The 2013 Filmmakers VI
Muriel d'Ansembourg: GOOD NIGHT
Until the start of the festival, we are going to introduce this
year's filmmakers and their films:
GOOD NIGHT, UK
Your movie in one sentence:
Two teenage girls find themselves pushed to extremes on the streets of London where the boundaries between innocent play and dangerous seduction begin to blur.
Which situations or people inspired you to make your
When I moved from Amsterdam to London a couple years ago I lived in an area with lots of London nightlife. It was winter and I was amazed by the amount of skin girls would show despite the biting cold. Their outfits were very provocative yet there was something naïve and playful in the way they roamed the streets. Some were so drunk they would lie down on the street, a friend trying to pull them up. That friend however would be equally drunk and eventually end up on the floor next to her. Some of these girls were young teenagers and I wondered how they would get back home in one piece.
It got me thinking about being a teenager, how confusing life is in a time of awakening sexuality, and how you tend to make things even more confusing with your hunger for adventure, desperately trying to belong and be loved. How these girls were trying to hide their insecurities under way too much make-up, fakery and sexy outfits. I also started wondering about the confusion it could generate with the men they encountered. What if men find it hard to tell what age they are and feel this strong longing whilst sensing they might be too young? And what if these girls make them feel it's okay to take things further in their hunger for adventure. I could see how, combined with alcohol, situations could become blurry and a night out could take unexpected turns. This triggered a script about two young girls on their first night out, who manage to transform themselves on the outside yet are still 14 on the inside.
Is there a specific movie/director that was the reason
for you becoming a filmmaker?
I don't have one of those touchstone memories of going to see a specific film in a run down cinema and suddenly falling in love with film. It was much more gradual. As a kid when watching films on TV for instance, a family of elephants could dance through the room and I wouldn't have noticed. I was glued to the screen like a fly to flypaper. My mum would often say, 'Muriel, move back from the screen, you're too close!' But the world didn't exist, she didn't exist, I was lost in the film. I guess wanting to become a filmmaker started with a fascination for stories and then a growing realization that cinema had such great potential to tell these stories on so many different levels.
What's the secret for making a good
If someone has the golden answer to this I'd love to hear it. No wait, actually, that would take away all the fun: the heartbreak of failing and the satisfaction of getting better. It's quite an interesting journey, each film is a new challenge and I think that with that you slowly get better, or at least don't repeat your mistakes. So to me a good movie is one that is better then your previous one. Grow and outdo yourself with every new project. At least that's what I attempt to do.
What do you think is missing in the established film
We could do with more women filmmakers. The ship is really heavy on one side right now. Currently only 5% of the directors in Hollywood are women. Luckily my interest lies in making Arthouse films where female directors seem to be more successful. On the festival circuit, women directed 18% of fiction films. But I wonder why I am part of a minority while in other professions the figures are starting to even out. Looking at my own life, it took me a while to find the courage to enter film school. I had developed this image that everyone there had to be a genius. Of course I soon found out that nobody was and everyone was searching and finding their way just like me.
Some of the filmmakers that have inspired me are women, however as the statistics imply most are men. Even so, every time I attend a Q&A or seminar with a woman filmmaker I'm amazed how it affects and empowers me. It makes being a director just that bit more reachable. Getting advice and hearing the stories from woman filmmakers is highly motivating to me and helps strengthen my courage to pursue this career. Creative art has a huge impact on our culture and I think it's important that it comes from both the female as well as the male perspective.
I do have good hopes for more women climbing onto the ship. It might take a while for it to fully balance out, but we need to keep climbing on board.
What was the best/funniest/worst thing that happened
making this movie?
We were shooting a very intense scene in a tunnel where the two young girls are threatened by two men you wouldn't want to encounter in a dark tunnel at night. It was a public place, and a group of homeless men had turned the tunnel into their hangout. I can imagine that to them it felt like we were filming in their living room. They were pretty wasted and every time I would call 'Action' they would start making these loud animal noises, monkey screams being their speciality. Normally I'd probably find this quite entertaining but after a couple of ruined takes I was like: Oh come on, give me a break! I went up to them and after talking for a bit they agreed to follow me further into the tunnel where they continued screaming and let us continue shooting. As we were walking, and just when I was thinking, ok this is going well, one of them suddenly stood still and said: "Wait a minute, I'm not going to do what anyone tells me to do, I'm not going anywhere!" He turned around and started walking back to where we were shooting and the whole gang followed like a horde of drunken camels. My heart sank and as I walked back I heard trains rushing over. That was the other problem with the location. Somehow when we went location scouting there wasn't a single train around. We never got to finish a single take without a train roaring over the dialogue.
I knew ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) would kill the scene as it was such an intense scene with a lot of dialogue. What makes it hard at a moment like this is that you can feel that everyone wants to continue shooting, everything is set up to go, it's this machine in motion and time is on your tail. Those are the moments where you really have to trust your judgment despite the pressure, and I decided to quit shooting that day and basically loose one of our shooting days. Luckily the producer, Eva Sigurdardottir, managed to find another location so we could shoot it the next day. Looking back now I'd say this was one of the hardest but at the same time the best decision I made during the shoot, and the scene turned out to be one of the most powerful ones in the movie. ADR would have taken away half of its strength.
Would you like to make films outside of your own
In a way I've been making films outside my own country for the past 6 years as I'm originally from Amsterdam and moved to London to attend the London Film School. Even though I am starting to feel more and more at home there is still a part of me that looks at things with fresh eyes. For instance my graduation film was definitely inspired by the fact that I was new to London and looked at the little scenes on the street with great wonder. And all those different dialects in the UK fascinated me. In the beginning I couldn't understand half of them but that has changed and I love listening to people's conversations on the tube. Some people quite quickly turn into characters in my mind which I'd like to develop further in a movie. I don't think I look at people the same way in Amsterdam, things have become more commonplace to me there and I don't pick up on the interesting things of daily life the way I do abroad. But maybe, if I live outside of Amsterdam long enough things will become new for me back home. Although right now I really wouldn't know where my home truly is.
I've also traveled to many festivals the past two years and almost every city I visited I found myself thinking: wouldn't it be great to shoot a film here. I catch myself looking around with a camera in mind and I pick up far more of a city because of this cinematic eye for image and detail.
What's good about film festivals?
Attending festivals has been interesting on many levels for me. There are the obvious ones of meeting programmers and creating new contacts for possible future collaborations. But next to this what was really helpful for me was meeting other writers and directors. Everyone approaches filmmaking in their own way yet at the same time it seems like we all fight the same demons during the process, and it is encouraging to realise you are not the only one who deals with insecurities and moments of doubt. Sitting behind your computer working on a script for days on end, especially when starting out, you can begin to feel like you are all alone in a fantasy world and that what you are doing isn't real. At festivals I really enjoy meeting kindred spirits who might live on the other side of the globe yet struggle with the same things I do.
And another thing that has been a pleasant surprise for me at festivals is the experience of watching the film with different audiences. The reactions can be so diverse and quite surprising at times. Every audience feels like an individual entity, you never quite know how they will react. I've slowly come to enjoy watching GOOD NIGHT, which is a huge contrast with the first few viewing experiences in which it would physically hurt to watch the film. I still get nervous each time the film starts, but I also catch myself enjoying the anticipation of certain scenes, curious to see and feel how this particular audience will react to it.
If you weren't a filmmaker, you'd be a…?
I'd probably be desperately searching for the meaning of life, which is a tough nut to crack, so I guess I'm quite lucky I found something I love to do, which distracts me from having to deal with that question.
What is your next project about?
It's a secret. I'm in the midst of finishing my first feature script, which I'm very excited about.