Segolene Romier is a Swiss-based artist and film-maker whose extra-ordinary stop-motion animations have impressed audiences as far apart as Paris and Shanghai, her style is lightly humerous, vividly and surreally imaginative and yet remaining rigourously technical.
We spoke to Segolene about her films, her plans for 2015 and about launching a stop-motion rocket in a park in Geneva.
Q: The models you use are very elaborate and extraordinary like the strange, humped winged animal, the giant rocket, the word ‘Fly’ etc can you tell us firstly about the process of making the characters in your films and why they are blank, white figures?
SR: I’m a sculptor first and foremost and I‘ve been doing sculpture like the one in my short film “Fly me Baby” for 10 years now. All completely white, without eyes, mouth or ears and they have been like that from inception. Initially, the elements of the film were just sculptures but then I realised I wanted them to have motion, I decided to produce them within the parameters of a short film. As for the letters ‘Fly me Baby’…when I started the project I just wanted to make a huge sculpture. Almost every visitor to my studio told me I was crazy and they questioned how these large sculptures were going to hold together during the filming process. At that stage, I did not even know myself but as always I counted on the abracadabra magic of sculpture and film and my inner strength to want things…
At the end the trick was so huge that the pieces took up the entire space of my large workshop.
Then, one day I just put out everything on the parking lot and asked for help from young people who passed by to hold the parts together … which they very kindly did … and then I realized I wanted to make a movie with these letters.
Q: Your films are incredibly detailed and involve complex choreography sometimes of dozens of surreal, stop motion animals and characters.
In Fly Me Baby, there is a wonderful scene where a group of masked bandit figures lassoo letters from a skip and roll them down a hill. The stop-motion choreography there is hugely impressive, can you tell us about the difficulties you had in making that scene?
SR: That scene was shot in two days. The first day from the car to the skip. Just me moving the thieves and Antonin behind the camera. It was hard! Because imagine for one picture I must move all the characters and they are very numerous and small, so they fall all the time. I had to bend down and I also had to exit the field we filmed in for every frame shot so I ran all the time…it was exhausting!
When they fell down the hill I had some friends to help me and I was inside one of the letters rolling very carefully…so difficult but so funny!
(The film ends when the letters roll down a hill coalesce to form the phrase ‘Fly Me Baby’ while a rocket is launched from the park)
Q: There are live action actors in your second short film ‘Lets See the Sea’ whereas these were absent in ‘Fly Me Baby’, was this a conscious attempt to have the stop-motion characters represent specific people?
I don’t know. I was on the train coming back from the short movie festival in Clermont-Ferrand in France and was thinking about the movies I had seen at the swimming pool there. There I saw a remarkable thing. They showed movies about water in the swimming pool and people were looking them with buoys.
I was thinking about my sculptures with buoys and as the train was following the river i was dreaming about life…and the story came.
For me my sculptures are people..so it was just normal that they should became real.
Q: How personal a project was Lets See the Sea?
SR: It’s both personal..and universal.
Universal, because everybody at least once as a child wonders what would happen if we floated down a river. Later you learn that rivers go to the sea…
Personal, because it’s like a advertisement I would like to give my daughter and Arthur…about life.
You have to choose your friends, learn about time and then you can make your own choice and your own trip ..like starting your own conquest. The way must be long, sometimes calm sometimes difficult but with the promise that it will be a great experience.
Q: The rocket scene in Fly Me Baby looked very elaborate. How large was the rocket and how easy was it to launch a rocket in a park in Geneva?
SR: The rocket!
It’s 2.10 metres high!
The location was a park just behind my studio. It was a small park. Each day for the shooting it took one hour to transport everything in that place and the same in the evening. Sometimes there were some people taking their dog for a pee and asking about those crazy things…once a dog peed on the bag with material!
In the forest for “Let’s See the Sea”, a dog went totally crazy over the sculptures and barked at them, furiously!
Q: Whats the significance of the woman character who shows three of the little people her breasts?
SR: HaHa! “Fly me baby” is a project about everything can make you fly…and this lady takes the 3 small guys, shows her boobs and they transform themselves into the word ‘FLY’. It’s crazy, funny things like that that make me laugh!
Q: Theres a number of very tricky-looking tracking shots where the camera follows the stop-motion characters through a woodland path, tell me about the making those shots, they only last a few seconds but they must have taken a long time to make. Do you move the camera while moving the characters?
SR: When I was working with Sven for ‘Let’s See the Sea’…we tried to convert everything you do into real movie in the stop motion. So we tested travelling and it was funny to do and looked great..and didn’t take long time in the end! We moved in synch almost at the same time, the camera and the figures.
Q: have you any tips for film-makers wanting to make complex stop-motion animations?
No tips! I have so much to learn myself! As for the stop motion…the best thing quality you need is patience!
Q: What are your plans for 2015?
SR: I will start new sculptures for a new series called “I’m happy”, I also have an idea for a new film with sculptures but more like a performance and I need to work, learn, travel and work again!!
For more information about Segolene Romier’s work see: