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indieWIRE INTERVIEW | “Fear(s) of the Dark” Director Charles Burns

indieWIRE INTERVIEW | "Fear(s) of the Dark" Director Charles Burns

Directed by Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire, Romaine Slocombe, Jerry Kramsky, Michel Pirus and Etienne Robial, “Fear(s) of the Dark” is a collection of fearful tales by ten cutting-edge and acclaimed graphic artists. Their intertwined stories make up an epic where phobias, disgust and nightmares come to life and reveal ‘Fear’ at its most naked and intense. Charles Burns gave indieWIRE his insight on his collaboration on the project. IFC Films opened the film Wednesday in New York.

How did you became involved with “Fear(s) of the Dark” and who initially proposed
the idea?

I was contacted directly by Prima Linea, the company that produced the film. My friend Richard McGuire, who participated in the film and who had already worked with them on an earlier project, may have been partially responsible for having them contact me. I was told that they were creating an animated film with a number of other artists and it would be a horror film in black and white and my segment would be between 15 and 20 minutes – simple. I agreed to participate because I had a great deal of admiration for the other artists involved and because the producers made it clear that they wanted to have each artist involved with every aspect of the film – which seems unusual to me.

Have you thought of making an animated film before and do you have any plans to return to film now that this is completed?

I created my own stop-action home movies when I was in growing up but I’ve never really pursued the idea of working in animation before.

I took on this project because it was a very unusual situation where the producers wanted the artists to maintain as much control as humanly possible – that doesn’t sound typical to me. If another similar situation came up it’s possible I would be interested, but for the most part, I’m happy to work on my own comics.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences as well as your overall goals for the project.

I guess my approach was fairly simple; I wanted to create a strong, self-contained story that would hold its own in the film. For my story I went back to one of the first “real” comics I completed way back in 1979. The story was called “I’ll Bred” and although I liked the basic premise of the story, my early attempt at drawing it was fairly disappointing. I liked the idea of going back and examining the characters and imagery from the story after such a long period of time.

As far a influences, I always stumble on this question because there are so many… too many to list.

My goals were to make a strong, entertaining film that emulated my drawing style and succeeded in giving my audience the creeps. I’ve heard a few audible gasps during the screenings I’ve attended so maybe it worked.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the film?

With comics I feel I have a pretty firm grasp of how to tell a story and one of the first things I faced when we started the process of animating my story was the fact that all of the “rules” had changed – I had to quickly learn that what works in comics doesn’t necessarily work in film. Writing the script and creating the storyboard felt familiar, but the moment we began working on the animatic (a filmed version of the storyboard with simple animation and all of the narrative and dialogue) I realized I would have to re-think how I was going to tell my story.

How was working with a cast of voice actors, for you? How did you cast them?

We did traditional auditions for a both of the lead roles. For each part I auditioned 5 or 6 actors and actresses. It was a little strange to tell famous French actresses to try acting “possessed” but I actually enjoyed the whole process. I had a translated French script and my English script so I was able to direct them in English while following along with their French. I was deeply saddened when I heard the news that my male lead actor, Guillaume Depardieu (son of Gerard Depardieu), died recently.

What general advice would you impart to emerging animators/ comic artists?

I don’t really have much advice… Work hard and try to create your own voice.

Please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of.

I’m most proud of being able to make a living at what I love to do… or at least like to do (it’s not always easy).

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