We had the pleasure to talk to director Mathieu Georis about the making of his film Alfred Fauchet, Here and There, one of the finest surrealist short films to surface in the last years. As expected, talking to the artist is as interesting as watching the film itself. If you enjoyed the short film, and especially if it left you with questions and amused, this interview is for you.
How did you come up with the idea for the short film? Is it related to Alfred Faucher, the inventor of the rear-view mirror, brake light and blinker?
I was observing and drawing cars in the street. The film idea came up when I saw a car with faulty turn signals. The car showed that it intended to turn left and right at the same time as if the driver wanted to turn left but used his right indicator. I was thinking that the car and the driver were both distracted. They were each as bad as the other.
Alongside my graphic researches, I was learning about the early inventions linked to the car. This is where I found the name of my character. The invention that seduced me the most was Alfred Faucher’s one and how he decided to create the rear-view mirror. Alfred Faucher wrote: “I was driving a 25 HP Charron-Girardot and Vieft in the straight line from Villeneuve-Saint-Georges to Melun and was intending to overtake another car, when I saw on my windscreen, on which the sun was reflecting, a racing car driven by the great racer Fournier who was also about to pass me. I braked to avoid an accident. »
I drew my inspiration from his name and his story to build my screenplay. However, my character doesn’t invent a rear-view mirror but rather lost one and he is not overtaken by a car but a cyclist.
Could you please explain your directing choices?
I decided to choose the Walloon Brabant landscapes as the setting of my movie. In this Belgium
region, houses are mainly built in red bricks and located in the middle of intensively cultivated fields.
I wanted a quiet sober setting in order to not confuse the reading of the character’s
story on one hand, who’s multiplying himself, and on the other of the car that literally smashed. Walloon Brabant is a specific area politically created in 1993. The rural history and tradition are fading away in place of brand new houses which become dormitory-towns, victim of urban and demographic mutation.
Alfred Fauchet lives in this environment and the two only things he really cares about are his car and his house. If one day you take a walk in this area, you can find by chance some abandoned pieces of car on the side of the road: bumpers, hubcaps, bits of rubber…
The other setup is the container park. It is symbolic: we throw out our waste as if we’d want to give a part of ourselves up. Alfred Fauchet has cleaned and emptied his house and went to the park
to discard his bulky waste.
It is easier to stage the distraction of Alfred Fauchet in a container park: every time he throws out a bulky item, he forgets what he has done, what he is doing or what he still has to do. With Alfred’s multiplication, we can see what is happening in his head. That’s why I use afterwards large and wide shots. In that way, the spectators can get an overview of the situation and enjoy Alfred Fauchet’s wanderings.
It seems that the car is a kind of Alfred’s metaphor. The automobile doesn’t know which way to turn like Alfred’s mind. When the rear-view mirror goes away, it was as if Alfred Fauchet was wondering two things at the same time: going to the container park or fixing the rear-view mirror? When he arrives at the container park, he has to throw out so many things that his car moves linked to his thoughts: he is just throwing out some cardboard boxes and he is already thinking of throwing some other boxes away like the metal one even though he hasn’t finished emptying the first one yet.
When he arrives at the crossroads, the mirror hits his other mirror. When he passes the cyclist who has broken his first mirror earlier, his car splits completely up like a million little thoughts that he can no longer hold together. Alfred Fauchet ends up abandoned by his own car and objects.
Could you talk about your aesthetic choice, regarding the watercolor for the locations and characters and the stop-motion for the car. What was it like to work with these aesthetics all along the movie by animating the different elements that are part of it?
I chose the watercolor technique in order to represent the morning colors at their best. I didn’t want
the colors to be too bright and wanted to stay in fairly light tones. Watercolors enable to add a
transparent bluish shadow on each decor to preserve their harmony.
I wanted the action to take place over a single morning in order to see the colors changing the whole day and the shadows appearing and moving at the same time that the hours were flowing. In the foreground, for example, the sun rises and we can see the colors getting lighter and lighter between 22″ and 1’16”.
The car is the other central character in my story but I wanted to make a distinction between this automobile and the sets and the character of Alfred Fauchet. That’s why I animated it differently. After many experimentations in 3D and 2D techniques – I had built a car first in cardboard and then in paper – I finally opted for the existing toy.
I noticed that the car matched well with the watercolor: it stood out and it blended at the same time
with the decor. In order to ensure a good result, I made part of my animatics in stop motion on
I proceeded in the following order: I painted the decors first and then I animated the car on these decors. The animatics had to be very precise because I had to synchronize it with Alfred’s gestures: for example when he opened a door or closed his trunk.
To integrate the car into the setting, I animated it on a green background with Dragon Frame. I put the decors in transparency to make sure that the car blended in perfectly with it. Once the animation of the car was done, I drew Alfred Fauchet’s moves based on that animation.
In total I had three different cars. I destroyed one for the shots where the bodywork is scattering and another for the close-ups (the engine, the wheels, the roof and so on). There is one left which is still complete !
Any fun/interesting facts from the movie production that you’d like to share?
Alfred Fauchet’s house, the roads and the container park exist “in real life”. I was inspired by this setting in Walloon Brabant, because I live there and thought it was important to tell this story in a “real” place. I worked in the same way with the sound. It has been directly recorded in Walloon Brabant to stick as closely as possible to reality. Finally, the sound of the car you hear is neither red or an Audi coupé, it’s a Twingo.
Making of images: for those who enjoyed the film here are a number of images from its production, kindly provided by Mathieu Georis, that show additional research and a glimpse of the amount of work that went into the film. Click on the image below to start the slideshow.
Images are Copyright © 2018 La Cambre. Provided courtesy of Mathieu Georis. All rights reserved.