(Cineuropa) Marcus H Rosenmüller and Santiago López Jover • Directors of Snotty Boy
Marcus H Rosenmüller and Santiago López Jover teamed up on the production of Snotty Boy [+]. They presented their satirical comedy inspired by the life and art of Austrian cartoonist Manfred Deix at Annecy. The film marks the first animated project by German director Rosenmüller (The Keeper [+]), while Spanish director López Jover has already signed his name to a series of international animated films. We chatted with the two of them to find out more about the background of the production and their personal interest in the story.
Cineuropa: Where did your inspiration for the film come from?
Marcus H Rosenmüller: The idea came from the producer Josef Aichholzer. He wanted to make a film about the life and artistic universe of the Austrian cartoonist Manfred Deix. A scriptwriter, Martin Ambrosch, prepared the script and then I was asked to direct the film with Santiago. The story has a lot of biographical references to Deix, it shows how you can become a rebel with your talents, in the same way that Deix did.
Santiago López Jover: Manfred Deix was actually involved in the early development of the script, which he reviewed. This led to many facets of Deix's own life being subsumed into a fictional story. The 1960s setting fits with his own youth and social context.
Why did you feel the film would work better as an animation rather than live action?
MHR: Since Manfred Deix is a cartoonist himself, it felt more natural to use animation to tell the story.
SLJ: What I find interesting about this film is that it examines the artist Manfred Deix from different points of view, also in its visual treatment of the subject. Animation was probably the best way to bring his illustrations to life.
How did you develop the aesthetics and the visual concept of the film?
SLJ: Normally, every animation film has an art director. I would say that, here, the art director was Deix. From the very beginning, all of the artwork was inspired by the material that had been passed on to us. The animation is very faithful to the essence and illustration style of this material. Not just the characters, but the texture of the film itself is also heavily inspired by the watercolour technique he used. There was a previous attempt at a film, before this one came along, which examined the 3D effects of Deix’s artwork.
MHR: We went through the material and searched for characters by Deix which would best fit the characters in the script. Only the main character of the “snotty boy” and his girlfriend Mariolina are new and invented by us, although they’re still inspired by what we saw in Deix's work.
What do the 1960s tell us about the present day?
MHR: In 2012, when we first started to work on the film, I had no idea that the story would be so topical today. The idea that right-wing ideas would be gaining ground was unimaginable at the time. But when we show this animated film today, it still mirrors our society. There aren’t just two groups in the story, it’s not all black and white, good and bad. There’s a third group made up of those who accept such things, who don't complain about the injustices in society.
SLJ: I also feel that the film is very topical at present. It portrays the Austrian youth of the sixties, who suddenly realised their parents were involved in a terrible war and were on the wrong side, and these young people wanted to disengage from it. Deix belongs to this generation. Somehow, many parts of the world are now in a similar situation, with the rise of extremist ideas from the past and younger generations having to contend with them.
I guess you’re both cat people?
MHR: Deix was. They played an important role in his life.
SLJ: And we felt it would fit perfectly to have a cat save the main protagonist at the end.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in the film’s production?
MHR: For me, given that it was my first animated film, the biggest challenge was matching the story to the animated images. I had to learn that you can't make major changes once the story is set. Not like you can in live action films, for example, in the editing process.
SLJ: It was difficult getting by on the limited budget we were given. The script was pretty hefty; there were a lot of characters and situations that were expensive in animation terms. We had a 110-page script that would result in a 100-minute film. But there were only twelve of us in our animation team, which isn’t very many by industry standards. So we had to make quite a few cuts to bring it down to its present length of 84 minutes, before animating the film.
How did you divide the tasks between the two of you?
HRM: To give you an example, I worked with a fantastic team in terms of scouting for locations and their art design. I helped organise the design of the costumes and I was in charge of directing the actors who were voicing the characters. I knew some of the actors, but it was the producer Josef Aichholzer who found and hired them.
SLJ: I was in charge of storytelling through the storyboards, the animation itself and the final proofs. Right from the outset, the storyboard edit governs the film; it gives you your timings and sets your limits. Animation storyboards also include the acting: there and then, you have to define how a character holds a pen, for example. All those narrative ideas are then given shape through animation and the final look.
What impact has Covid-19 had on your work?
HRM: I’m curious to see whether audiences return to cinemas. I want to make films for cinema and not for digital exploitation. The release of a film that I was co-writing was postponed several times last year, and then went directly to Amazon, for example, which I wasn't very happy about. I hope we see audiences returning to cinemas this summer.
SLJ: For me, it’s had a big impact, since I have a chronic disease and I’m in the at-risk group. This means I can’t go to public events, and I can't attend the film's premiere. I’ve already been working from home for a year now because of it. I’m not saying that it’s a positive or negative thing, but it has definitely had a big impact on my work.