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EXCLUSIVE Interview with EAVE graduate Sébastien Aubert

„A cool mix of different worlds“

An interview with French producer Sébastien Aubert about the shooting of EAVE project A GIRL´S ROOM by Aino Suni

 

You are currently shooting a French-Finish-German co-production. Where are you shooting at the moment?

We started shooting end of August at the French Riviera because the main part of the story takes place there. It is a majority French speaking film and we shoot between Nice, Cannes and Grasse. Then we move to Hamburg, Germany for 7 days. So we have 25 days in France and 7 days in Germany in Hamburg, because the story takes place there at the end of the film. And the beginning of the story takes place in Finland, because it’s about a young Finnish rapper, and I’m going there on Tuesday for 3 days of shooting. So in total it will be 35 days in 3 countries during corona virus.

 

It’s not easy to travel now.

Yes, it’s bringing complexities and other problems. We’ve had already so many problems on this film, and now we have this corona virus. We are always thinking what if the main actors or the director or the DOP get COVID-19. We already had some stopped days, but with the actors we know that they have to leave after some point, so we cannot postpone for 10 days. They are young actresses, and they can still grow and change, so we cannot say let’s stop and shoot again next year. One of them is shaved with green hair. I mean, we have a lot of things that make it impossible to postpone the shooting. Every single week I was extremely afraid that some of the key crew would have COVID-19. Actually, it has happened to us. The third role was tested positive 3 days before the start of the shooting. We had to replace her the same day. That was a nightmare. Especially because a few days later she called us, to say that a second test was negative. But we already had the other actress on the set.

 

So it’s very bad for her …

That was a heart breaker. I had to talk to her on the phone and tell her that we had to replace her. And we had the location manager’s assistant also tested positive, but luckily, she was not in touch with the rest of the group. We immediately removed her for 12 days from the crew. Well, that was tough.   

 

I can imagine. What is the film about? What’s the story of the film?

It’s about Elina who is 17-years old and a young Finnish female rapper. She wants to be a professional rapper. She lives in Helsinki in a small 2-rooms apartment together with her mother. She grew up in Finland, but her mother is French. At the beginning of the film her mother decides to move back to the French Riviera, because she has a new boyfriend. So our main character, Elina, has to leave behind her everything she has, her friends and all her connections in the rap scene. The opening scene of the film is Elina rapping in the forest with her gang of rappers, but now she needs to leave everything behind, to go to a bourgeois kind of life style. She was coming from a very humble and modest neighbourhood. And the only person that she can relate to will be her new stepsister, Sofia, who is a ballerina. So we have the confrontation of this Northern rough rap girl and this bourgeois ballerina from the French Riviera. Our film is about this toxic relationship of love and hate. We show two teenage girls… it’s like a wedding. The girls are together, there will be treason and the day after they can be best friends, so it’s really like a marriage.

 

So I understand it’s a thriller with a lot of music. You have a pop singer, a rap artist and a prima ballerina in the cast.

Yes. I think it’s more a drama with thriller elements than a thriller in itself. And it’s also a dance film, because we have ballet and dancing, and music is very present in the film. And also the actress that plays the mother of Elina is a famous pop singer, Camille, who is very popular in France. And Chilla is one of the emerging female rappers on the French scene. So we have a cool mix of all these worlds together and we really hope to reach the audiences of 15 to 25. We are struggling to find a distributor for this film, but we haven’t found one yet. Everyone is telling me that the people of this age are not going to the cinemas anymore. Saying that means we don’t need to make films for them anymore. My goal is to make a film that this target group will go and watch the film, because it’s a quality film. I think it’s a smart film and it’s a film that will talk to them, because they will relate to the characters, especially the girls. Because every single girl that I talk to has an experience that was very intimate with another girl when she was younger. I really feel that lots of young people can relate to this story.

 

I’m not so sure, if young people don’t go to the cinema anymore.

Yes, but because we don’t have a star… I mean, we do have Chilla, and Carmen Kassovitz who is playing the ballerina, she was one the lead in a very popular web series that is now going to TV – she is a super actress. I’m rather sure she will explode. She is the daughter of Matthew Kassovitz and she is very talented. And the young actress that plays Elina, the Finnish girl, it will be her first film. She didn’t act before and she is a singer initially. But everyone was shocked how good and confident she was from day one. Every producer wants to make a film and discover new emerging actresses that become a star and I feel that in this film we have spotted two girls that have the potential to be huge.

 

How did you find your co-producers?

The Finnish co-producer, she was the one who produced the short films of our Finnish director, Aino Suni. The producer originally produced two previous shorts of the director, and my company was the distributor and the sales agent of the two short films. We created a bond and we invited them to come to Cannes Film Festival, because my company is based in Cannes. Usually we invite our partners, co-producers and friends from the industry to stay in my house and in the house of my parents and my partner, so we create sort of international family. Actually, it was sure that we would co-produce this film, because Aino Suni was the bond already between us. And for the German co-producer, Frauke Kolbmüller of Oma Inge Film from Hamburg, she met my partner David at a festival in Australia where they were in the jury together. But for two or three other projects I’ve been trying to co-produce with the people that I met in my group at EAVE.

 

What impact had EAVE on this project?

For sure we would not have done the film if I did not go to EAVE. I think I would’ve dropped the project, because we were reaching a point when something was missing that it would make the project interesting. We had the dance component, but the music was not as present as it is now. At EAVE we had some marketing training defining what’s important for the project, so we had to write some key words on a paper. And then in a way the Hip-hop universe stood out and we realised it’s something we need to go more into. Hip-hop is not the number one style of music in the world, but it is extremely popular. Films about Hip-hop, have lots of success, like Get Rich or Die Trying’, 8-Mile. And we do have a Hip-hop female rapper, that’s pretty rare. So I said ok. Now instead of wasting time to send the script to the actors, I’ll try to find the music team.

 

So with EAVE you sharpened the role of the music in the film?

Yes, and this is where we started with the director Aino, she was with me in Norway, and I wrote down: female rapper, France, and together we listened to 10 biggest female rappers in France and both of us had a crush on Chilla. Because in this film there is a song, which is a key moment; in this song Elina writes talking about Sophia. We see her all over the film to rap and to write the song, we see her composing the track. Then she goes to an open mike and it’s the first time that she goes on the stage and she sings the song. At the end, when the girls finally meet again, the final scene of the film is this one. And this song was written and composed by Chilla and her crew. This song makes a total difference. It could be like a potential hit and the song can really help us marketing-wise. And the film can help the song, of course. And to have Chilla in the film really gives something else to the project. It also made the project more variable and interesting for potential partners. And in parallel to that, one of the big references, because at EAVE we are asked to do a benchmarking and think about comparable films, our comparable film was Virgin Suicides by Sophia Coppola. And the director Aino and myself, we love this film, we love the soundtrack that has been composed by Air. And it happens that this is my favourite group.

So before EAVE we just had a script with many dance elements and we didn’t have the interesting character of Elina. And after EAVE we have a very powerful package with the music of Chilla, Jean-Benoît Dunckel from Air plus Elina’s character, so we really created something. And also, we learned a lot. You know, I did a business school but I never dared using too much marketing in the film, because it’s an arthouse world and you shouldn’t be too much market driven. But I understood at EAVE that every single time you pitch a project to a different decision maker, you have to adapt your pitch and highlight different elements. So after EAVE I decided to create amazing packages, actually visual, because in my permanent team I have someone who is an editor and a director, but he is also extremely talented in design. He designs posters, packages and mood-board videos, which is something we never did before. So he collected 20 film reference films for our film, put the music of Jean-Benoît Dunckel from Air and Chilla, and we created this 2-minutes mood-board video, and this plus the package made a big impact when I was talking to sales agents and Soficas, private financiers who are market driven, and it really had a big impact.

 

The film won the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award in 2018; so what did the jury say, why did they choose the film and why did they love the film?

They loved the short films of the director, and they loved the fact that is is a true artistic collaboration between the co-producers. At that time, it was just Finland and France, Germany came on board in 2019. And they could see that it was a true.. you know, it was not like purely financial co-production. You know, it’s Aino’s story. Aino, the director, when she came to the Cannes Film Festival, I told her: OK, we have worked twice together on short films and now I want to work on another feature, do you have something in mind that could take place in the French Riviera? And she was very inspired and stayed also after the Cannes Film Festival. She was inspired to feel how it is to be someone from another country being on the French Riviera; it’s another way of life. It was very important for her to talk about this dead of teen-age time; all her short films are about teenagers. It was important to put that on the screen. We go back to 2015, like I’m telling you, so it’s 5 years ago. Over the years we started developing the script all together with my co-producer from Finland, myself and Aino. I went over there to meet them, and we met at festivals, in Berlin, so it was a true collaboration, and this is what the jury appreciated. Also, we are shooting in 2 countries, we have a director and DOP who are Finnish, and the lead actress is Finnish. But the rest is French. So it’s really a European mixture.

Page published 30 October 2020.


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A scholarship has been set up to honour the memory of Alan Fountain, former Head of Studies and President of EAVE, who passed away on March 3. Its goal is to enable one producer from outside the EU to participate in all three sessions of the EAVE Producers Workshop each year.

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