Interview with director Yannick Karcher

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

I discovered cinema at a very young age and ever since, films continue to nurture my creativity. The day I discovered “La Nuit Américaine” (Day for Night) by François Truffaut I realized that filmmaking was a profession. I think I used to naively think movies were made by magic. Of course, I tried to find out more and gradually found myself practicing this narrative language. Making film is a wonderful way of telling stories, and the only one that suits me so far.

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

I don’t think you need to do anything specific to become a director. But I think you have to watch films and especially make them to become a director. When making films we make mistakes. By learning from our mistakes we progress by making the next film better. Some people will feel more comfortable learning this in a school, others learn on the job. It is up to each director to create his own frame. I chose the 2nd option

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

I think the hardest is to continue. When you start, there is often, at least for me, a lot of naivety. For the first films we just go for it and we do. Over the years and with experience you become more demanding with yourself and what you want to do. We want to have more time and money to make films, which also changes the way we are funded. When we spend between 2 to 5 years to finance a film, our expectations are not necessarily the same. One of my first films took 3 months to make – from the beginning of the writing to filming. For CHARON, my last film, it took me 6 years all together.

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

The most important thing when making a film is to remember that it’s not the work of a megalomaniac man with all the powers but a collective film. When you don’t have to right crew, countless things can make a scene fail. Directors who make films on their own and get through it making great films can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I have been working as an assistant director for ten years and it is by watching others directors work that I have been able to realize how much a director who trusts his crew can make a film as close as possible to the one he imagines. 

  • 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?

The location scouting of the film was quite complicated. Several sets required quite specific arrangements. Points of view between different houses, which themselves had to be in a specific environment. It took some concessions on the cutout to cheat these situations in order to tell the story the way I wanted. 

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

I had pretty phenomenal luck on this project. Thanks to my producer, Marie Sonne-Jensen and the devotion of my crew, I didn’t had any radical choices to make. The biggest challenge was building a setting that we had to flood. We had to find a pool in which to shoot this. Building a set is very expensive, especially on the budget for a short film, so we had to be very precise and keep the construction as small and cost effective as possible. But we succeeded, once again, thanks to the crew that was behind me and helped me carry this project.

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

At the risk of repeating myself, a strong crew is the backbone of a shooting. My crew is made up of people with whom I have had the chance to work with on other projects and who I have come to know over the years. So I knew their strengths and weaknesses and it is this knowledge of my crew that allowed me to get to the end of this film. They all gave a lot of their time and energy to help me make this project a reality.

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

When I see the films on top of the box-office, especially films produced in my country, France, I do not see myself at all copying my cinema desires on these films. I make the movies I wish to watch and just hope others will like them. When making a personal work, knowing what the audience wants to see is my last concern.

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

Festivals are essential events for the showing of short films. This is the moment when we can finally face the audience. It is for and thanks to them that we make movies. It is therefore essential to be able to show them. A good movie that goes unseen is just money tossed out the window. As the opportunities are rather limited to broadcast them on TV or in the cinema, the festivals are there so that the films meet their audience.

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

I don’t think there are any rules. Each filmmaker has a different approach to things. You obviously have to try to innovate in what you are trying to do, but you don’t have to be original in your storytelling to tell a good story either. I often prefer a so-called classic film to one where the director spends his time trying to impress me just to try things out. You have to adapt to what you’re filming. My film, for example, is about a retired man who is bored and afraid of dying of boredom. I chose to stay very classic and sober directing it because I didn’t think the subject asked for anything else.