My first job (1/10)

A career from warehouse to Doghouse

Pierre Urbain is the co-founder of Doghouse Films Photo: Pierre Urbain

Pierre Urbain is the co-founder of Doghouse Films Photo: Pierre Urbain

Pierre Urbain is a film producer for cinema and television who works exclusively in the animation sector. Together with David Mouraire, he founded Doghouse Films in 2012. Where is Anne Frank, a feature film by the Differdange-based studio, will be shown at this year’s Cannes Festival.

Before all that, however, what did Pierre do? He tells us about unloading trucks, going independent, and splurging on speakers.

What was your first ever job?

My first job was working in a food warehouse for a big label in Belgium, near Charleroi. It was my girlfriend’s father who got me the job. I was a student: at the time, I was studying cinema in Brussels, I wanted to become a director… but I completely failed at these studies (which is probably why, much later, I became a producer!)

[But] I had to earn money: I remember I had to get up very early in the morning, in the summer, and take the train to get there at about 5:00 or 6:00 when the first trucks were coming, one after the other, the whole day long… it didn’t stop. The trucks were huge and I had to unload them. They were filled with pallets that contained racks of empty bottles. Once the pallets were unloaded, I had to sort the bottles and bins by brand in the warehouse. It was a very tiring job and not very rewarding but as the factory was run by my girlfriend’s father, he had arranged for me to get a nice first salary. I remember that some of the workers were a bit jealous of my salary as a student. It was hard but it was my first experience… the next year I worked in a shop of the same company but this time I was restocking the food shelves.

Would you be willing to do that job again—for a day?

I don’t see why I should do it again, but if I had to, yes… for a day or two. The difference is that I would certainly unload fewer pallets in a day and I would certainly talk to the staff a lot more. And I would certainly get more of a backache!

Would any of your prior colleagues be surprised to hear that you’ve founded an animation movie studio?

A lot of colleagues and institutional contacts were pleasantly surprised when I explained to them that I had, with my partner, created an animation production studio. Deep down, it was an idea that had been brewing for years: I have a very independent and autonomous spirit, but there was also the risk of becoming your own boss with all the personal, financial, family implications, and so on. Without a partner to think and build with, I would certainly never have done it. We met while working on the same film for another producer and thinking that bringing together our two complementary backgrounds might lead to something… which, in all humility, I think it did. I remember we decided on the plane to Italy to work on the film with the director. Since then, I’ve been very happy with this approach, which gives me a lot of freedom. We choose the films we work on because we like the stories they tell but also because our production partners work like we do. Working with a small structure, with a team of experienced and talented professionals on great films, is really exciting.

At the moment, the funny thing is that I sometimes run into former bosses of mine who are still producers, even though I’ve now become one too. But in this profession, as long as you want to work on a certain type of film, there is no real competition—at least in Luxembourg and in the animation sector.

When you got your first paycheque, what did you treat yourself to?

My first real job was as a teacher in Brussels. I had a class of 25 or 26 girls… I was still living with my parents. You should know that I have always been passionate about music, being an amateur musician myself. I can’t work without music, which isn’t not always easy for others, even in the studio!

Anyway, with my first salary (the equivalent of about 650!), I rushed to a Hi-Fi shop to buy a “Marantz” amplifier worth half of my salary. With this amp, I could finally listen to music in my room, which made my parents jump because we didn’t really have the same tastes! I got rid of this amp some time ago, which I still regret.

Thanks for your time, Pierre.

Thank you!