Marija: Animation is a perfect blend of storytelling and art—if film is the place where all the arts meet, animation can go one step further.
Benoit: Animation, particularly stop-motion, is a labour of love; blink and you’ll miss many days of backbreaking work! It is a craft involving aesthetics, texture and motion, all in the pursuit of fresh narratives and storytelling. What I love most about animation is its ability to match the imagination in its boundless possibilities.
How did you start in animation film industry?
Marija: Originally, I studied film editing and that is what I mainly do for a living. But as a freelancer you don’t always have a gig, so to keep myself busy I started organizing this informal short animation nights screening on a caffe-boat on Belgrade’s Sava river. In order to have a good program for every week I had to go through the whole history of animation, and this really made me want to do one myself. The first opportunity came by when I met this really talented and quirky stop-motion artist Milos Tomic, and we did a few projects together.
Benoit: Although I always enjoyed animation films, I came up, close and personal to trying to make one after meeting Marija and being infected by her love of them. The perfect excuse came when I came across an open-call for a competition organised by the RSA in London. An education and research institution, the deal was to animate a 2 minute talk that they had recorded. Michael Pollan’s talk inspired us the most, both in content and in creativity, so we just went for it!
From whom did you learn animation?
Marija: We mostly do stop-motion, which is not hard to learn, it just requires a good idea and a lot of time and patience. Also, as an editor, I was often asked to do motion graphics and title sequences, so I slowly acquired some AE skills, so I don’t dread to combine all the techniques I know to bring the idea to life.
Benoit: My understanding about animation came from an earlier interest in film as a medium in itself. I was completely blown away when I first saw Dziga Vertov’s work and his (and his contemporaries’) use of editing as a powerful communicative device. Seeing film in this way—24 frames a second—led to an understanding of motion, timing and opposition of imagery that I believe are key to animation. When it came to sitting down and making “Food Rules”, Marija’s guidance was super helpful. The rest came down to, like everything else, trial and error.
How would you describe Michael Pollan’s Food Rules?
Marija: “Micheal Pollan’s Food Rules” was our submission to the RSA’s film competition in the spring of 2012. They offered three audio tracks and we chose this one because it had a most interesting topic—food. And then we got this simple and effective idea: let’s use food to tell the story about food. And I think that makes it very catchy—it’s short, clear and to the point.
Benoit: As Marija said, the concept of using food to talk about food was key. Once we came up with that, it was a question of imagining sequences and experimenting. We went for a clean style both to focus on the animated foods (food is often very interesting visually!) but also as a necessity. We didn’t work in a studio but in our apartment living-room. With a completely DIY setup—we sacrificed our kitchen table for a month—we had to keep it as simple a possible.
What is the message of the film?
Marija: The message of the film is that the world can produce enough food to feed the whole humanity, if only food was to be better distributed. Because of our dependency on meat and other big industries, a lot of food is wasted to keep these industries running, and not to feed the people. We are living with a lack of sustainability.
Benoit: We instinctively knew the power of Pollan’s message. Although we both believed in the value of sustainably and organically/locally produced food before, it is funny how much “Food Rules” taught us. I have since started growing vegetables and am thinking about how I can implement more sustainability in my live. In a way we learnt fast: for many people who saw “Food Rules”, we were all of a sudden experts on the subject!
How do you manage to make films in this period of crisis?
Marija: Well, we can say that the crisis was maybe a number one reason we decided to do the RSA contest. We had no jobs in sight and we wanted to produce, so why not do something creative. And it really paid off because it introduced us to the the whole new world of animation. Not only did we win the RSA competition by popular vote, but we continued our cooperation with the RSA and others, and had the chance to screen our film at various festivals and meet other animators.
Benoit: As I said, the production of the film was completely a DIY job. The main cost was for the food, which we mostly ended up by eating, and for tracing paper which we used as light diffusers. There are photos online of the set-up if anyone is interested. Hopefully it’ll inspire those with doubts!
What kind of animated films do you like?
Marija: There are so many good films and animators nowadays, so it’s hard to single out some names. I like short films with a good story and an interesting technique. Stop-motion is always fun and it’s amazing what people like Blu or PES are doing with it. Also, I am much more into 2d than 3d, even though the things that 3d artists do today are really mind-blowing, but it’s just too smooth and polished for my taste.
Benoit: I love creative works irrespective of the style. What draws my attention are powerful ways to convey a message visually and emotionally. The animation that really showed me the power of the medium was Len Lye’s Free Radicals. That really blew me away.
What future projects do you have?
Marija: We should be doing another short animated educational piece soon, but we can’t really speak about it just yet, if everything goes according to the plan it will be out in Spring.
Benoit: We have spoken a couple of times of our desire to do a short narrative piece. This would be a really nice project but I don’t think it is something that can be forced. The right story and the right concept have to meet for something good to come out. In the meantime, aside from animation, I have a couple of other projects in mind: I want to make another remixed work (I made GLUED in 2011) and the other is to work on a book publication. The only thing I can wish for the future is to be continue to be inspired and to continue creating in whatever form. You can keep informed about what I do by visiting my website www.benoitdetalle.com.
You can also see our animation work and more info about it at www.benoitdetalle.com/
What would you like to do in life that you couldn’t do it because of lack of time, resources, etc..?
Marija: The dream is to find resources to make a more complex project—there are many ideas floating around, but with the constant state of multitasking it’s hard to focus the energy towards one single goal. Aside from animation we are interested in many other shapes and forms of filmmaking, for instance working with archive and found footage material. What I really dream about is to get a chance to work again on the editing table and make something fun with leftovers found in the dark corners of old and dusty archives.
Benoit: As Marija said it is very hard to stay focused on a single project. Personally I believe that living in the right environment/space is crucial. After many years of moving around (which has been incredible and I feel blessed for it), I feel it is time to find space and time to be free to experiment in. To answer your question, a very big dream of mine is to find a beautiful little piece of land and to build my own little house upon it. Nothing big but something right. I often daydream about it—where I would build this and that, only to change my mind later when I figure out the original idea wouldn’t work. Using my imagination and constantly reading and learning about it, I see it as an ultimate creative project!