Logorama, the Oscar winning short animation, written and directed by Ludovic Houplain, Francois Alaux and Hervé de Crécy is a crime noir epic set in a re-invented Los Angeles. Mascots and logos make up this fantasy with a diverse cast of exciting characters carved out of well-known brands. These French filmmakers have set themselves apart with their unique blend of onscreen wit and gangster like charm, giving depth to their animated heroes .
Behind the scenes of this masterpiece is an intriguing story of technical achievement, from visuals to sound design and the devotion of the H5 team. Discover how this film came to be with our interview with director Ludovic Houplain.
Iain: Where did you get your visual ideas?
Ludovic: There are visual ideas, and a concept. The concept is based on the logos and the visual ideas are the associations of ideas between the different logos.
It was like a game of lego and we were looking for the most interesting combinations that were the most funny and controversial. We also had a choice in terms of logos in regards to how we would use them for the image, therefore we categorized a list of logos in relation to how we would represent them on screen. We needed to place people, trees, objects, decoration and cars, and within designated folders. For example under vegetation we would have flower, tree, visual objects, and in an another, weaponry and so on. From this point our selection was concentrated with a multiple choice, such as weapons, with over 10 different kinds.
From this point we knew our characters, such as Michelin, and each character had their own identifiable weapon.
For example we told ourselves that with MacDonalds, this symbol of capitalism confronting that of the 70s European communist revolutionaries would be quite fun to do. After that, we went into associations, which provoked a certain kind of child-like humor; doing something forbidden that would be subversive in any case!
Iain: Did you have any mentors or guides who helped Logorama succeed?
Ludovic: Not really, it was more the opposite where people told us not to do it. But the more we told ourselves not to do it, the more we wanted to, and to a certain point we gathered this momentum where everyone was saying, well it would be actually quite fun to do this film. It’s a bit against the rules, against multinational corporations and we got the impression it was a film that a lot of people wanted to make.
After we started, once the film had been drawn up in terms of aesthetics, but not in terms of sound, we started to meet people. The project was really helped by H5 and different associations and post-production companies such as Canal+ but people really got into the subject. Up to that point, lawyers were telling us not to put logos in there, and that it was too dangerous.
Coming back to the sound, when people started to put work into the project, there we met some interesting people like Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk, Because Music CEO Emmanuel De Buretel (Label of Justice) , Charlotte Gainsbourg. RSA (Little Minx) really helped in the process of finishing Logorama. They hooked us up with Michael Costigan and Michael Ellenberg who run Scott Free. They both had some constructive comments on how to tie it all together so that Logorama made sense as a story. Rhea then hooked us up with Elia Infascelli, an agent at Endeavor who got Greg Pruss, the writer for David Fincher on board to write the dialogue for us. She also brought in an editor, sound design, score and mixing as well as lining up all the actors who did the voice overs on Logorama including David Fincher who she had worked with at Propaganda Films.
Iain: What were some of the animation techniques used in the film?
Ludovic: Firstly, it’s a system called rotoscoping. We had a very colorful, sweet like image. We wanted it to be dry and realistic to counterbalance the Haribo side of it. We filmed ourselves. Francois played a lot of the roles, and has a natural ability to do so. I played a few, Hervé as well, and my son Anatole playing the role of the small boy and Haribo. Charlotte was playing the waitress, and in our entourage we surrounded ourselves with people who were filming in different scenes that were referenced for the edit and uploaded to Maya, using this software to render animations. This is where we had the image on the left with the image of what we filmed, the inert characters and from that point a Skelton would be placed on the image, through the use of keying our footage, giving us a realistic looking animation.
Iain: How did you apply for the Oscars?
Ludovic: By chance! Honestly, this was the work of the delegated producer who did the inscription. There were 35000 subscriptions in which there was a selection of 32 that we made, and we told ourselves this wasn’t bad! Honestly, we thought it would stop there. After that we were nominated and even after, we thought there was no reason for us to have it. Everyone told us the Oscars was a classic institution, giving Oscars to people who already had one or more conceptual films. There was Nick Park, the father of Wallace and Gromit, who had been nominated 4 times and for me he should have been the one to win because what he does is superb.
Even when we were there at the Oscars, the applause was so loud that we didn’t even hear that Logorama was announced and I had the impression people were still applauding Nick Park.
I find California or Los Angeles in particular very ‘spectateur’. We always get an impression that we are in a film. The Oscars is the same, but with a rigorous protocol with the red carpet, women in $150,000 robes, bodyguards and their earpieces every 5 meters including police everywhere; a bit like the G-20 summits. So in all we are emerged into this, and we took as much information with our eyes as possible or pics with our I-phones. For the whole evening I was disconnected from that fact that I had received the Oscar with Hervé and Francois because I was trying to see everything. I was telling myself this is a unique occasion and I might not come back a 2nd time. I have to make the most of it!
Iain: Do you have any advice for independent filmmakers wanting to get Oscar nominated?
Ludovic: I can’t give advice on how to enter but I think that it s down to luck. I think Logorama was successful not because of the mise-en-scene but because I think it’s really through a strong idea. Stay true to your ideas, never let go of them and you need to be strong about why they are relevant despite what producers, lawyers and post-production houses tell you.
Iain: How did you celebrate your Oscar win?
Ludovic: On the phone! I spent so much time on the phone, responding to text messages and we were saying to each other how did these people get our numbers? For example the boss of France 3 called me and I asked him how he got my number, and after that a lot of friends, and it was a pleasure to get that. After that we drank a lot of champagne.
Iain: What projects would you like to work on in the future?
Ludovic: There are several, some already in motion. For me there is a project I want to do with musicians that could be more in the lines of The Wall by Pink Floyd; sound and image mixing together. In the last concerts I went I found that there is this connection between sound and image and feel like there would be a good balance between live music and visuals. There are other short films, but to do them takes time and I need to believe in them. I think we find it hard to do things without a specific aesthetic or without a motive. To keep that is important.
For example if I was asked to do a blockbuster I would first not believe it, and even then to animate it, for example if people asked me to go do DreamWorks to animate lizards who jump from tree to tree, would not interest me. I think we can do more animation geared to adults, and that is where I want to go.
It’s important to do projects, even if they fail. Sometimes we fail but sometimes we succeed!
To find out more about Logorama click here