ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival 2015
Stop All Jerk - European Music Videos
Armel Gourvennec - France
Paris, France on April 10th - 12th 2015
Written and directed by Armel Gourvennec depicts an aesthetic inspired by the 50s: a boxer, film actors, and a child learning the guitar, as many sequences where the same speech is played and replayed at levels different. Super light contrasting black and white, film frames perfectly accompany the music of Bikini Machine group.
Hey Armel thanks for talking to tNC, how have things been going?
Pretty well. I’m on different projects and finishing a script of what could be my first feature film. So it is, I think, a creative moment for me. Hope it’s going to last a while.
How does it feel to be part of the ECU Film Festival 2015?
I’m of course very excited and also pleased to be part of it. Especially because it is not only a music video festival. It is good to be surrounded by all these directors and movies : short film, comedies, dramas, student movies, non-european movies, animated movies, documentaries, … Well it is a tremendous list, right?
Are any nerves setting in ahead of your screening?
Not at all. When you have written and filmed something, you have already spent so much time in front of your movie, doubting, thinking, fearing, having fun also, that the pleasure and the purpose is the screening in front of a real audience. Which is besides for a music video especially rare.
What's the most exciting part of being able to share your film with festival audiences?
To feel the audience and, hopefully, meet them, talk with some of them after it. Whatever they like it or not.
What has been the biggest challenges you've faced putting your film together?
For Stop All Jerk it is very special. Because I wrote a story with four scenes, very different from eachother. So it was like four workshops, four challenges, four exercices in style. The boxing scene, the studio shooting scene, the scene with the father and the son, and the music band audition. I was focused on trying to achieve the art direction, the photography, the actors casting and direction for each set. And to be as close as possible to the references from the 50’s I had in mind…Globally, this music video required a lot of different skills and I had to gather a crew which could be able to do it in a sensitive way. DOP, Art director, casting director, costume designer, hair stylist, everyone played his part… Each detail of the movie is a collective work. That is what was the most exciting thing for me. To bring everybody in prep and on set back to the fifties and the sixties, back to the roots, back to our idols…
Tell me a little bit about Stop All Jerk, how did the music video come about?
I’ve been listening to the song again and again a whole day. I like very very much the band and this song. But I knew the label records asked also others directors to propose ideas and I had three days to write something. Without any requests or directions from them. Total freedom. Which is great. So I told myself "Do something very personal, that sticks of course to the song, but personal. So you won’t have any regrets if they refuse your script." The last day, I still didn’t have any idea. Really. Nothing. A nightmare. And suddenly, this circular story came to my mind. The whole thing in one block. It was like discovering by surprise a landscape in front of you after a curve on a road. Clean and clear.
What was the hardest scene for you to film?
I don’t like to suffer on set, I just try to remind me each second the luck I have to do this job. And I have a lot of fun and laugh with the crew and the actors. Pleasure is the word. That is the less that you can do as director of a music video for which the whole crew is giving time and skills just for you, without earning any money. With a very low budget, I had to run after time and cheat of course everything : spaces, frames, lights, props, sets switching, and so on… But if I had to answer properly to your question, I’d say that the scene with the son playing guitar in front of his father was perhaps more delicate. Because the scene was delicate and hard by itself, but also because our young actor was 9 years old and it was his first shooting. I tried to be very kind and patient (even if on a music video you don’t have any time, we had 2 days to shoot everything and without any extra hour…).
And, as usual I guess with kids on set, you try also to steal things, shots, moments that they are not really aware of…
Is there anything you'd have done differently?
I don’t think so. And it is not a pretentious answer, Niger... When I read the script again after the editing, I was amazed that everything that I wrote was on the screen. We really sticked to my script, down to the last comma. Of course a lot of things have been reshaped by the actors and the work of the crew, but I felt lucky to have worked with a label, a band, a crew and above all my producers mad enough to think. Well, yeah, it looks very complicated, we don’t have enough budget, but let’s go for it. So the way I’m seeing things is "Look what you’ve shot and be thankful and happy with it!"
Have you always been interested in making music videos?
Yes, because as far as I am concerned, it is the perfect mix of two opposite sides : freedom of creativity and in the same time being able to answer to an order from the music band and label, respecting their art, their music, their work, not disappointing them.
What has been the most valuable lesson you've learned so far?
Have self confidence, but never forget to doubt a lot. I don’t know if it is a proper answer to your question. I doubt it… Oh no, I’m sure!
Who have been your biggest inspirations?
It is a very hard question. You mean generally ? Or for this music video? Anyway, for this one, I had Joseph Losey, Robert Wise, John Huston, Max Ophüls, Jacques Tourneur and Jules Dassin in mind. Good compagny, isn’t it ? And scary as well…But indispensable when you shoot a period movie…
Do you have a favourite film?
Hard again…But what comes to my mind right now would be two movies, a recent one and an old one : A Most Violent Year by J.C. Chandor and Ten by Blake Edwards. You see, two very different films and artists, but so inspiring for movie direction and for… life.
And finally what do you hope people will take away from your new film?
Fun, some vibrations, visions of the past, and hopefully remembrance of moments in which your father, your coach, your director, your manager told you you were just a loser, a jerk, nothing. But nobody is. Never.
What was the most challenging part of bringing Behind The Dream to life?
The shooting was never the most challenging one. Sure, it’s been really tough, and so is fund-raising, but I think the process of creating the script as well as facing your own trauma is the hardest part.
When we were applying for the domestic film fund, I revealed my childhood trauma with everyone. I wonder if the screening committee might even think, “Is he fabricating some stories just for attention and pity?” Because I actually have heard some comments like this. Fortunately, I got a crew that really had faith in me and trusted me as being a director for the first time, so we eventually got to finish this film.
What was the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?
As for me, the most valuable lesson is that I extract a small part from my own experience; deconstruct and recreate a something new through the ideas of people, and yet it transforms into total different look while being screened to the audience.
For instance, the photos of nude teenage boys that the murderer took in the film. My photographer insisted that it has to be taken with teenage-like models while using the film camera. I agreed and suggested that it can be more dramatic. So I asked one of my friends who is into Bondage (BDSM) to do me a favour and made the scene more vivid. Thus, here comes what you are seeing in the film at the moment. The production we made is rarely connected to my OWN trauma, but became everyone’s nightmare through several times of deconstruction. I was really appreciated to get through this with my college mates and other crew members.
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
No. Actually I wanted to be a comic artist when I was a kid, but I have no talent in drawing and still got a lot of stories to tell. So I happened to learn film making by accident.
"Don’t be over-ambitious..."
What was the first film you were part of?
If it comes to the first short film, it should be my graduate project in college called “Missing a Cat.” I was the screenplay writer as well as the director, and I was able to enrol in the master program of filming at Shih-Shin University because of this film.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
About the film, the best advice that I’ve received is that the boundaries between reality and dream could be separated more clearly for the audience. Which means set clear scenarios among dream, the acting, and the dream in acting.
Don’t be over-ambitious, don’t try to put too many details in the single short film. Because the audience will need sufficient time to process them.
Now you can be reflective, do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
I’ve seen other films that were chosen for the festival, and I found the aim of their stories are very clear to be understood. It should be simple and readily understood for the short film and mine is way over complicated.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
If you try to interpret “Behind The Dream” in another perspective, you will read a totally different story. “Behind The Dream” is mainly about a dream the protagonist had before his death, and the dream is the fulfilment of his death wish. He has accomplished something that he couldn’t achieve in reality — which is confronting his own father. Therefore, the scene of confrontation in the film is set in the fantasy instead of reality. Was the protagonist able to move on in the end? We’ll leave these intriguing for the audience to contemplate.
I really do hope the audience use their own unique thinking to interpret the story because it was made to be interpreted in many ways. During the Q/A session in Taiwan, I enjoyed handing my microphone to the audience and ask them what they saw, and each of them made different assumptions. One of the most interesting explanations I’ve heard is that the actor is possessed by the spirit of the protagonist, Lin-Hsiang.
It also represents the idea that if you interpret the same thing with another perspective, you’ll get an entirely different aspect.