by Jason Whyte
A NY Thing - At SxSW Film
“The guy loves the girl so much that he flies after her, from Paris, all the way to New York… to end up staring at her kissing her official boyfriend… And then starts the chase to gain her heart back, with many encounters on the way, including drugs, violence, poetry, nonsense humor, tenderness, some funny sex and a bunch of gorgeous songs, before everything comes back to normal… or not...” Director Oliver Lecot on the film “A NY Thing” which screens at this year’s South By Southwest Film.
Is this your first film in SxSW? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to be in Austin for the screenings?
It is my first film in SxSW. However, I do have a lot of festival experience thanks to my short movies, which traveled around the world in the previous decade, and very often here in the US, as two of my films were already shot in New York and selected in various festivals over the country. Being in a festival always offers great encounters and exciting moments, and I wish I could attend this edition to assist the screenings, but unfortunately, I'll be working in my hometown, in Paris, France.
Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?
I started writing scripts in the mid 90's and that leaded me to direct my debut short movie "Personne avant toi" in 1998. Since then, I've been continuously writing and directing shorts, trying to put together several features projects until that first one "A NY thing" was produced last year. I've never been to any film school and slowly developed my own work through a persisting desire to talk about love and a progressive attachment to New York and a certain kind of "indie" film style. I wanted to make film very early in my life, but it took me a few years to figure I could do it for good. A few years I've spent working, becoming an adult, watching films to learn more and making friends that would share my goal and help me. Most recently, writing segments of "New York, I Love You" with french director Yvan Attal was a great experience, and watching him at work a great training right before shooting my own feature.
Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!
I think I first wanted to be a doctor -- must have something to do with sexual desire -- and then, a Jedi knight, but by the time I was old enough to watch Truffaut's films and also understand I could never become a Beatles, I decided that sooner or later, I would be a filmmaker.
How did this whole project come together?
After a few attempts to have one of my scripts produced in France the regular way, with governement funding and all, once the project was declined, I was angry and decided instead I should do something lighter, the same way I did with my shorts, writing quickly and working fast on the streets, with whatever money or help I could get, and alone if necessary. So I started writing between late 2007 and early 2008, and convinced Jeffrey Saunders - who had produced some of my shorts - to do it with me. The decision was taken, we would shoot it by summer 2008, with no idea how or with whom... but then, back in Paris, I met a French producer willing to participate in the adventure, Pierre Javaux, and by the time the script was finished, Arte channel was giving us money to produce it. We were in fact shooting in November 2008, a year after I came up to New York with the idea.
What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it the script, principal photography or post-production stage?
Preproduction was the biggest challenge, as we had to get immigration approval, so I could direct the film and bring part of my crew and actors from France. Then, putting together the whole prep work, including finding locations, assembling the crew and casting thirty five actors in the last three weeks prior to the shooting was not a piece of cake either. Jeffrey brought a great team that worked fantastically. Principal photography was another challenge too, as we were fighting against time and the weather, but I was happy and excited and focused, and got lucky enough to work with strong actors and experienced technicians, so, in the end, we were able to do most of what I wanted. Post production took place in France, were I'm used to work with longtime partners, strong editors, composers, and we had the support to achieve it nicely.
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.
Isabelle Dumas - the French cinematographer - and I started working together two years before, collaborating on a short movie and a music video. She understood since the very beginning the specific look I was aiming for with that film, and she took time to visit New York with me and to explore a longtime preparation. It made us decide to shoot on Super 16 film, to catch that vintage vision of New York that went along with the idea of chasing disappearing places, streets, walls, stores that would soon be destroyed or rehabilitated. We wanted to feel sort of projected back in time, through the eyes of our character, going through a fantasy love trip made of obsession and film memories. So the camera would often get close to faces, emotions, or simply catch glimpses of the city, postcards out of time, for a moment out of his life.
Talk a bit about the experiences (festival or non-festival) that you have had with this particular film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings? If this is your first screening premiere, what do you hope to expect at the screenings of the film?
I had a few festival experiences with the film in France, and a few Q&A where most people would share with me their true emotion, happy with the "trip" they had, visiting New York as if they were sent there with a purpose, and experiencing the romance with fun. Music takes often a great part in their reaction too. Our soundtrack is made of a lot of original songs, and they participate greatly in the emotional climax. It seems that audiences enjoy the film, its charm, and yet can feel and appreciate its melancholic tone too. As it is my first screening premiere in US, I hope the film will please the audience here, that they will like its mix of modern comedy and old fashioned wander.
Who would you say is “the audience” for this film? Do you want to reach everyone possible or any particular type of filmgoer?
Of course, I want to reach everyone possible, as it talks about universal desires, and there's no age to run after love. Or enjoy a non conformist comedy.
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 project in particular?
I'm inspired by those who did a personal and sincere work, whether it was in a very independent way, or through the studio system. In France, filmmakers like François Truffaut, Claude Sautet and Godard in the sixties, have opened my eyes to a certain emotion, a certain way to picture life, romance, love and all the issues about it. Here, Cassavetes, Scorsese, or, more recently Jim Jarmush, Paul Thomas Anderson, or Wes Anderson made me question about veracity, sincerity but also stylization, epic comedy, nonsense and drama. I need to feel something special, strong, beautiful, sensitive, and even sometimes, stupid, but in the right way, and they gave that to me. And May be "After Hours" was sort of in my mind when I considered doing "A NY Thing", mixed with memories of my own experiences, chasing love in London or New York in my teenage years.
How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?
I want to go as far as possible, as I want people to see my work. I do feel that the size doesn't matter. Big or small, it's the intense and honest and intimate relationship I can have with the story and the actors that matters to me.
If you weren’t in this profession, what other line of work do think you would be involved with?
I would definitely focus on the writing if I could not keep on directing; writing novels, or reviews, or studies, but at some point, sitting and thinking.
Please tell me some filmmakers, actors or other talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.
I would enjoy working with Judd Apatow, who is actually producing or directing great films about the "teen"-adults that we are. Either him or Noah Baumbach, whose work is so subtle. And I would certainly be happy to work with actors and actresses such as James Franco, Paul Dano, Ethan Hawke, but also Woody Allen, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, or Robin Wright Penn, Ellen Page, Catherine Keener, Evangeline Lilly, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and with no hesitation, Greta Gerwig, whom I really enjoyed working with.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
Media response to film still seems decisive, helping independent films to exist in front of bigger productions, or big productions to compete between each others. It still provides a strong support for some films and can greatly contribute to make one more attractive. It can also be very destructive. But it's necessary that some truth can be told somewhere, so that audiences are able to read something else about a film than strictly advertising. I come from a country where critical press still plays a big part and where you can read long critical studies on new films that really "position" the film and influence their box office. It matters a lot, even if it's true that it matters much more with small films only exist in specific medias than with blockbusters that are mentioned everywhere.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
I would choose the Grauman's Chinese theater in LA, but if not available... the Max Linder Panorama in Paris.
What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?
I would first choose a nice lonely woman, and explain to her I'm the director and we can have a drink after the film.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking during or conversing/texting on their cell phone while you’re watching a movie (if at your own screening or another movie you attend)?
In this case, I usually feel like killing - which is not positive - so I would either accidentally spill a drink on him or her, or, more probaly choose a better seat, and kill after the film.
What do you love the most about this business of making movies?
What I love the most is that moment when you catch the right acting. Whatever happens before or will happen after, I'm in heaven. It's mind guess coming to life. Frankenstein looking handsome at last. A miracle.
No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?
There's one sentence I've read from Cassavetes and kept in mind since. He more or less said when you want to make films, you can't be afraid of anything or anyone. I've tried to work according to that guideline and made it alive until now.
And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?
My all time favorite motion picture is Vertigo from Hitchcock. I've never felt a stronger emotion in a theater than my first time watching that film, back in the eighties. It doesn't necessarily match with my work or my influences, but it's just "something special" with that film!
This is one of the many films screening at this year’s South By Southwest Film in Austin, Texas between March 12-20. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2972
originally posted: 03/10/10 03:46:53
last updated: 03/10/10 03:47:32