short film corner | 2018
Festival de Cannes
This No Land
An old cowboy mourns at a little girl’s grave. He returns to his pickup, to take a seat next to 8-year-old Laura. He promises her to take her to Disneyland. It’s the beginning of a particular journey where they come across two couples in a gas station shop. But all is not what it seems ...
Hi Alexander thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything going?
I'm doing all right. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Congratulations on having This No Land in this years Cannes Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be part of the festival?
It's the first time I'm connected to Cannes through my work, so it's pretty exciting.
This is your debut short film, are there any nerves ahead of the festival?
I've done some low-to-no-budget short films in the past that saw very limited festival releases, so this is not entirely new to me, but with regard to Cannes, I'm pretty curious what this could bring for my first professional (meaning: on a serious budget) short film.
Can you tell me a little bit about This No Land, how did this film come about?
Jean Ryckebosch wrote the story in a screenwriting class. We were introduced to each other through his teacher and got along really well. This was back in late 2012. We took our time to work on the screenplay together.
It resulted in Vivi Film, our production company, to immediately jump on the wagon and enter this screenplay with us in the Flemish Film Fund, to get production money. And we got it. This was in May 2016. We shot one year later, in the summer of 2017, in Belgium and in Spain.
"I'm eternally grateful to every member of the crew of this film."
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
I've always been interested in storytelling. As a kid, as soon as I could hold a pencil in my hand, I would be drawing cartoons or little comic books about friends and family and later about dinosaurs and aliens. Naturally, I was thrilled to grow up with Spielberg films like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jurassic Park. Those films really define my youth and I guess influenced my professional choices in life tremendously. I had my first camera (on VHS) when I was 15 maybe. I and my younger brothers would shoot war movies in our backyard, using all the ketchup we could get our hands on. Our neighbourhood would smell of rotting tomatoes for a week. Great memories.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've away from making This No Land?
Trust your guts. Allow yourself and others to challenge your vision, but don't question your vision. If you feel a scene has to go a certain way and most others advise against it, it's probably because they can't look inside your head and see what you see. If it feels right for you as a director, then go with it. If it turns out to be a failure anyway, then at least you have only yourself to blame. I believe that's not as bad as blaming yourself for not following your guts when your vision was challenged. And everyone will challenge your vision. Let them. Invite it. It's good for you. It allows you to grow as a filmmaker.
What has been the best advice you've been given?
To listen is to try to understand, not to try to reply.
Now you can be reflective do you have any advice you would offer a first-time director?
I still consider myself a first-time director. The advice I would give myself would probably be this: Get up in the morning, every morning, and start your day writing. A film is destroyed three times: first in writing, then in shooting, then in editing. If then, you end up with a film that is watchable, or maybe, in very rare cases, any good, then you've done your work as a writer first and as a filmmaker second. Writing is the most important step and often not dealt with in that way.
What are you currently working on?
I'm writing, haha! I have some ideas written down for a TV series and I'm adapting a Flemish novel together with a co-screenwriter. It's a wonderful teamwork. I think I need that, to become a better writer and eventually, a better filmmaker. It's a lot of great, painful, harrowing but ultimately rewarding fun.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I hope the audience will open up to it, step into its world and feel something. I hope the film will return to them long after its credits have rolled.