NRFF Interviews the Directors of Calamity
Film Block: L Cinema: LAB 2 Date: 02.03.18 Time: 6.30-8.00 PM
Director: Séverine De Streyker and Maxime Feyers
Séverine De Streyker & Maxime Feyers are two Belgian directors who co-directed CALAMITY, their second short film. It is now Belgium’s top success in festivals since its international release late 2017. The film has received 25 awards, and 6 grand prizes so far (in Seoul, Italy, France, Belgium,…).
It was part of last Raindance Festival in London, Flickerfest in Sydney, Brussels Short Film Festival in Belgium (where it premiered and received two awards), Sao Paulo Intl Short Film Fest…The film is also praised by young audiences that awarded CALAMITY 7 times.
6 international TV’s have already bought the rights of CALAMITY (including French Canal+, TV5 Monde, …).
Séverine is also a film editor and Maxime an actor and producer. They are now writing their first feature film. Interview by Massimo Barbato, Creative Director, NRFF.
1- Congratulations on being part of the second edition of the New Renaissance Film Festival, Amsterdam? How does it feel to have Calamity screen here?
What can we say except that we are very proud and happy. This is our first screening in the Netherlands so we are excited to know the feedback of the audience. We think that you are a very progressive country so we wonder how our short film will be perceived here.
2- Can you give an outline of the story?
A mother meets her son’s girlfriend for the first time. She loses control.
3- What was your main inspiration for the film?
Introduce a external element into a family, an element able to raise questions to the family, on their identity, their habits, their values…
4- Describe your creative process?
From this idea, we used what inspires us in our daily lives and what we see around us – movies, exhibitions, books… but also people, mainly people. And always, in the end, our imagination to try to pass our own perception of things, and of life. It’s a long process. We write together, we confront our ideas, inspirations and try to take it further. It’s really rewarding. Most of all, we work from our heart, from what drives us the most.
We are interested in what’s happening beneath the surface, and with human behaviours that sometimes seem unexplainable with words. The creative process is hard and long but very exciting at the same time. From the stage of writing through to the editing, we focus on the theme, on the sense of what story we are telling while trying to keep a taste of magic, of the extraordinary.
5- How did you cast the lead actors and prepare them for their roles?
We met Francois Maquet, for the role of Cleo at our casting. We were fascinated by his interpretation, he was sweet and mysterious and that inspired us. For the role of the mother, France played by Ingrid Heiderscheidt, we knew Ingrid already, but we thought she may be too young and she looked too ‘rock’n roll’ to play the role of a mother from a classic family but we eventually decided to cast her and she was wonderful, unpredictable, weird, and funny with an ability to combine light and shade all at the same time. We were seduced. She is an amazing actress. All 6 actors are wonderful and it was a real blessing to have them.
6- How did you finance Calamity?
We had the support from 2 Belgian tv stations (RTBF & BeTV), private money thanks to the Belgian Tax Shelter (Belgian tax incentive), and also two grants from Sabam & SACD (Belgian authors’associations). We tried three times but did not get the support from the Belgium Film Commission. The production company also invested some money from the ‘Centre du Cinéma’ (Belgium French-speaking film fund) dedicated to companies that made previous succesful short films and can reinvest in any project. In the end we had a good budget, we can’t complain, but it was still not enough to pay the crew decently.
7- What was the most challenging aspect of making it?
The funding aspect was a real challenge. We waited nearly 2 years to find the money from the Belgium’s French speaking film commission. It is difficult to make a professional short film in good conditions in Belgium if you don’t have their support, so at first you try this stage and then if you do not succeed, you find alternatives solutions. We were very lucky that we could find other solutions. This film could not have been made without a minimum budget.
The other challenges were more artistic but these were more exciting challenges. For example, it was a challenge to find a balance between humour and drama. We wanted to have a balance between light and dark. It’s based on where you place the camera, the way you position the light, directing the actors but also a lot on editing. We had a great editor, Mathieu Toulemonde, who gave us a lot of his time and worked on the details – finding new twists to the story and walking on a tight rope to find the perfect pace and rhythm, while taking into account the neurotic characters of the two directors.
Another challenge was to make a film about transexuals that would not be another ‘coming out’ movie. That is why we wanted to insert the story (the encounter with Cléo) in another story, to represent the personal journey made by the mother as she encounters Cléo for the first time. This gets her to question not only the identity of Cléo but in the end her own identity as a mother and as a woman!
And finally, talking about transsexuality was also a challenge for us, we have a few trans people around us and know that it is a sensitive subject, you have to walk on a thin line, as always, when you talk about minorities. But we are very happy today to note that the movie is well received and appreciated within this community too.
8- How would you like audiences to respond to watching the film?
We would like the audience to respond from the heart. Our goal was that this film could be appreciated by general audiences and not only reserved to specific audiences. We love the fact that the film is screened in LGBT festivals, as we think these festivals often have a very interesting and edgy selection but we are even more happy that it can reach general audiences. Calamity received audience awards in festivals where, according to the average audience in the room, we would have never expected it. It is a real joy.
9- Have you always wanted to be a director? What films inspire you?
My mind has always been filled with images, music and emotions from films and I always knew I would end up working in film but I did not give myself the opportunity to explore the field before I graduated as an engineer. Then I decided to do what counted most for me. I attended drama courses, screenwriting courses, played a few roles in short films, commercials or plays, worked in film festivals, in a film production company or for a Japanese TV company before starting on my own projects as a writer/director.
It is a strange feeling to make films, you feel like it is the most important thing you have to do, and you can’t stop thinking of your projects, your characters, writing, re-writing… when the film is completed you want to show this to the audience and then, in my experience, I am anxious like if I was unveiling a personal and hidden secret to the world, even at the 10th or 20th screening… Anyway, I am now writing my first feature film and very excited to go further in this process.
I love many films, I could cite Barry Lyndon, Mamma Roma, Respiro, Mysterious skin, Blue Velvet, Lola Montes, L’été meurtrier but also Bicylce Thieves, Godfather, C.R.A.Z.Y., or Belgian director Fien Troch’s ‘Home’ for example… I like any kind of movies but most of the time, what remains of a film is not the entire work but some moments that don’t leave you, go along with you and become like a part of yourself. Cinema is for me the best medium to create this feeling.
Really young, as a teenager, when you start to dream what your life will be, I decided that I should travel the world, to discover people, others countries, others realities… It was like a call. And quickly came to the desire to make movies, documentaries or fictional stories that serve like a filter for my ideas and inspiration. I wanted to talk about what I felt about the world and people and making movies was the best solution for me. But the reality of ‘making a movie’ was another thing, I realized that it was not so easy, financially and so on… But there was no other way for me, no other choice in reality, so I continued to keep faith. And at 16 years old, when I saw the movies of Jim Jarmush, it was a real gift and I’ll never be able to delete this memory from my mind. Jim Jarmush gives me this impression that all was possible: to do poetry with pictures while talking about people and the world, in an alternative way, and with not so much money… His movies touched me deeply and never left me. Then I discovered the movies of David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Vincent Gallo…. All of them created in me this real passion for movies. And for sure, there are other directors who have impressed me, but the list is a little bit long…
I make music in parallel, something I need to do, but it’s different. I don’t express the same things in this way. While having the need to make music, movies remains my main creative expression. I can cite some movies which inspire me like: “Down by Law”, “Permanent vacation”, “Blue Velvet”, “Lost Highway”, “Paris Texas”, “ Cul de sac”, “Buffalo’66”, “Respiro”, “La vie des autres”, “Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie”…
10- Where can people follow your progress or get in touch?
I have a facebook & instagram account where people may contact me and get in touch.
The same for me, I have a facebook and Instagram account under the name of Séverine De Streyker Day, and a vimeo at this address: https://vimeo.com/daydestreyker