Hello again Explorers!
This is Anton from This Way!, and I’m back again with another interview. This time, I talk with the talented director of the trailer that was used for the ICE campaign on Kickstarter, which you can see here.
Noémi Gruner is a French animation director and illustrator based in the South of France, who studied in the EMCA animation school in Angoulême, specializing in 2D background design. She writes and directs shorts films for youth and adult audiences, broadcast on French TV.
ANTON: As a fellow cinema fan, I can relate to your passion for film! When did your love for cinema first develop, and was there a specific film that you saw where you thought “yes! — this is what I want to do too”?
NOÉMI: Well, I have always watched lots of films since I was a child. I must say Le Roi et l’Oiseau by Paul Grimault, an animated film, was one of my first strong memories. I watched it thousands of times until our video tape (yes it was in the early 90’s) was unreadable! Then, when I was a teenager, I discoved Hayao Miyazaki and it was a big shock for me. His work resonates with me a lot and I think this is when I decided I wanted to do the same (well, try I mean!).
It’s funny because I found later that Miyazaki has been really inspired by the work of Paul Grimault. It’s not coincidence that I like both 🙂
ANTON: Miyazaki is a favorite of mine too. Your first animated short film that you wrote and directed was “La Costa Dorada” — can you tell us a little about that film, and your inspiration for making it?
NOÉMI: This is my first professional short film. Originally, it was supposed to be my graduation film, but my actual producer found it interesting — so we developed it as a professional project even though I was still a student.
Concerning the story, I have been inspired by my photographer friend Clémentine Schneidermann. She photographed empty cities in Spain after the economic crisis (2007-2009) where lots of real estate developments were frozen or canceled. This had left dozens of cities empty, sometimes barely started… roads to nowhere, abandoned construction sites. I was shocked by those pictures, both poetic and super sad. In this strange background, I imagined a young lady, a singer, in search of herself and looking for a fight while her friends were involved in the “Los Indignados” social movement.
I think this was an internal fight I was into at this moment! How to be engaged? How to react to injustices? Fighting alone can be demoralizing but when we stand together, we can be powerful! 🙂
ANTON: Agreed! What would you say are some other inspirations or references in cinema that influence your work?
NOÉMI: I talked about animation movies but I am more influenced by feature films, I must admit! I grew up with Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati. I understand now that they influence my work a lot, both poetic and socially engaged. I found this in Jim Jarmusch’s work, Yasujirō Ozu or even César Diaz (we work together in editing my projects). I am inspired by Art in general, photography, illustration, podcast, documentary. Finally, everything is inspiring when you dig into it.
ANTON: That’s a beautiful thought!
Can you explain a little bit about your work process? For example, the tools you use, the steps needed….?
NOÉMI: Making a film is a very long and laborious process, with many steps.
I first write the story. This step is the longest for me because I have to think about it for months before writing down my ideas in one go. Then, I polish it, a script doctor and producers give me advice, and then I finalize the script. During this time, producers and I look for funding.
For the next steps, it depends on the project. For La Costa Dorada, I did all graphic designs (backgrounds and characters) but for the next project, my co-director created the graphic bible.
I found it very enriching because each project has its own process!
I also work as a background designer on TV shows or long feature films. I like to go from my own film to someone else’s project. That way, I learn a lot.
Two of Noemi’s illustrations. You can find more on her website.
ANTON: Do you often work alone, or mostly with others? (And which do you prefer?)
NOÉMI: It’s super hard to do a film alone! I really love teamwork — that’s why I work in the film industry. I am not able to do each job on an animated film. I need other talents to help me, and it’s so enjoyable!
The only two steps where I am alone are when I do illustrations or write scripts.
ANTON: How did you get involved with the team for I C E?
NOÉMI: Well, [co-designer] Hugo Freyermuth is my boyfriend, so he asked me if I was interested in doing the I C E trailer. Of course I was in!
ANTON: Were you a fan of boardgames before this?
NOÉMI: Well.. I am a bit ashamed to say but I was not! Hugo’s family are boardgame lovers and I was introduced to it [through them]. At the beginning, it was not easy because I was so far away from them! Now, I am happy to play them, and I take part of many boardgame sessions or playtests.
ANTON: How did the I CE project go, and are there any stories about it you want to share?
NOÉMI: I have a story yes! It was the night when the I C E Kickstarter reached its goal in 24 hours. I was so happy that I was like dancing around… “It’s incredible!” Hugo was so concentrated, so concerned of course, he didn’t look up from his computer saying a distant “Yeah!” I had to insist he get off it so he could take a glass of champagne and celebrate this amazing victory!
ANTON: What project are you working on next?
NOÉMI: I just finished my second short film, co-directed with Séléna Picque. It is called Immobile Stars, a TV special for the Youth.
Here is the pitch: Chenghua is 9 years old and has to prepare a presentation on Space with her best friend. She can’t find the time to do it because her parents are constantly asking her to translate. Her parents do not speak French and are dependent on their child. They no longer realize that they are putting too much weight on her shoulders.
It will be released on French TV this year and in many other countries, which is super nice! There will be a release in cinemas as well.
ANTON: Sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to see it. Are there any other dream jobs that you hope to do one day?
NOÉMI: Well, my dream job was to tell stories and direct films. I am super lucky to say I am already on that road 🙂 If my stories reach an audience and touch people’s feelings, I am happy!
ANTON: That’s amazing — not many people get to work at their dream jobs! For anyone else out there that is hoping to also get into film direction or animation, do you have any advice for them?
NOÉMI: Go for it!
You must know there are many jobs in the animation industry from screenwriter to animator, background designer, character designer, director, editor, music composer….
Many great animation schools will teach you those jobs but the main effort will come from you. What story do you want to tell? What feelings do you want to share? Do you like teamwork? Do you like Stop motion, 2D, 3D?
Animation is not only drawing skills, it’s teamwork. It’s a profoundly hierarchical structure where your work will go into other hands. That’s why I think it’s important to communicate, to be attentive to each other and to accept other’s advice.
ANTON: Well thanks so much for answering all of these questions, Noémi!
Noémi Gruner will be directing the trailers for This Way’s upcoming games.
You can find out more about her work on her website.