DN alum Julien Piau returns to our platform once more with his latest animated short GRIFFURE (or SCRATCH), the story of lonely forest occupants who fall victim to a deadly smell and become whisked away on a strange adventure. Piau has become a regular here with his innocent yet oddly surreal visual and narrative style. It’s a distinctly contrasting combination but it makes his work so intriguing and compelling as you never quite know what you’re going to get from scene to scene. DN is excited to premiere GRIFFURE on our pages today alongside a discussion with Piau which delves into how his relationship with his twin brother inspired the film’s story of loneliness and separation, the committed process of working continuously during the height of the pandemic to complete the animation, and the continued development and evolution of his singular aesthetic.
Where did you get the idea the story for GRIFFURE?
I first came with the idea of twin tigers in 2017. I wanted to tell a story about my twin brother and I, based on our relationship. I wrote my ideas and sketches in a notebook, once I had the complete adventure in mind, I began a storyboard in 2018.
I often woke up at 5am and I animated non-stop all day long.
What was your animation process? Were you able to find time on the film continuously or was it more of a side project?
For the animation I worked with a Cintiq graphic tablet and Photoshop. In 2019, I began with two minutes of animation. I had to cope with my alimentary job and the little free time I had. In 2020, the pandemic period and the lockdown gave me the opportunity to work full time on my film for the first time, it was a great boost. I often woke up at 5am and I animated non-stop all day long. In June 2020, most of the animation was done.
Aside from your name on the credits there’s the sound and music work too, two parts of production which feel crucial to telling GRIFFURE’s visually cute yet twisted story, who did you work with and at what stage did they come on board?
For the second time, I worked with two friends of mine on the sound. Flavien Delouche, a musician, who composed the original music and Antoine Ferté, a sound designer, did the sound effects and the sound-mixing of the film. They worked from July 2020 to May 2021.
You mentioned that the film is inspired by your relationship with your twin brother, how so?
My twin brother has been living in the United States for about fourteen years now and his departure from France has been a big failure in my heart as I had the sensation I would lose him. We were very close during our childhood like we imagine twins can be. As well as in my other film LE SOMMET BLEU the film speaks about our separation and the fear of loss, but in GRIFFURE it’s more about the idea that someone took him from me. Someone like a malignant person, who used its power to manipulate him and lead him into the abyss.
We’ve spoken before about your unique ‘cute’ yet dark tone, what is about those styles as a combination that keeps you coming back to them?
I think the dark tone in a cute atmosphere allows me to amplify the dramatic side of my stories. We don’t expect a tale with a cute appearance to delve into some kind of darker and sad story. I like the surprise it creates. I am also fascinated by children’s films with fantastic and horrific elements in them. For what I have to tell in my films, I find that this combination works well for now.
We don’t expect a tale with a cute appearance to delve into some kind of darker and sad story. I like the surprise it creates.
As my films progress, my stories are more complex and elaborate and I spend more time on them. I also find it easier to express what I want to tell and I have more ambitions when it comes to the scenery. I want my characters to evolve in different and new places. For example, it’s the first time with my film GRIFFURE where we see the main characters in their daily life. I was quite scared of the idea of making the interior of a house, but it was a great experience. I try to show more interactions between and with the different characters. Whether it is from a physical or psychological point of view.
You last mentioned to us that you were working on a VR animated project involving koalas, can you tell us anything more about that?
Oh yeah, I started the project with the koalas in 2020. I am building all the decor and animation in 3D with the software Quill using VR. The animated film project is called PLAN COSMIQUE. I like the idea of a new challenge because I had to relearn how to draw with this new tool. It’s a big project, I think the film will last about 10 minutes for all there is to say.
I decided to use VR because some scenery would be really too complex to make in 2D. I have a lot of complex interiors and outdoor decor to make for my film. It’s also the first time there are so many characters in one of my films. However, after making all the 3D plans animated with Quill which will serve as a skeleton for my film, I will redraw each plan with the software TVPaintAnimation in order to give the same 2D rendering as in my previous films. It will be a long project, but it’s progressing well.
And what else are you working on?
I’m mainly working on this new film PLAN COSMIQUE which requires a lot of my time, but I’m already starting to think about the next film!