This is a three question interview with Jean-Christophe Roger the co-director of ERNEST & CELESTINE TRIP TO GIBBERITA. It was done back in March of this year when the film played the New York International Children’s Film Festival. And there is a story about how it happened and how it ended up only three questions.
Several days before the screening I reached out to the festival and asked them if Jean-Christophe Roger would be willing to do an interview. They said that they would let me know. As time got closer to the festival the folks NYICFF said it was probably going to happen, they just had to lock down the schedule. Eventually I was told that something would happen around the screening but they would let me know…. And they did as I was walking into the theater I was pulled aside and was told it was all good to go and that I would get some time, so I should just go find my seat and they'd come and get me… and then came to find me to say that it would be after the screening.
After the screening things went long. Jean-Christophe Roger was mobbed by the kids and he took time to answer every single question put to him and he gave every kid his full attention. It was a glorious things to watch.
Finally it became my turn and we started to talk in the lobby of the theater….and then suddenly the theater staff appeared in the middle of my asking what would be the final question and told us it was time to go they were locking up.
What follows is the three questions I managed to ask.
I want to thank the folks at NYICFF for arranging this and Jean-Christophe Roger for taking a couple of minutes to answer some questions.
STEVE: First thing I have to tell you is that I have been waiting 12 years to tell you that I loved THE STORYTELLING SHOW. (An aside information on THE STORYTELLING SHOW is here)
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE ROGER (JCR): Oh thank you.
STEVE: I know it's been years and years and years but I finally get to tell you that I loved the film so much.
JCR: Thank you so much. It's been kind of lost in France, so most people don't know that movie.
STEVE: It has always been one of the joys of this festival was that I got to see it.
I know it was a personal project and then there is something like Ernest and Celestine which has the books, the earlier movie and the TV show. What's it like going from something wholly your own to something like this film?
JCR: Right now I am preparing two personal projects. It's much more difficult to bring those projects to fruition. Where the characters are more known to the producers it's easier for them to believe that the project will get some money back. But (personal projects) are really hard work, but its what I want to do now. These two films are completely different subjects and techniques. But I'd like to do more personal projects.
THE STORY TELLING SHOW was very personal because because until then nobody let me do what I wanted.
STEVE: I was looking at my notes for THE STORYTELLING SHOW and with this and I was wondering how it was that you managed to get the voices so right. With THE STORYTELLING SHOW you got these kids and they sound and act like kids and here every voice seems exactly right. The voice in ERNEST AND CELESTINE are also perfect. How hard is it to do the voice casting?
JCR: What I do is voice creation. We record the voice without the film being made. We record the voice from the script and the rough storyboard and the we record and the actors can do whatever they want. If they feel that the character would so something one way they are free to do it. It gives the actor a lot of freedom to express the character. If the actor comes in at the end they have to stick to what is there but if we do it early they have freedom.
We recorded (Erenest and Celestine) during covid times and we did it early. We did it with just four actors and with the other actors came in at the end. It was complicated but we insisted on working that way. We got some new ideas during the recording and thought we could shoot that. During the lunch scene Ernest reacts to his father during the speech, it was not in the script but it follows logically again and again. Ideas come by working that way. It makes it seem very natural.
STEVE: One of the things I have to ask you, because the music is fantastic and I loved watching the kids dancing in their seats... I know you worked with a composer, but what inspired you to pick this music? I could hear hints of things like the English group Madness and others that you seemed to pull from. What music did you use for inspiration?
JCR: Basically, its a kind of Balkanic kind of band, ska music, from salasa and various types of music depending on the sequences.
(And it was at this point we were physically removed)