The story of their first meeting
Although Marc James Roels and Emma de Swaef have been living and working in Belgium for a long time already, Marc was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He moved to Belgium when he was a teenager, since his parents are half-Belgian. Marc says: “It was not a spontaneous decision to change the place of living. It had been planned for a while but it did take me some time to adjust to the new environment and people.” He thinks that such a turning point in his life had a considerable impact on his character and the way of his work, despite the fact that the director can’t say exactly how. Marc comments: “Yet I am unable to compare it (my life in Belgium) to my life in a parallel universe where I didn't emigrate. Maybe I missed some opportunities or vice versa gained them.”
Whatever the case may be, Marc James Roels entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent and successfully graduated. Studying there was quite eye-opening for the director as he used to be very naive about art and filmmaking. What is more, to his surprise, Marc discovered that most of the students in his class possessed far more insight and talent than he had anticipated. The director says: “I really had to pull up my socks and work hard to get ahead.” Also he fondly remembers working on a stop-motion film with two of his classmates on an old 16mm bolex camera and cutting it on a flatbed editor (a special machine used to edit film for a motion picture) produced by Steenbeck, a company specialized in its manufacturing. Marc learned a lot of things he really needed to know and gained new skills by just having done that one project. In the director’s point of view, the discipline and focus, necessary to make something from essentially nothing without really knowing exactly where you are going, has helped him more than he had expected. He just trusted his instincts and relied on his patience and perseverance.
Emma de Swaef, on the contrary, is a native Belgian. She studied live-action films and then branched out to documentary filmmaking. The two of them met just when Emma was beginning to study in this field while Marc had just graduated from the same academy. He comments: “I assisted Emma on a few of her projects, just doing camera etc. so we've been working together for a long time.” Emma always had an interest in making puppets and dolls. Therefore, when she decided to integrate them into one of the films she was making in the academy, Marc offered to help out. The knowledge he had gained while making his own first stop-motion film was not enough, so the first stop-motion movie produced by the filmmaking duo was rough and unprofessional. However, that was enough to spark Marc’s and Emma’s interest in a stop-motion animation.