Tell us how the film came about...
It was one of the biggest surprises of my life, such a shock: I received a letter from Studio Ghibli in Tokyo, asking me if I wanted to make a feature film. This studio makes truly incredible films, such as Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away, so I was extremely keen. Studio Ghibli advised me to meet up with Vincent Maraval from Wild Bunch, because Wild Bunch would also produce the film. I immediately started writing the synopsis of a story and that's how La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle) began.
Could you tell us a bit about the actors?
Our movie is an animated film and there were three kinds of actors: actors who made human sounds, actors who performed certain actions to inspire the animators, and then obviously the animators and assistant animators. Each animator and assistant adapted their talents to the film's visual aesthetic, while retaining their individual style in their drawings, acting and timing. These were independent artists who came from across Europe, and particularly France. The film was a challenge for them, because the animation was fairly understated and relatively realistic. But they were very talented indeed.
"Nature was a particularly important source of inspiration to me".
How do you feel about the film industry in your country?
In recent years, France has been my country, because the film was predominantly made in France. I was impressed by the role that film culture plays in daily life compared to many other countries I've lived in. I find it interesting that there are so many films that explore human relationships.
What were your influences?
I was influenced by many things, including the films of Studio Ghibli, certain cartoons by Hergé and Moebius, and drawings by French cartoonist Sempé. Nature was a particularly important source of inspiration to me. And by that I don't just mean animals and landscapes, but also light and shade, unique atmospheres and the emotional relationships that we have with them.
If you could ask any question to any director, what would you ask?
Youri Norstein, a Russian director born 1941, made a number of animated short films with his wife Franceska Iarboussova, which I and many of my colleagues feel are the most beautiful short films ever made. For example, The Heron and the Crane, Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales. I would ask him if we could go for a walk together, in a landscape that he particularly loves.