Antoinette Boulat • Director of My Night
“I never thought of casting as an endgame”
by Kaleem Aftab
- VENICE 2021: The French casting director tells us about fulfilling a lifelong dream by calling the shots on a film set, and how grief, desire and spending a night with a girl in Paris contributed
My Night [+see also:
interview: Antoinette Boulat
film profile], the directorial debut by famed French casting director Antoinette Boulat, is the story of first encounters during a night in Paris, involving a girl filled with grief over a family tragedy and a boy who refuses to take no for an answer. The film screened in Orizzonti Extra at the Venice International Film Festival.
Cineuropa: You are well known as a casting director, having worked for the likes of Olivier Assayas and Wes Anderson, so what made you want to direct?
Antoinette Boulat: My desire to direct came from before I became a casting agent. My father was a photographer, so I always grew up around images. My dad would also speak about his pictures and framing. This made me want to make cinema. My way into film was through casting, and I was very happy to do this because it was part of the directing process. At the beginning of my career, I wrote a script, and I was going to try and fight for it to get made, but then Leos Carax asked me to work for him, so I couldn’t refuse. Then I met some other great directors, but in all this time, I never thought of casting as an endgame.
Why go straight into making a feature film?
I had this idea for a film. I didn’t want to make a short film – not because I don’t like them, but because I can’t think in this small-story kind of way. If you want to finance a film, it’s difficult if you haven’t made a short before. I had this idea of making a movie that would be low-budget, enabling me to fulfil my desires and follow my way of doing things fairly easily. But even then, it was really difficult. I felt confident when I was on the set and I had no big problems. I think I’ve seen so many great directors working and learnt a lot from them, and I’ve seen many films. I believed you could learn a lot from them, and I was right.
But were you lucky as well? Because one of the hardest things for a fledgling director is knowing how to attach a cast to a project.
I didn’t have to attach a cast because I didn’t have any actors who were too well known. It was the main actresses’ first film. But it’s true that to know how to cast actors, and then how to direct them and work with them on the shoot, is one of the most important things.
But when you say you’ve found an unknown actor, people are more likely to take note because of your track record, right?
No. It’s a special situation because it’s almost an unwritten rule that when you make your first film in France, you have to use unknown actors. You have to do street casting – it’s just the way to do it.
The film is about a girl in a moment of grief – what is it about grief that interests you?
At first, I wanted to film a girl walking in present-day Paris, in the streets. But when I started writing, it was obvious to me that she had to have something very strong about her. When I was writing the screenplay, I had recently gone through a grieving process myself. I really wanted to have a character who had a special view of our environment. This way of seeing, through this perspective, is very dramatic, but it gives you strength as well. To have a girl in Paris, it doesn’t mean anything. I wanted to create images, and I work from instinct. When I thought of her as someone grieving, it filled me with images, and gave me ideas for the sound and the light.
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