Ariane Louis-Seize made her director debut with her short film “Wild Skin,” which has traveled to more than fifty film festivals and won numerous awards. In 2017, she directed “Littles Waves,” that had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and its international premiere at the Berlinale. Then, her latest short film “The Depths” also world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019. In addition to devoting herself to writing her first feature film, she has just finished her next short film “Shooting Star,” which premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and which she talks to Tara Karajica about along with her thoughts on the short form and women in film.
How did you get into filmmaking and what inspires you to make films?
Ariane Louis-Seize: I have always loved writing stories. In elementary school, I was already staging my own plays in front of the whole school and I went on to study Theater in high school. Then, it was in CEGEP that I discovered Cinema. I immediately fell in love with this way of telling stories that lived inside me. In 2013, I continued my studies in Cinema at the National Institute of Image and Sound in Montreal and right after graduating, I won a screenplay competition that allowed me to make my first short film, Wild Skin.
My film ideas come to me in a car, on a bus, in the subway, on a train or on a plane, with my headphones on. So, I guess, what inspires me the most is movement and music. When I’m on the go, it gives me unexpected creative freedom and it releases the universes that grow in me. Maybe that’s why the heroines of my stories are confined to their own heads. A place where they grow their desires, their impulses and their projections of what their life could be under other parameters. On some level, they all are projections of me sitting on a bus and living in a parallel universe.
Can you talk about your short film Shooting Star?
A.L.-S.: At some point in my life, I have witnessed some complex mother-daughter relationships around me and it left me thinking a lot about family ties and unconditional love regardless of our flaws, our weaknesses, our mistakes or regardless of how strong our desire to emancipate is. So, I started to write Shooting Star in the midst of these fundamental questions.
The idea was to build a teenage character who experiences her sexual awakening alongside her mildly dysfunctional mother who is always looking for the spotlight. The idea that she fell in love with the wrong guy, more specifically her mother’s boyfriend, allowed me to explore the thin line between what is acceptable or not for the characters, but also for the viewers. I think teenagers are incredible characters because they are guided by their desires and they are constantly testing their own limits and the limits of others. So, the goal was to be on the edge of something dangerous. These complex family dynamics allow me to explore gray areas and inquire about limits and family ties.
How do you see the short form today?
A.L.-S.: Short films are a very important and formative step in a director’s career. They allow us to explore riskier and outside the box ideas without having the pressure of the feature film. They also allow us to build our signature as filmmakers. I think there’s a large public for the short form. People want to discover new filmmakers and new voices and follow them in their early career.
What is your opinion on the situation of women in film today?
A.L.-S.: I think it’s a luminous time for female directors thanks to all of the female filmmakers who fought so hard to create this space for us. There have never been so many emerging female directors and producers. I am myself surrounded by a lot of talented female filmmakers and it makes me proud and gives me hope. I can really see this impact on the narrative of the films. I can see myself more in the characters and I have more emotional attachment to the subjects. We are breaking old narrative reflexes that are rooted in us because of the male-dominated industry and we can get away from the misogynistic clichés that we don’t want to see anymore. We are reframing the gaze of the industry. This makes me really happy in these very dark times on so many levels.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?
A.L.-S.: For her rebellious spirit, her magnificent non-conformist heroines and her contribution to building a dialogue around female sexuality and its representation on screen, Jane Campion is a huge inspiration for me. She also said: “It’s all about building a relationship of trust with your imagination” and that’s ultimately what I’m trying to do.
Now, it’s not easy to choose just one favorite film, but I will say Sweetie, Jane Campion’s beautiful directorial debut. It’s a film about female desire, emancipation, dysfunctional love/hate relationships and family ties. This film had a big impact on me mostly because of her singular characters and her mysterious, fascinating visual style. I like the way she captures things that are there, but don’t quite seem real. It’s a real inspiration for me.
What are your next projects?
A.L.-S.: I’m currently co-writing my first feature film, Humanist Vampire Looking for Consenting Suicidal Person. It’s an offbeat bittersweet comedy about depression, loneliness and self-acceptance. It tells the story of two self-destructive teenagers, a vampire and a depressed teenager with no social skills, who are desperate to find their place in the world. The figure of the vampire allows me to explore universal questionings about our relationship to death, and how to deal with the darkest side of ourselves. These questions have haunted me for a very long time and it seems very interesting to explore them through young protagonists who are already tormented by thousands of existential questions.
Photo credits: Ariane Louis-Seize.
This interview was conducted during the 2020 (virtual) Toronto International Film Festival.