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August 17th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

"Animation was a key element to create emotion" - Audrey Pacart (MARCO & POLO GO ROUND)

Producer between France and Canada, Audrey Pacart is passionate about innovation. From projects (MARCO & POLO GO ROUND) to events (Tribeca Immersive, the KIF in France this fall), she is involved in both the narrative and the setting up of international co-productions. Portrait of an XR entrepreneur.

From Montreal to Europe

Audrey Pacart - I'm based in Montreal, where I initially ran one of the first SVOD platforms: TOU.TV, linked to Radio-Canada. Through various professional experiences, I then became interested in writing, in immersive storytelling - whether it be small or large format. Then I discovered the technologies, the technical part of new media. I was part of several juries, and little by little I got to the financing and specific production for virtual reality.

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A. P. - I met Benjamin Steiger Levine through one of the agencies I was working with. At the time he was making music videos and corporate films, but with the idea of MARCO & POLO GO ROUND. It was exactly what I wanted to produce, coming from fiction and cinema: a romantic, sensual project. This remains a territory that is not very well explored in the immersive field.

MARCO & POLO, a hybrid co-production

A. P. - We discussed the technology after developing the story. I come from the traditional creative industries, with real narrative ambition: the script for MARCO & POLO GO ROUND was so strong, visual, with gravity and feeling. It already had a lot of basic elements that helped shape the way we were going to make it, and the art direction. We wanted to be in the middle of the stage, with the actors. So we wanted to have actors to film, and we chose motion capture. And a real desire for a strong visual style, which led us to choose animation.

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A. P. - On this project we set up very complex process. In VR we have projects with game engines, others with animation, motion capture studios: each sector has its own way of doing things, its own processes. This hybrid side took us 2 years, the time to bring everyone together and learn to work together. And by experimenting! Using motion capture and animation also means working on the relationship between the two to preserve the emotion of each performance as much as possible.

A. P. - In the end, the budget quickly increased. We were lucky enough to find a co-production with Belgium (thanks to the aid between our two countries), with Belga Productions and Zeste Studio for the creative part, and then of course the team of Dpt. in Montreal who believed in the project from the first day. With them we focused on the emotion, the hands of the characters. Every manipulation had to be anticipated, especially with the weightlessness that came into play. Motion capture meant anticipating everything: we had to build the kitchen (the set) out of wood, to the millimeter, to work on every movement. We had to build the kitchen (the set) out of wood, down to the last millimeter, to work on every movement. Even the smallest gestures for the hands, we were able to work on the details to make the experience convincing.

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A. P. - One of our concerns was the physicality of the action and especially the look of the characters. We spent the most time on that, and it seems to work. The animation was a key element in making it work. Benjamin knew exactly what he wanted. In the references, on our art direction, there was David Hockney and his paintings. That's what gives this very colorful universe.

A. P. - We already have several festival selections, with a premiere at Tribeca. MARCO & POLO has been bought by Diversion for distribution, and Arte on the broadcasting side.

KIF, a new event in France

A. P. - Alexandre Michelin asked me to supervise a museum creative workshop during the KIF next September. Our focus this year will be Japanese art. I see what's going on in these workshops, whether it's the Atelier Grand Nord in Canada or others. It is an important passage to create a link, to accelerate projects. For the KIF, I wanted the museums to be present. The Grand-Est region (in France) is also helping us to invite them. They will be able to discover 5 selected projects, and choose to co-produce some of them.

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A. P. - We will challenge each project from the end of August, to find the synergy between the productions and the places. It's exciting for the museums, because some of them will join forces to produce works: the possibilities are tenfold! Having orders from the beginning of the production is a unique opportunity.

Have your own project

A. P. - I'm developing a project by Davy and Kristin Mcguire for which I'm the producer, which is a co-production between France, the UK (CreativeXR) and Canada. It is an LBE experience inspired by paper pop up books revisiting a vampire story. The spectator will be able to live a life-size theatrical AR experience around a gigantic book, thanks to tablets or phones. With a book also, proposed in two formats (classic and collector) for the general public.

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Marco & Polo Go Round

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