»With a dream in your heart you’re never alone.« (Hal David)
It certainly wasn’t much of a career. But I am not complaining. I have always been much more independent than ambitious. To me, being ambitious implies wanting something so badly that you’ll compromise yourself here and there to get it. I don’t have that in me. I never have and I never will. For all my ambitions, I think my peace of heart was more important to me than being in the spotlight. Thanks to my work, I got to travel a lot, for which I’m deeply grateful. I spent some merry times in London, Dublin, Madrid, Paris, and Scotland, meeting (and often working with) remarkable people. I’ve had the most fun working on Le deuxième commencement and Bd. Voltaire (which, alas, doesn’t mean they are the best films). I think I gave quite a convincing performance as Anam Wagner in Sur les traces de ma mère; unfortunately, the movie itself was a mess and is practically unwatchable due to technical shortcomings. My best movies were Deed Poll and One Deep Breath. (Released in 2004 and 2014, so I suffered through many not-so-good pictures in between.) Ingo J. Biermann and Antony Hickling were both, each in their own personal way, intense and demanding directors, and it’s been an honour working with them. I also cherished working with Alexandre Vallès on Symptômes, my most ambitious project, in late 2017. Post-production won’t finish until mid-2018, so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out yet.
I am a few weeks shy of my 40th birthday now. It honestly doesn’t bother me. Bebe Neuwirth once said, »If you have to ask how to be sexy after 40, you probably can’t do it.« No worries about that. There are some spectacular aspects of becoming 40. But it is also a time to reflect and reminiscent. That’s basically what I’d been doing in 2017. It was a tough year, but it led me to a serene and sensible conclusion: I’ll be going back to school and change gears one more time, so Symptômes will be my last movie — at least for a while.
I don’t want to bitch or complain about how the business has changed in recent years. Let’s just say the wind has gotten rougher over time. The distributors and festival executives don’t treat you as fairly as they used to. There is a lack of basic respect, at least on the LGBTQ movie market. Yet, they (distributors, festivals, etc.) make good money out of you. I am not bitter about this; it’s simply the way it is. — The magnificent Spanish artist / filmmaker Noel Alejandro recently wrote the following article regarding the treatment of filmmakers:
»It took me so long to finally speak about this that I’ll cut the rambling and go straight to the point: From now on, I’ll think twice before participating or giving my films to film festivals that don’t pay directors and filmmakers. And the same goes for screenings and other conferences in general.
Maybe you don’t know this, but the majority of the film festivals and screenings out there don’t pay the people actually making the content they offer on their program. They don’t pay for your talk, or your lecture, or the movie that is the headline of the program — and that will be screened to 500 people at 10pm on a Saturday — and that, in a wonderful combination of luck and opportunity, was made by YOU.
They would pay for the venue, the catering, the promotion and everything else, but hardly offer anything to the film directors. And when they do, it’s often ›visibility‹ or ›exposure‹.
Of course exposure is important — it’s probably one of the most important things for an independent artist or filmmaker. It’s also the one thing that will happen for sure on a screening festival, since it’s all about showing stuff. However, exposure won’t pay my bills, or my actors caches, or the Alexa’s rental fee. It’s also a bit contradictory since normally these film festivals brag about their quality curatorship: if they know me enough to respect me and invite me to be featured, then this means that I already have some relevant exposure. The only reason why my name is there is because I do my work well enough to be selected in the first place. In order words, I am there because I deserved to be there.
At the same time, festivals charge for tickets. If people want to go, they actually need to pay for it. But are they paying to sit in that chair or simply enter that event? Nope. They pay because they want to hear what the speakers are saying, or watch the films that we made. They pay for the content — and content makers are the only ones leaving the room with 0 money.
Them and the people volunteering in the backstage, who also don’t get paid for their work and make sure to tell everyone else as a paradoxical passive justification. ›I’m sorry we can’t pay you. We don’t get paid as well‹. I’m sorry to say, but every time someone is putting working for free, someone else is making doubling their profit.
I hope that by now you’re not seeing me as a skinflint. My intentions aren’t to make money out of festivals — I know how cultural organizations struggle to remain on their feet and how unfair that world can be, too. But that’s not what this is about. The last pay I got from a Festival was as low as 50 euros, and it included the screening of the director’s cut of ›Call Me a Ghost‹. And I was very happy about it. Is that gonna bring me closer to a wealthy retirement? No. But it’s something. It’s a symbolic — and still, monetary — gratification for using my work on their project.
I don’t believe there is such thing as a ›no payment policy‹. There’s just a weird modus operandi in this world, on which organizers would try to get people saying yes for as little as possible, so that they can profit on their talent.
It also doesn’t always have to be money. Festivals are wonderful because you get face to face with your audience and see their reactions to your films in real time. Plus, they are the perfect excuse for taking a trip to a city you never thought of going (I like big trips and I cannot lie). If organizers don’t have the budget but are willing to help me get there, sleep there, or eat there, I am up for it, too!
Again, is not about pettiness, it’s about being fair and valuing my own work. I know, this can backfire at me and I can grow up to find that all other directors are accepting lame offers just for the fate of being there, and I’m suddenly out of the equation.
I can only hope not, and continue raising a flag for all independent artists and filmmakers who struggle to make a living outside the mainstream industry to take a look at their work and put a price for their presence. Because even if they don’t, the organizers will — only that in that case we don’t see not even a penny.«
Noel’s brilliant text speaks entirely for itself and doesn’t need any addition from me. That being said, I am not closing any doors. I will always express myself artistically. Eventually, I will be doing another movie. But for now, I am taking this hiatus to figure out the new path(s) I want to take.
I’ve been listening to a lot of rather sweet and soft music lately, mostly Burt Bacharach’s classics from the 1970s. I also discovered the loveliness of Piero Piccioni’s jazzy movie soundtracks: »La volpe dalla coda di velluto«, »Senza via d’uscita«, Marta. He often collaborated with a magnificent singer named Edda Dell’Orso. I am so in love with this kind of music right now, it calms me down and lifts me up at the same time. Just what I need. Do you know Traincha? She’s a Dutch singer who has released several Bacharach albums. They are incredible! The best interpretations of his songs since the great Dionne Warwick recordings (in my humble opinion). — I am looking forward to watching plenty of good movies in 2018. The first one I saw was »L’amant double« by François Ozon. Jérémie Renier gave an enormously skilled performance.
Apart from listening to music and watching movies, I’ve been reading a lot again lately, mostly Camille Paglia and Brendan O’Neill. But I don’t want to bore you with details about my (currently) pretty ordinary and (almost) lame life. For now, I just want to wish you a lovely and peaceful 2018. Lots of friendly affection,
Some more diary entries in English:
June 1, 2017
January 9, 2017
December 31, 2016
November 2, 2016
June 13, 2016
April 26, 2016
March 10, 2015
March 2, 2015
April 7, 2014
April 5, 2014
March 31, 2014
February 14, 2014
June 10, 2013
January 28, 2013
December 6, 2012
May 18, 2012
May 6, 2012
January 18, 2012
October 20, 2011
May 11, 2011
March 18, 2011
March 17, 2011
June 15, 2010
April 10, 2010
May 18, 2008
April 26, 2008
November 25, 2006