P:O.V. No.5 - Three Recent Short Fiction Films, IMMEDIATE DEPARTURE

An interview with Mary-Anne de la Palme
on Immediate Departure

Richard Raskin

Mary-Anne de la Palme is the founder of Les Films du Grillon, and the producer of Immediate Departure. She is also co-author of the book, L'Aventure du premier film.

On Mary-Anne de la Palme's involvement as producer

I heard about Thomas Briat's project from Isabelle Perrault, who was to become the production manager of Immediate Departure, and who really put all of her energy and courage into the production of the film - if it weren't for her, Immediate Departure would never have been made.

She knew Thomas well. For many years, she has worked for Frédéric Mitterand, for whom Thomas had directed several films and it was in that connection that she got to know Thomas. She knew that Thomas had been working on a project for a very long time, and that he had been turned down by several production companies and by the CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) - in France, in general, anyone who wants to make a short film begins by approaching the CNC ... - since there are so many risks involved in making a short, producers are usually reluctant to take on a project unless the CNC is involved. Thomas had proposed his film once or twice to the CNC; the project was rejected and he didn't have the right to propose it to them again.

He spoke about all this to Isabelle, with whom I was working on another project. She knew I had written L'Aventure du premier film, and before she had begun working with Frédéric Mitterand, she had organized a festival for young filmmakers and had found the book inspiring. We got to know each other, became friends, then one day she told me about Immediate Departure, saying: "Look, I know a young filmmaker who has a beautiful project. There are some risks involved. You tell me what you think about it. But I would really like you to meet him." So I met Thomas, who gave me his screenplay, and the idea of the screenplay could be summed up in a single sentence - it was almost like a school exercise: a young man goes to a supermarket, he sees a young woman, is madly attracted to her and he follows her. The screenplay stops there.

That first meeting with Thomas went very well. Thomas is a person who has a considerable interiority and a real depth. That made me interested in reading his screenplay, which I did, and which we discussed at further meetings. Then we had to decide what to do about production. How were we to proceed since there was no money at all to finance the film? I met with Isabelle again, who said: "If you decide to go ahead with the film, I'll give you my full support throughout the production. I'll be your production manager, because I know you're busy with other work."

I thought it over. I had founded my production company, Les Films du Grillon, about four years earlier, with the idea that I would make institutional films and then use the profits for financing quality short films that didn't have the support of the CNC... My idea was also to convince the heads of the companies or institutions ordering films to use young filmmakers to carry out their projects, since they have a different relation to the visual than do people who work with video and they can bring a greater quality to any project than would otherwise be possible... At any rate, the situation of Les Films du Grillon at that time was a bit difficult, in that I didn't have very many institutional films to make when Thomas's project turned up. It was a hard decision to make, since I would have to use the reserves of Les Films du Grillon to finance the project. There was a risk involved, but I was willing to take it and went ahead with producing the film.

On the choice of Bruno Lochet for the principal role

Bruno is very well known in France for his sketches on the Canal+ television series Les Deschiens. And what is interesting in Thomas's choice is that Bruno is cast in a role that is the exact opposite of what he plays in the comic sketches on Canal+. The people who worked with Bruno at Canal+ advised him not to make the film because the part was so different from his usual role. You see a different Bruno. And what I think is so interesting in Thomas's choice of him is that he could tell that Bruno has a magnificent potential for emotivity and depth that he never showed at all on Les Deschiens...

Did that shock Canal+, were they unhappy about the change in Bruno Lochet's image? Is that what bothered them? In any event, when we asked Canal+ if they would help finance the project, they refused, but several other enterprises gave us their support.

On the choice of Amira Casar for the role of the woman in the photograph

When Thomas introduced me to Amira, I thought immediately that she was perfect for the role. Amira's face is very pliable and she has an extraordinary screen presence. We needed someone with those qualities since there was very little action. The role she played involved an immobility and an interiority that had to be visible in her face. The scene in the subway, for example, could so easily have been a complete failure and seemed ridiculous if it weren't played by an actress with her special qualities.

On the differences between a good and a mediocre short film

I think that today, a lot of short films are made that have no vision of life and very little meaning. I'm not interested in working on projects of that kind. I'd rather make fewer films, and work only with those that make some sense. Making images simply for the sake of making images, to tell a story that has no meaning, really doesn't interest me...

When I read a screenplay, I look for characters who have some strength, who have an inner life, who have something to say or express. Since in Thomas [Briat's] film, they have something to express. The shot of Bruno [Lochet] weeping at the end of the film, it's all mankind up there on the screen, it's an expression of despair, it's a renunciation, it's so many things all at the same time. But it isn't spoken. And that's the beauty of this film. That's what moves me. What I really look for is interiority and meaning.

Paris, 16 October 1997