Dezember 2013 / Sophie Gateau / Film Director, Visual Effects Supervisor, Graphic Designer / Berlin-Neukölln

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You left Paris to spend a year in Berlin. Have you always been living in Paris?
I moved to Berlin in June this year. I had initially planned to stay for a six month period to experience the city to broaden my horizon But I like the city's vibe, and I met nice and interesting people. I would also like to see the spring in Berlin and am planning to stay for a year. Then let's see what happens.

I was born in Paris, but then my parents moved to a small town in the countryside, near the Loire valley in central France. In 1999, I spent a year on an Erasmus exchange program in Berlin. I have since often been traveling for work, especially in the U.S.

From your perspective, how is the vibe of the city?
What I love about Berlin is the feeling that everything is possible. You want to sing on the street? No problem. Nobody minds if you are walking down the streets wearing a crazy neon green overall for example. You can do whatever you want. The city makes it easy for people to be creative and experimental. The process of creating something is very interesting in this environment. I would say that the process is often more exciting than the result.

Back to your roots: What memories do you have about growing up?
I don't really have a lot of childhood memories. The liveliest memories are about places and spaces. I remember playing hide-and-seek with my neighbors or cousins for hours on end. There were so many places to explore and treasures to discover, especially in old farms, where we found weird old objects. Hiding in nature was a great way to escape from the adult world.

I also have a vivid memory of visiting my grandparents in Paris. Usually, I went there by train to stay for a week during holidays. When I was alone with my grandparents, I did all those things every kid dreams of doing: sightseeing in Paris, visiting the zoo and an old-fashioned amusement park, buying clothes at the beautiful department store, Galeries Lafayette, discovering good restaurants, getting spoiled.

You seem to enjoy both life in the country and in the city. What did your parents and grandparents do for a living? Did they teach you any particular skills?
My father was a doctor, my grandfather was a train engineer before he was wounded during the war. There is nothing in particular that my family passed on to me. My mom and dad used to collect antiques. I was surrounded by beautiful objects and have probably developed a sense of beauty.

Being on the road is what you seem to have in common with your grandfather. What memories do you have of the town where you grew up?
I like to go back there from time to time in order to visit my family. It is a very small and extremely quiet place that makes me realize how great and inspiring Paris is.

What do you like about Paris?
I love walking the city, getting lost and discovering new places, or riding my bike in a summer night. Paris inspires me, I like its cultural diversity, the so-called "mixité", French irony and sense of humor. I like how improvisation is a natural and the fact that l'heure de l'apéro (note: happy interlude between a day's work and a meal when friends enjoy a glass of wine) are a fixed part of the day.

Speaking of friends: Do you have any childhood friends? And if so, what connects you with them?
I keep in touch with Henrique, one of my childhood friends. We share a love for the arts and music and like hanging out together. By the way, he writes a great blog about music:

How did you meet Henrique? What mutual experiences do you share?
We were together in high school, but we connected more closely at a later stage. He opened my mind towards new, weird music and unconventional art. He belongs to "La Galerie du Cartable", which is an art collective. They create a film series called "Dialogue Fictif", do stage performances, and build machines and robots. Check out: Youtube Video
I have a few friends like Henrique who take me out of my comfort zone. Clémentine Courcelle, who knows everything about art and music, and Mélodie Wolf, a fashion designer, have broadened my horizon on this side. The phrase that best describes my three friends is "Go crazy!".

Do you still feel connected with any of your favorite childhood places?
Yes, lately, especially after having lived in Paris for almost 20 years. Paris is a pretty dense city. But some of the places I now really enjoy are natural environments. There are some of places close to where I grew up. One of the most beautiful places I have been to is the Western United stretching from the desert to the ocean. The landscapes in Joshua Tree National Park and Zabriskie Point are stunning and inspiring.

One of the music videos I produced is Wintertime's Doll. I shot it in some of my childhood places. It is about forests, trees, animals, and so on. Coming back and rediscovering these places with a completely different eye, and changing and playing with them through my camera lens and on the computer, was a very interesting experience. I explored a different side of nature in "River's Edge", a music video featuring flowers that was inspired by 18th century Dutch still life paintings. I revisited and changed it using computer visual effects.

How important is nature to you today?
It is the best way to escape and to regenerate. My work is increasingly influenced by organic shapes, fascinating shapes, colors, textures and so on. It makes you feel good that, whatever mistakes you make as a human being, nature will take over. I understood this in Brazil. Even in a megapolis like Sao Paulo, the jungle always finds its way back into the heart of the city.

Where do you see the jungle re-conquering Berlin?
Everywhere! I can see it in what I call the seed-guerilla: the plastic bags filled with earth and seeds that people place at random spaces in the city. On the sidewalks that are moved and deformed by the roots of the trees. At Tempelhof, where small gardens grow where there was nothing. On my daily walk to the office, where you can see swans, squirrels and other animals. And on the simple fact, that in Berlin you can see the stars at night.

The interview was conducted by Katja Mollenhauer. Photos by Nadja Wehling

Sophie Gateau was born in 1973. She developed an early aptitude for math and attended science classes. At university, she studied architecture and art history but realized soon that she wanted something different. She took up graphic design and film direction at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. As a freelance graphic artist and director Sophie worked in Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Sao Paulo, Paris, New York and L.A. She produced music videos for Patrick Kelleher among others. As a graphic artist, she worked on The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and Wong Kar-wai's 2046. Her artistic repertoire also includes commercials for Nike, Samsung and Ray-Ban. Sophie is excited about her most recent project for TED Global that involves dancers.

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