[INTERVIEW] Nathalie Sejean for IN 5 YEARS

In the margin of the glitter and the red carpet, we met the filmmaker Nathalie Sejean who, like a lot of filmmakers, travelled to Cannes in order to advance a film project. For once, we are interested in a work that has not yet seen the day, in order to try to identify the marathon as such an adventure is.

The history IN 5 YEARS : Every five year since she was 18 years old, Frédérique and her three best friends to register, imagining where they will be five years later. Has now 32 years old in 2016, Frédérique moved to Istanbul to finish his thesis. It believes it can escape the social pressure of his friends and devote himself only to his work. She has no idea of the tsunami of emotions that awaits on the Internet.

Since when are you working on IN 5 YEARS, and what have been the transformations of the project ?

I made a short film in 2010, called My status, a huis-clos with a girl who listened to its articles of facebook read by a kind of robot, a futuristic film which explored already the impact of social media on our relationships. This idea where I wanted to make a feature-length film, that I’ve put in a corner for four years. But this desire to talk about the communication altered by the mediation of the Internet has remained. Things are suddenly accelerated in a few years : we went from a simple wall facebook to dozens of app : whatsap, snapchat, twitter, etc

There is so much flow possible that for some people the communications digital should take 50% of their total trade, or more. What I want to show is how this major change involves the same emotional commitment to people virtually present with the people physically present. My character sees the people with whom she speaks by the Internet, as if they were in the room. For the moment, the films made on social networks were content to display the emoticons, text or screens, but does not reflect the emotional investment. How we connect at an emotional level with those people ? I think that we are living very seriously our relationships online, despite the confusion that this generates : I speak to a person by mail, while I send a text message, and responding by e-mail facebook…

What difficulties must you overcome to bring this project to fruition ?

The same difficulties that any director of a first feature : find partners in relation to the financing but also to open the right doors, in particular to facilitate the discussion with some actors.

One of the obstacles for our project is that my producer is Turkish, and in Turkey there has been almost no funding for independent filmmakers. Turkey has a scholarship from the ministry which is given in a somewhat arbitrary : it may be a once per year, three times, not at all… and this is the only chance to partially fund a Turkish movie. After that, it undergoes a form of irony in the system, which we disqualify sometimes on some aspects, either because I’m not Turkish, because my producer is not european… To overcome this difficulty, we therefore seek a co-production, apriori French. This seems the most logical choice, since I’m French, as my main character and most of the supporting roles.

It is also difficult to convince them to fund this project, knowing that I never realized before long feature film, but also that my short did not win a prize. I was able to participate in some festivals, but the competition is huge. For example, I had competed in San Sebastian in the category of international schools, for my film that I made during my classes in the evening in Los Angeles. My film was made with an SD camera and a $ 35 budget was facing a number of short films shot on 35mm film with several tens of thousands of dollars from the largest schools : the FEMIS, Columbia, Berlin, etc

To support our project, we came to Cannes with a visual, proposals of strategies of distribution, an approximate budget, the size of the casting, the duration of shooting, etc, What’s funny is that it speaks first of these elements before discussing the story !

The first echoes here are favorable, I appreciated the theme that is in tune with the times but also the fact that I am a woman who tells a universal story, and not only women.

It is necessary to be patient, understand that this is a process that will take time, regardless of its relationship to the departure. Above all, don’t believe that this first film has value only for the suite, and do not expect either to have done so to pursue other projects. It is a delicate balance between perseverance, versatility… and save his life !

Is it that the fact of being a woman, you seems to be an additional difficulty to mount a first draft ?

The statistics tell me that yes, or rather, I don’t know if mounting a first draft will be more difficult, but it will certainly have an impact on my career in the long term.

Although this is changing, it puts us a bit by default in production. If I believe my experience in Los Angeles during the course of the evening, we were only two girls, for forty boys. Everyone was very nice and I’ve never met a form of misogyny, blatant, but clearly I was not part of the people to call when there was a need for reinforcements on a project. I totally understand that it is more “easy” to call one of his buddies guys, who will understand the jokes without getting offended. We, girls, have a habit of evolving in a world of men, we can adapt. The reverse is not necessarily true, by lack of habit simply. If I take the example of my site, these are always the men who solicit me to participate or meet with me. I have a bit the impression that the girls have taken the habit to receive rather than ask, take the initiative. This difference in behavior causes a natural skimming off the bottom. Upon arrival, all of these elements are that there are fewer women than men in the trades of the achievement. These small details add to the other difficulties : it must just be even more patient than the men, and above all, don’t take it personally.

How do you understand the functioning of the Cannes film market ?

The impression I have, is that we are dealing with a system at several levels. Personally, I’m lucky to have a producer, Mugë Ozen, which has already worked before as abuyer in the international, which allows us access to meetings professionals. But I meet filmmakers who have purchased the badges and circulate in the market a scenario at hand, without the producer and therefore without access to these meetings. These people are trying to bring in the holiday season to pitch their project to the chain. At the other extreme, the “CV” of some directors to give them greater access to some professionals… So many “layers” are superimposed, it is difficult to confirm this myth, as here, a deal can be concluded in one evening after a glass.

What is your next step for this film ?

After Cannes, we will make the point. What is sure is that we will continue to send files to the labs and grants, which could bring us an extra visibility . Each time, the feedback helps us improve some things. It is a process that is moving almost infinite, which only ends with the release of the film. But this is not a required step : I met some filmmakers who had made their film without labs, and vice versa.

If for each step (production, financing, filming, etc) all can be unlock soon enough, the “dark side of the force” it is that one is never sure of reaching the key person, or when you happen to convince.

So I am still obliged to think about a “plan B.” Should we make a short film that represents the concept of the long, as Damien Chazelle with Whiplash for example ? Or even a trailer made before the film’s final, as the experienced Justin Simien, director of Dear White People.

The trail of the crowdfunding, or even the previous step, the crowd-sourcing (creation and animation of a community digital on the project of the film), does develop after being asked the key questions : is this the right time ? Am I surrounded by the right team ? Am I ready to spend three months of my life to do just that ?

“To become a director, it is a delicate balance between perseverance, versatility… and save his life !”

These themes, as I recall with my producer Mugë Ozen. But finally it’s only been 5 months that the project is really launched, which is very long because you have the desire to achieve more quickly, and at the same time very short when we realize how average this kind of project needs to achieve.

With all these constraints, do you still have the time to think about the artistic choices for your film ?

I am aware that there is a concrete act that three weeks [of filming] all the three years. We must continue the rest of the year to maintain our sensitivity, to sharpen our curiosity and to exercise our discernment. What saves me is my site mentorless.com that forces me to be a form of information monitoring on the knowledge that revolve around the achievement, and share this knowledge with those who are potentially interested.

Since the full-length film project IN 5 YEARS has become more concrete, my research for the site was to clearly point depending on the issues that the film raises. Casting, music composition, collaboration with a chef-operator, communication between the different departments… some of the topics that I should master in the first day of the shoot.

Beyond my research, I have the impression that a red led light turns on in my brain when I meet someone or I hear a phrase that could directly help me in my project. It is as if IN 5 YEARS was become the first filter that is unconscious to all that I experienced…

I work as an editor also, and I write by visualizing almost the timeline of the movie in a software. I am very sensitive to the rhythm, I try to be the most optimal according to the story I want to tell.

My second concern is that of the visual mood that I’d like to transcribe. Two questions obsess me at the moment is this : should I focus on a static camera or moving ? Do I choose a shallow depth of field or, on the contrary, a very large ?

Because I have this bias to show the people online are physically present in the same room as their partner, I have the intuition that the depth of field is going to have an impact on the texture of the image, but also the emotional perception of the characters.

Of course, regardless of my decisions upstream, I allow myself the opportunity to be seduced by the ideas of my future employees.

What are the filmmakers who inspire you ?

I’m very sensitive to cameras ofAndrea Arnold (Fish Tank, 2009, wuthering heights, 2011, American Honey at Cannes this year…), Steve McQueen (Hunger, 2008 And Shame, 2011, Twelve Years a Slave, 2013), but the independent film that I was most inspired in terms of storytelling it is States of Grace (Short Term 12 in the VO, 2013), which I was amazed by its cyclic structure.

In general, I like the cameras placed on the shoulder of the characters, including the framing can sometimes be “blocked” by elements of the scenery…

If your wildest dream could come true, what would it be ?

To IN 5 YEARS, this would be it goes to Sundance. It is, I think, the fantasy of all the independent directors. It is natural that this type of film is to be sent.

The other hand, I watch Netflix acting more and more in favour of independent cinema. After that, even if there are three or four years they could launch the careers of unknown directors, it is clearly spent on a different scale.

To sum it up, my fantasy would be that this film is selected in a grand festival, what would a deal for a second film, or at least facilitates the path to the next, perhaps to one of the new platforms of VOD for which I had great interest in. One of the things that I have learned in animating mentorlessthis is what you are asked the most : what is it that you’re after ? I think, therefore, already to develop two stories in addition to move forward in the preparation of IN 5 YEARS.

Interview by Thomas Coispel

 

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