Sunday, September 26, 2010

ANIMATION AT VERSAILLES

I decided to make my first animated film in Paris.
The fact that I didn’t yet know how to animate did not deter me.
First, I had to get money to produce the film. I approached the money men, two Canadians. They said they were very busy, but that they’d listen to my pitch if I took them to Versailles and showed them around. Sigh. 

Animation gets no respect.
Pitching a film is hard enough at the best of times but to do it at in the palace of Versailles is truly terrifying.  Versailles is vast, huge and very, very grand. An extravaganza of mirrors, parquet, gilded statues, painted ceilings, crystal chandeliers. Symbols of power and wealth everywhere. 

The opposite of the minimalist film I had in mind.
In such a setting, I just couldn’t pitch my ten-minute, stylised, hand-drawn film. 

I waited until we went outside to the vast parks, gigantic urns, stunning statues, extravagant fountains and French gardens with swirling patterns of tight little hedges and flowers. More symbols of power, but I felt I could do my pitch where the grandeur was less oppressive and there was air and sunlight.
I kept it simple and quick.
And, on the way home, they said they would give me the money.
The catch was the film had to be ready in two months to be released with their live-action feature film.
Two months to write, design, direct, produce, animate, paint backgrounds edit and do titles for a ten-minute hand-drawn film is close to impossible.
Perhaps they thought I wouldn’t accept such a deadline.
But I did and, despite many pitfalls, some catastrophic events and thanks to superhuman efforts, the film was finished on time.
It opened with the feature film on the Champs Elysées. 
The audience, there to see the live-action feature, spontaneously applauded my short film.
I burst into tears.
It may have looked like a little animated film, but making it was a glorious, epic adventure, a life-transforming drama, a creative inspiration, born in the palace of Versailles.

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ANIMATION, ART, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, HANDDRAWN

Sunday, September 19, 2010

PROPOSING MARRIAGE

Like many of our social rituals, the marriage proposal has been defined and distorted by television.  We’ve seen so many sit-com actors sinking to one knee, making an unbearably pompous speech bursting with painfully self-aware truisms and clichés, that it seems we're somehow obliged to emulate this theatrical behavior.  If it’s on TV, it must be the proper thing to do, right?
    What could be less romantic than inappropriate actions and words in an inappropriate setting?  Being nervous about proposing a lifetime of commitment is understandable, so why add pressure by doing it in a football stadium, a crowded restaurant, a public park, with brass bands, acrobats, dancing monkeys and the ring hidden in the pork chops or the fruit salad?
    This is all so painfully contrived and cringe-worthy that I wonder that anyone’s proposal is accepted and that more proposers are not shot on the spot for criminally embarrassing their prospective mate.
    Not that intimate proposals can’t be equally embarrassing.  A former boyfriend once invited me to a beautiful hotel near Honfleur for the weekend.  We’d been there before and enjoyed it but this time there was tension in the air.  It was cold and rainy and when we arrived, we ordered tea which came in lovely porcelain cups with hot water in them to keep them warm.  But, instead of  enjoying the warmth and the tea, Joyboy kept staring insistently at me, prodding and grabbing.  Astonishingly, he then suggested a walk in the cold, muddy woods.  I declined and the weekend went from bad to worse, communication came to a standstill.  On the drive back to Paris he sullenly muttered as he stared at the road ahead: “Do you want to marry me?”
    Well, no actually.  Couldn’t you tell by the shrinking back and the lack of enthusiasm for all your suggestions?
    At least he didn’t go down on one knee while driving.
    Of course, if you want to marry someone, it doesn't really matter how they ask you, but looking you in the eye with due solemnity will make a proposal more memorable and acceptable than any gratuitous hoopla with balloons and skywriting.
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