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February 2018

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DEPARTMENT 32 POST FEBRUARY 2018 the train belching steam, sunflowers dancing in the wind, or the postman saying hello, seeing Loving Vincent will be a stunning experience. The opening sequence of the film, which takes viewers into van Gogh's "The Starry Night," required more than 600 paintings. Three painters spent a combined total of 14 months creating the shot. The Idea During his lifetime, van Gogh wrote more than 800 letters, and those letters, even more than his paintings, inspired writer/director Dorota Kobiela to make this film. Originally, Kobiela, a graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw who had received several awards for her stereoscopic, paint- ed animated short, Little Postman, had planned to have Loving Vincent be her seventh short film, and intended to paint it herself. Instead, she directed the artists who painted the feature. Hugh Welchman, Kobiela's spouse, persuaded her to do the feature film after waiting in long lines to at- tend a van Gogh exhibition. Welchman had founded BreakThru Films in 2002 and received an Oscar in 2008 for the short film Peter & the Wolf, created with stop-motion puppet animation. He became co-writer, co-director and producer of Loving Vincent. After exploring other stages of van Gogh's life, Kobiela decided to plot the story over his last days, during which he had painted many portraits. Van Gogh became an artist at age 28 and died 10 years later. During that decade, the Dutch artist generated 2,100 artworks, of which approximately 860 were oil paintings, most made in France during the last two years of his life. Approximately 80 percent of the film is based on van Gogh's paintings; the other 20 percent features black-and-white flashbacks into van Gogh's early life, for which there are no paintings. Kobiela de- cided to use black and white because many of her reference materials were black-and-white photo- graphs, and to give the audiences' eyes a rest from van Gogh's intense color. The story that writers Kobiela, Welchman and Jacek Dehnel imagined for Loving Vincent stars Armand Roulin, the son of Postman Joseph Roulin. The elder Roulin has just heard that his friend Vincent van Gogh has killed himself. So, he gives Armand a letter to deliver to Vincent's brother Theo in Paris. But by the time Armand arrives, Theo is dead, too. Armand finds Pere Tanguy, a paint supplier, though, and Pere relays Vincent's story of struggle and determination. But, Armand wants to know why Vincent would take his life. So, he travels to Auvers-sur-Oise to find out. In Auvers, Armand meets many of the villag- ers Vincent painted. They tell him conflicting sto- ries, and it isn't until Armand meets the influential Doctor Gachet that he begins to understand. All these characters are played by well-known actors chosen for their resemblance to the peo- ple van Gogh painted. Douglas Booth (Armand Roulin), Robert Gulaczyk (Vincent van Gogh), Eleanor Tomlinson (Adeline Ravoux), Jerome Flynn (Dr. Gachet), Saoirse Ronan (Marguerite Gachet), Chris O'Dowd (Postman Roulin), Aidan Turner (Boatman), John Sessions (Pere Tanguy) and Helen McCrory (Louise Chevalier) performed at London's Three Mills Studios, with 80 percent of the shots on greenscreen stages and the rest in sets constructed to look like van Gogh paintings. Following that two-week shoot, the crew shot body doubles in Poland for another two weeks. By shooting live-action actors, the directors could create reference materials for the entire film in a short time, and later, the footage would help the painters convey human emotion in their animated paintings. Design Painting Before and during the live-action shoot, 20 painters began working on the process that would lead to the creation of those 65,000 oil paintings. "Based on the script, we had a number of shots and scenes with a specific environment — inside, outside, in the fields, the restaurant and so forth — based on original paintings as reference," says head of painting Piotr Dominiak. "Then we had scenes without the paintings as reference. We had to create environments and backgrounds for All total, 65,000 oil paintings were created. Dragonframe soware was used to capture the stop-motion technique.

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