Director, Art Director, and 2D & VFX Artist, Cédric Richer, is since 2015 an associate member of PANAMÆRA, a collective of visionary creatives, and an emerging production company based in Paris. With his associates, he has been leading creative projects from music videos (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Nekfeu, Hamza, Damso, Kalash…) to advertising (Netflix, Balmain, Vogue, Lancôme, Nike, Givenchy…).
When he is back in his native Martinique, he does not hesitate to make intimate, sometimes mystical video experiments that allow him to reconnect with his roots. Let’s discover the inspiring journey of this child of the islands.
C – From Martinique to PANAMÆRA. How did you start your professional adventure in this creative world?
C – I started out as a freelance art director and motion designer, working mainly for post-production companies on various projects: Renault Tweezy, Coca-Cola, DS3, Arte, France 3, Pathé Gaumont.
Yann has a producer’s hat and takes care of public relations and networking. Quentin has a solid background in photography with a huge visual culture that I share. We form a binomial, he and I, when it’s signed PANAMÆRA, it’s directed by both of us.
PANAMÆRA has been 100% of our days since we met. I live 5 minutes from work. When I’m not doing well, I know I have this creative space that allows me to temporize my demons. It’s as much work as it is passion, and I have a great relationship with these guys, I laugh a lot.
It’s impossible for us not to inject our demands into everything we do. But you have to know the difference: when you make corporate videos, you are not in the lab that the clip offers. The clip is ultra free, especially when you have a good name, a good brand. You are called upon for the right idea and to impress, let’s say, to be very creative. The corpo is ultra coded, you are at the service of a client.
PANAMÆRA projects (with Cédric Richer):
C – When did everything explode? When was the Shift for you, for PANAMÆRA?
C – The shift is very clear, it’s May 05, 2015. We meet Kendrick Lamar, basically, Yann was still at Universal. When there are international artists who are distributed on the European territory, he seeks photographers to make the press images for the territories concerned, so they travel, and they make their promos for the album. At the time, “To Pimp a Butterfly” was released, Kendrick was in Paris, his team was looking for photographers. Yann, who was project manager, managed to place Quentin, it was an incredible tour de force. We spent a totally unreal day with Kendrick.
Until we see him come into the studio, we say to ourselves “naaah” it’s not going to happen. And then, we see him coming in. What you feel is: something is going to happen, during and after. I’m an extreme Kendrick fan, I didn’t do the groupie, but I was exploding inside. It went really well, we got some great, iconic shots. (see photos)
On this day happens a moment that changed everything: Yann talks to his manager, he starts to talk about clips. They have to go to London in 2 days. So basically, would we be interested in doing a Kendrick Lamar video in 2 days (really you’re thinking I have 48 hours, can we really do this?) We liquefied on the spot, it’s now or never. “Are we doing it? Of course we’re doing it.”
So we probably lost 5 life points, we might die sooner, hahaha. We killed ourselves for 72 hours. Between ideas, scenarios, presentations in the dressing room of the hotel, pre-production, shooting, it took 24 hours, which is totally crazy…
We shot at the Silencio, which did not accept any shooting, not even French cinema at the time. So Yann & Kendrick managed to negotiate a 15 min showcase of Kendrick.
We shot on May 5, 2015, and the video is out on January 1, 2016. In the meantime, we were hosted by TDE, Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick’s label).
We shot in June we went to Los Angeles for a month, we made clips for Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Jay Rock and Lance Skiiiwalker, Schoolboy Q, Zacari (in August/September).
That’s when it started for us. We had a presence in the US and France at the same time, a lot of press. That’s when it all came together. We stayed with TDE for a long time, so we did a lot of stuff for just about every artist. It kept us busy for a little while, a very full project. All that in 2 years.
C – It’s very inspiring. You’ve been fed with RAP & Hip-hop culture since Martinique, we can feel the references in your creative universe. Can you tell us a little about your background ?
C – I grew up in Martinique until 2006, so until I was 20. I can say now that I am bilingual because I wanted to learn English very early on and my mother enrolled me in classes, starting in elementary school (and I really thank her). The question is why? So I could watch BET! I was passionate about RAP and HIP-HOP, and so I was frustrated by not understanding English.
My first hip hop visual and sound shock was the sound of Snoop Dog where he transforms himself into a Doberman :Snoop Dogg – Who Am I (What’s My Name)?
Anyway, I graduated from the University of Martinique with a DEUG in English, and that year I discovered Christian Macari. I sent him a long email to tell him how fascinated I was by what he was doing and that this is what I wanted for myself too. He advised me on absolutely everything, what I should do, to go to l’ESAG PENNINGHEN, a rather expensive private school. My parents couldn’t afford it, so they took out a loan (and trusted me mostly).
Besides sports (basketball, swimming, biking) and English, I drew a lot. I was an absolute fan of comics and manga that I had access to (often loans from cousins or my older brother’s buddies), so I reproduced everything. Until I started to really test my imagination during my entire adolescence. Then I found in the ESAG Penninghen a door. I specialized in graphic arts and graduated as an Art Director / Graphic Designer.
After that, I didn’t want to be locked in an agency, so I started as a freelancer as a DA/ motion designer (basically animated graphics): TV channel design, event screen design, brand identity, fun videos…
The best of VFX by Cédric Richer :
ESAG Penninghen trained me a lot in graphic composition, typographic culture, a visual culture much broader than what I had. They familiarized me with the Adobe Suite, including After Effect and other software. But basically, we train you for 20% but the other 80% is up to you to know where you want to go.
I failed quite a few times with After Effect, and so far I’m working on it.
C – How does the Caribbean culture influence your work?
C – I would say it’s my sense of rhythm, it’s an ultra key skill in directing and editing. No, I don’t pour rum on my keyboard (ok I do, but by accident). I have a musical ear and a sense of rhythm that I can translate into what I do visually.
Since most of the time we work for artists and businesses, on paper I don’t really inject my culture into it, but it translates somewhere else: technically. My sense of cutting, and how to make the images fit together well, tell the right story. It’s perfectionism, but I feel that it also comes from the rhythm. Growing up in Martinique forges an eye, a heightened sensitivity for beauty. I am constantly fascinated and try to use this sense in everything I create.
On the question of identity, it is an ultra important question because there is a frustration for us, the artists who left, we often find ourselves frustrated not to be present, not to take the floor, or not to have the balls to transmit, or to take position.
Because we may not feel legitimate because we are far away. Either we don’t have the words or we don’t have the time. Therapeutically, I try to fight this every time I come home. So since 2010, every time I come back, I make little films, where I put my heart into it, and the heart of the peyi*. It has to be something else than what I do here: to reconnect! So I do this exercise every time I come back, I have to capture the country. And it does me a lot of good, especially the second part: to edit. Where to put things to tell my story. There are magical moments.
*péyi : creole word that means “country”
I’m a free spirit, but I must admit that I would love to have a piece of land in the country, build a house, or a tiny house, and have a real home there. While being totally available to work anywhere in the world. Even if for the moment, I have a hard time planning because of the covid. It’s still in the back of my mind.
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