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Van Gogh Documentary — World’s First Painted Film

By Danny F. Santo

I love a unique concept for a film and the upcoming Vincent van Gogh documentary, Loving Vincent, definitely fits that criteria. A full length biopic that will tell the artist’s life and tragic death through the medium he loved: The painted canvas.

Oscar-winning studios BreakThru Films and Trademark Films have released a trailer for the upcoming film and it looks stunning. You can watch it here:

In one of his final letters van Gogh wrote “Well, the truth is, we cannot speak other than by our paintings,” and it looks like the filmmakers of this film are taking that idea to its ultimate conclusion. The film is directed by Polish painter Dorota Kobiela and filmmaker Hugh Welchman, and is currently still in production in Gdansk, Poland.

Loving Vincent reminds me of two of Richard Linklater’s films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, which were digitally rotoscoped by animators in post-production. This film, however, isn’t being rotoscoped but actually painted with oil on canvas.

Shot at a staggering 12 oil paintings per second (a sentence I never thought I’d use), the film has hired over 100 painters, and continues to hire more painters for the project. The narrative is crafted from 120 of van Gogh’s own paintings and 800 letters the artist wrote, which lead up to his death. If you are a painter and would like to work on this project, the filmmakers are still hiring. Here are the recruitment steps via their website, where you can submit your application:

  1. Send us your portfolio
    We would like you to send us your art portfolio. This is the first step on the way to joining our studio. After sending your portfolio, you’ll receive a confirmation from us.
  2. Revision time
    Our painting supervisors will assess your portfolio, and those with suitable skills will be invited to take a test. Only successful candidates will be contacted.
  3. First audition – 3 days tests
    Those selected will be invited either to our main studio in Gdansk, Poland or to one of our subsidiary studios: Wroclaw, Poland or Athens, Greece, for 3-days audition. Under supervision you will paint and animate part of a shot to see if you have an aptitude for this, and to see if you enjoy it. If you do well in this test you will be invited to join an intensive training course.
  4. 3-weeks intensive training
    This will be an intensive 180 hour course to learn to paint in the style of Van Gogh, and to bring those paintings to animated life. You will learn the whole painting animation process based on our PAWS system (Painting Animation Work Stations) including how to use Dragon stop-frame software. For those selected we cover accommodation and you will get a stipend of 210Euros. Place: Gdansk or Wroclaw, Poland.
  5. Final decision
    If by the end of the training we deem your skills sufficiently good to animate shots on our movie you will immediately be invited to join our team for the final 6 months of production, and become part of making film history!