Inside Encounters- Interview: Isabelle Favez

Isabelle Favez

Valise by Isabelle Favez

You may have caught the wonderful winter fable Au coeur de l’hiver in competition at Animated Encounters in 2012. Swiss animator Isabelle Favez is back this year as part of the Jury, and there’s also a chance to see some of her work and gain insight into the creative process behind it during an on-stage event.

Creating such animations requires many steps and different skills. Could you give us a general idea of the process?

It starts with an idea and the need to tell it in an animated film. Then, you begin the storyboard, the animation, and the
development of the general look and the character design, in order to match the story. To animate, it finally comes to
the editing part. At the same time, the music is composed and recorded. The sound design is created by foley artists, who also mix the final sound. It varies depending on the complexity of the project, but the process takes between 13 and 24 months.

What is your favourite part of a project? The toughest one?

My favourite part is to create the storyline, from the first idea and the look of the film, because at this stage everything is open. I can try out different styles and play around with ideas. The toughest part is the animation and finding out so many things that don’t work for the story. Even if the idea works out on paper (storyboard), it is not always the same for the cinematic realisation. This can create insecurity and it slows down the workflow.

All of your stories create a sort of intimate world: what inspires you when it comes to the design and the script?

I always choose a location; in my latest film it’s the forest. This restriction helps me to work out the story. As for the design, I like it very simple and clear. To sum it up, I just go for what I like to look at.

Which animation technique do you use? Would you ever consider trying another one?

For about ten years, I have liked animating in digital cut out. This gives me the possibility to make changes without having to go many steps backward. It’s a very flexible way to work and I can keep the storytelling in focus. Plus, I can animate by myself, without a crew around me: it is difficult for me  to tell animators what I want. When I started with animation I tried many techniques, like clay, drawing on paper, painting on glass. So, I’m definitely still open to different techniques, but only if it matches the project and is not for the sake of the technique.

To what extent have your style and methods evolved, since you started working in this field?

When I started my first animation I didn’t care about the look, I was just happy if it was moving. Now for every  new project, I do much more design research and development. I also pay attention to the colours. Same with the sound effects: in the beginning I was happy just to put music on the animation, but since then the sound concept has taken a large part in the production.

You never use dialogue in your animations… 

I didn’t study animation, I studied live action filmmaking. And I figured out that I didn’t like to write dialogues: it seemed to me that it never got to the point of storytelling that I wanted. I grew up bilingual and I noticed that a translation doesn’t have the same details and depth as the original. So for me it was obvious to use the visual language.

How do you interact with the sound designer and music composer? 

I try to meet the sound designer very early in the production process, when the storyboard is finished, to talk about the sound concept. This helps me for the animation. For the music, I prefer to wait for the animation to be done. But of course, I also talk to the composer as soon as I have an animation ready. When I’m animating I don’t think of the music at all.

Are you working on a new project at the moment?

I started to work on a new film in January. It’s a love story, between a woman and a boxer. Their only connection lays in the letters they send to each other, and of course there will be a lot of misunderstandings. Most of the backgrounds are built on paper and then photographed. I even have parts using stop-motion. So it’s a kind of mixed media.

By Julie Boénec