17th Berlinale Talents | 2019
Chloé Cinq-Mars has written a dozen short films and twenty episodes of fiction for television.
Hi Chloé thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the Berlinale?
Hi Niger! Thanks for the opportunity. Actually, I am not ready at all... I just got back yesterday from the « Atelier Grand Nord », a screenwriting residence in the North of Quebec for francophone filmmakers from around the world, where I was a screenwriting consultant. I still haven’t unpacked!
Are there nerves ahead of the festival?
I’m more excited than nervous, really.
What does it mean for you to be part of the 17th edition of Berlinale Talents?
It means the world actually! It means that there are people out there interested in what I have to say, who think I should keep doing what I do. There are so many aspiring filmmakers out there, so many talented young artists. I am grateful that some people at the Berlinale think I’m one of the ones worth following.
How important are opportunities like this for a filmmaker?
It’s a fantastic opportunity to establish new collaborations with artists from around the world. I can’t wait to meet the other Talents! I was a screenwriter for most of my career and it’s a very lonely job. Opportunities like this one make it less lonely.
I think it’s wonderful that Berlinale Talents showcases more than just directors, and brings screenwriters, directors of photography, artistic directors, etc. in the spotlight. It’s a rare opportunity. I see this as a chance to open up, to let people into my world, to talk about my upcoming projects. And obviously, what a treat it is to meet masters of the craft like James Schamus!
Can you tell me a little bit about your work, have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Last year, a stranger contacted me by email because he had found a magazine where children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. The man was sorting through his childhood magazines with his son, doing this little experiment of finding out whether children from his youth fulfilled their dreams. And there I was, at 11, telling them I wanted to write, direct and act! The guy looked me up on the internet to find out whether I made it or not. He sent me a photo of the interview. When I got this email, I was quite surprised because I didn’t remember that I had always wanted to become a director.
Screenwriting came naturally. I come from a family of screenwriters. Of women screenwriters actually, which is pretty rare in Quebec. My mother is a screenwriter and my grandmother was a screenwriter. I just always knew how to tell stories for the screen. I made most of my movies with my husband, David Uloth, who’s a director. Over the years, I became more and more involved in the process, working on set, coaching the actors. And I developed a desire to become a director. I just finished my first short as writer-director. So I guess my childhood dream came true!
"So be inspiring and you’ll find someone to listen..."
As a filmmaker where do you feel most comfortable in front or behind the camera?
Behind. Definitely behind. I’m extremely shy. And I think it’s also because I am shy that it took so long for me to admit that I wanted to direct.
Does being an actress help you build a deeper connection with the characters you create?
I don’t see myself as an actress. Then again, I do use my skills as an actress to write dialogues. I love ambiguities and contradictions in characters and I find that acting the part as I write reminds me how important the silences and the hesitations are. My mind goes a mile a minute when I talk, and there is so much that is left unsaid. It’s important to feel all the « unsaid » in a screenplay.
Do you ever find yourself getting too attached to your characters?
No. I have no problem eliminating a character or changing it drastically. But I do identify very strongly to every character that I create. I always see a little bit of myself in them. I think this is why they are always very human, even when they do horrible things.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a playwright?
I would say my taste for complex stories was the biggest challenge. Screenwriting is a little bit like doing a puzzle for me. I never write simple stories. The complexity of the structure or the characters is what I love about it. It’s the reason why I keep doing what I do. I like stories that take me where it is least expected, I like characters who do things that are out-of-character. But turning a complex story into a smooth and accessible screenplay is quite an endeavour. And convincing people that it can work can prove difficult. Some of my movies took years to finance because of this. Luckily, I’m the sort of person who never gives up.
How important is the collaborative process in filmmaking?
Extremely important. If I wanted to work alone, I’d write novels. Making movies means working as a team. And everybody on the team needs to be making the same movie for it to work in the end. It’s a very delicate balance. When I find someone with whom I work well, I don’t let go! This is why I’ve been working with my husband for so many years.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
I would say the main change is that I now want to direct. Other than that, I used to be mostly interested in childhood, but as the years go by, I am more interested in parenthood...
What are you currently working on?
I just applied for production money to direct my first feature film, « Forgetting Charlotte », a thriller about post-partum psychosis. And I finished my short film « The Cut », about a young mother separated at birth from her child. As you can see, I am very interested in the portrayal of mothers. There is so much that hasn’t been explored on screen about this subject and I personally find there is a lack of mothers being portrayed on screen by mothers film-makers.
Also, my husband and I’s feature film « The Far Shore » is coming out in theatres in Canada next month and is starting its festival life.
And finally, do you have any advice or tips for any thinking about getting into filmmaking?
There is always a public for your film, you just have to find it. Believe in what you do and work as hard as you can –harder even – and never give up until you find your public. If you are writing a movie, it means you have something to say. So be inspiring and you’ll find someone to listen: a director, a producer, a team, and if you work hard enough spectators.