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Victoria Film Festival Interview - “Lost Cause” directors Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard

Lost Cause (Sans Dessein) - At Victoria Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

"Paul Thérien (Steeve Léonard) has just turned 30, today. Still single, he lives in a small apartment surrounded by boxes since he moved in... Eleven and a half months ago. Paul's job as a janitor is less than satisfactory, more so, he has no hobbies and no particular interests. Basically, Paul is a lost cause without a satisfying future. One day, Paul gets a visit from a spirit who offers him the opportunity to rectify his life. The ghost refers to a plan, set up by the High Council of Destiny that would insure love and prosperity. The plan? Paul must conquer his childhood crush, Martine Lacelle (Julie Tétreault). But it won’t be an easy mission, since Paul accidentally pushed Martine in an open sewer when they were kids!" Directors Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard on the film "Lost Cause" which screens at this year's Victoria Film Festival.

Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival? Tell me about your festival experience, and if you plan to attend Victoria for the film’s screenings.

We’ve been to many festivals, mostly locally (in the Montréal area). It’s always nerve-racking to show your film, even if it’s not for the first time, but it’s always an incredible thrill. Your heart races, you shake, you sweat… you just want people to react in the right places and overall enjoy the film. We won’t be attending the VFF, due to the fact that we’re pretty poor!

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.

We can’t say that we are in ‘the industry’ right now. We financed the film ourselves (with our own money), and the crew was comprised mostly of friends. What led us to shoot a feature-length film was the fact that we’d been making shorts for about ten years, and we just decided to take the leap into features, with or without the industry’s help. Before all that, we did film studies in college and university.

How did this whole project come together?

STEEVE: We just decided to move into features because we felt like taking a leap. We figured that if we can shoot an 5 minute short on the weekend, then why don’t we line up a whole bunch of weekends and make a feature-length film?” We were really inspired by what Peter Jackson did with “Bad Taste” in the mid 1980s. In our minds, we didn’t care if the film took a year (or two) to make. We figured it was worth it.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

We chose Simon Villeneuve as our D.P. because he’s a good friend, and when we pitched him the idea, he was really into giving 100% of his time. This was going to be everybody’s first feature, so the drive was there from the beginning. We chose to shoot with a Panasonic HVX-200 (P2) because we found a Good Samaritan who was willing to lend us the camera for free! If that hadn’t happened, we were going to shoot it on mini DV – but we’re really glad we didn’t have to! It all had to do with budgetary reasons; we just couldn’t afford to rent a HD camera every weekend.

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

We shot the film over two years, so you can imagine there is a list of problems related to stretching out the shoot that long. Keeping people motivated was tough. You’ve got to convince your friends to give up a lot of weekends to come and shoot this thing, so that feeling of “when will this thing be over with?” loomed over the entire project. Not enough to generate any ill feelings towards anyone, but it was still floating about.

It was also tough to just get the crew together for two days at a time. Like we always say, it’s hard enough to organise a party with all your friends there, imagine organising one where they have to show up at 6am to work for free! Another tough thing was acting in the movie you’re directing. If you have a huge crew and a lot of assistants, it’s probably easier, but when you’re in a crew of 6 people, the directors have to think about everything, AND try and act when he’s not even an actor! That can be hell.

As for the good side, there is plenty. The freedom to do what you want, without a producer breathing down your neck is pretty nice. If we didn’t like something, we’d re-shoot it, if possible. Working with friends is also nice as we’d get feedback on almost everything.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

As far as inspirations, Peter Jackson for the way he never gave up doing “Bad Taste”. For the film itself, stuff comes up on its own without really thinking about it. We would get on set and ideas and references would pop up, but we can’t say we set out to emulate or draw directly from someone or something. As for acting, we just tried to act it like ourselves. We tried to downplay everything; keep it really natural, even though some situations were out of the ordinary.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? Do you have any interesting stories about how this film has screened before? What do you think you will expect at the film’s screenings at Victoria?

The film has been received extremely well so far. Especially on our own turf; surprising, considering that the film has no stars in it. The best experience so far has been at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montréal for the première of Lost Cause. There was close to 500 people in the room, and at the end we received a standing ovation. That was incredible, that’s what we live for! You really know you did your job well when something like that happens! In Victoria, the film will play with English subtitles, so we’re curious to see how the comedy will play out. Unfortunately, we won’t be there to see it.

If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?

We’d probably run a bakery! Seriously.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

As always, it’s extremely important. Like it or not, if a movie gets enough bad reviews, it will have an impact on the money it makes. Some critics are a little trigger-happy when it comes to reviewing movies, it’s like some of them don’t realize the power of the written word. We’ve been extremely lucky so far…critics seem to “get” the movie very well.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

We’d screen it at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and have the room filled with all the directors and producers we look up to. And we’d die of nervousness before the credits rolled.

If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?

Be aware that every decision that is taken will reflect back on you. If anything in the movie is “bad”, it’s going to be your fault, always. The same goes for the good bits. Also, don’t shoot your film over two years’ time.

What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?

That’s the toughest question in the world. Movies are just our favourite form of entertainment, and we want to be a part of it. We grew up in the 1980s, watching incredible movies, and they totally captured our imaginations. I guess when we learned that you could actually make movies for a living we jumped at the chance to do it. As for the business part of it, we’re not there yet, but from what we know, there’s enough good to balance the bad and it looks like a constant challenge.

A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?

Steeve: That’s so hard to answer!!! For me the movie that had a big impact was Evil Dead II. It’s what made me go study film at college. I just remember watching it and thinking it was brilliantly made even though it had a small budget. It was utterly entertaining and inventive – and I wanted to do that!

This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Victoria Film Festival. For showtimes and further information visit

Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter @jasonwhyte!

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 02/04/10 05:37:48
last updated: 02/04/10 05:40:19
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