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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Writer/Director/Producer/Composer Alain Bidard for BATTLEDREAM CHRONICLE.

Interview with Writer/Director/Producer/Composer Alain Bidard for BATTLEDREAM CHRONICLE.

Martinique multi-talent Alain Bidard is wowing the film world with his debut animation feature film Battledream Chronicle (2015) which he wrote, directed, produced and composed. The film has traveled the globe at international film festivals this past year gaining multiple prize nominations and wins. The film most recently traveled to Animation Days at 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Interview with Writer/Director/Producer/Composer Alain Bidard for BATTLEDREAM CHRONICLE.

I recently interviewed Alain Bidard about his grand vision behind Battledream Chronicle. Here is what he had to say:

ME: What inspired you to make a film about a world disassociated from the physical body?

ALAIN: We, the human race, are changing. Our mindset about technology is evolving, and quickly. We think ourselves more and more like computers rather than human beings. Today, most of us are assisted by our phones when it is about remembering something. We use the phones like we add memory bars and expansion cards to a computer. New electronic lenses have been created for seeing better, even zooming on the pictures we see. The Augmented reality or VR Glasses of the close future increases the possibility of our vision the same way a graphic card increases the graphic possibility of a computer. When we want to speak another language, we don’t need to learn it, we just need our phone around. Even dating is computer assisted nowadays…

...When I was born, that was science-fiction, but today in most of the developed world, we are moving in this direction because our mindset about technology has drastically shifted in the last two decades. When I was a kid, computers were a threat, a danger, a power that it was wise to limit and contain. I grew up with Terminator and other films all centered on the idea that computers would destroy us one day. Trans-humanists were viewed as mentally deranged…But we are not in the Terminator era anymore. The age when computers were scaring people is over. We now see technology as our salvation, as the way to live longer, better, happier, as a way to be stronger, run faster, learn effortlessly, etc. Even viruses, bugs and glitches don’t scare us anymore. They just bother us, but they don’t prevent us from embracing computers anymore. More people sleep with their phone than there are people sleeping with a significant other...

...All of these may be the beginning of an era where we are going to slowly give up on our physical body to become “cyborgs” (although it will just be called “normal” or “trendy”). And once we are “cyborgs”, it won’t be long before we embrace the idea that real life is digital and we don’t need our physical vessel anymore. When I see how we evolved in the last two decades, I think a world dissociated from the physical body is not an “if”, but a “when”. It was this conclusion that inspired me.

ME: Do you think with the progression of virtual reality that we are striving more and more to leave the world we know for a new virtual one?

ALAIN: We are striving for it more and more, but not just for technological reasons. Technology may be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is triggering this move towards a virtual life. The military and political state of the world is bleak. Our time is a difficult one, and the worst is the realization that it will get worse in the future. Entertainment like film and games are the escape plan of today. But given the future coming, a lot of us have probably already thought about the paradisiacal life that a virtual world may offer and that may not be reachable on Earth anymore...

...Actually, VR doesn’t have the degree of realism sufficient for the brain to completely immerse in the virtual world. And the experience doesn’t affect all our senses, only the sight and the hearing. It won’t be long until the simulation is life-like. And the day we can’t distinguish the virtual from the reality anymore, our brain will start acting like when we’re dreaming. It will just assume it’s real. Then, from that moment, VR will become the most attractive alternative to real life and people will flock into it as fast as they rush on the next Iphone...

...If the state of our world is the first thing that favors this change in our opinion about the intrusion of virtual reality in our life, it seems to be an inescapable destination on a social level either. Nowadays, we are isolating ourselves more and more. Our life is completely empty without the presence of technology in it. Just one electrical blackout and we act like lifeless zombies. Technology is now an addiction worldwide. On the spiritual and religious level, we are witnessing the beginning of a worldwide syncretism process like nothing we have ever seen before. Isolation from the Internet now strongly changes the way we experience our spirituality...

...On the psychological level of every individual, the state of being connected to the internet becomes a compulsion, a need, a drug-like process in the pursuit of happiness. We absolutely need it to function normally and happily. And more and more, the connection to the virtual world is valued more than the connection to the physical world as millions people are unable to find emotional solace with the human presence around them but quickly find it with the virtual presences online. Virtual worlds also means unlimited jobs, ability to make people constantly busy, more efficient workforce as people are not going to need to sleep anymore… Many say they won’t accept but when we lack money and need a job, we often forget work and human ethics. Seeing how hard it is to stop the pollution all over the world, it’s not difficult to imagine that it will be easier and more profitable for the polluters to move mankind to a safer virtual place rather than cleaning the physical one we actually have. There are so many reasons that push the world in that direction. As our mindset is slowly aligning with the possibility of a virtual life, the next step is just about science catching up our thoughts and making our dreams come true. And thus, the progression of virtual reality, along with augmented reality, is a major step and a big push towards the reality of this virtual life.

ME: Can you explain your vision of weaving the future world with the history of the past to tell the story of someone in search their freedom?

ALAIN: To me, the reason why we watch films is for understanding what happened before and what is happening now. We can do that by showing the past or the present. But also the future. Slavery, Black History, and Martinique history can be accessed through books and through a certain number of period films and documentaries. However, in Martinique, the young generation of today doesn’t read and doesn’t watch documentaries. But they love action, adventure, fantastic, horror, science fiction, and animation films. So, I understood that this was the way I had to communicate with them if I wanted to get their attention about the history of the past...

...The second reason for me to weave my story this way is because mankind doesn’t evolve linearly. They make one step forward, two backwards, then three forward, then another one backward… So, the victories of yesterday are sometimes things that disappear in the future and we have to fight again for it. This is a very important issue because many people believe that the battles of the past are not going to be fought again. If we are not vigilant, women can lose their rights, the LGBT community either, abortion may be forbidden once again and we can return to the state of tyranny whereas we were sure that the victories of our parents were protecting us against fighting those battles once again. By weaving the future with the past, I try to show that our vigilance must not be a time-related process, but an ethic-based one. Our generation has the double duty to defend the victories of the past and make sure they will always exist or be reconquered in the future.

ME: What does Isfet represent for you?

ALAIN: Isfet is directly inspired from the Egyptian God of the same name. Isfet is also commonly known as Apep or Apophis, the Egyptian God of Chaos, Injustice and Destruction. Apophis is a snake God and he was a fierce enemy of the God Amon Ra, and Maat, the Goddess of Justice. In Ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh had to follow the ethical and moral code of conduct of Maat, and he had to stay away from the way of Isfet. In Battledream Chronicle, Isfet is Chaos, but most of all, she is Colonialism. She is the personification of the power to colonize, oppress and exploit another nation against its will. Without her, digital slavery as we see it in the film would not happen, and the world would not be thrown in a new world war. In the real History, Europeans nations colonized African nations because of their desire to seize power over them, which triggered slavery, the colonial wars, a massive cultural destruction and then a World War like in the film...

...Like Apep, and unlike Seth, Isfet serves no one and her true goal is the destruction of everything, good or bad. This is why Isfet is as damaging for the good guys as she is for the bad guys. I wanted to show that Colonialism destroys every nation who uses it. They first win but then get destroyed by the very power they used for winning. Europe conquered the world, then Germany decided to conquer the colonizers instead of new territories then it escalated into a World War, thus ending the Colonial Age.

ME: Would you want to see this film have ancillary marketing like gaming and books?

ALAIN: Battledream Chronicle was planned as a trans-media franchise. Every character has a story of its own and one that could fill an entire new film. Everyone in the film was a very different character before they lost their memory and some of them were even enemies in the past. Lots of surprises are coming. We see a few nations of the virtual world of Farandjun in the film but there are 600 other digital nations. So, there is a lot of other fascinating stories around Battledream Chronicle that still need to be told through games, books, comics, series, sequels and crossover films. With Pagod Films, I am actively working at developing the franchise with new products and new collaborations with other studios and other artists. And we should see some interesting development this year.

ME: Why did you decide to make this animation?

ALAIN: In 2005, I made a medium length film called “Opale”, a film about incest. And it was the first time I was trying to make a so long film. I found out that length equals stronger emotional power, deeper characterization and deeper thematic. And this discovery was like finding the Holy Grail for me. I stopped being interested in short length films focusing more on the instant and I focused on the character work and the thematic work. Being able to trigger emotions in the audience was a so intense power that I couldn’t stop doing it. Thus, naturally, I moved to feature length stories...

...I had many choices for my first feature film, in terms of stories. I had about half a dozen of stories ready to be filmed. I had dramas, fairy tales, horror and science fiction. At first, I didn’t want to take a too big risk for this first film so I went for action and science fiction with a male lead. But then, I questioned myself about what I really wanted to see or to show to my children in the future. When I started the film, there was another animation feature film project from another studio launched before mine so I was free to tell a lot of stories. But, the production of this film was stopped and Battledream Chronicle became the first animated feature film in Martinique. And of course, it had to represent who we are and what our culture is made of. And all that made me go for a story about slavery and the history of Martinique, and also a female lead as Martinique is somewhat close to matriarchy.

ME: Was it difficult to produce an animation film in the Caribbean?

ALAIN: Martinique has a colonial mindset so we tend to not trust in ourselves as much as we should. So when I looked for funding for the film, I have been exposed to Martinican funding parties thinking that no Martinican team could do this film. I had the choice to give up or prove everybody wrong. I weighted the pros and cons for long weeks then I decided I would do it. And to motivate myself, I challenged myself to succeed to do a fine film with the lowest budget I could get. I had a limited budget so I had to work other contracts while I was making the film. I had 8 years of experience in a lot of positions in animation filmmaking but I was not good in some other positions. So I had to learn the craft for those positions as I couldn’t hire anybody. I had limited backup capabilities so I experienced a massive loss of data in 2010. I lost the drive of the film data then I lost the backup 3 hours later. I succeeded to get back only 10% of my work, whereas I had already achieved 50 minutes of film...

...My music composer left because of artistic differences. And as it was not the first production where I experienced that, I decided to do something insane: learn music theory and score the film by myself despite of the fact I never wrote or played any music in my life before. And the mixing part was a very expensive part. In Paris, the prices for mixing were really high so I was forced to learn mixing in an American online school and mix the film by myself. This is a summary of all the difficulties I had during the production however learning, knowing and practicing all those crafts was a very exciting part of the production despite the budget limitations.

ME: Your film has been traveling the world at international film festivals. What has that been like?

ALAIN: I was surprised by the artistic success of the film, to be honest. Like every artist, I dreamt of winning awards and nominations for a feature film. But the reality of this is very different. I was used to 1-5 nominations and one or two awards per production during the time I was making short films. 48 nominations and 7 awards, that is beyond my wildest dreams. The film premiered in USA, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Philippines, Canada, Jamaica, Belgium, United Kingdom, India, Israel, Kenya, Greece, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Bahamas and so many other wonderful countries and all of them were very welcoming. It was always a very deep and human experience that I will never forget. I have never been used to meet that many great artists before, great in their art and great in their humanity. I believe that is the true highlight of the Battledream Chronicle promotion: to see how deeply the culture of Martinique and the Caribbean can touch people all over the world. It’s a wonderful experience and I hope it will also give hope to any Caribbean and Martinican filmmaker wanting to make their animated feature film.

ME: Your film screened at Animation Days in Cannes Film Festival. What was that like?

ALAIN: I didn’t go to Cannes myself. My sales agent, Anna Krupnova, is the one who attended. The contact with the Animation Days was very interesting but sadly it wasn’t very clear if they would show the film or just the trailer. I found out it was only the trailer screening and some referencing of the information of the film in many distributors who’s who list. An additional budget was needed to screen the film. As I had to limit the budget in order to answer some other festival nominations, I had to pass on the screening.

ME: What will you be working on next?

ALAIN: I’m actually working on Battledream Chronicle II, as it was supposed to be a trilogy. At the same time, I’m in the process of developing the franchise and let the audience explore the universe of Battledream Chronicle through comics, books and games.

View trailer of the film here:

Interview conducted by Vanessa McMahon 

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