Staff Favorites August 2014: featuring “F L O A T I N G” by Greg Jardin

By Sam Morrill

As you may have heard, this summer was the worst Hollywood’s seen in over a decade. Fortunately, Vimeo was spared from such watching woes — our Staff Picks churned out online blockbusters all summer long.

The arrival of August was accompanied by an epic time lapse from the hermit kingdom, a single-take projection mapping masterpiece and ‘F L O A T I N G’ a delicate love story that rose above the rest. We caught up with Greg Jardin, the director of “F L O A T I N G,” to chat about love, loneliness, and, of course, balloons.

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You’ve directed some awesome music videos in the past, but this is the first narrative piece we’ve seen of yours. Was this your first narrative short?

It’s my first narrative short since graduating from film school. I had directed a handful of short films while there and the final one was sort of what got me signed as a director for music videos and commercials. It’s called, “The Problem With Fiber Optics,” and you can check it out here.

The idea of a romance between two “balloon people” is a pretty novel concept. What was the original inspiration for the film?

I was having brunch with a friend and batting around ideas for a music video I was writing a treatment for. Somehow, I had an idea revolving around the visual of a bunch of balloons in the sky, which segued into the visual image of a person made out of balloons, which I really liked. The image always seemed lonely to me, and in trying to develop a story, it seemed like the character’s fragility would have to play a large part.

So, at that point, I’d thought the story would be about a lonely balloon person living in a busy city trying to establish some sort of connection with the people around it – by helping a woman who’d dropped her purse, by helping an older man cross the street, etc. – but in doing so, would get its balloons popped, one by one, until only the head is left, which floats away.

I really liked the idea of crafting an emotional narrative around something that you would normally not have any real emotional connection to, in this case, balloons. When I started discussing the idea with my friend Matthew Beans, who ended up co-writing it with me, we started discussing the notion that giving the balloon person a kindred spirit and separating the two could give it more of an emotional impact that a balloon person alone for the duration of the film.

We couldn’t help thinking of the classic short ‘The Red Balloon’ when watching ‘F L O A T I N G’. Do you see ‘F L O A T I N G’ as an homage to Albert Lamorisse’s film?

It wasn’t necessarily meant to be a homage. That said, I’d seen “The Red Balloon” years ago and from the get-go, I did picture the balloon character as being fully comprised of red balloons, which I’m sure was a decision subconsciously informed by “The Red Balloon” itself.

Music plays a pretty essential role in the film. Can you speak to the process that went into crafting the score?

I directed a music video for The Joy Formidable a little while back, and I love their music because, while it can be really heavy and powerful, all of their stuff has a strong emotional undercurrent to it — something you just feel naturally when you listen to it. A few months after we’d finished the video, Ritzy (the lead singer) was telling me that her and Rhydian (the bassist) were dabbling in scoring and musical compositions that weren’t necessarily related to the band. It was an exciting idea for me to have them score the film, both because of their innate emotional songwriting, and the fact that they hadn’t fully scored a film yet.

We had discussed the idea of the music essentially echoing the emotion of the main character – initially expressing the loneliness with a piano and not much else, creating a theme, but keeping it fairly subdued. Then, once the other character is introduced, the music becomes warmer and the orchestration is more complex. It was important to make sure the music was never too grandiose, but ultimately, all of the credit for the melodies and nuances and emotions has to go to the band.

What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

Figuring out the VFX workflow — more specifically, how to create and animate a photorealistic character out of balloons. I’ve been building my knowledge of After Effects and slowly incorporating it into my projects as I’ve gone along, but for this one I had to beef up on Cinema 4D and motion tracking (Syntheyes). The impetus for actually making the film was when I saw a Greyscale Gorilla tutorial online on how to create a balloon using C4D. From there, I got a lot of help and advice from my friend George Loucas (not to be confused with George Lucas), who owns a great VFX company called Baked FX.

What’s next from Greg Jardin?

Trying to find someone to finance another short, trying to get a feature made, trying to figure out how to better accessorize my Vespa, and trying to wean myself off of coffee.

: Staff Favorites August 2014: featuring “F L O A T I N G” by Greg Jardin