Interview with director Aurelien Mathieu

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

It is hard to tell. Very young I was creating my own stories by creating small comic books and putting in stage my Lego figures. As I grew up, it become more clear what I would you with my life, it was progressive. I was creative in may disciplines (drawings, writing, photography, etc) and cinema is the only art, with video games, that combines multiple arts.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

It was essential to me, because nobody in my family or my surroundings were in the movie industry. Therefore, I knew nothing about it, apart from the making of I’ve watched in the dvd’s. A film school was a good way to start building something, it is also a good way to become friend with people like you and create a strong network. You will progress and help each other. Today I’m still friend with people from the cinema school and we are still helping each other.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Well it depends of your state of mind, for some it is hard to start. Meaning taking a risk by living doing what you like, some may never do that first step. For me it wasn’t hard because I’m not afraid to fail, to see people saying : “you’ll never succeed, you should do something else”. Honestly it is bullshit, who cares if you succeed or not? At list you do what you like. Once you’re in, of course the hard part is to keep going, the years fly by and you are still not Spielberg. But once again who cares? It is not about your age, the number of films you’ve made, it is about the quality and the intensity of what you create.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Hum, I would say the most important thing I’ve learned by doing films is that no matter all the shit that happens you should endure because in the end it will all turn up good and you will witness small miracles. It is like somehow at some point, the universe is giving you a hand, the weather effect you wanted to achieve with machines is brought to you by mother nature on a silver platter. Even thought you think it is going to be a disaster, you should stay confident, somehow everything happens from a reason. Yeah it is almost spiritual haha.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

You accommodate from A to Z, all the way. For me the only way to go is to fight hard for what you want. At the end you will always do with what you have. There are no regrets to have because you did your best. But yeah you should fight at every steps for your ideas, to keep close to the film you have in mind. Then compromises and surprises will become good things. I remember how hard it was for me to come to the editing room and witness all the compromises and sacrifices that has been made. But you always find some good stuff to cheer you up. And sometimes the best stuff are compromises and surprises. It is part of the process not matter what budget you have.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The hardest thing to me was not an artistic choice. I was producing and directing a short film. I’ve put a lot of money and energy into it and I had no choice than to stop the shooting, because continuing was too much of a risk. At that point, I was devastated… I knew deep down that maybe I could never finish the film and that all the team efforts were for nothing. I’ve worked hard to finish the shooting but things remained stuck. That is only when I gave up that things triggered and finally we finished the shooting 6 months later. The moral of this story is that there is no rules because sometimes you have to let it go to succeed.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I’ve discovered members of my team by working on movie sets, giving a hand here and there and making my own shootings. You keep the relationship strong by doing shooting together and by following what they do and helping them every time you can. This is true with others filmmakers. Just help each other, it is a very virtuous circle.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Absolutely not. This is part of a producer’s or a distributor’s role. As a director your duty is to study yourself and figure out what moves you deep down. If it moves you, it will move plenty of people. Sorry, you are not special mate!

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

First, Film Festivals are great because you need small victories. You will have a lot of fails, hopefully you will also have small victories, like seeing your film on a big screen, wining an award, getting interviewed, talking with people that have appreciated your film. It is god damn important, because you do films for having an impact on people, in festivals you can witness that. Besides, it attracts attention on your work, having selections and awards reassure people on your talent, it gives you a hot topic. Part of your work is to attract attention. Most of all, you can have free drinks and have some fun with human beings and it is pretty rare for creators!

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

David Lowery, the director of A ghost story once said in an interview: “as an artist you have to find your own voice”. And I think it is one of the most important thing. The world is already full of filmmakers and movies why would your work stand out from the crowd? Well, the answer is pretty obvious, because you have something special to say and you are the only one who can do it. It doesn’t have to be very original, it can be close to someone else work, but once you reached that particular knowledge of yourself and what truly moves you, I can assure you will do something special! I will add something to David Lowery’s reflexion: as an artist you have to find your own voice and to be true to it. The second part is even harder! Maybe you wanted to make action films but hey, your true voice is elsewhere, sorry mate haha!