What is Vallée Duhamel? Are you a motion studio? Graphic Designers? Artists? All round creatives?
Vallée Duhamel is Julien Vallée and I. We are a duo of directors from Montreal, Quebec. We also like to take on art and installation projects, as well as graphic design sometimes. But we mostly create and direct films.
A lot of your motion work takes an analogue approach rather than using CGI animation. What is the appeal of using real materials for you? What are the limitations and the freedoms?
We like to dig into animation techniques old and new and blend them into one film. It often gives a analogue vibe to each film, and we like that a lot, but don’t want to limit ourselves to it. We also do quite a lot of CGI, and try to blend both in a way that makes people wonder how we did this or that. In this way, it’s mostly freedom rather than limitations.
In your work I can see a lot of references to the work of the Memphis Group – from the pastel colour palette through to the use of simple geometric three dimensional forms. What is it about this particular style that intrigues you?
The Memphis Group created work that in our opinion has this very current / actual feel right now. We are very inspired by the simplicity of colours and shapes, which come together in a specific object or set design in a way that suddenly becomes more impressive than the sum of its parts. I think what appeals to us is the idea of the ‘whole’ created by this mix of a lot of simple, minimalist details.
Browsing your portfolio you begin to see a house style for Vallée Duhamel emerging. Do you ever feel restricted by this? Do you feel it limits you creatively? Or do clients seek you out because of it?
It would definitely be lying to pretend it’s not limiting. Obviously clients do seek us for what they know you for. That being said, we feel extremely lucky to have gained the trust of such amazing clients, this is a big part of what makes me love what I do.
You have some rather high profile technology clients – who seem like a brave bunch – given the work they commissioned you to do. How did you convince these tech giants to proceed with such fun and tactile pieces, rather than the CGI eye candy you might expect from them?
Clients have always been keen to work with us on developing something unique for their product. They are mostly very open to talk about their concept together, and come to the studio with the idea that we will all have fun and work on a visually striking film that carries their message well.
You’ve worked on some rather complex projects involving actors, robotic cameras, stunts, explosions etc… How does Vallée Duhamel approach these challenges? What is the process for working on a job involving so many moving parts from start to finish?
We started around 10 years ago building everything by hand ourselves with a bunch of friends made over the years around the same passion (Julien, Jean-Constant Guigue, Simon Duhamel, Olivier Charland, Carolyne De Bellefeuille, Charlotte Ratel, etc.). I think having being involved on all fronts at the beginning makes it easier to keep track of every small detail now that we are working on bigger productions. We are also collaborating with such amazing people, it’s always a huge honour to work with them!
Play seems to be at the heart of your work – whether it’s a leaf zipping up into a clutch, colourful popsicles forming words, or general visual mayhem. How important is bringing fun into the work to you, and do you ever have to fight to include it?
Fortunately this is one of the aspects of our work I think clients hope and expect. Our job is to try to find new ways and twists to serve each script.
With such variety in your portfolio what piece are you most proud of?
My personal favourite is A Very Short Film. It’s a film about a girl in a yellow dress that arrives in a strange, surrealistic world.
At the core of Vallée Duhamel is you and Julien. What roles do you both take?
We are quite complementary. We both work on scripts and visual styling at the beginning, and then often one or the other will develop it further into the process depending on affinities with each project. On the shoot we both direct together. We trust each others opinion a lot, and it helps quite a bit to refine each others work!
Montréal seems to be at the forefront of excellent design in Canada. The city is imbued with amazing studios. What is it about Montréal that nurtures this thriving design scene?
It might be because the culture scene is big compared to the size of the city, which is quite small. It makes people from every field of creativity meet each other and evolves in these blended environments that mix music, visual arts, films, etc. in a way that is very inspiring.
What do you see as the future for Vallée Duhamel? Do you have plans to grow the studio?
It is very important for us to remain a small team, but collaborate with production houses that have the team and reach that give us the space to grow. What is in the future, hopefully, is more opportunities to push our visuals further, time to develop them thoughtfully, and the addition of even more storytelling in our next films. We are working on a short film, and we will hopefully shoot it this year as well!
Can you name a another Canadian female and male creative who is doing some amazing work?
As a duo I really like Chloe Lum & Yannick Desranleau’s work together. It’s quite amazing and visually striking what they do in terms of flat images and art installations. The all-female duo Milk & Bone is also great. Their music is very cinematographic and hypnotising. The list could go on!