Interview with Filmmaker John Banana (LUZ)

LUZ was the winner of BEST ANIMATION FILM at the March 2021 ANIMATION Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

So first its my job to direct CG commercials and kids TV show pilotes and teasers. I own a small studio in Paris France. On the side, my “art” is to make shortfilms that I really consider like very personnal pieces. Each time reflecting a moment in my life, even if I dont see it at first.

The short Luz is the third short in a series we called “Conte de Quartier” / “Corner’s Tale”.

The first one “Orange O Despair ” was about a small orange who wants to be a pineapple. Dealing with the search of identity and its consequences.

The second short “Captain Fish” was about a young kid who decides to save the fish sticks she refused to eat.

While making the second short I had this idea of a kid with a magical water can who could spread graffiti that would represent happiness. The story and subject of Luz changed and mixed with the parenthood theme as I was having a kid during the making. And last, I wanted to make a short in collaboration with Tim Bruzon, that I met through Peter Gabriel. I loved his music, and I told him while finishing the previous short that he should be part of the next one. I knew he would be perfect to write sing and produce a strong emotional song.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I had the idea of Luz I believe in 2014, maybe 2013, so lets say 5/6 years. As I auto produce our shorts, we needed to finish the one that was in production, then earn a bit of money in order to start the next one. And you never know if it will happen as I have new ideas everyday. So I never really know which idea will motivate me enough to start a long and hard process that usually takes us between 2 and 3 years to make.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

happiness & parenthood

or

animation & uplifting

or

light vs darkness

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

As I said earlier, its a very long process to make a quality CG short film from scratch.

So I’d say the main obstacle is to keep motivation and trust in the original idea for several years. You always at one point think what you are doing is not good. So you have to take a step back, try to think and look with a fresh point of view. Sometimes throw stuff that you loved and now you don’t.

Another precise thing we had to deal with was a hard choice that we end not making.

Usually its better to keep one strong idea.

Our strong original idea was the graffiti that she could spread with her little water can.

Then while making the film, and especially the lightning part, we came up with the idea Luz was always in the light/sun and Cloudia always in the dark.

So for a few weeks there was a struggle, with a part of me saying we need to get rid of one of the two ideas. That would have probably make the short stronger and more simple to understand. But in the end I was not able to pick. We decided to make the graffiti => suns in order to link the 2 ideas.

The cool thing is I discovered that in my fiancée kids notebook from 1984/85 there was a lot of little suns with various styles. So we scanned them and Thibaut our art director turned them into our colorful happyiness grafiti.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

As this last year was kind of special with the virus, I didn’t attend a single onsite festival. So where with the two previous short films I had the opportunity to meet people and get their reactions, this time it didn’t happen.

So to get some feedback this way, and I guess you keep only the good ones was really rewarding and awesome. A little ego rub is always good as someone in the team said 🙂

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I was in high school my dream was to be in the film industry. I had plan to try to enter a famous French cinema school. I went on to study cinema at university and I discovered CGI on Amiga at the same time. I loved it so much that I changed path and entered one of the first CGI class at university. There was no mouse, we were supposed to code our own stuff. It was very technical and artistic.

At the same time Toy Story came out and from there I knew it was what I wanted to do.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’ll give 3. I think the films I watched the most are E.T, Brazil & Untouchables. (& Probably Star Wars and Indiana Jones)

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Filmfreeway is a great tool. The big difference compared to Europe when entering a festival is you have to pay, so usually you have to choose where to send carefully. And Filmfreeway is perfect for that.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I have no clue to be honest.
Burgers ? Sushi ? Pizzas ? like anyone
I’m a libra, so I can’t pick 🙂

Did you expect something French here ?

10. What is next for you? A new film?

We’re doing a short film at the very moment. It’s a pigeon rap. Pigeons complaining about how we treat them in the cities. And we’re trying to develop several kids programs that we started pitching around.

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