A short competition player at this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, “Blue Fear” is the colorfully animated brainchild of filmmakers Marie Jacotey and Lola Halifa-Legrand, neither of which had any experience in the artform before working on the short together.

“Blue Fear” uses traditional 2D animation to tell the story of a couple on the roads of Provence, France. Nils is driving Flora to his parents to introducer her to them for the first time when they get ambushed. Flora is taken as a prisoner and Nils flees. A captive for an evening in the woods, Flora is placed face-to-face with her fears and doubts.

The short is produced by Miyu Productions and distributed by Miyu Distribution, executive produced by Emmanuel-Alain Raynal and Pierre Baussaron. The short has already enjoyed a stellar international festival run, featuring at Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Leeds, Anima, Ghent and BIAF, among others.

Jacotey and Halifa-Legrand spoke to Variety about their fortuitous meeting years after attending the same university, enjoying a festival run in spite of not being able to attend and what’s on the horizon for the two artists.

Can you talk a bit about your education, training and experience working in animation?

We both graduated from ENSAD, school of decorative arts in Paris, and from the Royal College of Art in London. Lola studied graphic design then and Marie printmaking. Although, we attended those institutions several years apart and only really met outside the scholarly system in the wild world in 2013. We were both still working and living in London when we decided to make a movie together. Neither of us came from an animation background nor had done animation before, so we got a lucky introduction to that world by our “fairy godmother” Ugo Bienvenu who presented our idea to a producer mad enough to believe in it and help us fund it.

This film had the great distinction of being selected at Cannes 2020, but unfortunately it, like all last year’s selections, couldn’t be presented live. Can you talk a bit about what it’s been like to take your film around the world, but from home?

The Cannes selection was a tremendous honor and a great achievement after such labor-intensive work. The film was eventually presented live in Cannes, in October 2020, as part of a special edition for the short film competition. Seeing it projected in that big room of 2,000 seats was an absolute thrill. Of course, it wasn’t the usual Cannes fever around the city, but getting to climb those stairs for a debut film was quite something.

Regarding other festivals and selections, it’s been extremely frustrating not to be able to witness reactions to the film live, let alone travel the world. As artists, the process of creating is a rather lonely one, even when you work on a team as in animation. You’re mainly in your own head most of the time and you only get the public feedback when you show the work. Those physical encounters taken away, it’s been much blurrier to actually get a sense of the reception of the project.

How long did it take to make this film, and how big was the team you worked with?

It took about four years from first draft to the last mixing. In 2016, we signed the contracts with MIYU productions, then started two-and-a-half years of funding applications, pitching, etc. In the meantime, in 2017, we storyboarded for a month and developed a teaser with two animators to understand timings of fabrication and test feasibility. Then from January 2019, it was 10 months of full time working on the film. Overall, we worked with eight actors, eight animators, five colorists, one compositing technician, one foley artist, three sound technicians, one editor and a production team. It was a beast to manage!

What were your visual inspirations and references for developing the look of “Blue Fear”?

“Blue Fear” comes straight from Marie’s drawing style, which itself is a mash up of eclectic references, quoted and collaged from fashion icons – J.W. Anderson, Molly Goddard, Jacquemus to name a few, artists including architects, designers, cinematographers – Vallotton, Matisse, Assayas, Tarantino, Coppola – to name a few. Also from the landscapes surrounding Marie at the time, like the Marseille coasts, as well as some medieval iconography, Instagram it-girls and friends and random collected phone pictures.

This film is less than 10 minutes long but has a tremendous amount of eclectic music in it. Could you talk about the music and sound design, and how you chose what to include?

From the beginning, we wanted “Blue Fear” to be a strange mix of opposite influences, a weird Baroque piece at the crossroad between art, cinema and a videoclip. Tarantino was a big influence, notably in his way of moving freely from one music style to another in his movies. Lola met Bagarre at the beginning of production, and their sound was fitting perfectly the punchy, aggressive, fusion vibe we wanted. We found two readymade tracks of theirs with lyrics that were a spot on mirroring of our scenes. The choice of Pergolese was pretty evident too as a perfect stress on the Baroque spirit of the movie. For the end credits, we had the pleasure to have our talented friend Nicolas Jullien aka the Coward to compose a special tune for us. We wanted it to be smooth, old fashioned and a tad cheesy. It’s called Fille Bleue and it’s part of the movie playlist on Spotify. We wanted to convey an atmosphere that was enigmatic and edgy but also entertaining, like a Pop Sabbat, through this mix. The sound design was a very exciting part of the process, the voices of all the actresses and their personal flow participated to the creation of this nightmarish atmosphere and the ambient mess.

What are you working on now?

Marie is developing some new installation pieces, made of ensemble of hand-drawn textile-based sculptures, as well as a series of dry pastel drawings to be published as a book. Lola is working on children’s books, a comic book with graphic author Yann Le Bec, and her next short and feature films, “Nocomodo” and “Hyenas.”

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“Blue Fear” Credit: Miyu Productions