Whilst we may have fallen for the introspective, poetic nature of French director Kendy Ty’s previous work here on DN, that relaxed style of filmmaking is far from the only string to his bow. Picking up the pace with new personal project Smoke, Kendy lets his inner retro gamer loose for a beat ’em up extravaganza which is part tribute to Drive, the 80s and of course classic video games such as Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. We asked Kendy to take us through his kinetic fight fest.
You previously collaborated with Audrey Giacomini on your short Veuve Noire, has the idea forSmoke been around since then? What inspired the film?
Me and Audrey are good friends since we met each other on a project for Rainbow People, a french fashion brand. Making a personal project has always been a way for me to breathe between two treatments for my agency (NB Films). We wanted to have some fun so we made ‘Smoke’ like my previous personal projects with no budget. We share a common interest in anything geeky, so the idea of ‘Smoke’ was a logical concept for us.
Audrey’s favourite movie is ‘Scott Pilgrim‘, and for a long time I’d wanted to make a film with an 80s/retro new wave music background since I saw the movie ‘Drive‘. It was the right time to make it. Plus, I worked in the video game industry for a long time and I wanted to add all these elements from the 8-16 bit retro gaming culture such as ‘Streets of Rage’ on the Mega Drive or ‘Final Fight’ on the Super Nintendo. ‘Smoke’ is a huge mashup of a lot of things we love. The video game ‘Hotline Miami’ was a great source of inspiration too, I never played it but fell in love with its artistic direction.
The film requires Audrey to give a highly physical performance, how did you work with her to prepare for the role?
We did not prepare for this role, Audrey is already a well trained woman. She practises sports such as Nunchaku (Orange belt) and Wing Chun, like 2 hours every day. She was a perfect fit for this role from the beginning.
Did you work with a fight choreographer? Were there shots/moves that had to give way to safety considerations?
No we created the fight choreography together with all the actors. It was like a great brainstorming about what everybody could do or not physically. We improvised a lot on this aspect of the film. The unique dangerous move was the death scene with Shadow (played by Roger Zippel), when Audrey had to hit his face with a shovel. The shovel hit Roger’s face a little bit ah ah! But for this death, we also used a grapefruit, it was fun to shoot it!
The structure is straight from an old arcade beat em up, aside from the Double Dragon brothers what other references did you sneak in there? Did you lift any moves from favourite games?
Exactly! I wanted to use all the beat-them-all references of the old arcade games like ‘Double Dragon’. When the actors asked me what clothes they could bring to the set, I gave them the visual package of the game ‘Streets of Rage’. Anyway, it’s the reason why Smoke doesn’t earn Dollars or Euros but Credits, like in an arcade video game. We didn’t use the exact fight techniques and moves of the video game characters from Double Dragon but just tried to recreate the spirit of it.
How long was the shoot for Smoke and what gear did you use?
We had 22 hours of shooting with the actors and 2 days for the edit and the post production. I used the same minimalist gear: a Canon 550d and the same lens: a Sigma 30mm f1.4. No tripod, no shoulder rig, no steadicam.
I’ve come to know you for the contemplative, poetic pace of your films. Did the frenetic fight scenes of Smoke require you to approach post or the shoot in a different way to your usual methods?
Absolutely not. It’s the same way of making a film, just the subject is different. It’s the reason why even if this film is really different from what I did previously, you can still recognise my way of editing and filming.
The sound design is fittingly hyperreal, was it tricky deciding just how far you could push it before it became a distraction from the visuals?
The film had to be built like a video game. We didn’t wanted to make something serious or realistic. Some people complained about the sounds of the gunshots, they think they are not loud enough or impressive. This was a choice. I wanted to put in some retro but cool elements from the 80s because if the film was too realistic, we could have ended up with a cheesy result. This film has been created to be light, ridiculously funny and entertaining, nothing more.
Smoke’s score is an overt tribute to Drive, how did you discover the Cartridge 1987 track?
I was searching for a song on YouTube and the first time I heard this amazing song, I fell in love with it in a second. So I used this song for the short. It’s bad but I have to send him an email to let him know I used one of his song.
We last spoke for your documentary Behind the Move which was Vimeo Staff Picked and currently has 86K Plays (outdoing Folded which was also Staff Picked). Have you seen those views make a difference to your career as a filmmaker?
Yes of course. People from all over the world send me nice emails to collaborate with me on their projects. The Vimeo Staff Pick is very powerful. But I have to say that ‘Behind The Move’ is a project that is especially dear to me. Fanny Sage is so bright and she is a very talented dancer and human being. I have to confess that this film is still haunting me and I need to watch it sometimes just because the mood and the emotions she deployed were huge and I had the luck to capture them.
What can we look forward from you in the future?
I don’t know what tomorrow will be made of, but one thing is sure: more films!