The 2018 Cesar for Best Animated Short Film was awarded to Grandpa Walrus, a film directed by Lucrèce Andreae and produced by Jérôme Barthélémy (E97). The former ESSEC student told us how the project came about, and what it’s like to receive such a prestigious award.
ESSEC Alumni: What’s Grandpa Walrus about?
Jérôme Barthélémy: Grandpa Walrus tells the story of a family that gets together to honor the memory of their grandmother's husband Pépé, who died from too much smoking and sunbathing. In Russia they call people like that "walruses". Little by little, each member of the family grieves in their own way. It’s a film for all ages, with comedy, emotion, the supernatural… and it’s lighter than the subject might suggest.
EA: What was your role in the project?
J. Barthélémy: Most people think the only role of the producer is to raise funds to make the film, but it’s actually a lot more than that. The producer is involved at every stage of the filmmaking, which is why it’s such an exciting job.
When it’s an animated film the process is very long and fairly rigid. You can’t improvise as much as you might with non-animated fiction. Our goal is to make the best film possible while respecting the artistic choices of the director.
The first and essential stage is the work on the script, which we take very seriously as it’s the backbone of the film. Then there’s the storyboard stage, which helps to define the frames and the scenario, determine its length, etc. As I’m neither an illustrator nor an animator I don’t really get involved in the choices of image or scenario, which are the sole responsibility of the director – and Lucrèce Andreae happens to be very good at that.
Then there’s the financing phase based on an artistic and technical dossier that the director and I draw up together.
Then comes the filming stage. As the film was animated image by image at the rate of 12 images a second, this phase was particularly long. The director did a large part of the work herself once the budget started to run out.
After that come the finishing touches, recording of the voiceovers, montage, mixing and music – throughout which we are also very present.
Our role is to use the budget wisely, respecting the provisional costs defined in the preparatory stage. Not always a simple task!
EA: France is said to be one of the world leaders when it comes to animation. Do you confirm?
J. Barthélémy: It is true. France isn’t just one of the world leaders in terms of production of animated films and TV series, it also has a pool of talents that is a source of envy around the world. There are many reasons for this, but three stand out for me. First, our training standards are excellent, in particular in our national schools, which are recognized as the best in the world: Gobelins, la Poudrière and l’École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. Second, we have several extremely competent studios based in centers of excellence such as the Magelis center in Angoulême, which can manage international productions rivalling those of our American counterparts. Last but not least, there happens to be a very dynamic network of independent producers in France.
EA: Did studying at ESSEC help you in your career?
J. Barthélémy: Being an ESSEC alum was of tremendous help in creating Caimans Productions as I already knew the basics of company management. This helped us avoid classic mistakes that could have led to disaster during our first three years. Ironically enough, it’s the more technical courses - finance and accounting (which I hated at the time!) - that have been most useful. There’s a small group of ESSEC alumni working in film, and while it’s not a big network, it can come in very handy.
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