"When I was wondering if I still wanted to do this, my wife was there to push me forward"
Based in France, Loran Perrin is a creative filmmaker whose recent film, The Red Case, was on of Festigious' highest rates films in 2017. It won Best Picture in October, Best Score (Composer Stephane Corbin) and Best Actress (Elisabeth Ventura).
The Red Case tells the story of Sarah, a young nurse who loves jazz. When a mysterious musician she sees in the street gets admitted to her hospital, she suddenly feels the need to take care of him. But her new patient seems to be more preoccupied with his missing red case than his own health.
We asked Loran to join us for an interview and met a passionate storyteller, who always knew that someday, he would make a film starring his actress-wife.
Bonjour, Loran, and congratulations again on winning Best Picture here at Festigious with THE RED CASE. It was praised by the jury over and over again. How did this all begin for you? When and how did you decide to become a filmmaker? Where did you get your training?
When I was 11 years old, I watched Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun and told my parents "it’s too bad that making movies is not a real job because I’d love to do that…". I thought it was a hobby for some people getting together on week-ends to make movies ! They told me « it’s a real job, and if you’re good at it, you can even make some money ! » That was it, my choice of career was made… I started to watch everything I was able to put my hands on. I borrowed a Hi-8 camera at my school to begin with, then I got my own later for Christmas…
Tell us about previous projects you directed, like Babyboom (TV series you wrote and directed in 2011), Queer: Cinq experts dans le vent (Mini Series you directed in 2004) and Nouvelle Star (TV series you directed 2in 003). How did these come to life, and what was the most important thing you've learned from each production?
I started in the French TV business as an editor. One day a producer saw my personal work as a director and offered me to co-direct the french version of American Idol (Nouvelle Star). From there I started working as a director on several shows like Queer (french version of Queer eye for the straight guy) and Babyboom (One born every minute). From Queer I learned how to make a show with no money but with talented people ! From Babyboom I learned how you can turn a reality show into a beautiful story-telling documentary by the way you shoot and edit it. Nouvelle Star was already a big show and I learned to fit in and deal with the network everyday.
You have extensive experience as an editor: edited numerous programs for various companies and TV channels. In what way did your work as an editor contribute to your directorial skills?
Editing changed my life as a director, from the very first day. On set it allows you to work faster and with less pressure, because even if you won’t edit your own show (or film), you know if a shot is going to work with the others, you know how to replace 3 shots by one when you have to, you can take important decisions whithout endangering the whole project because of the stress.
From an other point of view, working as an editor on shows you don’t direct opens your eyes on other people work, ideas and sensibilities. You need that to make your own work evolve.
Where do you usually find your inspiration to write screenplays? Do you feel your personal life affects your work?
It definitly does… Even if I want to write a Sci-fi story I’ll always end up using some personal experiences to do so. Especially when it comes to emotions. But if my life affects my work (in a good way), I don’t use my life to get original ideas. I like to start a script with a fresh new idea that I never explored.
How did you come up with the story of The Red Case?
I wanted to work with Elisabeth (Sarah) who happens to be my wife in real life, and Bernard (Dom) on a same project. I saw them together in an old play a few years ago and wanted to get them back together in a movie since that day. I instantly thought about something close to a father and daughter relationship. Then I imagined why they had been separated and started from there…
Elisabeth is your wife! Wow, that's pretty amazing. She was simply phenomenal in The Red Case (and also won Best Actress award!).
She's truly wonderful! I've known her as an actress for a long time, even before we officially met. We worked twice together on 2 music videos that I directed, so we knew we would be able to do it again on a fiction. As a matter of fact, we wanted to for a long time…
The movie explores the very special relationship that develops between the two lead characters. Are Sarah and Dom based on real characters from your life?
At the time Elisabeth and I had just become parents of a little girl… I was discovering myself as a father and wanted to explore this role even more. So if Dom is not a real person, he may deal with the situation the way I would have. Sarah is completely fictional. There’s a little bit of my wife in her because she loves jazz but that’s all!
How did you cast Bernard and the rest of the cast?
Bernard and the rest of the cast are all actors from classical theater. I saw all of them in different plays before asking them to join the project.
Jazz music has such a major role in the movie- as if it is one of the characters. Why Jazz, and not another type of music?
I wanted Sarah and Dom to have something in common, an element that would allow them to get closer. Music is known for that, bringing people together… I needed a music genre that could be listened by too different generations, symbolizing freedom and independence at the same time. Jazz was the obvious choice. It matches the personality traits of both characters. The passion and insolence of Dom, the sweetness and marginality of Sarah. It's a style of music both old and incredibly modern.
What are some of the highlights of being a director, and what are the difficult parts? Can you give examples from the production of The Red Case?
Well, if you like to tell stories, and I do, directing is one of the best way to do it. It allows you to bring life to your imagination and shape your ideas along the creation process. You bring other artists in your journey (because it’s a journey) while trusting them about how they use their craft. It’s an incredible experience that never stops evolving from the day you write the synopsis to the day you show the film to an audience. Of course you’ll cross many obstacles along the road. Finding the time and the money to do it is the first one. Some people in your crew won’t follow you until the end. You’ll lose some aids at the worse moment of your production. And of course second thoughts will follow… For The Red Case, I struggled to get the hospital set I wanted, then again to get the bus. At some point I thought I’ll have to shoot the last scene in a taxi cab. I lost my makeup artist two days before shooting, then my sound mixer in the middle of the post-production process. Luckily I found some amazing people to step in and save the day.
How did you interact with the different departments in the post-production stage?
Quite easily to be honest, because being myself an editor, I know a lot of people in that domain. So almost every technician in the post-production process was a friend of mine. Even if I could have edited my own film, I wanted Romain to do it, first because he’s a rockstar, but also because I need to hear someone else’s point of view about what I shot. On the set the film was already edited in my mind. It helps for many reasons while we shoot, but once you get in the editing room, you need to forget everything you imagined, and let someone try different approaches. Romain and I agreed he would be alone the first week to discover the rushes and edit a first draft. Then I joined him to finish. As a matter of fact, the first draft was almost perfect, we barely changed a few things… For the music, I made Stéphane listen to different scores that I loved. Then we talked about what I imagined in the film and where I wanted to emphasize the emotion. I remember telling him "do whatever you want but at the end I want to cry". He sent me one or two pieces of music that I was not a fan of, then he took some vacations in the north of Europe. One day he sent me a piece with a note. He was in a hotel in Sweden and found a piano in the lobby, in front of a bay window with a magnificent view on a frozen lake. So he started playing and recorded it with his iPhone. I listened to it and it brought tears to my eyes instantly. He had found the theme of the film…
Do you ever feel intimated by an upcoming project? How do you approach a project like this?
I don’t really… If I do, that’s because I don’t feel comfortable doing it, or I’m not sure I’ll be able to carry out the project. So that means I shouldn’t do it. Everything I do as a director, I do it because I know I can and because I’m excited about bringing my own vision to it. So you go on one step at a time. Me, I love to start by talking with my DP and old friend Dominique. We made a lot of things together, commercials, music videos, shorts, and we like the same movies. He’s the first I talk about the project to. Then I look for the different sets I’ll need in order to define as quick as possible how expensive it’s gonna cost. You can’t look for money if you have no idea how much your film is gonna cost. Then of course you start casting the actors…
What is the best thing that's ever happened to your career?
Meeting my wife! She’s so supportive, she understands what it takes to make a short film, the sacrifices you need to do, she encourages that. The moments I had doubts about my career, when I was wondering if I still wanted to do this, she was there to push me forward and give me the strength to carry on. She believes in me and wants me to succeed, as I do for her as an actress…
Tell us something nobody knows about you as a filmmaker.
I love every genre and I secretly dream about experiencing them all. Musical, thriller, comedy, sci-fi, drama, crime, fantasy, adventure, romance, historical… Except horror maybe.
What is the best advice you can give to young filmmakers looking to get into the industry?
Shorts, shorts, shorts! Whatever it takes, make some short movies! You’re gonna lose money, time, friends, temper, but it'll always be worth it. And don’t wait too long, if I could go back I would make a film every year, even with only my phone… You forge yourself as a director by shooting and working with actors, and each film is better than the one before. And what better way to get into the industry than having some personnal work to show ?
What are you currently working on?
I’m still working on a feature film script but I really want to make a new short, maybe a sci-fi one that would show another side of my personality. It’s a genre that I’ve always loved and wanted to explore. I have a few ideas I’m currently working on and I hope I’ll be able to shoot before the end of the year…
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Thank you again for your interest in my film, your support and kind words about it. I love what you guys do for shorts from all around the world. It allows directors like me to get some very interesting feedbacks from differents countries and cultures about our work. It’s very rewarding and encouraging.
I hope I’ll be back soon with a new film!