Nothing is more important to Albert than his treasure of old books. When the young librarian, worried that he has not locked the library door, returns to his workplace in the middle of the night, he discovers a bat. To protect the books, he chases it away, coincidentally destroying the order of the library. Watch A PRIORI now!
A PRIORI is the diploma film of director Maïté Schmitt. Born in France, she studied Animation at the Animationsinstitut. Now, she is a successful children's book illustrator. In the following interview, you'll find out what Maïté learned along the way.
Applying to the Filmakademie was a bit complicated for me. When I applied, I was in the final phase of my previous studies and in the middle of an internship at a studio. For the work sample, I sent stuff from my diploma film that was in development back then.
For the three-day entrance examination, I had drawn a storyboard and done a very small, rough animation test. The presentation was a bit difficult because I was very stressed. Oral exams have never been my thing and I was quite sure I was going to fail.
And that's almost what happened—I was on the waiting list. But in the end, I was a bit lucky and it worked out. I'm very grateful for that because I was able to learn a lot at the Filmakademie.
One of the challenges was that I wanted to focus on the pre-production phase. With previous projects, it had always been so fast paced that I barely had time to do such things as detailed character designs or color scripts. I also wanted to try to create a detailed animatic to avoid problems later on. Phil Hunt, the senior lecturer for our project, helped a lot in making the animatic clearer.
Another challenge for this project was working with a slightly larger team and organizing within that team. For this, Yuan Wang, our producer, was a great support. In addition to production, he also helped a lot with compositing. Time-wise, it was all a bit tight at the end. We couldn't have done it without the help of our great team members (Maike Koller, Sion Kim and Emilia Reich), but also many other students from the Animationsinstitut.
For the style of the film, I wanted to stay true to the original sketches to convey a "rough" feeling. The idea was that you could still see the individual strokes and that it wouldn't look too clean. The drawing style was particularly inspired by some children's book illustrations—people like Marc Boutavant, Guillaume Bianco or Roland Garrigue, who have a "spontaneous" drawing style.
Since it was about old books, I thought it was important that you recognize as few digital elements as possible in the drawing style. To achieve that, I painted the backgrounds partly on paper with charcoal and then colored them in Photoshop using textures.
For the animation, we didn't do a real cleanup in order to try to keep the spontaneity of the sketches. In addition, we used TVPaint, which offers many analogue brushes.
Yes, it is a bit of a just punishment because Albert himself misinterprets the situation. That was the basic idea of the film. Albert follows his prejudices (a priori) that bats are problematic and does not think any further. Bats very often have a bad reputation. People think that they are terrible and dangerous. In reality, they have an important role in the environment and are actually quite a good pest control. By the way, an old library in Portugal recognized this a long time ago.
The moths are not the real problem and if Albert had taken a little time, he wouldn't have made the situation worse. When you try to improve things, you often make things worse because you only want to follow your own idea—you don't want to see the situation from another point of view. Since Albert wanted to solve everything on his own, there are consequences, but when he finally realizes that he was wrong, he finds a solution.
It was a big step! And that was actually not the plan at all. I always thought I would work in small studios. I didn't want to be a freelancer because I'm not talented in things like networking—at all. But it turned out that way.
I live near Strasbourg and I have an agent now, so, I can work with people from various countries on very different projects. Mostly, I’m doing illustrations for children's books, but I also sometimes animate for very small projects. What I learned during my time at the Filmakademie (like project organization) still helps me every day.