When last we spoke to Director Rémy Bazerque (alongside Producer Tibo Travers) it was Happy Hour and the pair were in the midst of a crowdfunding drive for new short, Cerberus – their modern take on mythological eternal punishments, featuring a pair of bickering brothers on the run from the devil. With their Kickstarter campaign a success and the film now ready to take the festival circuit by storm, DN caught up with Bazerque to discuss getting the collective penny to drop and crafting a short which rewards repeat viewings.
When we spoke last year about Happy Hour you had just launched your producer’s lament pitch video for Cerberus’ Kickstarter campaign. Was that an effective approach?
I have to say I’m really happy to have done the ‘producer’s lament’ for the Kickstarter campaign. It was a risky one and the opinions were quite split even amongst ourselves as it’s not your usual crowdfunding video. But as often is the case, when you take a big risk it kind of makes you stand out, and I think nowadays people are so used to being solicited for crowdfunding that the least you can do it try to surprise them a little.
Cerberus has the feel of a high octane Sisyphean tale crossed with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, what was the inspiration behind the story of your hapless brothers?
It all started when James McGregor and Tom Ripley came to Tibo and I with an early draft of the script. The characters were already clear and interesting, but we still had to develop the story. We then started working on it all together and, looking back at that first draft, we realise it’s been a long journey. We wanted to make something metaphorical about how relationship patterns can become dysfunctional and how people tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over. We liked the example of the powerful Greek ordeals, like Sisyphus as you mentioned. Old myths have a real haunting quality and leave a lot of room for people to project their own interpretations. So we wanted to do something similar. The reference to Beckett is spot on as well. I’m a massive Beckett fan, I love how he mixes the very silly with the very deep in his work and I wanted the film to be fun and interesting. We were also attracted by unbalanced relationships like Michael and Fredo in The Godfather, where an older brother is overwhelmed by his younger brother – or even by Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
One of the joys of the film is the moment that we as an audience click to the futility of their attempts to break out of their situation. How did you juggle the right time to make that apparent and at what point to drop us into their story?
This was clearly the biggest challenge and risk of the film, and I have to say we are quite happy that it works. Everybody understands more or less at the same moment, and the clues beforehand give just enough to know that something is not quite right without fully revealing it and therefore keeping the tension alive. I reckon having a very realistic setup and tone from the start helps a lot.
You’ve said that you’d like the audience to discover something new in the ambiguous structure of Cerberus on each viewing. Did you specifically plant easter eggs in the narrative which could be picked up on subsequent viewings?
It’s true that there’s something really satisfying in watching a movie another time and picking up things you haven’t caught from the first viewing. It’s what we were aiming for with Cerberus. We also wanted something plain and open on which people could really forge their own interpretations and possibly even disagree/discuss.
The bickering ‘hell is other people’ dynamic which exists between James McGregor and Tom Ripley is pitch perfect. How did the three of you work together during the scripting and 3 day shoot to deliver that onscreen?
It was a long process to go from these two characters to the realisation that we wanted the whole plot to be a comment about their relationship in general. That was really the breakthrough for us. We had to try and understand what attracted us most to Steve and Stacey and when we realised it, the plot just came up very easily. We also spent quite a bit of time improvising in front of a camera before the shoot, having fun together with James and Tom in order to create the characters’ behaviours and backstories.
Andrew Alderslade’s cinematography beautifully captures the Isle of Skye moors as an endless bleak vista, counterbalanced by the breakneck pace of the chase scene. What techniques did you employ to achieve that frantic action film feel given the budget limitations of the short?
The action scenes were really fun to shoot I must say. It was a first time for pretty much all of us but we all enjoyed it. We storyboarded the car chase sequence meticulously to make sure that we would have enough coverage to cut fast and give the scene a frantic rhythm. We also had two cameras for the tricky stunts, in order to shoot simultaneously and only do it once. We found a private stretch of road and used different setups on it. We had a car rig which we set both on the stunt car and on a camera pickup. We were using an old (and heavy) Panaflex Gold II 35mm camera and also a smaller MOS 35mm camera. The Panaflex is gorgeous but it’s enormous and not completely practical for a low budget film, especially for action sequences inside a car. The whole kit came to us for free, as was part of a Panavision package we won a few years back at the Firefox Flicks competition. We also had a second unit DOP, Dave Woodman, who did some beautiful shots while we were on camera A.
How much did the structure of Cerberus alter during the editing process?
The structure itself didn’t change that much. The whole edit was done by myself and the producer Tibo Travers, which was a lot of fun and quite a journey, but made easier in a way because we knew the story, and the rushes inside out. The main challenge was to get the tone right so the composer’s input was precious.
Speaking of which, Chris Sarantis’ score is this great juxtaposition of jaunty and foreboding. What were the references you shared to arrive at that mix?
Not many to be honest, as after reading the script Chris came back to us summing up pretty much everything we wanted to tell him, before we even had time to. So it was really a chance encounter. He even sent us a cue before we actually started shooting, and it was already very inspired and close to the final score. He had clearly connected with the material, and we were all confident with the direction he was taking, so we gave him complete freedom. The process was essentially about dosing the amount of cues and their intensity.
Cerberus is still very much at the beginning of its distribution journey, what’s the plan? Any idea of when it will arrive online?
We’ll start by holding a few private screenings both for industry and crew, and then hopefully its proper premiere should come at a festival in a few months. Online release will depend but between 9 to 12 months sounds about right.
What are you guys up to next?
Tibo and I are planning to make our first feature film this year – a black comedy called Learning Perfect Pitch, about a failed musical prodigy desperately trying to learn the inborn ability of perfect pitch. Last summer I co-directed a feature called We are Tourists, which was a great experience in view of making my very own first feature soon. We feel ready for it and hopefully the whole thing will take shape rapidly!