. How did you come up with the story and script?

David: Before sitting down to write, I drew scenes and graphic compositions to link them together: that was a preliminary storyboard.

With Rains, I was trying to create an atmosphere rather than tell a story, which meant a quite different approach to the script. The difficulty in writing a contemplative film resides – at least in part – in finding a hook for the script.

I didn’t really start writing until after doing the storyboard. The challenge of writing a script, using words rather than drawings, was to work backwards from the idea, in a way, trying to find a thread that would move the film forward, that would give it meaning.

Kempton: Your first film looks spectacular. How long did it take you to make it? What are some of the hard challenges you faced in making the film?

David: Rains was 10 months in the making while I was an artist-in-residence at Folimage, in France. But it took three years, from idea to distribution, before the film could finally be seen. There are always problems making a film, no matter how small. Aside from the rain mentioned above, the true challenge seemed to be bringing immobility to life.

Kempton: Can you talk about the music and the sound effect? They are both beautiful.

David: When writing this type of contemplative film, you need to have a very precise idea of the music you want. I worked on the computer animation with the piece “Fratres,” by Arvo Pärt. Félix Dufour-Laperrière, who was in residency at the same time as I was, making Rosa Rosa, had introduced me to Pärt’s minimalist music (films are made of chance encounters). Christophe Heral, my composer, then wrote the main lines of the piece in order to offer his own point of view. He was able to work with all the sound in the film – the music and effects – to create a soundscape in harmony with the film: The pictures and sound are closely linked.

Kempton: And the group of birds at the end of the film is so lively. So minimalistic and yet realistic and beautiful at the same time. How did you make them so real?

David: I believe that I rendered them well, but they are not, strictly speaking, realistic. The film, through drawings, provides an interpretation of birds in flight – that is animation’s main advantage.

[Kempton note: I incorrectly used "realistic". What David managed was to magically bring out the essence of a bird and a flock of birds in flight with a pencil line or a few pencil lines.]

Kempton: Any other things you want to say about the film or the filmmaking process?

David: Making a film is exhausting. It’s really time I made another.

***

Here is a trailer of David Coquard-Dassault’s Rains.

P.S. I hope this film will come to the Calgary International Film Festival so Calgarians can watch it on big screen.


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