Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier • Directors
by Domenico La Porta
25/05/2012 - Young director Benjamin Renner teamed up with Belgium's Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier (Panique au Village [trailer, film focus]) to make the adaptation of the children's books Ernest and Célestine [trailer, film focus]. The film was screened at the Directors' Fortnight, where Cineuropa met the three authors.
Cineuropa : Did you have to try to find a tone that spoke to children as much as to adults ?
Stéphane Aubier : Having read Daniel Pennac's script it all came quite naturally. We worked towards something that would above all make Vincent, Benjamin and myself laugh, in keeping with the spirit of the original books and with respect to the screenwriter, but without really asking ourselves who the film was aimed at.
Children's books author Gabrielle Vincent, screenwriter Daniel Pennac and you 3 all influenced the story. How did you bring together all these contributions from the authors?
Vincent Patar : There were some things in the script which were very well written but difficult to transpose to animation if we wanted to remain dynamic. We had to adapt, change, re-write...
Benjamin Renner : Daniel Pennac entrusted us with his script with a carte blanche to bring it to life, but without adapting it, we would have lost some of his intentions. If we take the scene of the burglary as it is written in the script, it's a long Mission Impossible-style sequence which would have been too heavy a digression in the general tone of the film. We made something else of it by only showing the outside part of the building and shadows moving behind the windows, so as to keep the idea without changing the general rhythm.
Stéphane Aubier : There was great pressure from the fact that Gabrielle Vincent has always been against her books being adapted right up to her death. She didn't like any of the suggestions made to her. It was therefore very important to us and for the production team to respect the spirit of the books by distancing ourselves from these fruitless attempts. The whole team was very passionate about Gabrielle Vincent's work and our film was always conceived as tribute to her work.
How did you work on movement ?
Benjamin Renner: From the beginning of the project, I started creating some small flash animations which I then sent to the producer. It was very basic, but Ernest and Ernest and Célestine's postures were already those of the film. Everything was then refined, but not too much, to preserve a very spontaneous feel, something we all agreed on.
What is more Benjamin, Vincent and Stéphane came into the project with an experience of animation which didn't match the technique used in the film...
Vincent Patar: For 10 years we have been playing with our little animated figures in stop motion for Panique au village and we immediately liked the idea of coming back to a more traditional animation technique.
Stéphane Aubier: We had never done any flash animation and it's also different to the traditional cartoon which we used in our short films. In the end, everyone learnt a lot while working on Ernest et Célestine.
Why are you sticking with animation without even considering live action ?
Vincent Patar: Stop motion comes quite close to directing live action. You can place the camera where you like, change the angle if the one in the story board is not right as it happened to us all the time on Panique au village where the models are on real stages.
Stéphane Aubier: It has to be said that when we have an idea, it's obviously associated to a form of animation. I don't see any other way of translating it and I'm aware that it's a different type of craft, one which is different to a director of real shots who is more likely to lose control of his film. We like to get every single detail right.