Interview with the directors of “Canicule”, the Best Film of the Month of May season

A compelling surprise from the new independent French film production, awarded by ISA Best Film of the Month in May season. Learn more about this mandatory “Canicule”, directed by Leila Lamblin and Charly Destombes.

ISA: What made you decide to make this film? 

Charly Destombes & Leila Lamblin: We met through our job while both working on the publicity of a French indie movie that came out in 2015. We started hanging out with each other all the time and realized that we had a lot in common: we share the same love for movies, TV shows and pop culture in general, but we are also very similar in terms of personality: we have the same insecurities, anxiety issues (laughs) and once randomly ended up talking about that strange feeling we sometimes have while attending a party… That feeling of not fitting in and being disconnected from other people, even though everything seems to be in the right place all around. That pretty much sums up how “Canicule” first started.

Canicule

Canicule

ISA: A budget of 4,500 EUR. Scary or enough for this project?

CD & LL: Well, to be honest, it was quite scary. Neither of us went to a film school. We basically had no idea how to make a movie, how much it would cost and how to finance it. Luckily, we met a talented young production manager, Louis Doukrou, who led us go through the whole budget process. For some personal reasons, we only had a couple months for pre-production, so he advised to crowdfund it (it was the fastest way to make the film happen). He quoted the budget as 4,500 EUR. It was mainly dedicated to catering and renting materials. It was okay for what we needed on set, not enough to cover the post-production costs though.

ISA: How long was the shooting and which were the main challenges on the set?

CD & LL: We shot the film from May 5th to May 8th, 2017. The main challenge of “Canicule”, by taking place during a house party over one night, was that we could only shoot once it was dark outside, which was around 10:00 pm… We could have used some tricks but really wanted to use natural lightings for the movie to look as authentic as possible. Hence, the shooting schedule was sometimes extremely tight. We had to shoot a lot in just a few hours and had to stop before the sunrise. To say the least… We were all very tired that weekend… Thankfully, we rehearsed a lot with the cast and crew prior to the shooting and everyone was on point and giving the best of themselves.

Natalia Pujszo and Louis De Villers in "Canicule"

Natalia Pujszo and Louis De Villers in “Canicule”

ISA: This is a work with so many layers of interpretation. Did you have it on mind?

CD & LL: We did. As mentioned earlier, the story started with the idea of highlighting that sense loneliness one can feel among a crowd sometimes. We wanted our character Lou to be likable in a ‘girl next door’ way. She is someone who seems to have it all, but when you look closer and dig a little deeper, she has fears and insecurities just like everyone. There is a turning point in the film – the ‘truth or dare’ sequence that introduces a new character Charles – where the movie shifts into a different mood. Charles starts harassing Lou in public. It may be as a joke, it may not be. From that moment, we wanted the viewer to wonder whether what is happening is real or only in Lou’s head. Then it is up to the viewer – based on his own sensibility and experiences – to interpret the second half of the movie.

ISA: What did you want to tell to the audience with “Canicule”?

CD & LL: We wanted to tell a story that is genuine and modern, that our generation (late twenties) can relate to. Everybody knows that it is incredibly challenging today to find a fulfilling job, even after years of studies and internships. And as hard to find love in the dating app era, or to let go and move on from an ex… We wanted to evoke those issues as honestly as possible and thought that a house party would be an interesting environment to express those struggles. “Canicule” is meant to be a glimpse at what it is like to be young and restless in a big city today.

Natalia Pujszo on the set

Natalia Pujszo on the set

ISA: How difficult is to to make the audience believe in the characters and feel emotionally linked with a short film?

CD & LL: Obviously, it is not that easy to build up characters who have layers and evolve in such a short amount of time. “Canicule” is a coming-of-age tale, so it was very important for Lou to be three-dimensional and go from one point in her life to another before the end of the film. Especially because we wanted the audience to live the party through her point of view and relate to her. We added 4 supporting characters to the story, so they would interact with her during the party, and contribute to highlighting the complexity of her state of mind.

ISA: What influences do you think “Canicule” has?

CD & LL: There is a quote from Charles in the movie: “We’re in a Xavier Dolan movie”. We wrote it as a joke since Xavier Dolan’s work has always been a big inspiration to us. We have been told it showed sometimes in “Canicule”, which is pretty cool. Besides, we are both huge TV lovers and many shows influenced us in the process of writing our script, mostly shows about millennials seeking sense and purpose in their lives. To name a few: “Girls” by Lena Dunham, Search Party” by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, “Love” by Judd Apatow & Paul Rust, “Please Like Me” by Josh Thomas, “High Maintenance” by Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair, “Fleabag” by Phoebe Waller-Bridge…

ISA: How was this experience of co-directing?

CD & LL: We would say that it was quite similar to the experience of co-writing the script: very helpful and rewarding in a lot of ways. We saw it as a chance to be better, more authentic and universal while telling our story. Having two points of view definitely helped through the whole process.

ISA: Are you happy with the final result or would you change something?

CD & LL: Do you know a director who is absolutely satisfied with the movie he just made? (laughs) The movie looks just like the movie we wanted to make, and we told the story we wanted to share. Of course if we could improve some technical details we would, but we’re very proud of what we accomplished with our budget. We are also so happy with the cast we managed to gather for the film. Thumbs up to Natalia Pujzso, Louis De Villers, Tanya Mattouk, Charles Attans and Cody Austin Bush. They all fitted their characters better than we would have dreamed of. They really did an amazing job!

ISA: What are your overall career goals and what’s next?

CD & LL: We are both publicists on movies and TV shows in Paris. For now, that’s our ‘official’ job. When we shot “Canicule” last year, we both felt like it was the best experience ever and totally want to renew it, at any cost. We have just started working on a new script, a story that will take place during the Christmas holiday season. We don’t know yet if what we’re writing right now will turn into a short movie or a feature movie, we’ll see where the story leads us. We are very excited about this new project!

ISA: Do you have any advice for other independent filmmakers, particularly for the newcomers?

CD & LL: Surround yourself with good people, don’t think you have to make a film school to become a filmmaker, believe in the story you want to tell and keep in mind that you make movies for others, not just yourself.

ISA: What meant for you, as French filmmakers, to be awarded in USA Best Film of the Month among so many films from all over the world? 

CD & LL: We were very proud and grateful. Besides our family and friends, the Independent Shorts Awards folks actually were the first people we showed the finished film to. We were already thrilled to be selected so being awarded Best Film of the Month simply felt surreal… Even though our references and themes are quite internationally relatable, to be able to reach an audience abroad was really rewarding. And it is also good also for the self-esteem (laughs). It makes us want to keep going and think that it’s okay to believe in dreams.

The cast and crew of "Canicule"

The cast and crew of “Canicule”

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