Photographer and director, Julien Mokrani has given homage in his own unique way to two important comic books. The result: two fanfilms which have opened several doors within the cinematographic industry. It’s a meeting of the love of cinema, amateur film noir lighting and expressionism…
Dobbs: First, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Julien, can you tell me where your passion for cinema and visual effects stem from?
Julien Mokrani: I was born during a period of rupture between stop motion and CGI, need I say more? Cartoons and effects profoundly affected me, especially the films like Taram and the magic cauldron (murky and somber, with excellent animation) or even still Jurassic Park. This last one just made me want to make CG dinosaurs, thanks to the memorable shots like the pursuit of the car with the T-Rex in the rain.
In my eyes, the CGI revolution has been a revelation, because traditional stop motion with its ruptures remains unsatisfying for me, even if I admire the discoveries like those of master Ray Harryhausen! Still, I am a big fan of productions like Paranorman where the stop motion is assisted by the computer, it has become extremely fluid.
In fact, the fluidity is very important to me, just like emotion and the story. It’s for this reason that I like the work of Jim Henson and his creations (the Muppets, the Storyteller and Dark Crystal, which remains a very important film to me). I would have really liked to see a film like Mars Attacks not in CGI, but with marionettes…
Dobbs: You are a director, editor, VFX director, etc. Are you and autodidact or did you go through a specific training program?
JM: I’m a complete autodidact. I understood very early in college that my thing was working with images (even if my professors didn’t see things my way). I began working with local TV stations, then with nonprofit organizations with a particular interest in music and rock labels. Next, it is the story of chance meetings: lost in Mans University, I discovered an editing room where I learned how Avid functioned thanks to an old man who let me use the equipment, as long as I didn’t mind him (laughing).
My approach has always been researching the balance between the most empirical/literal and the technical, and this has also been the case for editing: I learned photography, directing techniques, and VFX on the ground through chance meetings.
JM: Again, chance meetings, like with David Tomaszewski who had won a George Lucas Fan Film Award, in 2004 (with his Escape from Tatooine). He showed me that there was an important element to making movies: pleasure.
Samuel Bodin helped me enter into the comic book universe a world that I didn’t know much about (a part from Spawn maybe). And it was something that immediately fascinated me, with its links to graphic novels, paintings, cinema, and literature (like the works of Miller, Moore or Tim). But between Batman: Ashes to Ashes (which cost 6000 euros and needed 13 days of filming with 90% of the production done by two people), and the challenges of Welcome to Hoxford, there is a margin…
Making Hoxford, adapted from the miniseries of Ben Templesmith, was a challenge in itself. We had arrogant hallucinations like that of making a werewolf with 30 people who had to be able to work on it, from concept to rendering, passing through sculptors, tests, rigging, volume management and lighting.
Dobbs: Julien, can you tell me a film that has moved you recently?
JM: I would like to talk about the importance of the story regarding films that are able to really touch me. For me, VFX and editing are there in order to punctuate the films and their stories step by step. The most recent example of a scene like this that used FX: The one where the horse is crossing the trenches in Warhorse by Spielberg.
But okay, there I was expecting it with Cloud Atlas Wachowski!
JM: It was arduous work with even more battles to get the film presented, diffused, etc. No one was paid, 300 people worked for free which is to say 140 artists. It was unprecedented. All that for this fanfilm which presents my vision of the Templesmith universe that we love.
Today, I am getting proposals for feature length films. Some of them are signed other are still in development. I’m doing a fair amount of competitions and I have other adaptations in mind. I’ve also done AD work and coordination of creatures for certain productions.
Dobbs: I see. Thank you again Julien, and we wish you all the best for your future. Don’t forget that you are always invited to Artfx for a site visit or to conduct a workshop with the students.
Julien Mokrani’s Fanfilms: trailers and making of
[small_button]English version by Danielle Harrell, English teacher for ArtFx[/small_button]