I decided to publish only a part of the interview here, but you can find the whole thing online.
What was the inspiration for French Roast?
For sure, my inspiration came from a certain nostalgia of Paris. I grew up there...and having to live so far away for such a long time most likely nurtured an idealized Paris in my mind. I naturally used that feeling as a starting point for the story of French Roast. Then, because I am an animator and because I love characters, I wanted to tell a story through pantomime and characterization, thus avoiding the use of dialogue. I also wanted to do a comedy. From that point of view, my main inspiration was Jacques Tati's work. I was also very inspired by Ronald Searle's drawings.
What kind of software did you use to produce the animation and how long did you work on it?
Character and set modeling were done using Maya during the first stage of production at the Méliès School. Then, we mainly used Softimage|XSI for rigging, animation, texturing, FX and lighting. We also used Maya for cloth simulation. Compositing was executed on Nuke.
We first spent a couple of months in development which consisted of me writing and storyboarding, and Nicolas Marlet creating the designs of the characters. Then it took a full year to make the film, with a team of 65 artists and technicians in total.
What was the toughest aspect of the job and which aspect of the short are you happiest with?
From a pure visual aspect, the first big challenge was to translate the graphic look of the original drawings done by Nico into CG, and to create an environment that would integrate the best with those characters. Modeling, texturing and rendering were all crucial in this process. The work done by the texturing department has been essential in getting the painterly look that I wanted for the characters, as much as Julien Georgel's matte paintings did for the backgrounds.
Creating the tramp's curly hair and beard was a pretty tough one, as they were the most intricate elements to translate into CG... We decided to use hair simulation to achieve both the graphic style and the natural behavior that I wanted, and it was eventually quite successful.
The other big challenge was to stick with the idea of a camera shooting a single shot in one axis only. That's how I got the idea of placing a big mirror behind the characters to create the equivalent of a reverse shot without cutting or panning the camera.
The final look of French Roast is a real achievement and I'm proud of it. I'm also very happy with the quality of the animation, and that's a big deal since the narration relies primarily on it.
What kind of advice would you give young students who want to do what you've done?
You know, I still consider myself a student. This is my debut film as a director and I feel like I still have a lot to learn. I would encourage aspiring animators to be curious (your inspiration will come from everything you can observe around you...you have to work from life to avoid clichés), to be patient (animation is all about patience, perseverance and focus), and to always see yourself as storytellers (you're not only making things move, you are breathing life into your characters for the audience to believe in them and therefore in the story they're being told).