For most of us a holiday is a time to down tools, head off to parts unknown with work dwindling into nothing more than a future annoyance waiting to break the current tranquility. For director Corentin Kopp however, his getaway to Canada provided the perfect opportunity to explore new surroundings through the gaze of the camera lens, whilst honing his filmmaking craft by creating displaced sisters narrative Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/ (Montreal). We caught up with Kopp to find out just how it all came together.
It’s been pretty much a year since we last spoke for Fishing for Souls, what have you been up to in the meantime?
Since Fishing for Souls I had a couple of non-narrative projects. For example I’ve worked for a French restaurant in Berlin for which I directed a video and also did the production and the photography on their new website. It was a great project because it was mixing two of my biggest passions – food and images! As usual I also had a lot of commissioned work as a Director of Photography which is still my main source of revenue. A few travels and starting to teach myself new tools (3D printing, laser cutting & CNC) at the Imal Fablab were also part of the last few months.
The antinarrative, day of wandering with a partner in crime, is something you previously explored in the Go Forth music video. What is it that attracts you to these open structured stories?
Mmmmm…Hard to say exactly. I think that more than a message or a story what I always liked in movies is the atmosphere they can create for the viewer. Mood over story is therefore my main focus when I write. For Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/, I knew I really wanted to compact a lot of the different feelings I had during my trip to Canada and Quebec and it resulted in a succession of sequences that don’t have much in common. A bit like in real life where what is happening to you won’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Well at least that’s the smart answer, I guess you could also argue that I just can’t write structured story, ahahah.
I think that more than a message or a story what I always liked in movies is the atmosphere they can create for the viewer.
With a story that feels like it could go anywhere how scripted was Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/ beforehand and how open to deviation from that plan were you?
I was in Quebec for a month or so and even though I helped on some short films during the Kino Kabaret Montreal (if you don’t know the Kino movement you should check it out) it became clear that I wanted to make a movie on my own before leaving. I started to write the script something like 10 days before flying back to Europe and as you can imagine starting from there everything went really fast, planning the equipment and the crew, scouting the locations, the props, etc… Therefore I always knew I should stay open to improvisation and last minute change but surprisingly the final film is actually quite faithful to the script. I think that the girls’ lines on the bridge is the only thing that was not in the script but I’ve kept it because Lovis and Vilma had a really nice complicity in that shot. I also liked the fact that you get the feeling of arriving in the middle of the discussion.
Overall, the script was also planned to let me try new stuff. For example I wanted to play with the point of view of the characters and the point of view of the camera. What I mean is that by having an “in-story” (analogue) camera replicating some shots made by the “out-story” camera I’ve tried to blur the line between the genuine point of view of the girls and the point of view of the camera. Does it work?, I don’t know, you tell me. The fact that you’re asking such a question lets me at least know that I made a film which feels spontaneous, that’s something I’m really please about.
How did you find your leads Lovis & Vilma Holm Häkkinen? Why did you chose to have two Swedish girls fill the roles as opposed to locals?
Lovis is a good friend of mine and, by complete chance, it happens that she was living in Montreal at the time and that her sister was visiting her the week I wanted to make the film. Knowing that I wrote the script specially for them. Using “non-locals” also fitted my idea of making a movie about holiday. Just not your typical “holiday film”.
Lovis and Vilma are more playing off each other rather than situations they encounter. How did you work together to build their onscreen relationship?
It is pretty much all based on reality. Situations and dialogue are inspired by events that happened a few weeks before. As for Lovis and Vilma, they are playing kind of their own roles in these situation and I think that for their first time in front of a camera they did great. I knew what the elements available to me were and I built the film around them.
knew what the elements available to me were and I built the film around them.
As you said Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/ was shot and directed whilst your were holidaying in Canada, did that require you to be a crew of one? What kit did you use to shoot the film?
Thanks to some friends and the people I met during the kino, I was able to quickly build a small but really efficient crew. I could not have done it alone and I would like to thank them as well as the people from post production for their great job. We filmed Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/ on a RED MX and Zeiss high speed lenses that we rented from the nice people at Video MTL. Almost everything was shot “handheld” with an easy-rig. It’s always really nice to work with older lenses on a digital camera. Especially on the 4K ones as it tends to produce a softer more pleasant image, at least to my eyes.
I originally took the Bolex and 16mm film (kodak vision3 250D) with me because the camera was sitting on the shelves of a good friend of mine … and I wanted to test it. Some of the 16mm images that are in the movie are actually some real holiday shots of mine that I did even before knowing I was going to shoot Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/.
Mʌntɹiˈɒːl/ made its online premiere yesterday but filming took place last fall, why have you made us wait so long for the film?
I wanted to make stuff properly and work with people I like but everyone had a busy agenda and it took us some time to find dates fitting for everyone. Overall I’m really happy about the post production; the sound mixing we did at Chocolat Noisette was especially interesting as it was a new thing for me. I definitely learnt a lot on that one.
Speaking of waiting, I hope it’s not another year before we get you back on DN! Anything on the near horizon we can look forward to?
I have a couple of projects coming soon; a documentary in Turkey as Director of Photography this summer and a music video as Director and Director of Photography in Berlin in fall but no direct plan for a new short film at the moment. I think I’ll feel the need for that soon enough!