Before the screening of Rafael Grampá’s short film “Dark Noir” in Berlin, we sat down with the graphic novelist to learn more about what it’s like to collaborate with strangers, the source of ideas and more.
Born in Brazil, Rafael Grampá got his professional start as an art director of animation, motion graphics and graphic design. Fast forward to today and Grampá has since published several works under DC Comics and Marvel Comics, not to mention a handful of prestigious awards including the Brazilian Eisner Award for Best Artist and Best Especial Graphic Novel for Mesmo Delivery.
For his latest project, Grampá joined forces with Absolut to collaborate on an even wider scale with the creative public with one goal in mind: to inspire. Days before the world premiere of “Dark Noir,” we caught up with the cartoonist in the German capital to learn more about the entire creative process and the final result.
Tell us about your beginnings. When did you first get into graphic novels?
I started with graphic novels when I was a kid. I was discovering graphic novels and preparing myself to be a comic book artist since my childhood. But I had a twist in my life there when I just decided to quit everything in my life – my job and serious things – to become a comic book artist. I didn’t know that I could do it because it was like, my first graphic novel was really my FIRST graphic novel. I don’t know, maybe God loves me and it happened.
Why did you decide to quit your job exactly?
Because, you know, I couldn’t sleep. It’s something you don’t decide, it’s something that is annoying you, like, “Ok I will do it! I will quit my job and I will do graphic novels.” And I did it. You never know why you do things. Like when you meet a girl and maybe you fall in love – why? We don’t have control over everything. And this is about passion, it’s about art and it’s because art exists and you don’t have control over it. You just need to do it.
Were there certain graphic novelists that got you into the genre?
I love a lot of artists and comic book artists, directors, musicians and artists in general. But you know the most important thing is when you just forget about everything and be courageous and do your thing. Then you will forget about all your references. At this time, your references, they won’t help you, because it’s just you and a paper or an instrument or something. It’s just you and your craft.
Have you worked in such a collaborative way before? As in, taking ideas from other people and integrating it into your work?
I always work alone. In this project, the coolest thing was to see people being inspired and sending in ideas. You know people were like, “Ah, I need to part of this” and it was amazing, it was really huge.
Where did the initial idea for the project come from?
When you have an idea you, it’s almost like the feeling of a pregnant girl. You know, you have an idea, you’re pregnant with this idea and you need to put this idea into the world. It’s about creation and this idea came from this feeling. But the idea also came from music because I just realized that this short film is a question. A question about where ideas come from, and you can treat these ideas as a funny thing or you can treat them like mysterious things. So the music was one of the most important things to create the atmosphere and to create the whole film.
Are you writing the music to the film itself or just to the film’s concept?
I believe Rafael looked for me specifically because we have this way of working that is one thing. It can’t be separate – we can’t do film and then do music or do music then the film. It’s about the idea and the idea comes from the sound and we came up with the sound together. And then from that piece of sound, the whole thing just exploded into one idea.
So what’s the sound you came up with?
The name of the movie is Dark Noir so something that resembles darkness and there’s just a noir feeling going on because the guy’s kinda like a detective. But then if you put those elements together, there’s a bunch of stuff that you heard that is already there, so then you have to just put in this blender of ideas and concepts and you make something brand new from that.
Inherently “Noir“ is referencing noir films as well, right?
So is this kind of music from these films present in yours?
We are trying to propose a new way to see noir and a new way to see animation at the same time, because we don’t have animation for adults, with serious stories for adults. We just have animation for kids, so this is really different.
So the film is more mature in a way with more serious themes?
It’s not for adults, it’s for everybody – the film’s a question. You can view it as an animation film but if you really see it, you understand the question. Like an art piece, right? You can say a picture is mature only or you know PG +13. A picture is a picture, and it depends on your mind what you’re gonna take out of it. Music is the same. So that’s the way everything was treated, like an art piece.
What surprised you most about this project?
There was just a bunch of stuff that came in, it was almost overwhelming. I don’t think anybody expected that it would be that collaborative. The idea of the project was to have people creating; to inspire people to create, to materialize their ideas. The film is about materializing ideas and we had people materializing their ideas. So for me it’s already a success.
Do you think you’ll work in such a collaborative way again?
I don’t know man. I’m living my days like a mystery. You never know.
- Photography: Robert Wunsch