Philippe Andre kicked off his career directing music videos and commercials, and is now making the transition into to film. Delicate Gravity is his new short film starring Yvan Attal and Anne Parillaud.
We caught up with the director to chat about Delicate Gravity, working with Attal and Parillaud and the feature films in the pipeline.
- Delicate Gravity is your new short film, so can you tell me a bit about it?
It started with an experience that I had. One day I had a message on my answering machine from a woman thinking she was talking to her lover. It was somewhat embarrassing in a way (laughs), but it was not as dramatic as it is in my film.
From this experience, I started to ask questions such as, ‘what if this woman was desperate?’ ‘What if this message landed on the answering machine of a man who was lonely?’ I started to build the story and from that and I wrote the script.
- That does lead me into my next question. You have penned the screenplay as well as being in the director's chair so can you talk a bit about the screenwriting process that you go through from initial idea to the completed script?
First of all, I always co-write with someone else; the other writer on this film is an American writer. I started developing the idea and I made the structure of the film that I wanted to see; which is it would build up from this guy being a bit lonely and a bit of a looser, but he is a charming looser.
I wanted to create empathy for him. Starting from there, he receives the message and it was about telling the story of these two people who never meet. Suddenly they need each other.
- It is interesting that you say that you always co-write as I was wondering why you prefer to work in this way?
To write you need to be a monk (laughs); you need to strop doing everything and lock yourself in a room. It is crazy to work by yourself without having anyone to bounce ideas back and forth, challenging yourself and going in a different direction. To just by yourself really is very difficult work and I just cannot do that properly.
When you want to do go deep into an idea, you do have to exchange that with someone. I am better for writing the structure of the film, while he is better with dialogue. Together we have everything and make a nice partnership.
- The movie is packed with great performances but Yvan Attal and Anne Parillaud particularly stand out. Can you talk about what you were looking for when you were casting the roles of Paul and Claire?
I wrote the script without knowing who the actors would be; when you are doing a short film you don’t know if you can even do the film. When I found the money - I got the money in France. I was wondering if I should make the movie in the U.S. or in the UK, so I was initially looking for money from everywhere (laughs).
I didn’t know Yvan, but my producer knew him and I think Yvan knew of the music videos that I had done in the past. He read the script and he loved it. We sat down face to face to talk about the script, and he had a couple of suggestions about the opening scene; I rewrote the opening scene for him because he wanted there to be a lot more insight into his character.
Then we started to think about who could play the female character. Casting this role was a big challenge because I wanted a beautiful actress and a fantastic actress as well as an actress with a bit of distance: I didn’t want someone who would be an instant friend that you could go and have a drink with. It was difficult to find an actress who had all of these qualities.
Yvan has worked with many actresses in France, and he didn’t want to work with someone that he had worked with in the past. That worked for me as I wanted them to meet on screen and I didn’t want people who knew each other well as it would feel fake.
It was good to find an actress that Yvan had never shot with before. Anne came to our minds together. When I sent the script to her, she was very excited and loved the story.
- How did you find working with Yvan and Anne? How collaborative a process was it as you were developing these two central characters?
It was very much so. They don’t have the same technique and so I had to direct them in a totally different way; that is a classic situation for a director.
Yvan and I did a lot of rehearsals and readings and worked on the script together. Even on set, he would recap with me about the dialogue - so it was very collaborative.
Anne didn’t want to do any rehearsals because she wanted to be fresh with everything. Therefore, we had this unbalanced situation where I had this guy that I knew very well because I had worked with him a lot, and a woman who I was going to discover. Of course, on set we were talking a lot about dialogue and how we were going to block the scene together.
- Were there any major challenges or stumbling blocks that you faced when you were making this film?
Finding the money (laughs). Nothing was a big big challenge to be honest. I was very happy to be very flexible with the way that they wanted to work.
The bigger challenge for me was that I had in mind exactly what I wanted to do - I was working almost like a photographer, blocking the scenes and knowing exactly where I wanted them to be in the scene, where I wanted them to go and the amount of light.
While that is a good way to work, you cannot ask that of actors because they just become like puppets. I had to collaborate with them in order to make them go the way that I wanted to go, at the same time, giving them a lot of flexibility to build their character. This was the biggest challenge for me, but it was incredibly exciting.
- Delicate Gravity has been doing incredibly well on the festival circuit but how have you been finding the response to the film? And how was your festival experience?
We have been very surprised to be winning Best of the Festival awards. There is an honesty in the film and I think that does touch some people. I think if you tell an honest story with beautiful characters, you will eventually find a response somewhere.
I have been very happy to see people responding to it in the way that they have. Maybe it is not so easy to tell a love story today, but these are the stories that I do like to tell. However, when you tell this kind of story in the right way you can touch audiences.
- You kicked off your career in the music world so how did you find the transition into film? And how did you music background help you as you made this transition?
I always wanted to make movies and tell a narrative; all of my music videos in the past have had a narrative. The commercial side has been a great experience of being on set and working with crews; you practice basically.
You have a better understanding of what you want and you don’t struggle with camera positions because you know the vocabulary very well. It is something that you do have to learn and I have been very lucky to have that. My goal has always been to become a movie director.
I didn’t think that it was a difficult transition because, even in music video and commercials, simple is always better. In film, if you can reduce the dialogue to something that is very simple, and shoot in a simple way then that is best.
It is crazy to tray and find a quirky camera position as you do start to struggle. When you go straight to the point, I think it works. I didn’t find it a very difficult transition if I am being honest.
- Finally, what is next for you? Are there any plans to go into feature film?
Yes. At the moment I have two movies in development in Hollywood; they are independent movies and I am currently trying to find the money (laughs). It is a very long process as independent films are very difficult to finance.
I am writing another movie set in France - the writing has been financed and so we are in the middle of that at the moment. I am hoping to shoot this movie next year, or at the beginning of 2015.
I think that this will be the next project as we have a producer and we have the financing for the writing. I looks like it is going to be faster