After receiving a special mention at Amsterdam Lift-Off, “Tangente (Off Path)” will screen at Paris Lift-Off Film Festival as part of the Shorts Programme on Monday 30th November at Le Lucernaire. We interviewed producer Bérangère Condomines to hear a little more about this film’s journey, and her path as a filmmaker.
Interview by Sneh Rupra
Tell us a little bit about how you started your career in film.
I started working for production companies in 2004 in Paris, after studying literature and cinema at University and after making a few school short films as script writer or director assistant.
I experienced different production jobs such as production assistant, production manager, set manager or director assistant, before I created my own company (in 2009) and began to develop short films.
I also created and managed at the same time a great web VoD platform called 6nema.com which does not exist anymore unfortunately.
At what stage in the project did you get involved in “Off Path“?
At the beginning: Julie (Jouve – the writer/co-director) received the Ocean Prize for the script of “Off Path” in March 2016, when we were discussing the opportunity to work together on this first short film for her. The Ocean Prize is given every year to a script writer from the French overseas, on the condition that the film has to be finished one year later, to be screened at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. So we signed the contract and began to prepare the film immediately…
You have worked on a lot of short film projects – what makes “Off Path” special?
Actually, I chose 5 years ago to come back and live on the little island when I grew up, Reunion Island. It is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and after 14 years living and working in Paris, this was not exactly what most people would have chosen in order to produce films…
But creativity in Reunion is really burgeoning, the script of “Off Path” is a good example, a very strong story and main character, taking place in magnificent landscapes. But the goal is not to show a postcard but to talk about several specificities of our culture.
By the way, we achieved a very good result (thanks to a top level local team) not only for the Ocean Prize juries, the Directors Fortnight audience, but the film is appreciated all around the world at the moment (we have been selected in festivals in India, France, Croatia, Romania, Algeria, Netherlands, Italy, and Korea!) and “Off Path” is the first Reunionnese movie selected for the French CESAR. For all these reasons, “Off Path” is already a unique film.
What is it about short film as a medium that draws you to work on such projects?
Freedom I guess…
In producing short films you really have less obligations, the screenplays do not have to be really “formatted” you know, nor the directing goals. You can still experiment.
The financial part and the communication part are quite similar – you can learn and try, and take some risks that you cannot take when producing for tv or, I guess, for big feature films.
How did you and the other filmmakers go about casting such a physically and emotionally demanding role like Florie?
Christelle Richard (playing Florie) was just a miracle…
During 2 months of casting, with professionnal actors or not, we did not find what Julie and Rida (the directors) really wanted.
Christelle had never acted before, she went to the casting because her mother told her that she was the character! (The casting post was quite precise about the character).
And she was just absolutely natural at first take and barely flagged! Actually, she is an athletics champion!
Did you film during a real Grand Raid race?
Absolutely. Our shooting lasted 10 days, we began 2 days before the Grand Raid and shot on the 3 days course (we needed the incredible start of the race, but also the supplying camps). We only rebuilt one of them.
There are sections of the film which have no visuals, only sound. The effect is very intense. How did that idea come about?
Since the screenplay, Julie knew exactly what she wanted for the sound: we had to be in Florie’s head, through the voices from her past, or in a more symbolic way, for example through the ear plugs effects.
Were there any unexpected challenges you faced during production?
Shooting the Grand Raid start, among 2700 runners, was the big part, even with very good preparation with the organisers of the race, you can never be sure of what will happen during the real event.
Otherwise, really we were well prepared and the team was so professional that for their first movie, things were easier for Julie and Rida.
In editing perhaps we were more surprised, since some sequences didn’t work at all. For example, in the script, there were many more voices, we had Florie’s mother and a part of her childhood evoked.
But at the editing, it was not working. The different voices that matched very well in the sceenplay, had to be almost rewritten for the movie.
Do you have any advice for those wishing to pursue a career in film production?
Be sure to love this awful job ;-).
And to be at your place…
Also, don’t forget that you just make films, which is a “luxury job,” I think.
Finally, who are some of your filmmaker inspirations?
Difficult to say. I will just answer about quite recent films (since 2000).
I think I was always more impressed by filmmakers’ first films, which have the energy of beginnings. For example I like “Amores Perros” by Iñárritu more than “21 Grams” or “Babel“.
Or “Tan de Repente” by Diego Lerman.
“Reconstruction” by Christopher Boe is one of my cult films. I love Winterbottom’s films..
And in France, movies by Jan Kounen, Gaspar Noé, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Albert Dupontel, Benoit Delépine and Gustave Kervern.
I also appreciate entertainment movies, but it has to have a very good script. “Interstellar” for a recent example.
Tickets are now on sale for Paris Lift-Off, where “Off Path” will be screening.