For Sarah préfère la course (Canada) in Un Certain Regard
Why did choose the subject of running?
Well I thought it was a great metaphor for what my character was living. ‘Cause in a way she’s running from life, but she’s also running towards her dream. So the contradiction and the metaphor of running was interesting. And visually, to run is beautiful [opposed] to if she was in administration and wanted to be a doctor or whatever.
How long did you spend researching the running world?
I met a coach one year ago but I wanted to start the writing without knowing about running – to have a naive writing at first and write what I felt was good for Sarah. And then I talked with the coach and helped me add some details. And the actresses had to be with a coach for six months, intensively.
When they were training where you getting some of it on film to experiment with shot types and photography?
Yeah, when they were practicing it gave me ideas and ideas even for the script. Close to the shooting I saw some interesting stuff that I didn’t know about that came after [the research and traning].
Is that a method you’d try again?
At first I just want it to be what I have in my mind and then do the research. I think it’s important to decide what’s the core of it.
How did you do with location scouting? There are many pastoral shots in the film – were they found scouting or had you had those places in mind for a long time?
Some of them come from when I was young and I knew these places and I wanted to---I thought if I would be a filmmaker “this would be a nice place to shoot”. But at the same time, with the DoP, we took several months, since I had the script. It’s been 4 years since I started the work and I wanted to work with her. Even when we were at school we took some days just to see things, and we saw everything we could use for the running part. Everything is chosen.
Those are really well constructed – how they glide along and how they’re edited. Did you spend a lot of time with the editor in order to get sequences as smooth as them?
Even in pre-production I do storyboarding and I think of the editing, before shooting. But I was there for the editing process and I had a really good editor (he’s called Michel Arcand and he’s done many great films from Quebec – one that was in competition called Léolo). He has a lot of experience and that was such an interesting collaboration and he put a lot of his experiences into this film.
You’ve worked with your director of photography, Jessica Lee Gagné, since you were 17 but how did you assemble the rest of your crew? And was it difficult changing from a crew of a short film production to a feature?
The art director I knew from university so he was part of my team – we did several short films together. So it was kind of a family set of people I have known from school. We asked for some names to fill the team, but it overall it was easy getting them together.
You’ve mentioned how Micheline Lanctôt is one of your heroes. With her being a mentor at film school, how did your relationship develop to you casting her in the film?
She gave me a class for a year about directing actors. And she’s also an actor and director and she’s a really strong woman – she knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. And she’s such an amazing actress. She did a lot of work in the United States and she had an amazing career, and she still has. She’s someone I look up to
She must be very proud of your first feature.
She hasn’t seen it yet because she travels a lot but I can’t wait for her to see it in June.
Would you carry on writing and directing or would you be open to direct someone else’s scripts?
I want to write. [My next feature] it’s close to finish, that I would like to direct again.
One of the great lines in the script is the question to Sarah about what she would do without running. What would you do without cinema – if someone took away your passion?
I had to think about that; when I was writing I had to think, “Okay, what would I do if I didn’t have cinema?” And I don’t know – that’s what I like to do in life. And some people have to face that – not being about to do what you want to do – and have to look at plan B. And Sarah doesn’t want to have a plan B. I don’t know what I would do, I’m like Sarah.
With the reception of the film how has it been for Canadian cinema in general? Has your two consecutive years at Cannes helped promote Canadian film?
In these recent few years there have been many success stories with Quebec cinema, including Denis Villeneuve, Philippe Falardeau, Xavier Dolan. And if I can be here in Cannes, also, it says something encouraging for our cinema. It’s good for our cinema and it’s good for financing. Well, I hope it’s good financing for my next feature! But I hope it’s inspiring for young filmmakers from where I’m from, that’s for sure.
Like you said, Quebec has a lot success stories so would you like to stay there or would you like to move around Canada and beyond?
Montreal is always going to be my home and I’ll shoot mostly in my home. But I really want to try—even maybe in France – I’d like to make a film in France. Or maybe Hollywood, why not? But Toronto would be a great place and Vancover, also (there’s a lot of filming there). I love to shoot where we don’t shoot often – like Saskatchewan and Alberta. I don’t even know that much of my Canada so it would be nice to travel and know more about my country.
Have you started on the funding for your next feature?
That’s going to be the next step – the next few months – because I would like to start to shoot next year.
A version of this interview was published in Nisimazine Cannes 2013 (Pages 14 - 15)