On The Blog of Cinema, we love young filmmakers motivated and resourceful, and when one of them proposes to approach the genre of the fantastic, mixing sensuality and strangeness, one can only encourage the process. That is why, we interviewed Nicolas Courdouan, director and screenwriter of the short film RADHA, nugget aesthetic accents celtic. Radha tells the story of Saoirse, a young woman seeking to escape a painful past, that at the option of a night wandering is a problem, falls under the spell of a mysterious dancer…
How has your personal journey you had there led him to write and produce a short film in Ireland ?
My first stay in Ireland dates back to 2006, after studies in English literature that I dropped to go and live and work in the medium of English. Movie Fan of science-fiction and fantasy since my earliest childhood, I have always had the dream of working in the middle of the film, but I did not know how to go about it. It was almost by accident that I started with the tiny door, working in a movie theater in the region dublin. I “was using” anything and everything that could find in the displays, and I gradually developed a film culture more widely.
Then I went back in France for a few years, with the goal of learning how to make films with a view to one day becoming a director. I followed a two-year training in a school in marseille, where I learned how to put in light, use a camera and edit a movie, but mainly because of which I was able to land two four-month internships in Paris, which have allowed me to participate in the assembly of real professional projects (an adaptation TV ofIn search of lost time , and a feature-length film by Marc Esposito, My friend). However, I had the impression of having lost time in previous years and not me to be thrown into this way late, hence a certain amount of impatience to move on quickly to the writing and directing my own projects.
So I started writing a feature film, and immediately are images of the landscapes and the atmosphere of Ireland that came to mind. At this time, quite by chance, and after about four years of silence, a friend I had met when I was working in this film dubliner me back to tell me he had launched a career as an actor and had already met talented filmmakers in Ireland. He didn’t need to say more : I made my baggage and went immediately, in the hope of running this project.
The writing of the script took much more time than expected of course… And the lack of means, I had to focus first on the projects of other filmmakers and make the food as editor, chief-operator, or even a scriptwriter and director. Frustrated not to see my projects moving forward at the desired pace, I asked a writer irish have a look at my full-length film project, and we have finally completed the script last summer. While we put the final touches on this project, I thought that write and shoot a short film inspired by the long would be the best way to show this story to the world and to attract investors, and thus it is that “Radha” is born : it is, in fact, a condensed version of the feature-length film, made from the first third of the story, but rewritten in order to make a conclusion, if wave it is, the plot.
What material resources a need for this project ?
I decided to finance the short in its entirety. The reason was simple : the impatience. The script of the film was about to be finished and I really wanted to have this short version in my hands as soon as possible. No question, therefore, to wait until someone else gives me the permission and the means to make this film. Once this decision is made, everything went very fast; only two months elapsed between the writing of the script and the end of the shoot. I quickly asked for help to Anna Harris, a young producer met on the set of a feature film, and with his help, we quickly agreed on a date for the shoot and started to recruit a team. Everything is done at the same time : casting, hiring, location scouting, storyboards… It was both a work of titan and a blessing, because when a project acquires a certain momentum, and that everything is falling into place so quickly, one has the impression that nothing can come to us to put stick in the wheels. Not the time to ask questions or to question, it is necessary to move forward.
The casting went off without a hitch, I had the chance to be able to quickly meet those and those, like Sue Walsh, who had caught my attention; and I had already met with the technicians on other projects, and we knew therefore that we were dealing.
Some places have been very easy to find but others, and especially the beach in the final scene, we have caused a lot of stress. Without going so far as to hope for the moon, I was expecting temperatures to be rather mild during the week of shooting (the first week of may), but I was going on this beach at the end of April for testing light, I quickly realized how the air was frigid and the wind was sweeping the area constantly. We started to panic and consider a rewrite of this scene in another place or postpone the shoot, which was out of the question for me, and then we finally decided that it was too late, and that leaves one to go into the wall, it was better to go all out and hope for a quick death. The chance that we had, is that at the time of starting to rotate the scene, the wind dropped suddenly and the temperature remained easily tolerable, even at around 2 o’clock in the morning.
For what is the post-production, I am responsible for the part assembly, and he then had to patiently wait for the soundtrack, the sound editing and the calibration to do. All in all, the experience of filming was a pure pleasure and it all happened in the best possible conditions, in any case for a production which is as small and inexpensive.
You have chosen to anchor Radha in the irish culture and the turn in the English language; do you feel like some lovers of fantastic cinema, disdain, and even a form of ostracisation of the genus by the French decision-makers ?
For the choice of turn in English language, it was more as a convenience than anything else. I live in Dublin for four years now and all my contacts are there. The English language has the advantage of being universal and open more doors, it is true, but is what I would have turned Radha in France if I had had the opportunity ? Without hesitation ! I hope to have the opportunity one day to shoot a film in France.
The fantastic has always been able to find a place in the French cinema, one way or another. Just go back to the early days of cinema with artists such as Méliès, or later Cocteau. We have magazines and movies entirely dedicated to the cinema of kind (Mad Movies, to name one), which is far from being the case of all our european neighbours, who have this month other choice than to read yet another review with Assassin’s Creed on the cover.
In the current context, the producers are faced with the following dilemma : I can get about 10 million euros. Will I be used to produce a film genre that will be hard to compete with a u.s. competitor product for five or ten times more, and whose only marketing budget will exceed my total budget, or am I going to rather produce a film typically ” French “, as only the French know how to do and which has therefore very little chance of finding room in the face of a movie similar product in Hollywood ? This problem is multiplied tenfold in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in other English-speaking countries, where the industry movie is not even protected to Hollywood by the language barrier. I can’t count the cinemas irish, which broadcast the american cinema, and it is very often necessary to go into small rooms or the Institute of the Irish Movie to see a film produced at the national level.
It is for this reason we notice it more and more a tendency for these other countries to produce “local” : if you want to produce your film in Ireland, you’d better to put the culture, the accents, and irish landscapes on the front of the stage, with plots related to the history of the country, because this is not tomorrow that the Irish Film Board (equivalent to irish NQF) will finance a big science-fiction film to the tune of 30 million euros and intended to make it shrivel up by the last Transformers.
So, I think this is more out of fear, and with reason, that the French industry refuses to produce more than fantasy or SF. Now, we’re not going to cry no more : not many years do not see any French film of its kind out on the screens. 2016 has given us Evolution, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, for example. It is primarily for the public to express its interest for the genre, voting as often with their wallets, but also by promoting and attending their events, and many film festivals dedicated to the genre (Gérardmer, of course, but also the PIFFF, or Even Afraid).
You already had an idea of the visual aspect of the set during the writing ?
The cinematography has always been an essential for me, and I’m often found behind the camera on other projects. As soon as I came to the realization on the other hand, I don’t want to take care of during the filming in order to remain focused on the actors. The look of Radha has been developed upstream, during the course of conversations with the chief operator, Tess Masero Brioso. We wanted to not only give the movement of the camera in a “floating” aspect, to stay in the theme of the ocean, but also to stay mobile and fast in order to switch from one plan to another as quickly as possible, without ever stopping us. We have therefore used only one lens (a Canon zoom 16-35) and Tess turned the set of the film “shoulder” or to be more precise, the fist, as we used a stabilizing handle with universal joint.
When cutting, we wanted to make it simple, the number of plans was always reduced to a minimum. Our philosophy was : if we can turn it from a single perspective, it is the fact. Of course, some shots were filmed in a way so that we had planned something else. But the lack of time or the configuration of the filming locations, but also the lack of extras, we were sometimes forced to compromise. The more the budget is low, the more the trade-offs are numerous and important. Suffice to say that there has been a lot during the filming.
For the colors of the scene on the beach, and in particular of the sky, this was neither more nor less than a happy accident. I really had trouble to believe : not only he was good and the actresses were not in the process of freezing them in place, but the scene had taken this dimension of apocalyptic thanks to the beautiful red sky. Of course, there’s been a lot of work on the set of the film at the time of calibration, and some scenes were completely changed. But what is the red sky on the other hand, nothing has been retouched ! You see exactly what we saw at the time of the shooting. Leandro Arouca, the calibrator of the film, I was often laughs and says that all the world would believe that we had used a green background, then it is probably the scene the least reworked of the film.
Do you want to put in images, that connects the tribal dance and the fantastic, namely the evocation of a mythology in an atmosphere of indulgence ?
Yes, and I hope to have the chance to develop this relationship with the film. The project is, in fact, born, originally, from a desire to shoot a short experimental film that presents bodyscapes, close-ups, tight body of a dancer writhing in a tribal dance, trying to capture the versatile of this performance : the muscles that contract, the tendons that come alive under the skin… The experience was then to take a turn more sinister and show movements normally impossible for a human body with optical illusions using a mirror as well as two dancers playing only one and the same person.
Unfortunately, during the shooting, we had neither the time nor the resources to stick to that initial vision and we have focused on the aspect enchanting the dance itself, highlighting the choreography and the symbolism of the movements, chosen by the choreographer Dagmara Jerzak and the actress Kojii Helnwein. I also states that the performance only lasts for a little over a minute in the film, while the choreography was done 4 minutes and told step-by-step history of the character of Radha in using nothing other than his body. I hope to be able to develop this scene during the filming of the long version of the film.
We often hear that a short film is a calling card for the director; do you consider today Radha as manifested on a thematic and aesthetic of the film that you want to promote, or are you thinking already to follow other desires ?
Of all the projects that I have been able to work up to today, Radha is the only one I would call truly personal and true to my desires in film. It is for this film, these themes, these visuals that I want to make films. But I also hope to have the opportunity to diversify and take risks. The first project that I wrote and realized was a web comic series, a genre that I would never have thought to explore in a day. But this project has presented, and I wanted to gain experience as a stage director, then I started. So I won’t take the risk of saying that I will never be a musical comedy or romantic movie, because I have no idea. But at the present time, “my” film, it is Radha and its longer version, entitled Scenes From a Memory, and, more broadly, the genres previously explored by the novels and the new gothic of authors like H. P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe. I cross my fingers to have the chance to present you this movie soon !
Interview by Arkham
After you have won the prize for Short-Film of the Year, Best Fantasy Film, best Director and Best Actress at the Shiver International Film Festival in Canada in October last; Radha continues her journey around the globe and has been selected in the following festivals : H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival of Providence (USA), H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland (USA), BELIFF of London (United Kingdom), Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival (China), Auckland International Film Festival (New Zealand), Cine Pobre Film Festival in La Paz (Mexico), etc…