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An Interview with Bennie Woodell, Director of Je T'aime, Au Revoir

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2012

Films directed by Bennie Woodell on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your upcoming movie Je T'aime, Au Revoir - in a few words, what is it going to be about?

 

Je T'aime, Au Revoir is about finding the one person you know deep down you're meant to be with, only at the wrong time in your life. Sometimes all you can simply say is, "Je t'aime, au revoir." It's about a filmmaker making a film about a lost love, who finds his real soul mate in his lead actress, but she has different plans for her path.

 

Je T'aime, Au Revoir will be quite a deviation from the action and horror movies you are usually known to make. To ask quite bluntly: Why?

 

Well, I absolutely love action and horror films. I grew up watching nothing but those two genres, and the past fifteen years or so Hong Kong cinema has been the driving force behind everything I do, but what many people don't know about me is I have a soft spot for romance films. I adore them actually, especially the ones that deal with either the innocent romanticism of love, or the pain of a relationship that wasn't meant to be. I tried to put those elements into The Sad Cafe, which those are the parts of the film I love the most. Before we shot the film, the actors would comment saying how the two main characters fell in love without ever saying a word and that was weird to them, but it's not to me. I believe in love at first sight, and innocent romance that isn't revolving around sex. I'm very old fashioned, and many of the foreign films out there also are that way. Watch any Bollywood love story, it's virtually all 100% innocent without anything explicit.

 

So slowly I've been wanting to veer towards this direction in my career. I don't want to stop making action films, I'm far from being done there, but I also want to make romantic films as well. I want to make beautiful imagery that can emit an emotion from the audience by relating to what they see on the screen. How many people can watch a shootout and know exactly how the characters feel, as opposed to being in love with someone who doesn't know you are, or they don't love you back? There's a connection to the audience I can make there, a connection that can bring us all together more. But also, there are many wonderful action films that implement wonderful romance storylines from countries like Hong Kong, some films that come to mind are Hero, Task Force, the Young and Dangerous series, Once A Thief, that I know I can crosspollinate the genres and make something that everyone can enjoy.

 

So I guess a lon- winded answer to your question is I can't make a genre hybrid of action and romance until I make a romance film or two by itself. But when the time comes, you better believe there's going to be a film I make that packs some ginormous punches in the action department, but will be perfect for date night too!

 

You have somewhere described Je T'aime, Au Revoir as your most personal project - so how much of your own biography and experiences have you packed into your script?

 

Well, let's just say I can't afford therapy, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent! No, no, I kid. I pulled from many things that have happened over the years, with the main focus being one girl that I loved more than anything in the world which never panned out, c'est la vie. But the story of the film itself has other things I went through involved, so it's kind of a mutation of several experiences that I wanted to work with, all the while making it more cinematic for the characters.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing Je T'aime, Au Revoir?

 

Well as always, Wong Kar-Wai is the biggest influence to me. I had the actors and my producer view Fallen Angels prior to production just so they can see something that has influenced me. I also thought back to my days studying art cinema, and the French New Wave in college, and tried to implement things that are involved in art cinema, like time.

 

How do you intend to approach your story at hand on a directorial level?

 

Je T'aime, Au Revoir is being shot primarily on a Bolex, I'm trying to find a 16mm camera with a motor to shoot one longer dialogue scene. But shooting on the Bolex is a challenge not only for me, but the actors as well. I don't know if you're familiar with the camera, but they were made in Sweden from the '30's on up, and you wind the camera to shoot. The difficult thing is you only get 18 to 22 seconds per wind for a shot. So we have to have everything mapped out, and know exactly what we have to do every time the camera is rolling because every second counts. Dialogue is hard too because the actors have to stop and hold the emotion while I re-wind the camera up. We just did a dialogue scene on El Matador Beach in Malibu where we had to change the film roll 4 times (each roll is only 2 minutes of footage give or take), as well as constantly winding it between takes.

 

But this film is really going to be told through imagery and voice over, two of my favorite things in cinema. When I'm working with the actors, I'm letting them explore their characters, taking them to places I hadn't thought of and using it in the film itself to make it more of a collaborative effort. I tried to make this as much of a silent film as possible outside of a couple necessary dialogue scenes. And I just want to show a friendship bloom into a love that may or may not ever happen.

 

producer Jen Scott, Bennie Woodell

You'll be shooting Je T'aime, Au Revoir on 16mm, right? What prompted that decision?

 

Well, one thing I always strived for in film school and my films themselves was recreating the look of film using digital because after my second class at college I didn't have access to film anymore. I hate the look of digital cinema. It's far too sharp and cold, there's nothing in the world better than viewing something that's warm and soft like celluloid. And now that everything is going digital, I feel it's up to directors like myself to take a stand and say no, we're not going to let film die. It's far too important as a medium to see go. There's too much history. So I found a Bolex camera and priced out the cost of film, development, telecine, etc. and to make the entire film, which is going to clock in around 40 minutes or so you figure we're going to go through about 3500-4000 feet of film, is going to cost less than renting a RED for three days, and the image is far superior. There's a huge amount of misinformation going on out there saying film is more expensive than digital, when it's not at all. Sure if you own a 7D it's cheaper, but if you had the opportunity to shoot on film why wouldn't you? I know film's not for everyone because you have to know every shot you want, you can't shoot a ton of coverage, so a lot of people who have learned on digital might not be able to handle shooting on film. I know a few people who shoot the scene from every possible angle and decide in the editing room how it'll turn out, personally I don't think that's directing because there's no vision, but whatever floats your boat; you can't do that with film. But if you know what you want, talk to Kodak about your needs, or look for deals on ebay, and talk to the lab about developing, they are going to do everything they can to help make it possible for you make your film on actual film. And from what I've come to understand, many producers in Hollywood are making the shift away from digital because in order to keep the movie preserved, they have to make a film print anyways, so the post costs are sometimes more for everything involved than shooting on film itself.

So again, I'm old fashioned and love to work with the medium that's been around for over a hundred years. My camera is from the 1930's and still works perfectly. They just don't make things like they used to!

 

Anything you can reveal about your cast yet, and what made your actors perfect for their roles?

 

The film has three main actors, Matt Ukena, Ashley Moret, and Bradley Fowler, all three I worked with on Sad Cafe.

 

Ashley Moret, Matt Ukena

A year ago Matt and I were working on a similar film together, and we had many conversations about relationships and love, and what we want from them. I found that the two of us are very similar on so many things that I can't imagine anyone else playing the lead character since it's kind of me in a way. Everything he does here is from the heart, and it's coming across perfectly on screen. Everyday we're talking about the film, and his thoughts as the character on what's happening, and it's such a great experience working with him in this capacity. He's such a wonderful artist.

 

Ashley Moret was only in Sad Cafe for maybe five minutes, but she impressed the hell out of me within that time, and I told myself the first chance I had to give her a lead role I was going to, and hopefully can keep getting her to come back to do more and more films with me, because she is such an amazing actress with such passion and raw talent that few can compare to that I've met, on top of having a tremendous amount of natural beauty that just radiates off the screen. She has a bright future with her name in lights for sure, and I'm so lucky to have her in the film. So I actually held off shooting this film for like three months once I found out she was coming to LA just so I could work with her again.

 

Bradley Fowler definitely rounds out the cast perfectly. Since we met on a short film a couple years ago that I was AD'ing, we've become very close friends, and I've seen his acting talent grow and grow. One day soon he's going to walk into an audition and that's going to be it, he's going to take off. Brad has a huge heart, and cares about everyone very deeply and does what's best for not himself, but for everybody. And with the role he plays in the film, I feel, really embodies that aspect because of a choice he has to make.

 

So what can you tell us about the progress of your project, how far along are you?

 

As of right now, half of the film is completely shot and developed. We had some personal setbacks over the past week or so, and due to the holidays coming up and people leaving, we're going to have to finish the film in January. Luckily in LA there isn't much of a difference in seasons, so everything's going to match up perfectly!

 

Any idea when and where the film will be released onto the general public (though I know this is probably waaaay too early to ask)?

 

Well it's going to take a little while after we're done filming because you can't shoot sync sound with a Bolex, it's too loud. So I have to create the entire sound design of the world around them. I'd like to start submitting it to festivals come May, especially festivals internationally. I think the film can do really well in Europe and Asia. I'll probably have a DVD available as well for purchase for anyone who might want one, I'll keep you posted!

 

Any future projects beyond Je T'aime, Au Revoir - and will you ever return to genre cinema?

 

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Well, once this is done I'm going to be really starting to prep my next feature film for production, Sweet Sorrow. I do need to find some funding for this one, I don't want it to be a no budget film, so anyone reading this who wants to help make a dark/action/drama film, let me know! And of course I'll return to genre cinema, I love it too much! I'm actually writing a revenge film with my dad right now that I want to make soon as well. I can't think of a better father/son bonding time than making movie magic!

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

Well, my website is jianghuproductions.net, and you can feel free to add me on Facebook, just type in Bennie Woodell. Let me know you found me from this site so I know you're not a virus or spam bot though. I'd love to connect with anyone and everyone who shares common film interests with me! We also have a Facebook site for the film if you'd like to check out updates and pics, which is at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Je-Taime-Au-Revoir/288012994651829

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

No, I'm good I think.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

No, no, thank you! It's always a pleasure talking with you!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner

 

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