Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards
Crafting Claymation Nostalgia for OrelSan’s ‘La Quête’ Video
Production Company
Paris, France
Wizz’s director Victor Haegelin speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the stop motion spot that was inspired by the smell of playdough and made to create a sense of nostalgia

French rapper and songwriter OrelSan, otherwise known as Aurélien Cotentin, released his newest music video for ‘La Quête’ last month, featuring a stop motion representation of his life. The music video features the singer seemingly creating his life out of clay and playing into the first line of his song, “Nothing takes me back more than the smell of playdough.” As he tells his story, OrelSan gives his fans an entirely new take on his music videos, in a claymation realm he hasn’t covered before. 

With a quick turnaround time for this project, a team of 10 created all the puppets and shot the animation that went across four different sets. Using images of the people in OrelSan’s life, as well as old pictures sourced by the team, the animated figures not only represented the singer’s life, but were modelled on the real-life people in it. Most significantly, the video was created to feel as though the singer himself both shot and created it in its entirety, which certainly translated.

Wizz’s stop motion director Victor Haegelin speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about conveying a sense of nostalgia in the piece and even shares a blooper that you can spot with a keen eye.

LBB> We’d love to hear about how you decided to tell OrelSan’s story through clay animation. What were the initial discussions you had with him?

Victor> He actually contacted me himself and said he thought of me for this music video because the first sentence of the song is, “Nothing takes me back more than the smell of playdough.” Then we started talking together and we thought it could be fun to put him in the role of an animator in his workshop where he would be telling and building his story himself.

LBB> What was the overall feeling you wanted to convey throughout the video?

Victor> I wanted to convey nostalgia and certain intimacy with OrelSan, and I wanted to do that in a way where we also see OrelSan signing his story as well, without cheating. 

LBB> With this being a music video, how did you ensure the animation style fit with the lyrics and genre of music?

Victor> This was a question I was constantly asking myself! I had a lot of trust in the modelmaker Coralli Grieu, and the way I animate, so it was just about mixing it all together. But during the whole process, I was wondering, “Is it too childish?”, “Is it hip hop enough?”

LBB> How long did it take to create this claymation music video? Can you talk us through the process?

Victor> It was very short! OrelSan called me before Christmas and wanted the music video to be done by mid-February. In the world of stop motion, this is very fast for a film of this length when you consider the fact you have to animate each frame, plus the model making and set construction, and the live-action shoot. 

During the Christmas holidays, I was convinced it would be impossible, but the team was so motivated we decided to just go for it. It took about 20 days for an experienced team of 10 people to build all the puppets and sets and then it took 10 days to shoot the animation on the four sets.

Then Orelsan joined us for the day to shoot all the live segments between animation sequences. After that, it was about two weeks for the post-production team at Fix Studio / Quad Group so we made it just in time!

LBB> How did you come up with the style and characterisation of each clay character? Did you take inspiration from real people in OrelSan’s life?

Victor> We asked Orelsan to give us pictures of all the people he is talking about. Luckily his brother has well documented his life which you might have seen on Amazon Prime

LBB> What was the most challenging part of creating this stop-motion spot?

Victor> The most challenging part was making a film that looks like one sequence shot that Orelsan made himself. I think it actually worked better than I expected, a lot of people think he’s doing it himself with an iPhone!

LBB> When it came to editing the spot, how much footage did you have to go through and were there any moments you knew you had to keep in the video?

Victor> All the stop motion sequences are one take, stop motion takes so long to shoot that we can’t really shoot any extra. And for the live-action footage, once we had the right acting, good timing, plus a take where we manage to lock the camera at the right position, it didn’t leave a lot of choices – but I’m really happy with what we have.

LBB> What was your favourite aspect of the music video and can you tell us why?

Victor> I’m so happy that it looks like OrelSan did the film alone! I’m so happy it works. I think it was a great challenge on many levels, and it was cool to mix stop motion and live-action in one music video. I also think this was a bit of a pleasant surprise for OrelSan’s fanbase. It was unexpected but at the same time, the concept works so well with the lyrics.

LBB> The response to the video has been great. Do you have a favourite reaction that you’ve seen?

Victor> Again, I love seeing the reactions of people who believe OrelSan made this video by himself! That is what we wanted to achieve. 

There was one reaction that was particularly fun for me. There’s a sequence when OrelSan is talking about his ex-girlfriends, and in the film, we see a series of photos. A YouTuber wondered if they were actual photos of OrelSan’s ex-girlfriends, but actually, they come from the modelmaking team, and their childhood friends – and there’s even one of my partner, too! 

LBB> Would you like to share anything else with us?

Victor> I have a small blooper I can share. In the film, the hands you see animating the characters are mine, so I used a ring on my finger like OrelSan’s. One morning I put it on the wrong finger so there’s one shot like that in the film. Voilà 

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