Serge Bromberg: Up Close With Annecy's Artiste
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HK: I have the same problem walking this line in the magazine. It can be difficult to please everyone, all of the time, and achieve the correct balance between what is perceived as animation for art vs. commerce. Can you speak a little about your work with your company Lobster Films?

The lighter side of Serge Bromberg. Courtesy of Serge Bromberg.

SB: I created Lobster Films in 1985 with some friends. It was intended to be a production company, but it has turned out to be mostly a film preservation company.

But managing a small company offers a lot of opportunities, and in the last five years, we have become a major stock shot footage bank, we produce documentaries and TV series, corporate films, commercials, we release DVDs, etc., and manage to remain a fairly small company!

But what I cherish the most is the search for lost films. Night and day, I look for lost cans of film in attics, basements, flea markets, antique shops, anywhere and everywhere! It all started when I was 8! The Lobster collection is now 70,000 reels rich of all kinds of films. Every 6 months, I do a show, called "Retour de Flamme" ("Back from the Fire"), to show our latest discoveries. About 2,000 people attend each show.

This is how I got most of my technical and historical knowledge. You know, trying to identify old films without beginnings and ends for thirty years requires very serious searches and studies, and it gives you a fairly strong cultural and historical background.

HK: What is the most frustrating thing for you regarding trying to preserve films?

SB: The most frustrating thing is probably losing the magic of your discoveries. When you find an original lost Walt Disney Alicecartoon, you are thrilled. But when a new print and neg comes out of the labs, it is just as thrilling as a good re-production of a Rembrandt picture. The magic may still be there, but it is not a Rembrandt any longer.

Oh, yes! One other thing! I am very frustrated when another lab is chosen to restore a major film and does it all wrong! It has happened with many films. The last being Drôle De Drame.I think you call it in the USA Bizarre, Bizarre.I could not stand the filtered version for more than 5 minutes, and when I have time, I am going to call the owner of the film and offer to re-restore it.

But to speak about preservation in terms of frustration is not right. The search for lost films and their preservation (it may be only 5% due to money restrictions) is as thrilling as a book of adventures. Plus it is Christmas everyday, because as strange as it may seem, films are found every daythroughout the world.

For example, our last discovery came from an old cinema in Canada that was to be torn down, in which we found 170 78rpm records of ambient music recorded to be used in the silent era as background music. It is probably the first time in the world that a complete set has been found in such good condition.

HK: Most animation experts are experts in animation only...yet, you also show a love for live-action films, mostly older, silent films. How do these two mediums compare for you?

SB: What do you prefer? Appetizers, vegetables, cheese or desserts ? A good meal has to be balanced, and the good chef knows all the ingredients he has in the kitchen.

HK: Your job sounds very romantic. Purchasing films from around the world, finding rare prints, scheduling the leading animation festival, hosting a show that brings animation to a greater audience...Can you give us an idea of your schedule, of one of your "typical" days or weeks?

SB: Hard to say, it varies a lot. But each day begins and ends with a call or a big hug from my kids and my lovely and very patient wife.

But let me ask you a question now. By any chance, do you have any films forgotten in a country house by your grandfather? If so, I'd like to have a look!

HK: Hmmm...can't say I know of any. My entire family is made up of engineers so I don't think any of them collected films. But if I come across any, I'll let you know immediately. More importantly I'd like to find this country house!

A complete list of winners is available in AWN's Headline news.

Heather Kenyon is editor in chief of Animation World Magazine.

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