Far Out Meets: Jeremy Comte, the Oscar-nominated director of ‘Fauve’
At Far Out Magazine we believe in cinema’s ability to heal.
At a time when millions of people continue to adapt their daily lives amid strict social distancing measures and cinemas around the world continue to keep their doors closed, we want to shine a light on filmmakers on a personal level. Turning our attention to the work created by independent artists, we have launched our new weekly series ‘The Far Out Film Club’. The project will focus on one filmmaker during each episode and will premiere on both of Far Out Magazine’s Facebook page and YouTube channel every Wednesday.
Offering a platform for filmmakers around the world, promoting their work to millions of cinephiles while also connecting them to other creatives, our sixth edition of the series welcomes director Jeremy Fauve and his Oscar-nominated short film Fauve.
The film, released in 2018, tells the story of two young boys who, while out exploring a quarry in the search of harmless fun, enter a seemingly harmless game of bravado as both attempt to better one another. However, the situation soon turns into a distressingly emotional and tragic one after entering a perilously dangerous scenario. “Growing up in the countryside, the inspiration for Fauve came from dreams I had as a boy,” director Comte told Far Out. “About six years ago, I was running on a muddy road under light rain and it all came back to me. I remembered the visceral emotion of being trapped, sinking in quicksand from this recurrent nightmare. I knew at that moment I had to make a film about it, exploring childhood in a raw and authentic way, portraying a grandiose and unpredictable nature. I was interested to explore the power/control that humans take for granted over nature, forgetting where we come from, forgetting the fact that we are animals too.”
The film, shot in the Canadian province of Quebec in a cinematically spectacularly setting, propelled director Comte to the very pinnacle of the film industry with critical acclaim. After claiming the Special Jury Prize in the short films program at 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Fauve didn’t look back in its ambition and would later be nominated for ‘Best Live Action Short Film’ at the 91st Academy Awards. For Comte, an artist inspired by the likes of Paul Thomas-Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, Stanley Kubrick, Denis Villeneuve, David Lynch, Gaspar Noe and countless others, it was a surreal experience. “It felt like I was in a dream,” he said of the Oscars ceremony. “I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was a kid, and it was such an honour that my work connected with so many people from around the world.”
He added, of his inspiration and those around him as part of the Academy: “These directors made such strong films that had a deep impact on me. They helped me build my understanding of the world and open my mind to new perspectives. Without a doubt, they influenced me in one way or another in my work.” In that statement alone we are offered a lot of understanding of Jeremy Comte’s respect for the art of cinema. His admiration and comprehension of what it takes to drive through his own creative vision knows no bounds.
Fauve, a white-knuckle inducing 16 minutes, is a beautiful and heart-wrenching creation. It offers a glimpse into the raw importance of companionship and frailty of youth with devastating accuracy.
Here, as part of the Far Out Film Club, we are premiering a screening of Comte’s short film which is available through our Facebook and YouTube channels.
You can read a full interview with Jeremy Comte below and, at 20:12 GMT, watch the premiere of his film.
Jeremy Comte Interview:
Far Out: Given the current circumstances, and the struggles that the film industry is facing, how difficult is it to be a director right now?
Comte: “I think we don’t know the full repercussions yet. There are so many factors to take into account and there will be new limitations that nobody expected before in the coming months. For example, it became way more complicated to get insurance to cover shoots and it keeps changing from day to day, country to country. I think, as directors, we’ll have to find creative ways to stay true to our vision and be flexible, without having too many expectations. For now, I can say it’s a good moment to write and develop new ideas.”
Similarly, on a personal level as both a film viewer and creator, how important is cinema as a form of release at the moment?
“I think it is crucial. Cinema brings us together and explores deep human emotions that makes you think and connect with yourself and each other. It’s a good time to watch tons of films and reflect on what’s going on in the world. There is so much to learn.”
We’re focusing on your project ‘Fauve’ could you explain where this idea came from?
“Growing up in the countryside, the inspiration for Fauve came from dreams I had as a boy. About six years ago, I was running on a muddy road under light rain and it all came back to me. I remembered the visceral emotion of being trapped, sinking in quicksand from this recurrent nightmare. I knew at that moment I had to make a film about it, exploring childhood in a raw and authentic way, portraying a grandiose and unpredictable nature. I was interested to explore the power/control that humans take for granted over nature, forgetting where we come from, forgetting the fact that we are animals too.”
Detail, if you could, how the scenario of this project was formed, how did you develop your ideas and did the end product match your initial expectations? Or, of course, exceed them?
“They clearly exceeded them. It was a great collaborative effort with my team that brought so much from the script to the screen. I guess the biggest realisation happened when we started casting young actors in Montreal. We quickly felt that they were mostly too proper for what we were looking for. Growing up in the countryside, I wanted kids that are used to playing in the outdoors, with a “rough around the edges” kind of energy. We reached out to many schools around the area where we were shooting and auditioned 50 boys. Felix and Alexandre both had a natural charisma and transparency that struck me. Their own personality and their suggestions on the project brought the script to another level and certainly to a more genuine one. I did a lot of rehearsals with the boys before shooting, giving them the freedom to explore the locations. By observing the way they were interacting with each other and what they would naturally do on location, I rewrote the story.”
Given Fauve‘s success and the whirlwind that followed with an Academy Award nomination, can you explain your emotions around this time? Was that level of attention a positive thing for you? What did you take away from the process?
“It felt like I was in a dream. I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was a kid, and it was such an honour that my work connected with so many people from around the world.
“At the same time, a lot of people from the industry were telling me that I needed to take advantage of the momentum and release a new film right now and, if not, I ran the risk to be forgotten. I felt this pressure immensely inside me but decided to take my time to concentrate on writing a strong story rather than rush things.”
…and how was the Oscar’s ceremony?
“It was so wonderful to be there in person. It made me connect deeply with the film community and the love for cinema that we all share. I feel so grateful to be a member of the Academy now.”
Did your creative vision change when you began to understand more about your process? Or did you encounter any unexpected difficulties in the creation of Fauve?
“We found the quarry a year before shooting. We were ecstatic because it was exactly what we needed for the story. At the bottom of it, it was pretty much dried up with some muddy parts so it made it possible to dig up and build the quicksand practical effect. However, when we came back the next spring in pre-production, the snow had melted and it was filled up with water. If it stayed like that, it was impossible to shoot. The owner of the place reassured us saying that in the coming months, it would dry naturally… but it didn’t. Two weeks away from shooting, we were freaking out. We had to build roads in the quarry with a bulldozer and bring a big pumping system that pushed the water hundred of meters away. We were working day and night, until it got low enough that we decided to keep just a bit, so the blue water would merge with the grey landscape, making it even more eerie. It turned out to be way better than we initially expected.”
So, sometimes, accidents can work out positively? You obviously encountered a stressful situation and dealt with it accordingly but, in your opinion, what is the most important quality in a film director?
“Someone that is able to make his team and actors comfortable and confident to give their best, someone that can share a contagious passion to others.”
We’ve reached a point in cinema, much like that of the music industry, when the phrase “we’ve seen it all before” becomes a topical debate. How do you stay original? How do you find ways to produce something unique in a market that has so many creatives? Or is being unique even that important?
“Every story has been done over and over. You can’t escape it. I feel what makes it all different is your approach and sensitivity to the subject. That is our strength as filmmakers and you can try to define it, but I think it comes naturally to you when you start listening to yourself and explore your fears, past mistakes and whatever challenges you encounter along the way. There’s something so unique and genuine with the vision of a director that nobody else can replicate. It comes directly from you.”
How have you developed your own distinct aesthetic within your work? Is it a conscious decision?
“It’s a bit of both. I feel it’s by being true to yourself and exploring vulnerable sides of yourself, digging into wishes and fears.|
Generally, speaking, what attracts you to a certain subject or field?
“I’m really drawn to nature, history and psychology. I’m fascinated by human behaviours, to what brought us to be what we are today and our influence on nature. I’m curious about the disillusions that we create as humans, the lies we believe in to convince ourselves of something. I’m also strongly and constantly inspired by my dreams.”
Moving on to the subject of independent cinema, I’m keen to know your thoughts on its current standing. How important is independent film today, what does it mean to you?
“Independent cinema challenges norms and brings up new ideas, inspiring an international audience. Recently, I feel that people are more open to watching foreign films, not minding to read subtitles with a curiosity towards different cultures.
“We saw it last year with Parasite winning at the Oscars. For me, they are a gold mine of creativity and experimentation that I feel is precious and unique to them.”
Short films are often closely affiliated with independent film and filmmakers, do you think the landscape of this medium has changed over time?
“I feel because most short films are funded from the filmmakers themselves or public funding, they can take on a lot of risks and propose new narratives. I’ve seen more opportunity coming from the studios financing or distributing shorts lately, but it has not been very common.”
I look at streaming services and the impact companies such as Netflix are enjoying in the world of mainstream cinema, do you think this platform could provide an alternative route for independent filmmakers and shorts?
“I think so, ultimately, we could have Netflix financing independent cinema too.
The author films I’ve seen on the platform were generally from established and very successful directors, so I’m wondering what it would be like for them to finance a first-time filmmaker, if they would allow them creative freedom. We are entering unknown territory and the film landscape is slowly changing, but I feel that independent cinema will find its way in all of this.”
Do you have any ideas in terms of which sphere of cinema you may be exploring next?
“I just finished writing the screenplay for my first feature film and it’s going into the financing stage right now. It’s a story that takes place both in Quebec and Ghana, a coming of age drama with thriller elements.
Is it a difficult process to start a new project after such a triumph with your past work and how does that affect your motivation?
“It’s pretty motivating actually. More creative and established people are ready to get attached to my new projects, thanks to the success of Fauve. I feel their support and it gives me that push to work very hard and do my best.”