Official Selection - Short film competition
Annecy International Animation Film Festival, 2021

Claude Cloutier
Bad Seeds
nfb.ca/claude-cloutier

Bad Seeds takes us to a bizarre world populated by carnivorous plants that can change shapes the way a chameleon changes colours. The veteran director of Carface deftly connects growth with rivalry and evolution with competition, crafting an increasingly shocking duel that’s peppered with allusions to the western, the Cold War, board games, and much more.

Hi Claude thanks for talking to tNC, how have you been keeping during these strange Covid times? 

 

Hi Niger. Thanks for your interest in my work. I was fortunate in that COVID only affected me during the final months of production. On the other hand, it did delay the release of the film.

Has this time offered you any new creative inspirations?

 

For me, there wasn’t a huge difference between life before and during COVID. I realize that my craft is practised in a kind of isolation. It’s as if I’ve been working under pandemic conditions my whole life.

Do you still get nerves ahead of a festival screening?

 

There’s always a bit of a thrill that comes with having an audience in the room, but I always have doubts about how viewers will react to my film—even though I’ve been making animation for many years.

You are not stranger to Annecy do you remember what your first time at Annecy was like?

 

Believe it or not, it was back in 1989. It was my first festival, and I was discovering the world of animation, the international side of things, the quantity and quality of the productions.

How does it feel to be back at Annecy with Bad Seeds?

 

It’s a great honour to be selected at Annecy. Unfortunately, I’m not able to attend this year. This is how COVID has affected me, in the end...

Can you tell me a little bit about Bad Seeds, what was the inspiration behind this film?

 

For me, the initial idea for a film always comes from a drawing. This drawing usually comes out of the graphical explorations I do parallel to working on animation. For Bad Seeds, the drawing in question was an animal connected to the ground by a plant stalk. I developed the idea for the film around this image, in the form of a fable.

"The day I finish a film feels like freedom...and then I get right to work starting another one the next day!"

How flexible do you allow yourself on a project once you move into production?

 

To maintain my creativity over the course of production, which can stretch out over a long period of time, I develop a type of narrative that allows for a certain amount of improvisation. My screenplay is built on a narrative spine that doesn’t change but is made up of several smaller narrative blocks, each of which can.

 

What was the biggest challenges you faced making Bad Seeds?

 

It was the soundtrack. It was very hard to find just the right tone. There’s a contrast between the seriousness of the subject and the humorous events. It had to walk the line between drama and cartoon. A huge thank you to Olivier Calvert, the film’s sound designer!

 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from and is it ever hard to let go of your films and hand them over to audiences? 

 

My first contact with film definitely came through Disney movies and Bugs Bunny cartoons. I discovered auteur animation through NFB films and through Radio-Canada showing them on TV when I was young.

 

The end of any production is always very intense. It’s the culmination of years of work and at that point we’re all getting kind of sick of it. The day I finish a film feels like freedom...and then I get right to work starting another one the next day!

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As an award winning filmmaking does the recognition these award bring add any extra pressure on you as a filmmaker?

 

Yes, I think so. After a few years of practice, once you start becoming better known, you get the sense that people have expectations. Anything you produce will be compared to whatever your most successful film is. 

How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?

 

I started out as an illustrator and comic book artist. Early on, I put more of a focus on still images and the visual side of film, rather than on the narrative side. I would say I learned about cinema by directing my first few films, and today I’m just as much a filmmaker as an illustrator.

 

Is there any advice you would offer an emerging filmmaker?

 

My advice connects with the answer to the previous question: whatever the drawing style, the complexity or quality of the images, whether they are figurative or abstract, what really matters is that you master the language of cinema, so that the film has a story that’s well told.

 

And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Bad Seeds?

 

I hope my film will entertain viewers, of course, and make them think a bit about how humans relate to each other and to the environment.