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Globetrotters - Paul Demeyer

18 juli 2008
On a regular basis, the Globetrotters column will feature a profile of Flemish animation professionals working abroad. The sixth to receive a portrait is Paul Demeyer.
LOCATION Los AngelesAGE 56EDUCATION 1975, Royal Academy of Fine Arts Ghent: animation - 1977, California Institute of the Arts: Master of Fine Arts in Film GraphicsFIRST RECOLLECTION OF AN ANIMATED MOVIE Sleeping Beauty (1959, Walt Disney)FAVOURITE ANIMATION SHORT I can’t say I have one favorite, favorites change anyway. So much good work gets created in schools these days. When I was a student we were still the cavemen of animation, having to develop our line tests on 16mm hicon film etc. The cell and other techniques were really crude compared to what can be achieved today with the digital recording and manipulation of drawings or with CG animation. The first time I went to Annecy in the early 70’s I was overwhelmed and totally inspired by the shorts of so many animators. Those that come to mind are George Dunning, Bruno Bozetto, Alison De Vere, Paul Driessen, Frédéric Back, Richard Condy, Zbigniew Rybczynski, Youri Norstein and many, many more. New talent shows up every year, how can one decide on a favorite...FAVOURITE ANIMATION FEATURE Probably Spirited Away.PREFERRED ANIMATION TECHNIQUE What works for the project.AWARDS Student Films Academy Award for The Muse (1977), Best Children’s Film (The Goose Girl) at the Los Angeles International Animation Celebration (1991), and many more. Was moving to the United States an obvious choice? Would you recommend it to young Flemish animation talents? I don’t recommend it to anybody. We all have our own destiny, or let’s say the individual has to find what is right for him or her. When I was about to finish my degree in Belgium I felt I wasn’t ready to go and work at the available studios in Ghent or Brussels. I needed some adventure, time for discovery. Eastern Europe felt too oppressed at the time, the UK and France didn’t seem as interesting in the educational field at the time either, and I looked into the possibilities in the US. Despite the Vietnam War and the usual European prejudices I felt like the States gave room to breathe and that there was a fresher look at life in general. In 76 or 77 I went to the Experimental Film Festival in Knokke (I think it was its last year in existence) and saw a film by Adam Beckett and Jules Engel from Cal Arts. I knew it was the place for me to go. What I love about the United States is its positive attitude and creativity. But that is not what everybody might see. The lifestyle is very different to that of the Europeans, the culture is different, the reference frame is different, one has to take the totality of this into account and a lot of Europeans find it hard to adhere to it. The goose GirlIn ‘89 I finished a short film, The Goose Girl. I had done 5 years of commercials at Richard Purdum Productions in London and decided I wanted to tell stories instead. A few years later I got offered a job at Klasky-Csupo in Hollywood to direct a new TV show called Duckman, that was my ticket to get into the long form animation. How did you experience the transition from 2D to 3D? As a director that was quite easy. I never learned to work in Maya or any other 3D animation software. However as a 2D director I just took my film making skills with my experience in design, storyboarding and animation and applied it in 3D. In fact it was more fun as I could do many camera moves not dreamt of in 2D and I found that changes in animation are way faster and easier to achieve. However I still do 2D projects and enjoy that very much. You were involved with the Rugrats for quite a while. Did you enjoy co-directing Rugrats in Paris? For under a year I was creative producer on the third season of Rugrats but I missed the hands on directing. So I went onto the first Rugrats Movie as a sequence director and enjoyed getting back to proper animation work. After that I was asked to direct the second movie, The Rugrats in Paris. The production schedule was so short that I felt I would need a reliable co-director and with Hal Waite, the producer, we thought Stig Bergqvist would be a good match. The job was not as enjoyable as I expected. I was not involved with the writing of the script until we started production with a script that still had many problems. There were too many plots that were distracting from the story, too much adult stuff and so on. But we started boarding anyway. We had so many cooks at that level of production that I felt like I was directing a giant commercial. I had to please a client, first the studio owners Gabor and Arlene, then the production bosses of both Nickelodeon and Paramount. As the film was based on an existing TV show it was not like we were directing a picture with a deep felt personal message, it was about staying true to the characters and telling a story well and in an entertaining fashion. In the end Stig and I really spent all our energy on telling the story well (translating it from script into storyboard), directing the animation lay-out (the animation was done in Korea), calling animation retakes, directing the editing, the art design and sound effects and music. I learned a lot in the process, but what I knew was that I wasn’t going to direct someone else's movie again. Too hard a job for too little reward. The next film I’d direct would be one that I would co-write and where I would be the creative force of the project. Well, at least that’s what I hope to do with the 2 scripts I co-wrote with a writer friend. Now we hope to get the projects off the ground! Do you still stay in touch with colleagues and former school colleagues in Flanders? And do you still teach? Yes, I still see friends in Belgium when I visit. Not as much as I would like, but there is only so much time and it flies by pretty fast. Over a year ago I had lunch with Raoul Servais, my brother Jean-Marie and his colleagues of the animation department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent.I still teach. I used to go to Cal Arts one day a week for a few years and teach storyboarding. Now I teach half a day a week at the animation department of USC, famous for its film department. It’s sometimes difficult with the other work but I love teaching, sharing what I learned over the years, it’s like giving back. You just started working for a new company, Wild Canary. Will you be doing both commercials and broadcast entertainment projects? We’re doing commercials now, I will continue developing one of my film projects this autumn. There are other projects cooking. We’ll see what happens. LINKS Fragment from The Goose Girl Wild Canary