Thursday, 16 June 2016

interview: Francois Reumont

Francois Reumont directed the excellent short horror film Dans la Nuit (aka At Night) which played Leicester as support to David Cronenberg’s Spider in March 2003. This e-mail mini-interview was done a couple of weeks later.

How did you raise the funds to make this film? Did you have any assistance from any national or European funds?
“As it says on the last line of the French language credits, ‘this film has been made without any kind of support’ - which is true. This is a statement I wanted to spread, especially for those who love fantasy movies and who are desperately seeking money every year to make their own films. Maybe to give them hope, and to show that this is possible, and that you don’t always have to wait for money from French institutions to shoot your own project.

“Of course I tried to raise money from every one of these people like the CNC (National Centre for Cinema) or the different French regions, but no one was interested in the script. As I knew more or less how things were going to go (French commissions are always reluctant to deal with true genre movies) I decided first to shoot the film on my own money, which meant 10 years of savings, and professional relations with the movie industry (working as a DP). The final budget of the film was around 22,500 Euros.”

How has a short French film made its way to Leicester? This is very unusual.
“Because of the connections I made in festivals around Europe in 2002. To cut a long story short, I met a British TV producer (Howard Martin, who makes the TV show outThere) at the Malmo Fantastic Film Festival. He liked the film very much, and after a couple of days watching films and drinking beers together with the other guests, he suggested that I send a tape to Alan Alderson-Smith at Leicester Phoenix Arts for his short film program. Alan sent me his agreement, and the copy was sent to the UK for a week in March 2003.”

[outThere is a late-night show on Channel 5 which features clips of extraordinary movies available on VHS and DVD in the UK. It was presented by 'Eden' for one series and then by Emily Booth from series two. I had the pleasure of meeting producer Howard Martin at Phoenix Arts when an episode of outThere was shown as support to the UK premiere of Ghosts of Mars at the first Far Out Film Festival in 2001. - MJS]

Was your cinematography work on other films just a step to directing? Which do you prefer and why?
“As a matter of fact I don’t really believe in all the classifications people use in the movie/commercials/TV industry. I like to think myself as a movie-maker, exactly at the same level as a production designer, an actor or a producer. Of course you don’t use the same skill doing all these different jobs, but at the end you converge towards the same goal: telling an audiovisual story. So that’s why I still work as a DP, and I keep enjoying it, exactly as an actor/director can go back to acting in someone else’s film.

“For me, working as a DP was just one way of getting experience over a lot of critical fields in terms of movie-making: learning how to use a camera of course, and how to frame or to light a set, but also keeping as close as possible to the acting experience, and even how to get the best from the smallest budget. I must assume for example that working as a DP on more than 30 short films since I left school in 1991 has been a huge help in terms of production managing, and knowing how to control your expenses. Something that I used a lot on my own film, since I was spending my own money!”

I spotted some thanks in the end credits: J Carpenter, PK Dick, a few others - how have these men influenced you?
“Yes, I wanted to put a little ‘coup de chapeau’ (tip of the hat) on the end credit to these guys because they are surely one of the main influences in that particular script. First Stephen King - for the general mood of the story, and the character of the mum (the model was Cathy Bates in Misery, so that’s the reason her first name is in the movie). Then John Carpenter - when he works on the King theme on his masterpiece In the Mouth of Madness. The accident scene is definitely an homage to this film. Stanley Kubrick - for the ‘Bring a blanket-bring a blanket...’ book, another nod to King’s The Shining, and of course Philip K Dick for the multiple levels of reality, and altered perceptions of it, which lead us to all the nightmarish structure of the film (Ubik).”

What do you think of David Cronenberg's Spider?
“I saw it in Cannes last year, and I was very happy with it. It was one of the best films I saw there, along with Roman Polanski’s The Pianist and Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (a Death Wish movie told in reverse). I was very glad and honoured to be presented as support to this film in Leicester, as Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors. What’s more, I just had the pleasure of conducting a very long interview about Spider with Peter Suschistky, Cronenberg’s British cinematographer, last September for a French magazine that I write for, Le Technicien du Film.”

What will your next film be?
Bonne question! I don’t know yet, but some French producers saw Dans la Nuit and asked me for a feature treatment on the basis of the same atmosphere. I’m actually working on it with my fellow scriptwriter. (I’m not the mythical French ‘auteur’; being director and screenwriter can work for the best but more often for the worst...) And so that’s why things take time. I never really learned movie-making from a writing angle, I work much more on the visual side of it, as I was explaining in the first answer. I would have liked so much to find a good, ready made horror/thriller script, but screenwriters are so difficult to find round here...!”

interview originally published before November 2004

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