AWARD WINNER INTERVIEW – NICOLAS MENARD
Following his 2015 win for his animation Loop Ring Chop Drink, we catch up with Nicolas to talk about his unique style, inspirations and what's coming next...
Nicolas, you join the likes of Santiago ‘Bou’ Grasso & Felix Massie on the mantle for the top animation accolade at Encounters over recent years, how does it feel to win the Encounters Festival Animated Grand Prix 2015?
It feels great! Especially since I sit right next to Felix Massie at Nexus Productions, and he’s my ping pong rival. But now we’re Encounters buddies! I keep introducing him to friends and visitors as the best writer in town. Anyway, I never thought I could win an award in a British festival. So it was a big, big surprise when I learned the news.
Loop Ring Chop Drink is your graduation film, was it a long and focused project, or did things just come naturally?
The core concept of my graduation project is what took a lot of time to figure out. Early on, I didn’t want to make a narrative film; I wasn’t confident about the idea of writing a new short after my first RCA film, Somewhere. It was supposed to be a very dismantled thing, a series of visual gags. Like a lot of animated GIFs put next to each other. I also thought about making a web page with a lot of GIFs instead. And even an exhibition space with furniture, animations and sculptures.
My tutors Joe King and Jean-Philippe Fauteux encouraged me to stitch my ideas together to craft a more engaging story. That’s how I ended up with this weird script. I sorted my ideas into four different groups, and each group gave birth to a character.
The boldness of the whole thing is spellbinding, how did you manage to maintain the integrity of the animation? Is it based on a screen printing technique?
Yes, I was following a set of very straight rules inspired by the screen printing process. These limitations are what helped me make the film feel consistent. The colour palette is made of three colours, and when they overlap they create additional colours. Each shot had to look bold and to the point the way a poster does. I didn’t always succeed since there was a tremendous amount of shots to design in a short period of time, but I tried.
The visuals of this, and much of your other work are extremely defined, constituting bold colours and interesting textures, where have you taken your inspiration from over the years?
Printing techniques define the way I work digitally. Everything I draw on the computer is optimized either for risograph or screen printing. I do books and illustration as well, so using similar tools helps me switch from one workflow to another. My influences come from all over the place: from my studies in graphic design to Super Mario Bros., from Starfox to Paul Rand, from the wise words of Milton Glaser to reading novels and short stories and nature and my experience of life and all those things that I’m obsessed with.
Additional to this, the narrative also works in a similar way, with surreal textures to it’s messaging, this type of story telling is a bit of a homage to a by-gone era, What’s your process when deliberating how to get your messages across?
For Loop Ring Chop Drink, I approached the writing like so: if an idea entertained me, it was valid. I would try to include it in one of the character’s timeline. If it didn’t entertain me, then it wasn’t worth showing. I wrote a lot of garbage. I wanted the film to be satirical of our everyday lives and obsessions, but at the same time I didn’t want it to be patronizing on a particular subject.
When I re-watch the film, I remember the state of mind I was in when I made it. I don’t think I’m entertained by the same ideas today, but I have good memories of making it.
The Loop Ring Chop Drink apartment block is one hell of a place, what made you choose those characters for the story? What message do you want to get across by combining all their different attributes?
I mentioned the thought process for the creation of the characters before, but what was important to me was that all the characters were dysfunctional in different ways. Early on, when I was showing the animatic to some friends, some would prefer one character to another, depending on how they would relate to them. I found that fascinating and it was my first experience of creating a series of characters people could actually relate to on some level. It sounds obvious, but it’s a hell of a contrast from drawing cold, graphic shapes for communication purposes.
Do you enjoy living in London? What’s your favourite part about this capital city?
I love living in London. But I’m concerned about the way the country deals with immigrants in general. They trashed so many visa options in the past few years, it’s making everyone’s life annoyingly stressful…Sorry about the rant. I love free museums. They are the best. Until I’m kicked out of here.
I also notice that you’re now a director at Nexus productions, can you tell us a little about your work there?
I am! It’s the sweetest deal out there. Not only do they represent me for commercial animation, but they also provide me with a studio space. I’m surrounded with some of my favourite contemporaries. Recently, I directed a music video for them (https://vimeo.com/112708431), and an explanatory film about Locum Tenens doctors (https://vimeo.com/127819100).
Between Nexus jobs, I do illustrations and gifs for various clients, including The New York Times.
Tell us about the Late Night Work Club…
Well, the good thing about the Late Night Work Club is that I finished writing the script for my short a while ago. The bad thing about the Late Night Work Club is that production was supposed to start this week, but I keep getting buried under freelance work. It’s hard to say no.
The Late Night Work Club Volume II’s theme is Strangers. Everybody is hard at work, making stellar stuff and it’s intimidating. My film title is Looking for God. I will be using voice acting for the first time (appart from those tiny bits in Loop Ring Chop Drink), which should be a fun experience. Stay tuned for more news eventually sometime soonish.
There will be more short films, but I doubt there will be something with a similar approach/structure. It was a fun experiment, but I want to move away from it to try new things. Like cutting bananas into pieces.
Are there any short films / animations you’ve recently seen that you really enjoyed?
Two recent highlights include Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow (I hope it gets the Oscar this year), and Paul Cabon’s Storm Hits Jacket. Pure delights!
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