Interview with Benjamin Busnel, winner of the Mobile Film Festival 2012

We continue our series of interviews dedicated to the Mobile Film Festival. After Morgan Simon, winner of the 2011 (read the interview), it is the turn of Benjamin Busnel, winner of the 2012 edition, to come back on this adventure and its course director.

Hello Benjamin, can you first introduce yourself ?

I was born and lived in the suburbs of paris, to The Frette sur Seine, in the Val d’oise. To my 8 year old, I wanted to become a filmmaker discovering the films of charlie Chaplin and Spielberg. I started to turn things around age 12, when my uncle gave me a video camera VHS-C. I was 15 years old when I directed my first film, strictly speaking, a script, a timeline, etc. – it was a kind of slasher where the father of a family BCBG seemed to be more concerned by practical matters than by the massacre of his family. After high school (Racine, Paris), where I did economics, I joined the BTS Audiovisual in Boulogne-Billancourt in the Administration of the Production – which, I must admit, I was little interested, but that gave me the bases to do internships and to integrate shoots. I subsequently made to the board, the assistant dir, editing, streaming and the web, while continuing to write and produce my stories.

Why is the achievement ?

Make films, it is for me a way to inscribe in the real the ideas, images and desires that I have in mind. Realize, this is it : the practicality of something that is not, and being able to feel the audience the emotion that I felt when the idea came to me the director of the film, which sometimes is only an image, a look, a piece of replica. It is sometimes very disturbing to shoot a scene that one has imagined all alone in the corner in a few months or a few years ago, and rediscover the excitement it had caused in us, intact. These magical moments are, however, very rare ! Because the outcome is often very different from what we had imagined. Confront what you want ideally and the reality (that folds rarely to your desires) is often painful. But, in fact, he must know how to use serendipity, it is part of the job. For this, it is necessary to be reactive, to know how to integrate constraints quickly and transform them to added values to the film. Moreover, it is also important to understand that the staging itself, that is to say, to lead a team and actors on a plateau, represents only a tiny fraction of my time.

Is this your only activity ?

I spend most of my time to write and develop projects… which is not exactly the implementation, but that is part of it ! Writing and directing are inextricably linked in my work. Writing has always been a way to give form to the images that I have in mind. For my short films, I write most of the time alone, but for my projects long, I am working because I do not feel competent enough as a writer to be successful to reach a suitable result on such durations. Write and stage are two very different professions. The writing approximates almost more of the assembly than the implementation. Moreover, I am also editor – in- trade that I have learned on the job and that is very useful to reflect on the narration, the pace, the direction, etc

I’ve also written to others, for example, for the short program “The Cinema of the Committee”, that is passed on to France4 at the end of 2011.

I’m not necessarily a supporter of the idea that a person can increase the caps to infinity, but I also find it stupid that who is to say that it is good only in a single domain. For me, the realization, it is precisely the fact to be good in very different areas : storytelling, visual arts, technical, relational, etc

You just win the Mobile Film Festival, can you come back on this experience ?

I didn’t win this award, even if I had everything done to it ! … Let me explain : I had attempted the coup the previous year, where I had been selected with “It’s not a life !”. I found that making a one-minute film was a great opportunity to test things, especially on the comedy genre I had, until then hardly treated. “It’s not a life !” was a nice test shot, which gave me the desire to repeat the experience this year, where I presented 6 films in all, including 5 comedies. I knew that multiplying the number of movies does not make the best so far (by the way, the festival has selected two !), but it was for me to practice, experiment, and have fun working with actors that I had not yet had the opportunity to play.

Regarding the price, I’m delighted, but I confess that it makes me a little bit the pressure : for the first time, it gives me money for a movie for which I have not written a line ! In general, I need to write a lot to hope for something… This being the case, the great strength of this award is not only the financial contribution, but also the partnership with a production company dynamic, because it is essential to be well accompanied, and followed in the implementation of its projects and make them live then.

How did you proceed to write and shoot this film with a constraint length of a minute ?

I’ve often thought about this situation : a couple in an elevator, the discomfort that settles in, the desire which goes up, flirting, etc, I also started writing a short film over there, but that gave nothing. When I looked for ideas for the Mobile Film Festival this year, this situation returned to me in the head. My goal with “bearing” was, above all, to succeed in telling a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Which is not easy in a minute. A minute, this is hardly the time to install a situation. This is why I’m amused to imagine this story condensed to the extreme : and the girl, to get rid of the guy, took the situation to arm the body by giving it what it wants ? That’s how this girl goes up to hug her next door neighbor to avoid that he continues to flirt.

On the eve of the shoot, I had written a basic text for the actress, and we have refined it all the next day turning. We had to make six or seven taken to find the tone, the pace and the right balance between the dialogue and the reactions of each. Of course, we were interrupted several times by the inhabitants of the building who sought to take the elevator… I shot with my phone, an iPhone 3GS, with a Zoom H4 for the sound. In this regard : as long as the sound is clean and intelligible, the audience is laughing at the quality of the image, provided that it is consistent with the story. The public will never be embarrassed by an image dirty, but it always will be if he does not understand what they say to the actors.

I chose to shoot the whole sequence, a process that leaves them to live the game, which is essential in comedy. The assembly is consisted of in the end to choose the best shot, mix the sound and ask three titrations. This film (which has certainly been the most profitable of my career !) reminds me once again what is essential to cinema : a good story and good actors.

You had made other films before, are they visible on the Internet ?

My very last short, “Pygomèle” was aired on France2 last October, and it is not yet visible on the net. But the previous ones are on my site : http://benbusnel.com

I’ve divided them into two categories : films that are “weird” (the most consequent part of my job) and comedies. There are also clips and other small things…

Let’s go back to your win at the Mobile Film Festival, that’s what it has changed for you ?

This award gives me the opportunity to make a film in the year, which is a great opportunity in these times. Furthermore, in my specific case, it is the opportunity to make a comedy with a little more capacity than usual, to test things out with my actors and see how I can manage to make them laugh for 15 minutes. It is also the guarantee of having a good visibility to the future film, which is not negligible. Make films, it is well, but that they may be seen and, if possible, by the greatest number, it is even better !

Have you started working on your next film ?

Yes, I went on an idea that we are developing with a screenwriter friend. A comedy about love and fate. Something a little crazy and poetic. The theme and the characters come from a feature film project that I’ve had for several years, so it is a way to begin to live before to see things bigger… I hope that our story will take the road, because, on such short notice, I feel that I do not have the right to be wrong !

If you had to give one piece of advice to all filmmakers and lovers, what is according to you the most important to succeed ?

As Godard said, “you want to make cinema ? take a camera !”, and as said Scorsese, “make a movie, it is having something to say”. These two ideas sum up quite well what I think. You have to want to transmit something, emotions, ideas, and arrive at work a lot while keeping intact the desire – which is very difficult ! What are the business experiences and it takes a lot to turn to know what works and what doesn’t. This is not a question of money, far from it. The films offered at the Mobile Film Festival prove that you can tell a story with very little means. A successful film, it is a good design, well think what you want to achieve and how to get it. Once again, the basis is the scenario, then the players and then the camera. I say that and yet I just the frame and mounting, I have long been wary of the players, and today, I understand that they are precious because they are the ones that transcend what one has written. Therefore, it is necessary to know well the choose !

Read up on the techniques of scenario (McKee, Truby, etc) and on the methods of staging (the instructive “Lessons of cinema” compiled by Laurent Tirard) is useful once one has already achieved a few small things. For my part, I find that in cinema, the best method, it is first of all the practice and the theory then. To become a director, it takes patience, good technical knowledge, unwavering determination, great energy and humility, a good relational sense, and the list goes on… it is very complete !

To conclude, I would like to emphasize the fact that the realization made him fantasize a lot of young people, while the whole world is not made for it. This is why it seems important to me to be honest with yourself and identify early enough what(s) profession(s), we are the most competent : some feel more comfortable in assembly than in achievement, others are more interested in the production or by the camera. There are a lot of trades around the project that are exciting. Do not become the future Coppola, this is not dramatic : the key is to be happy with the job we did ! But if it really is the staging that you want to do, then it is necessary to create and not to compare themselves to others – there is no one single way to achieve, but as many paths as there are directors !

Can you name one of your favourite film-makers, and the reasons that will make you love his work ?

Impossible Question… How to choose ? I would cite always the two mastodons that are Kubrick and Mallick, who succeeded each in their own way to a form of truth, of purity, aesthetic and moral, which, despite what people think, are never can. Without love all that they have done, I find myself too much in the films of Cronenberg, Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Gus Van Sant and Haneke – and also for thematic reasons (the duality, the strange, the deviant, etc.).

The american cinema, and in particular the new Hollywood (De Palma, Scorcese, Coppola, Spielberg…) always touches me so much, like today the films of Nolan (The Dark Knight), Refn or Fincher. Without opposition, there are a lot of things that I love in the French film, recently “The name of the people” for example.

Well, one thing is for sure : for me, cinema is, and must remain a field of possible, from the most commercial to the most underground, the most foutraque to the more controlled, the “Brain” to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” by way of “Soy Cuba”, “Blair Witch Project” and “City Lights”. The requirement of course, but also the fun, the madness, the lyricism, the intimate… the life, in sum.

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