Whistler Film Festival 2018 Filmmaker Interview: Ariane Louis-Seize Director of LITTLE WAVES

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Ariane Louis-Seize; 12 minute dramatic short is a provocative coming of age story about Amelie, who is thrown off guard when her cousin (who is her first crush) brings a new love interest to an otherwise mundane family reunion. This upheaval sparks Amelie to explore her sexuality, experiencing sensations far more powerful and surprising than she ever imagined.

Jennifer Merin: Please tell us what your film is about.

Ariane Louis-Seize: Little Waves is about the sexual awakening of Amélie, a young teenage girl in love with her older cousin. With this film, I wanted to talk about the birth of desire in young women, but not necessarily in a romantic and cute way. Instead, I wanted to represent this strange feeling that we have when we realize that this powerful new world exists inside us, when we first experience masturbation. It’s hard to put words on this emotion, but it’s so strong, exciting and also supernatural in a way. I felt the need to reveal how I saw it.

JM: How is your film stylistically distinctive?

AL-S: Little Waves is an attempt to express the inner life and the sexual awakening of my main character by using metaphors and surrealist set-ups. I wanted to create a dark and colorful image to establish a pop-dreamy ambience with a dramatic tension. Because the main character feels so alone at her family reunion, it was important for me to create this bubble around her. She’s not interested by others (except for her cousin) and nobody shows her any attention. I decided to use anamorphic lenses to deform her environment, her reality. The grown-ups end up being in the edges of the screen and their behavior are a little bit over the top. It was how I saw adults when I was little: they are caricatures of themselves. I also wanted to create intimate scenes in which I directly put the spectators in Amélie’s fantasies.

JM: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and the main characters in it?

AL-S: My film took form through several discussions that I’ve had with my friends over the years. We talked a lot about our behavior in relationships and our patterns in love. Sometimes, we think that we aren’t normal, but over discussions we realized that “normal” doesn’t exist. Even if we have different life experiences, we end up having the same inner struggles. This being said, we realized that we’ve all experienced two common situations in our past: we all had a distant cousin (or friend of the family) that we secretly admired/loved and we all had pleasure with the pool jets! There’s something more universal than I thought about those random elements of our past. This thinking led me to the character of Amélie.

JM: What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

AL-S: I had a hard time finding the actress for Amélie. It was not the young actresses who didn’t want to audition for the film, but it was their parents who took that decision for them. It scares parents to talk about sexuality with their young teenager. This fact reinforced my desire to break this taboo and establish a new narrative about sexuality.

JM: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

AL-S: It’s important to have prep time with actors before the shooting, especially when you work with young actors who have intimate scenes to act. It’s necessary to establish this friendly relationship, make them feel comfortable and allow them to trust you as a director so they feel ready and confident. I want to be bold in my creations and this is only possible if people feel relaxed and want to go as far as I can, and probably even farther.

JM: What were your biggest challenges in making the film?

AL-S: My biggest challenge was to lead the young actress through the ending, the masturbation scene. The line between realism and caricature was thin and hard to find. I didn’t want to cross it. I didn’t want her to feel frightened by the crew or my precise instructions. We talked a lot about it and we trusted each other. In the end, I was very impressed by her professionalism and it was easier than I imagined.

JM: Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

AL-S: Probably. The priority is that my crew is happy and well-treated. I don’t want to compromise that for any reason. It’s a quality to make people feel good, but it’s also a weight on a woman’s shoulders to be afraid of disappointing others and want to please everyone. In a world of patriarchial, we are still conditioned to think that way. Although I work hard not to lose focus of what I really want, I try to make a strength out of this personality trait. The important thing is to trust myself and never lose sight of my artistic vision. It allows me to create special bonds with my collaborators, in which my team is comfortable to open up and help out with different ideas. That way, we can create something more powerful together as a team.

JM: What are your plans for the future?

AL-S: I’m finishing the post-production of my film The Depths that I shot last October. The film tells the story of a woman who discovers the intimate and sexual life of her recently deceased mother through the body of her lover who lies at the bottom of the lake. I am also working on the screenplay of my first feature Maternal Instinct, where I explore a mother-daughter fusional dynamic, in which the protagonist takes advantage of the memory loss of her mother who has Alzheimer’s. She tries to build new memories to embellish their relationship.

More recently, I am also interested in other forms of narrative, like literature and theater. Last year, I published a short story and I directed a stage performance. I also do my best to travel one or two months a year. It is very inspiring to meet different cultures to create. It makes me think outside the box. Most of my stories take shape when I’m abroad.

JM: Who are the filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own work?

AL-S: Over time, there’s one influence that has always been there and that’s Jane Campion. For her rebellious spirit, for her magnificent non-conformist heroines, for her contribution in building a dialogue around female sexuality and its representation on screen. She once said: “It’s all about building a relationship of trust with your imagination” and that’s ultimately what I’m trying to do.

In the past few years, I’ve also been inspired by Andrea Arnold for her way to direct actors. When her movies end, I don’t want to let her characters go! I feel like I’m in mourning for days afterwards. I feel the same with Greta Gerwig’s movies. Whether she’s acting, writing or directing, I feel the empathy for the characters that she creates. Everything is in the details and it reveals so much about humankind. I fall in love every time.

More recently, I’m obsessed with the movie A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lili Amirpour. It’s bold, it’s poetic, it’s punk, and you can’t look away. It’s breathtaking.

JM: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

AL-S: Personally, I didn’t think about my gender when I make a film and I certainly don’t let my gender stop me from dreaming big. I realize how lucky I am to be able to do my films without asking myself too many questions. Thanks to those women filmmakers who fought to make their place in the industry over the past years and let this reality be possible! Although we still have to fight, especially for other women elsewhere around the globe who didn’t have the same opportunity yet. My main duty as a woman filmmaker is to break the old way of objectifying women in films. I’m not saying that this has to be the principal subject of our films, but it’s important to think about it when we develop our characters. We have to break these old reflexes that are rooted in us because of the male-dominated industry. Ultimately, just make the films you want to make and don’t think too much about barriers.

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