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Alice Lepetit director and designer, specializing in digital narrative experiences

19 September 2023 Portraits
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Alice Lepetit is a director and designer specializing in digital narrative experiences. A graduate of the Mastère Spécialisé Designer d'expérience interactive et ludique - Cnam-Enjmin / GOBELINS Paris in 2017, she began her career as a freelancer before setting up her own structure Eclipse Creative Studio in 2022.

What has been your career path since graduating in 2017?

At the end of my studies, I did an artist residency at Fontevraud with Nef Animation on " To Make You Dream ", an animated documentary project about the dreams of the Sáparas, an indigenous Ecuadorian nationality. I then spent 4 months in Ecuador collecting testimonies.

I took a year off to travel and work on the project, then accepted an offer from Tamanoir, the studio founded by GOBELINS alumnus Samuel Lepoil and Rémi Large. I was responsible for the artistic direction of " Birdie Long Gone ", one of their installations. They also asked me to design their website, logo and graphic charter.

Birdie Long Gone - Tamanoir Immersive studio

Birdie Long Gone - Tamanoir Immersive studio

Mock-up pour le site de Tamanoir Immersive Studio

Mock-up for the Tamanoir Immersive Studio website

This good experience prompted me to go freelance so that I could choose the projects and people I wanted to work with. I've been self-employed for 5 years now.

In 2022, I co-founded Eclipse Creative Studio with my partner Stéphanie Doncker. In the meantime, I've been working on a number of assignments, mainly for virtual and augmented reality, but also for the web in 2021 with the design of the "La Boussole de la Salle Ovale" site for the BNF. I've also started doing a bit of interactive scenography design.

Site "La Boussole" - BNF

La Boussole" website - BNF

Can you tell us more about Eclipse Creative Studio?

We created Eclipse to be able to respond to commissions such as that from the BNF, but also to advance our personal projects before presenting them to producers.

We currently have three projects in development:

- " Eden " is an augmented reality installation for which we received a writing grant. We have just applied for a development grant from the CNC Immersive Creation Commission.

- "Les Nœuds", a video game project about transgenealogical memory. Stéphanie and I wrote this project together, and it marked the starting point of our collaboration.

- " To Make You Dream " which I had to put on hold for work. In June 2022, I secured a residency in Ecuador with the New Images festival, in collaboration with UDLA, an Ecuadorian university, and theAlliance Française de Quito. The creation of the structure enabled us to finance a prototype in the form of a fulldome film, which was presented at the festival in April 2023. This event was an opportunity to talk with Fig55, a Canadian producer with whom we are now co-producing the project.

"To Make You Dream " - Eclipse Creative Studio

"To Make You Dream" - Eclipse Creative Studio

What does your job as an interactive designer specializing in digital narrative experiences entail?

I use design methodology to serve a story. I start with the director's intention, or a commission with a precise need, and it's the personae and analysis that will determine the best way to serve it.

Interactivity can quickly become a gimmick, and the first question you have to ask yourself is how it fits into the project. My job is towork with a director or client to find the best immersive solution.

This is the starting point. Then comes the drafting of the user path and flowchart, the creation of wireframes, and finally the production follow-up, during which I act as intermediary between the director or client and the technical and artistic teams, to ensure that the initial vision is respected and that usage is as fluid as possible in terms of interaction.

Création  design - Alice Lepetit

Design - Alice Lepetit

You've worked with Tamamoir Immersive Studio and Lucid Realities, two studios founded by GOBELINS alumni. Was there a desire on your part to work with alumni?

I was in the same year as Samuel, the co-founder of Tamanoir, and it was through him that I met Rémi.

Concerning Lucid Realities, Alessandra Bogi, who was also in my class and with whom I've become friends, works with Chloé Jarry as a producer. When the opportunity arose, she asked me to work on an augmented reality project.

For the first few years, it was really through the GOBELINS network. Later, I worked for other studios through bouche-à-oreille. Directors Camille Jeanjean, produced by Atelier Daruma, and Ananda Safo, produced by Ten2Ten, both contacted me personally to work on their projects.

You were a camera assistant for a year at the start of your career, have directed several documentaries and co-founded a studio with director and screenwriter Stéphanie Doncker. How does cinema influence your work?

My family works in the film industry, so I've always been familiar with it. I mainly worked as a 3rd camera assistant on film shoots to earn money while I was studying.

For me, it' s the best place to learn about directing. I was in a combo with the director and the script girl, so I could observe the whole set. I still use this experience every day to talk to directors.

I also think it's very important to have this cinematographic eye, both from a narrative and aesthetic point of view. The directors I work with all come from film or documentary backgrounds, so you have to be able to apply the same logic, the same vis-a-vis the image.

It took me a long time to come to terms with this desire, but today I want to realize the projects I have in mind. I've recently started presenting myself as a designer and producer. Throughout my studies, particularly at GOBELINS, we were asked to create projects from A to Z, to bring a vision to a team. It was already a form of realization.

Les Nœuds - Eclipse Creative Studio

Les Nœuds - Eclipse Creative Studio

Stéphanie, my partner, is a scriptwriter and director, so she focuses on scripting and staging, whereas I focus on interaction and UX. I think this complementarity gives me the confidence to assume my expertise, and at the same time, I learn a lot from her.

Which project has impressed you the most?

" Monstrorama, the project I'm currently working on. It's produced by Oriane Hurard at Atlas V and directed by Clément Deneux, and the prototype of the experience was shown at Tribeca in June.

I'm in charge of game design, and I worked with Clément on the writing. It's a mixed reality project, at the convergence of several areas of expertise in VR and augmented reality. It'sa real challenge to explore physical displacements in real space, and to think about the implementation of standards in a very new application .

It's also the first time I've worked with agile methods and I've been able to apply the methodology courses we had at GOBELINS.

It's a project I'm having a lot of fun with, with very talented people from whom I'm learning a lot. I think this project will mark a turning point in my approach to my work.

What do you like best about your job?

It's a job that requires you to be very creative, flexible enough to adapt to a scenario, and at the same time rigorous, both in the documents you present to the teams and in setting up protocols, especially for user tests.

With design, you have to meet technical challenges through creation, while ensuring that the project is easy for users to handle. It' s this convergence between the social sciences, art, technology and innovative technologies that I really enjoy.

Can you tell us one good memory from your year at GOBELINS?

I'd say it was when we all went to Angoulême together for the Enjminales. It was a great opportunity to get together and forge links within the class.

It was pretty crazy to be able to meet people who worked for huge studios, video game pundits, listen to them at conferences and then go out for beers with them.

It was a great bonding moment, both with the Enjmin students and the GOBELINS students.

What advice would you give to a recent graduate?

Trust your intuition, don't be afraid to turn down assignments if you don't feel like it. The most important thing is to work with caring and talented people, who will help you progress the most, no matter how famous the project or studio.

You also need to ask yourself the right questions when you leave the course. That's why I recommend you get in touch withEliXr. It's an association of XR authors/creators, of which I'm one. We discuss a range of issues such as remuneration, contracts with companies, setting up a studio, grant applications...

Asking for advice and listening to the experience of others will help you find the answers to your questions and save you time in making your professional choices.

Interview by Sophie JEAN


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