Melbourne International Film Festival 2006 ( June 20-25 @ ACMI) struts into town with it another swagger of global animations, including Rosto’s from the Netherlands. Adapted from his graphic novel, which was in turn inspired by the music of his band, these digital shorts shine with a surreal deviance, and Rosto’s artist talk should be lively too: Sunday June 26, 6pm @ ACMI.
Bite his trailers, comics, music & more.
>Most musicians are happy soundtracking a film – what was it about your music that made you make a graphic novel and then an animation to accompany it?
This happened in a period in my life where I learned there was no real boundaries between different ways of expressing myself. There were stories in my music and that there were films in my stories and that everything was connected in a way. I decided that I didn’t just have media to share, but I had my world to share. Whenever I was doing music I had these visions. These songs were intuitively connected. It was just a matter of listening closely and reading the lyrics and then the stories and characters would reveal themselves.
>Do you still play music, and how has your animation of previous music, shaped your approaches now?
We are still working on the album with all the original songs that inspired “Mind My Gap”, but we quit playing live. We just enjoy making music together and capturing it. In a way the films have not influenced my approach to music too much, but their place in the “project” has. Sometimes I rework the lyrics or arrangements because the songs have a more obvious place in this universe. Originally they were intuitive and (almost) without any concept, but now all gaps are slowly closing and the songs become more part of this “album” instead of separate “singles”.
>If planning and executing a complex animation is akin to recording and sequencing, mastering an album in a studio – do you have any visual process equivalents to organic spontaneous musical jamming?
Not a big fan of spontaneous musical jamming and not very good at it. But my first reaction would be, that a documentary is probably closest to jamming, because it’s the most direct and un-designed way of film-making. Responding directly to events that present themselves and subsequently trying to discover a theme. My film “Anglobilly Feverson” was, production wise, very unorganized and unplanned: I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t plan how to get there. More about the road than the destination. Every day again I confronted myself and my team with the challenges the film presented. No storyboard, no time frame, no designs. Every day we had to be creative and respond to where the film was taking us. The big difference of course with live jamming, is that you can decide to throw failed or unappropriate experiments out the window. A live jam is undoable. With a film, in the end, every single ingredient is decided upon. No matter how spontaneously they come into existence.
>Have you tried incorporating live visuals with your music, and how well did that work?
Never tried that with The Wreckers, The Wreckers originally were a very basic rock and roll band, doing shitty versions of their favourite songs, pretending that it was their songs. It never became a theatrical or art performance. As soon as the Mind My Gap thing came together we decided to concentrate on the recordings and forget about the live representation of our ideas. But it might happen that this will come back in the (near) future.
>What are some of the challenges and pitfalls in translating a comic to animation?
Depends on the comic, on the spirit of the work. My films were just inspired by, or triggered by the graphic novel. “Anglobilly” is a more direct conversion from book to screen, but “Jona/Tomberry” just borrows motives and events from the novel and re-arranges them through which their context and meaning changes and shifts. There is no way of “translating” it directly, because a book is a completely different medium than a film. Most book-to-screen films fail to see that it’s impossible to translate the literal contents of a book to film, or with comics, to impose still imagery to animation.
>What’ve you thought of the recent spate of comics translated to film?
Not impressed. Even the films that get recognition and obviously have some kind of virtue (think “Sin City”) are not really good films. They seem to fail in capturing the thing (whatever this is) that makes the comic tick and use it as DNA for the film. It boils down to copying the aesthetics or reproducing the (usually flat) dialogues.
>What do you feel about the endless shifts towards ever more photo- realistic animation?
I get really tired with this digital rat-race of everybody trying to be the most innovative with digital media. My latest film “Jona/Tomberry” often doesn’t get appreciated in the right way, because audience as well as professionals are too occupied with the technique. I sometimes feel this film will be rediscovered for what it is in 10 years time when people aren’t so overwhelmed by it’s technical achievements anymore. I am interested in good films. Not so much in technical innovation. So I plan to leave this arena (for a while) and work with old-school or no-school techniques to get back to the bare principles and possibilities of cinema.
>Polar bears are drowning ‘nearby’ the Netherlands… because human induced climate change is melting their ice caps, and they cannot swim the greater distances… what are the challenges of being an artist today with backdrops of such enormous gravity?
I always feel guilty with this kind of questions. Sometimes it even triggers a little personality crisis that, so I understand, a lot of artists have: My work is not related to social, political or environmental issues at all. I don’t think of myself as a messenger. And I don’t think art is meant to be an instrument for personal convictions. In my strong moments I believe that art is there for other reasons – to make people think. To think for themselves, make up their own minds and take responsibility for their own actions. Society without art is a dead society. Art is a door between different worlds, all real, and without artists these door would stay closed.
But… In my weak moments I believe that art is a luxury. There is all these really important things in life and art is basically nothing more than entertainment, making us forget that these important things are to be taken care of.
>How well has DVD distribution online worked for you?
Am not too informed about this, because my DVD was published by a French company and I fail to monitor the sales because it doesn’t really interest me. For what I hear, it’s going pretty well and online distribution seems to be more potent than selling this kind of work in a shop. Online, you can reach the whole world with your work and that makes it easier to find your audience. Obviously, this work is not for everybody so it’s always a challenge to find your audience.
>Current projects / Future plans?
Working on the last batch of episodes for the Mind My Gap graphic novel. The Wreckers are recording and mixing the Songs from my Gap Album. Developing a script for a Mind My Gap feature film. Presenting an exhibition, containing all the different media of My Gap. Developing a short film for children, connected to the Gap world but more related to The Langemanne (who were featured in Beheaded, as well as Jona/Tomberry). And on a personal level a lot of things came tumbling down and I am redefining and reconstructing my place in this and other realities. I keep myself busy.