Director Stephane Lafleur recently attended the 2012 Raindance Film Festival, to discuss his acclaimed movie Familiar Ground, after the screening he had a quick chat with the audience.
Where did you get the idea for the film?
I work in a really chaotic way; usually I don’t really know where I’m going. I work as an editor in life, so maybe that’s why I work a lot with a sort of collage of ideas. And I think the first flash of that film, was this man coming from the future, but only 6 months in the future. So there was this scene, and the will to do a film with a brother and sister, anchored in the present, which is a paradox with the man coming from the future. I never wanted to focus too much on the brother and sisters past, just their blood relationship, sorry if my English is bit rusty, I just flew in this morning, so I’m sorry if I’m not too clear.
This is your second feature, what is the difference in the processes you used between the two?
The biggest lesson I learned from my first feature was the scriptwriting. The first film we threw away a lot of scenes, and afterwards I thought could I have saved time, knowing what I was going to cut before? When your filming the main challenge is that time is always against you, so using time on scenes you wont use is a complete waste of time. So there are a couple of scenes we never used, but mostly everything is there. The script was very close to the final result. For me the script is a tool that evolves during the whole process.
If you did it again, would you change anything?
That’s a good question, that’s the first time I’ve been asked that. If I had to do it again, I’d balance it differently, I’d spend less with the two characters separately, and focus more on them together.
Two highlights were the cinematography, and the soundtrack, were they people you had worked with before?
I did my two films with exactly the same team, it’s like having a band and evolving together, pushing our limits. I’m hoping to shoot another film next summer and I intend to use the same people as well.
How long did it take to make?
It took 28 days of shooting, which is the average Quebec. I wanted to do a winter film as well, and it was the warmest winter since 1940 something, we could barely complete the film. If I move the camera just a foot for one scene you can see the grass, it was a real nightmare.
What was your first movie?
The first film was called A Continental Film Without Guns! I don’t think it ever played in the UK, I’m not sure.
What techniques did you use making the film?
The weird thing about directing films is that I don’t do TV, so I only get to practice my job every 3-4 years, so you need to trust your instinct, go with the flow. I don’t have a particular technique, I just go with the flow. Before I start a film I make sure everybody knows exactly what film we are making, and where we are going. I always do a lecture with the actors, two weeks before shooting. They read there lines of course, and even though he is only in it for a short time, I really insisted the guy from the future was there, because it’s important that everyone knows the whole film, I did not want to go down the lines of a total sci-fi movie, I never wanted to cover how he got there. That’s why the brother’s first question is “Are you hungry?” This created the whole tone, for the movie. It was important to have everyone together. Most of them of course are really good actors, is you don’t have to tell them too much.
Do you think there is something in movies with cold climates that is inherent to bring out that sort of dark sense of humour?
I don’t know, but I question myself about that, maybe, maybe… You don’t see a lot of film coming from warm islands in the south, in the pacific in really warm climbs, they are busy doing other stuff, and enjoying themselves on the beach. So up north we have too much time inside to think.
What are your biggest influences?
I don’t know, I like good films, I like challenging films, I don’t have any mentors etc, I just look good, different films.
Did you have any resistance from anyone on the film during the shoot?
Not where you would think I would get challenged or resistance, the question from the people was about the drama of the characters. Nobody ever talks about the man from the future, which I was expecting. It was more about where the story leads us.
Over the last few years we have seen ore Canadian films, is there I trend in Canadian film, or is it just we are beginning to see them for the first time?
There is a new wave going on right now, I don’t like that term, but I don’t have a better one. There is something happening, with a lot of directors of my age, trying and believing in festivals. Understanding the international potential of their films. In Quebec cinema there was a period where we stopped believing in what we were doing, because maybe of the language. We stopped believing our film would be seen out of the borders. A new generation really believes its possible, and they believe in international films, and also in the Quebec film history. I think it’s a mix of all these things.
There was a couple of years were we did not see a film shot in winter, that’s why I wanted to shoot winter, there was a lot of films being made in the 60’s in the Canadian winter, I wanted to bring that back. Coincidentally three Canadian directors were shooting Canadian winter films all at the same time.
Catch our review of Familiar Ground here!