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AndersonVision interviews the Animators behind the Oscar-Nominated Loving Vincent


Loving Vincent is nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards. The ceremony airs Sunday night at 8 pm EST. While film nerds prepare for their Super Bowl, AndersonVision provides a look at the talent behind the animated scenes with two members of the production team. While Coco and The Boss Baby dominate the American attention space, dare to go past the Cineplex with your animated tastes.

The Interview


ANDERSONVISION) How do you feel about the film’s reception? Will this open Western animation to more stylized films like Loving Vincent?


ANNA: I think that the type of animation we created was very well received. For the first time, we could feel it at the world premiere of the film at the Annecy Animation Festival, where after the screening, the thousand strong audience honored us with a ten-minute standing ovation! It was the first public screening of the film so their appreciation of the technique in which the film was made was very significant for us, and we could not have expected a better reaction.


The film we made about Vincent is painted in the style of his painting, for Dorota- the director of the film, Van Gogh was the only choice but the technique of painting animation gives us enormous possibilities. Depending on the skills of Painting Animators, painting can be painted in any painting style, from any era and painting trend. For example, they can be painters specializing in a realistic style, who painted black and white shots for the film. They proved their skills leaving some of the viewers in utter disbelief  that the shots were actually painted so i think this will open the world of animation to more stylized films like ours.


AV) Take us through how each of you would approach a scene.


ANNA: I was in the team supervising the work of painters, one of the six supervisors for 120 painters. We worked to maintain the artistic coherence of the entire project, with so many painters it required serious concentration. Each of us supervisors had their group of painters, for which he or she was responsible. In my group there were painters involved in character animation, Margaret Gatchet from all scenes, Dr. Gatchet, Doctor Mazery, some of scenes with Armand and Tanguy. We had an interesting task to be able to lead them to be the most faithful imitation of Van Gogh’s style, as well as them to be similar to each other with the style of van Gogh. As supervisors, we held daily meetings with the director, where we discussed the corrections and guidelines for the further work of the animators. Dorota Kobiela the director was not able to control the progress of the work of so many painters from day to day, so we were in sense translators. Work on a given scene required the preparation of appropriate references followed by a selection of the paintings we were going to use from this I developed the Key Frame this painting was then photographed and would be the basis from what all the other artists would paint. I worked with painters from my group above the first frame, with the first frame of my animator ready to go after the correction or approval to the director. Once the animators got to work it was my task was to accept each animation frame I had to check for mistakes or oversights this was the way I kept the continuity throughout all of my group.


AV) What was your connection to Van Gogh before working on the film and how did it change?


ANNA: I knew the painter’s work from studying art history, so his paintings were not unknown to me. I have always admired Vincent for the different view of reality. A seemingly ordinary landscape he was able to render in so many beautiful, sophisticated colors. In portraits we can find colors that we cannot see in the real world, yet van Gogh, despite depressive states, painted the world in surprisingly positive colors.


With the beginning of work on the film, studying the work of Van Gogh and communing a minimum of 8 hours a day with his style, there was an interesting phenomenon in my head. I started to see the world around me everyday transformed into his style. The people I talked to had brush strokes typical of Van Gogh, the texture of the paint on the face was similar to seeing the space. I began to see the world through the prism of the Vincent van Gogh it was almost like I  began to see through his eyes. I think that it helped me a lot later in creating key frames, which other painters had to follow.


Some of Van Gogh’s paintings had to be adapted to the format we used in the film. Vincent painted pictures of different size, sometimes we had to extend the perspective of seeing, for example add extra background. Sometimes we had to design a new color scheme for the image. The action of the film happens in the hot summer, and for example, as the only reference we had a Vincent painting from the winter season. Painting my key frames was the most creative task for me during the production of the film, in a sense I had to become Van Gogh, the decisions on the combination of colors, directions of the applied paint belonged to me, on the one hand I was copying his work, but also creating. I learned a lot when working on the film and certainly his style and technique will affect my further work, moreover, I often observe other artists who worked on the film and I see the influence of Vincent’s painting in their courage to choose color and their he way of applying paint.


AV) As a Painting Supervisor, how much of a final say did you have on the film’s aesthetic?


ANNA: As I already mentioned, thanks to the design of key frames, I had a very big impact on the visual effect of the film. For the film we had to redesign some of Van Gogh’s paintings, ensure coherence between the paintings, because Vincent painted on canvass of various size and the format on the screen must be the same. We also changed the color scheme of some of the works, because the film takes place in the hot summer of 1890, and not all the paintings have the right colors. This work required a lot of experience, knowledge of van Gogh’s painting technique and creativity. It was my next feature when creating the movie, I think the most important thing. Painting a key frame – conceptual images were very important, because the rest of the animators follow them. Of course, Dorota Kobiela was a decision-maker but I am grateful to her because she had a lot of confidence in me and gave me a lot of freedom in creating them. For this task I had to feel van Gogh, start thinking like him, see the world through his eyes. For the consistency of shots in the film, the creation of a key frame was very important, because on such a picture I determined the number of colors, the order of paint, the directions of the brush stroke, so that the rest of the animators knew exactly how to work.


In the film, we used 94 original paintings and 40 redesigned, of which about 20 are designed by me. Shot with the turning Vincent, the transformation from a black and white shot into color was my first shot, the first animation I painted for the film. I painted it as a test and that painting is the cover of the DVD and on every poster and billboard around the world as well as all the merchandise. If somebody told me a few years ago that the picture I’m going to paint will be shown in big formats on billboards around the world I would not believe it. I was chosen from among 5000 painters and artists for me its a very big achievement to paint a picture that would be the icon of an Oscar nominated film.


AV) How do you feel about the film’s Oscar chances?

ANNA: When I was working on the film, many people told me that we are creating something amazing. At that moment I focused on creating the best possible shots, getting the best visual effect, I did not think as far as getting Oscar for our work. It is a great joy and satisfaction for me that the film is received with such enthusiasm, gets so many awards and nominations. I am very happy with the nomination and do we have a chance to get an Oscar? We compete with big productions, beautiful animations, ours certainly stands out with uniqueness, I have already received my prize, which is a significant contribution of my artistic skills and I keep my fingers crossed.


AV)  What do you hope that movie audiences will take away from the film:

ANNA: I hope that through the film we will introduce the audience to the personality of the painter, his devotion and genius, that people will not associate him only through the prism of a crazy genius who cut off his ear and was in a psychiatric hospital that he would also look at him as a sensitive man who through art he found a way to make the world more beautiful. Besides what is very important for me, people will not only get to know the facts of his life but will be absorbed in the world of his paintings, which I hope will stay with them for longer


AV)  What are you working on next?


ANNA: At this point, I’m working on an exhibition of my painting and sculpting works, but in the near future I plan to start working with BreakThru Films studio on a new film project, where I hope we can raise the bar a little higher. I would be leaving the reference, animating shots in largely from the imagination, but what and how will we see. One thing I know for sure is that absolutely everything is possible when you put your focus and heart into it!



AV) How do you feel about the film’s reception?

PIOTR: I knew from the beginning it will be something special but I didn’t expect it to be that well received. Especially by the audience. I heard many stories about people crying at the cinema. Even my parents when left the cinema met a woman who was just literally crying (sobbing), she was so much touched with the movie. That was really unexpected.

Will this open Western animation to more stylized films like Loving Vincent?

I hope so.

AV) Take us through how each of you would approach a scene.

PIOTR: It depends to which stage of filmmaking you are talking about. We had a different aproach and different goals at the pre-production time and different during the production time. We have been focusing on many things but always the highest quality was most important.
It also depends to what part of my job we are referring to. If I would speak as a painting supervisor my main approach was to keep all animations smooth and clear without any mistakes. A good information flow and control over painters work was very important. In terms of painting and animating a shot (as you may know I was also animating some shots) right after it was reviewed and discussed with Dorota, I was focusing on preperations to paint the first frame. This part was and will be very important to me because I prefer not to distract my attention to a missing color or lack of references or anything else during the painting process. Once I start to paint and animate it is all that matters.

AV) What was your connection to Van Gogh before working on the film and how did it change?

PIOTR: My connection with van Gogh took place in New York in Oct 5 2007 at Metropolitan Musum of Art. I went there to see mostly french impressionism and while going through the museum halls and watching all that famous Monets and Manets I came quite impassive to a room with Vincent van Gogh and suddenly I stood still. In that moment I was touched… with those colors and brushstrokes, I just couldn’t stop watching. I spent 6 hours in the museum and was late for my bus to Provincetown but it was worth it.

AV) What was your favorite scene to work on?

PIOTR: I will answer in a contrarian way. My favorite shot could have been the one with Vincents face reflecting in the water… but…it was not, because I was supervising at that time and just couldn’t paint. Also this shot was storyboarded as a color version and later it came to be a black and white.
I felt it would be a good challenge to animate such a liquid but deformed human face with oil paints.


AV) How do you feel about the film’s Oscar chances?

PIOTR: We win…even if we won’t get the statuette 🙂

AV)  What do you hope that movie audiences will take away from the film:

PIOTR: Something unique, handmade and one of a kind… not just another cg animation using the same tricks in every movie.

AV) What are you working on next?

PIOTR: Something unique, handmade and one of a kind… haha, just different from Vincent van Gogh. But seriously, the last weeks and months were basically filled with Loving Vincent work. Exhibitions, festivals, premieres and shows going along with the movie. We painted a mural in Annecy, Helsinki and now in Tel Aviv, I joined festivals in Holland, Germany, Croatia, Czech Republic or Belgium and more. It seems Vincent still didn’t say his last word.

Loving Vincent is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and iTunes.

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