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Sundance Film Festival 2021

Annie St-Pierre 
Like The Ones I Used To Know

December 24, 1983, 10:50 p.m.: Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, and Santa Claus is late. Denis, alone in his car, is anxious about setting foot in his former in-laws' house to pick up his children. 

Hi Annie thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

Hi! Like almost everyone, I can’t wait to see my friends, family and be able to GO TO FESTIVALS again, but I had the chance to work on creative projects during the last months and it protected my mind from this “end of the world”. I’m also an avid walker and now that it’s the only activity we can do, I have more time to devote myself to reflection-in-movement. 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

Yes. Not so much in the themes or stories, but more in the process and form I want to develop to be able to make films in whatever situations. The context of the pandemic-imposed new rules can be stimulating if we see them as a departure point and not as a limit.

Congratulations on having Like the Ones I Used To Know selected in the International Short Film section at Sundance 2021, what does it mean to be part of such an amazing line up fo short films?

When I've learned that LES GRANDES CLAQUES (Like the Ones I Used to Know) was in the Sundance short films selection I had the kind of feeling you have when you're inspired by someone since a long time and this person comes to you to talk and exchange ideas. It means you’ve been recognized as a part of the same community. It's both stimulating and calming at the same time to have this privilege.


Your debut short fiction film  让-马克-瓦雷, won Best French Screenplay at Festival Regard, did you expect you would get such prestigious recognition for your first film? 

No! Not for one minute! Especially since the film was entirely in Mandarin ... best script IN FRENCH seemed rather out of reach! Haha! But the jury got it right; it was first written in French. Well, awards are always much more cheerful when they surprise you.


"You must be curious at every second and stay open and sensitive to the best place to put the camera in a wink."

Did winning this award add any addition pressure on you going into writing/directing your follow up short film? 


No. Each film has a different life. I would find it very sad to do films pressured by the only desire to win prices. When I finish a film, I mostly want it to find its place; its public and I want to have learned from the process. ...But yes, it's always joyful when it's followed by recognition.

Where did your inspiration for Like the Ones I Used To Know come from?

Hum. Good question... Do all the other filmmakers know precisely what inspired them for a movie? I think for me it's always a mix of a lot of things: questions, unconscious images, memories, seasons ... Many years ago, I was approached to write a Christmas movie with an artists’ collective and, although it was never made, I stayed with the idea that my Christmas Eve’s have often been very different than the ones of my cousins (whose parents were not divorced). It was often the opposite of the naive magic that the greeting season wants to sells us. Those moments deeply changed my childhood and forced me to evolve faster. Which I don't think is necessarily bad... I'm always interested by moments of transition in life, humiliation, mixed feelings... the soft cruelty of ordinary life.

How flexible are you with your script, do you prefer to stick to what was planed or do you allow yourself to go in surprising or new directions?

I directed three feature documentaries before this film so my worst fear isn't to face something different than what I’ve planed, but to shoot something perfectly planned that nonetheless sounds false. I will always embrace surprise on a set.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently on Like the Ones I Used To Know? 

Yes! For sure! Scenes that we didn’t had the time to shoot, mostly. But this little room is closed in my mind and I think much more about what I’ll do on my next shoot.

Do you think filmmakers should push the boundaries of stories they want to tell?

I think the best thing to push for a filmmaker is their singularity (their voice); so I guess what boundaries we should push are simply ALL our own: in the form, in the creative process, in the needed structure we project for films… and yes, in the stories too. 


How much has your background in documentary filmmaking help prepare you for making your fictional short films?

Documentary is a very complex genre of cinema, cause everything is related to the capacity of welcoming: people, time you’ll be able to dispose, places, noises, what will be said, what will happen…You are always writing with the present moment. You must be curious at every second and stay open and sensitive to the best place to put the camera in a wink. For sure, all those reflex helps in every shoot… and even more in a short film context with a so small amount of time. You have the experience of prioritising what’s real. 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Like the Ones I Used To Know?

I hope the film will give them a moment with both their inner child and their adult humiliated part (don’t we all have one?) and feel empathy for them. I would also like that they take away from this film the ideas that family is made with ties that forces us to experienced a lot of emotions, sometimes those we don’t like, but which also forces us to evolve. This year, specially, I hope that the film will also give people just a bit of the feeling of family Christmas parties (for the good and the bad!) that we are deprived of in 2020.

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