All too often love as depicted on screen falls into the trap of feeling clichéd and uninspired with the same tropes reused time after time, never bringing any new perspectives to the table. Luckily, Marseille-based Motion Designer Joseph Blanc provides a reprieve from the typical, with his painterly, emotionally gripping music video, This Mess Won’t Make Itself for London’s Dead Seem Old. Once I saw this beautifully expressive film I needed to know more. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to catch up with Joseph and delve into the motivations and techniques which led to this deeply affecting piece of cinematic romance.
There’s a four year gap between this film and your shadow puppet style music video Babe’s Lair. How would you say your animation technique has developed between the two films? Have there been other unreleased projects you’ve worked on in the intervening years?
Four years ago, with the music video Babe’s Lair, I went to create an animation for the first time. I previously had made some Flash animation, but nothing close to this. Although I love Lotte Reiniger, the main reason I used the ‘shadow theatre’ style is because I thought it was easy to implement. In some ways, it was a technical constraint. After that, I decided to push my own limits, and do something more elaborate. I have spent a lot of time experimenting. Indeed, there were some other projects during this period, especially one, but I failed to achieve them.
How did the chance to collaborate with Dead Seem Old come about?
Thom, from Dead Seem Old, had seen Babe’s Lair. He asked me if I was interested in working together. I had loved his first single, They Won’t Find Us, and the new release This Mess Won’t Make Itself really rung a chord with me. Thom wanted a music video which looked like a fairy tale. And he had another wish, he did this to see a couple dancing. Otherwise, I was given carte blanche. But I soon realised it would be painful to animate two people dancing. Leaving aside the difficulty to have smooth, realistic and stylish animation, I had to create a choreography. I spent hours on YouTube, watching modern dance performances to find inspiration, especially Kate Bush’s music videos. Slowly, I was beginning to visualise my own moves. Finally, it was a pleasant experience.
The film description includes the dedication “To my beloved wife… P”, is this a story inspired by actual events?
As a matter of fact, my wife can understand more than anybody the meaning and purpose of this story! I put a lot of myself into it, featuring this couple pushing and pulling away from each other. But the main source of inspiration is the song itself.
I like the bleak atmosphere, this feeling of insecurity, where everything could happen.
This Mess Won’t Make Itself, has a rich, painterly style, full of eye-catching imagery, what sources informed the film’s style?
Impressionist movies never cease to inspire me. I love Murnau, and Sunrise in particular. I like the bleak atmosphere, this feeling of insecurity, where everything could happen. I had in mind Edward Hopper’s paintings. I really wanted the video to look like a painting. Usually, I don’t really like 3D. I find it unemotional. I wanted something roughly, like a brush stroke, without much detail, something impressionistic.
There’s a real grace and elegance to the couple’s movements, how did you achieve such fluidity?
The animation was hand keyed. For instance, I spent almost one month to achieve this specific move in the attic, when the guy turned the girl around and threw her on the ground.
It does indeed feel very much like a handcrafted piece of work. What other production methods are behind the film?
Everything is in 3D, but I composited each single element in After Effects. So maybe it’s more appropriate to say 2.5D. I spent time polishing the lighting, trying to create a specific vibe, something a little dark and disturbing. I used OctaneRender, and I attempted to make the render the most realistic I could. It may be paradoxical, because after that I reworked all my elements one by one to scratch them, to make them dirty and oily. The backgrounds were designed in the same way and widely retouched with Photoshop.
Are you looking to branch out into other areas beyond music videos for future projects?
I love to make music videos! And If I have some time, maybe I’ll start to work on a short movie.