Steve, you won at the PAMA the Best Director in 2016 for KITCHEN, then you got 4 nominations en 2017 for INSEPARABLE, and the film took home the Best DOP Award. What do you feel is your relation with the festival ?
I think that the Pama really has its place in the industry of film festivals in France. There are always films of quality. The atmosphere is friendly. I was honored to receive the award for best director for KITCHEN last year. It was normal for the production and myself to present my last film INSEPARABLE in different categories. We are so happy to have won a prize and have been nominated 4 times.
Tetsuo Nagata is an established Director of Photography. He worked with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Mic Macs), Vincenzo Natali (Splice), and Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose). How did you convince him to work on a short film ?
I have a very important attachment to photography. It’s what characterizes a film although the sound has a complementary power.
“I love watching movies when the lighting makes sense.”
I love the work of Tetsuo because he has a very atypical vision and that I like above all is that it brings novelty. I sent him my script and he contacted me. We met at my office and I showed him my mood, my technical breakdown and floor plans of the scenery. He was immediately excited by the project. The same evening we had organized an aperitif with Olivier, the producer. At 7:30 pm it rang at the door. It was Tetsuo. He approaches me with a big smile and says: you and I is a matter of feeling. I immediately understood that he agreed to be the DOP of INSEPARABLE.
Did you have the chance to talk to him and give him his award after the festival ?
During the ceremony, when Tetsuo received the prize for the best Photo, we were so happy for him. I sent him a message for the good news. We met the next day at his home in Paris around a tea. I handed the prize to him in person. He was happy.
Can you tell us more about you, your background, and what moments and decisions made you become a director ?
I am a self-taught photographer. I gradually climbed the ladder. First assistant photographer, assistant director. I started working in the travel industry. This experience allowed me to enrich different stages that is related to cinema. If today I am practicing as a film director it is because all the trade interest me. It is for me an atypical form of expression but I need to discover things. Through the films I am interested and instructed… Ah ah it’s true !
KITCHEN, like INSEPARABLE have been shot in English. Why that choice, for international purposes ?
The history of KITCHEN takes place in the bayou house in Louisiana and INSEPARABLE takes place in a no man land of the USA. It was absolutely necessary to respect the codes. Also, there is more international exposure with English movies. Distributions and festivals.
Do you feel like you’re part of the same generation as Alexandre Aja for exemple ? Do you think there are some French directors that can keep going that fine internationally ?
The french touch is incredible il internationally. Yes sure. Of course. The French have always been incredibly received. Regardless of the area of expertise. Cook, engineering, medicine, etc. You have to convince and persevere.
“Yes, definitely, French know-how still has its place and I hope for a long time in the cinema sector for example.”
INSEPARABLE was a very specific project, a partnership with a camera provider. And watching your films, there is a strong feeling you could express yourself way more with a feature film. What is going to be your next movie ?
It is true that when a group like Canon contacts you and asks you to express yourself through a film : it’s quite flattering, but when the other brands contacts you after seeing INSEPARABLE, one asks real questions. I have some projects of feature films indeed. I do not want to talk too much about it because nothing is signed. But believe it or not … I know that I will make a feature film, if it is not tomorrow it will be later… I never give up anything and I like to fight.