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Interview with ‘Supervenus’ director Frédéric Doazan

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Supervenus is a gripping, brilliantly satirical, slightly twisted film about a plastic surgery nightmare that has finally been released online this week after a hugely successful festival run. A cut-out girl is manipulated by god-like hands and subjected to all kinds of enhancements to a gruesome and darkly humorous end. The animation techniques used in the film compliment the story excellently and give it real impact. It is an excellent watch; despite the serious background subject matter, the film is playful and the comedic timing is spot on.

Skwigly had the pleasure of learning more about the project from Frédéric Doazan, the man behind the film.

What was the original inspiration for creating Supervenus?

One day, I was looking for some creepy images and searched online for “plastic surgery disaster”. The result was a full page of distorted and inhuman faces, mainly images of famous people with “before” and “after” pictures. It was somehow inspiring. I thought it could be fun to show in animation the “evolution” from this “before” to “after”. Almost all the parts of our bodies can be altered with cosmetic surgery. Besides breast implants, liposuction, lifting, and botox, I discovered that you can stretch your legs to be taller, remove your ribs for a smaller waist, adapt your feet to fit your shoes, and even design your vagina. Sadly fascinating…I also read a really great book that inspired me a lot: Beauté Fatale by Mona Chollet. It talks about women’s alienation through beauty nowadays and it’s just incredible. 
I started manipulating an old anatomy illustration in Photoshop and became a virtual cosmetic surgeon. I didn’t have a complete concept or a clear preconceived idea of what I wanted it to be when I started. I was just playing spontaneously in Photoshop, enjoying it, trying things. Step by step, I transformed this standard illustration into an iconic plastic beauty falling into pieces. Similar to a timelapse, I made screenshots during all my work on Photoshop to document the process. You can also get a glimpse of my internet searches that inspired me: anatomy, bimbos, surgery, porn and zombies…

Assets for Supervenus in Photoshop (click to see full list of layers)

Assets for Supervenus in Photoshop (click to see full list of layers)

Then, I animated the film on my little laptop with After Effects. I ended up with more than 1300 layers in the end! You learn to be organised…and zen! Supervenus was made without any funding or production. From start to finish, it took me 10 months to complete it. Besides time, the film cost me only 10 euros: I just bought a few surgical tools, and a small green cardboard to make a homemade green screen in order to record my hands. I set up this tiny studio in my living room shooting only on sunny days with no artificial light. It was a bit off-the-wall, but it worked pretty well thanks to the resourcefulness! Just at the right time when the animation was done, I randomly met a sound designer, Vandy Roc. He was ready to create the sound and did an amazing job. He was the only other person to work on the film.

Supervenus was so successful I couldn’t have imagine it. When you make a film without any money and with only two people involved, it’s definitely rewarding to be selected for more than 130 festivals worldwide!

Affiche_SupervenusThe film is clearly a comment on modern views of beauty. Do you think there is pressure on women nowadays to conform to particular standards of ‘beauty’ and if so, where do you think that pressure comes from?

You just need to see how women are represented on TV, in magazines, advertising, fashion. It’s all about beauty and we are surrounded by that. These images are either Photoshopped or transformed with cosmetic surgery to show a perfect body without any faults. When you see these images everyday and everywhere, there is an obvious impact on people, like a vicious brainwashing. Slowly this modern view of beauty is finally becoming a norm; an unattainable norm full of consequences. Women will be easily frustrated about their bodies, men will get attracted by fake beauty.

This unattainable norm is here to attract people in order to sell them lipstick, shoes, boobs, dreams or whatever you could buy to fit yourself into this strange idea of beauty.

And just to qualify the statement, this is not just women’s things. Men can be totally obsessed with their looks too.

There are many graphic moments in the film. Was shocking people into an awareness of today’s cosmetic-surgery culture something that you wanted to do with the film?

Well, I usually like to put graphic moments in my films. There is always a bit of blood, explosions, deaths. Maybe because I like to do weird films, disturb the audience or make them laugh. It can be somehow gratuitous but if you add some clever irony in the mix, provocation can reach an interesting level. For me, provocation is like shaking up the audience. It helps to make them active and raise questions. And it makes sense when you talk about cosmetic surgery. Besides the pain of the surgery, many cases involved breast implants exploding, degenerating into cancer and even causing death. Psychologically, well, it must be so strange to wake up after a surgery and not recognize yourself. Are you still yourself? When you practice extreme cosmetic surgery, it’s like you were totally breaking your body away from your mind. Your body becomes akin to a showcase that you try to promote to the world. A clean, thin and busty body, forever young led by a pinky plastic brain. Your body has become a perfect beauty product.

As the model is changed in two stages, we see the evolution of the perception of female beauty. Do you think we’ll ever reach a point where a woman’s personality counts more than her appearance?

Women are the main target of a huge and lucrative beauty business. This greedy business will continue to grow and we will still be bombarded by images and diktats.

Fortunately, you see some awareness emerging around the absurdity of artificial beauty and appearance. Attitudes started to shift more in favour of natural and equal way. But the path is full of pitfalls. It’s really tricky to avoid all of these stereotypes that consumerism sells. Women and, above all, men should question all these everyday gender clichés. We sometimes get stuck in stupid rules which are deeply rooted in our culture and society.

Was Supervenus made for your collaboration 12fps?

Yes, it was made for the fourth episode of this project. We chose the theme “Supervixens”: an erotic comedy by Russ Meyer featuring women with big boobs – the theme is just a starting point for our inspiration.

Dead Vixen - short by for 12fps' Supervixens project

Still from Dead Vixen – short by Sylvain Cappelletto for 12fps’ Supervixens project

Tell us about 12fps. How did it start? What do you hope to achieve with it? Where do you get inspiration for your themes?

12fps started in 2012. It’s like an animation laboratory. We are three animator friends – Paul Rodrigues, Sylvain Cappelletto and myself – who wanted to make a collective and creative project besides our professional work. It appeared that we needed constraints and deadlines in order to force us into make films. A few years earlier, my two fellows already achieved another great animated challenge: 52×2.net. In a way, it inspired 12fps (the name 12fps is based on our first names : Frederic, Paul and Sylvain) – the goal of 12fps is to make a series of 12 animated episodes. For each episode, we pick a theme (in turn) and each of us has to make one short and one very short film about this theme. We can use any animation techniques we want. For each episode, we also create some motion titles like a parody of a TV program. All of this creates a cool unity. It’s a good platform to show our skills and maybe find some creative work. But the main thing of this project is to have fun ! You cannot imagine how excited we get on the day we watch the films for the first time…we’re like kids!
Now, we invite other animators to participate with us in this animated challenge and it works great! Even if, to be honest, we’re sometimes really lazy and postpone the deadline again and again.

Not that long ago we released our eighth episode with the topic “Interstellar”, which was a cool episode with all the films taking place in space. We have four more episodes to finish. I guess we will do something special for the final episode, like inviting a bunch of animators to participate.

I really like the cut-out style of animation that you used. I felt it worked really well in the film! Was it an easy decision to use this style or did it take a while to decide to do it that way?

It came pretty quickly. But even if it looks like a cut-out style, it’s all made in After Effects. Actually, I haven’t studied at any animation schools, I just learned it by myself. I couldn’t imagine doing it in 3D or hand drawing, for example, because I don’t have enough skills. So I wanted to use the cut-out style mixed with the full control of a 2D computer animation.

Still from Supervenus (Dir. Frédéric Doazan)

Still from Supervenus (Dir. Frédéric Doazan)

The cut-out style animation matched perfectly with the old iconography of anatomy. I remember when I was a kid watching out of curiosity the anatomy page of the school dictionary with a man and a woman naked. At that time the internet wasn’t around and it was more or less the first view of nudity we got. So I thought it was interesting to start with this standard illustration and evolve towards something terrible, like a new standard.

The god-like hands manipulating and changing the model make an accurate but sinister point about how external influences can force us to change our bodies. How do you feel about the cosmetic surgery industry as a whole? Do you think there’s hope for change?

It’s actually pretty scary and hopeless when you see the young generation nowadays being totally brainwashed. Make-up, heels and even fake bras, the whole outfit is already available on the market for very young girls. At the age of ten they are already focused on their appearance, looking forward to having shapes and missing their childhood by dreaming about beauty. It reminds me of a great video by Pleix: Beauty Kit for Little Girls. So, hope? I don’t really know…but for sure not until people stop being fooled by the consumerism way of life.

See more work by Frédéric Doazan and the 12fps collective at 12fps.net

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