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Happiness from animation

Animation is magic

AW: Compared to other media, what part of animation is attracting you as a medium and what made you work for animation?

DB: I love movies. When I was a kid, I really loved watching TV and movies. I also really like music and songs. Music is for me one of the strongest art form, it can really affect me. I also love drawing. I love the fact that you can imagine something and draw it. It’s almost like magic. For me, animation is a perfect medium because it combines the 2 art forms I love: music and drawing. The timing is really close to the music. Actually it’s more the sound. Sound has many powerful aspects that even science is discovering now. It’s a little bit abstract. For me, animation is the best medium to combine drawings and sound and music. That creates magical effects.

When I was kid, I saw Fantasia (1940) by Disney. It had a very intense effect on me. It was not possible to do that with anything else but animation. You couldn’t do a film like that in live action. This magical side of animation that you can combine with fantasy and your imagination, but it’s moving and alive. So I prefer animation to illustration.

I really wanted to become an illustrator or painter, I have hundreds of art books at home that inspired me. For me, it’s a starting point. Illustrations and drawings are starting points. What amazing is to see those illustrations starting to become alive. For the first time, when I saw my animation playing, it looked so alive. It was not like a narcissistic saying. I was feeling really humble at the same time, I was so happy. I still do. I feel good. When I have an idea, I visualise and imagine it. When I get to the point that I finally get what I imagined, it’s such a rewarding and amazing feeling. I think all the animators would agree that we become addicted to this feeling of happiness. We are so happy to create what we have imagined. It’s like a natural high. When we are in a very focused state of mind, it’s like being in outer space. It’s called being in the “zone”. You find yourself in such an intense concentration that you lose the perception of time and space and you are just creating, animating, imagining, adjusting, feeling… It’s magical.

“This is why I chose animation”

DB: I remember when I was younger, it was like I could do this job for free. It can bring me so much satisfaction. I was feeling like I didn’t need to eat or sleep if I could get this satisfaction. But life is life and we all need to eat and sleep and pay the bills. I became an animator but I think any type of creative job brings with it this level of satisfaction. It’s addictive. People just want it again. This is why you jump into it quickly again. People say about somebody “oh, he’s hard working”, but I think that it’s more like a continuous quest for this joy and satisfaction of creation. We want to feel that satisfaction again and again. It’s so intense that we can work for hours to get there again. It’s kind of a weird job but I’m really happy when I get to this level of flow even now. This is priceless. Once you feel this joy, the “flow”, you just want to feel it again and again. I’m sure that a lot of creative people would agree on that. So this is why I chose animation. It’s for the high feeling of that. I’m not religious, but when I have experience of this feeling of super high happiness, I can’t help but think, “if God exists, this is maybe how it feels to be the Creator”.

“The feeling of ultimate creativity”

DB: I try to teach students in a way that they can also feel that satisfaction. During the course, it can be very stressful, demanding and there can be a lot of pressure. You need to reach that level of quality and quantity, but if you can manage to get this satisfaction, I think it’s really good. This is what I always keep in mind. This is the reason why I chose this job. This is not for fame. I don’t care if my name is on a big film or if I work for a big studio. I may be different from other creative people. I really try to keep this. It could happen to any type of project. I don’t have to work for a Pixar movie to be happy. That’s not my type. Just this feeling of ultimate creativity is enough for me.

Career development

From the first project to the next

AW: Could you please tell us about your career? What is your first project you took part in as a professional?

DB: My first project was at Ubisoft®. It was their first 3D video game. It was a prototype of Rayman 3D. It was called Tonic Trouble. It was a very small success. Because of this video game, they had experience to do Rayman 3D and managed to do their main title. I always have an affection for them. They gave me my first chance to work. They have a place in my heart. I don’t know if such a chance still exists nowadays.

AW: What kind of projects have you got involved in after that?

DB: I’ve been involved in all types of projects. It goes from video games, commercials, music videos, institutional movies like companies do, which is not for the public, TV series, feature films and short films, and author movies. I think I covered all the types. In Paris, animation is a big industry. I don’t know if it’s the biggest industry in Europe… Maybe it is. In the UK, it’s more VFX: integration of animation in live action movies. In Paris, we have the biggest industry: TV series, 3D commercials, feature film and video games, so there’s a lot of work opportunities.

Actually, I was pretty happy with my carrier in Paris. I never really wanted to leave. It was not my goal. Again it just happened. I had an opportunity. I was proposed to go to Norway to work, which I did. It always happens like this. I work and I’m happy and I get an offer from another company or another studio, or a co-worker gives my contact details to the companies.

“If it’s a ‘no’, you move on to the next”

DB: For the first five years of my carrier, I had to actively look for jobs. I was calling studios and I was asking around. For the first five years, I was very unsecure and always scared of the future. Would I be able to find the next project?  Then something happened. People remembered me. I was working in many different companies. People started to call me because they enjoyed working with me. They liked me as a person and liked my work or both. Since then I really never had to look for jobs. It started to come to me instead, and this was really rewarding. But there can be a negative side to that. You can become lazy to update your curriculum or CV very often, people who already know you don’t ask you to show your latest work or CV so you don’t really think about updating it. I remember when my friend told me, “They are hiring in Japan, you should apply and just send me your CV and your reel”. And I was like “Oh, no. My CV and my reel are three years old”. I had to do something super quickly. So it has a downside. I now try to update my work every two years.

AW: How did you get those opportunities?

DB: Most of them came to me. As I said, for the first five years you use your network. You talk around. You ask your colleagues. You are not afraid to ask, or at least you try to not be afraid to ask. Some people hesitate to ask whether you have jobs for me, but to ask is the way in the industry. Not being afraid to fail. Just to ask and if it’s “yes”, it’s good. If it’s “no”, you move on to the next. That’s all. It’s OK to ask. People are honest and sincere and are capable of direct communication without being too shy.

Being inspired by interactions with co-workers

AW: What do you find the most interesting and fun in your jobs when you work for animation?

DB: On top of the things I talked about, I really enjoy interactions with my co-workers. I can have so much inspiration from my co-workers because we don’t have the same background and we don’t have the same personality. But we share the same passion for this job. We share something. From this place we can exchange so many things with my co-workers. We share a lot in music tastes and discover so many great artists in music through my co-workers or books and literatures. Through people I worked with, I got to know aspects of other types of arts that made my life richer. I also shared my tastes and my love for Japan which all my friends know. I made some of them discover Wadaiko (Japanese percussion instruments) or some stuff like this. That’s a great opportunity to be able to work in a team with people.

The best for me is to work in an international team. It’s like plus plus. You share and you work for art. Usually people in animation and creative industry are very sensitive. Sometimes they are geeks but I like it. We are very sensitive. We care a lot about small things, art and psychology. It’s almost endless. This is a very interesting part of the job as an animator. In an international team, you can get to know the different cultures without moving. You get so many inputs, which is great.

“The only competition that actually could exist is within yourself to try to be the best as you can every day”

AW: What kind of difficulties did you face in your jobs if you have any? How did you overcome these difficulties?

DB: I don’t like to work with very competitive people. It’s a personal evolution but it’s not right to be very competitive in animation. I also don’t like that the competition is installed by the people in charge of the company. I don’t like it at all. The only competition that actually could exist is within yourself to try to be the best as you can every day. When I’m in the team with a type of person like a warrior saying “This is a war and we have to fight because all other companies are making movies and you should be the best and our country should be the best”. I just hate this type of situation. I usually don’t stay in those studios. It’s very rare but it happens. I like people that are sincere but people cannot take them too seriously because they are not saving the world. They are doing movies. They should not be like “I’m the king of the world”. That’s a little bit nonsense. That’s the most difficult part.

AW: How did you overcome it?

DB: I did not stay. Of course, I stayed until the end of the project. The good thing about my job is that I always have a contract per project. When the project is finished it’s like “bye-bye”. We don’t have to stay if we don’t want to. In the beginning, I thought it’s very difficult because I was not self-confident and the new job was very stressful. But now I’m very happy like this. Nobody is really my boss. I’m like a Ronin (∗4), a Samurai without a master. I think “Ronin” is an old name for a freelancer. I kind of like it. Maybe there are more difficulties, but I don’t remember now. It’s not difficulty. It’s just like when I face this kind of atmosphere in a studio and a team. It’s not really productive and I feel like I’m in an army.

∗4: Ronin: When Samurai, people who was a warrior or the class of Bushi in Japan about more than 150 years ago, lost his lord to serve or the lord stripped the Samurai of his position, hence the Samurai was called a Ronin. Ronin has two means generally. Firstly, a Samurai who is seeking his new lord. Secondly, a Samurai who enjoys freedom by keeping not to serve any lord.

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