I had the idea for this years ago, but didn’t end up filming it until September 2004. The first question I’m always asked is “Why French?”, and the answer is because Jean seemed like a very French character to me, and I liked the juxtaposition of his ranting with the non verbal impact of the subtitles.
The script went through a series of re-writes, not least after I watched the Truffaut film “L’Homme qui aimait les Femmes”, which gave the short which up until then had been “La Difference” it’s new title. The film is well worth a look – the hero manages to score with every woman going despite having a typically French existential ennui for most of the film. He decides to record his memoirs, which are promptly published to a media sensation. The film ends (avoid finishing this sentence if you don’t like spoilers) when he’s run over chasing a girl across a road. The idea of Jean failing as a writer was already there, and now I had the name of the publishing house that finally rejects him in Editions Betany.
Hooking up with Franz Pagot, the Director of Photography, was instrumental in getting the look of the film right. I wanted it to look like a late sixties Godard piece, very Nouvelle Vague, and thus black and white was my first choice. Similarly the locations had to be right, and pre-production turned out real finds, not least Kalim’s wonderful flat that overlooked both a park and a cemetery.
Casting took place two weeks before shooting, and we had a real find in Stephane Cornicard, who embodied Jean perfectly, and Laurie Hagen, who I’d seen in a short in Cannes earlier that year, and had just the right look for Isabelle. I wanted a May to December element to their relationship, and they bounced perfectly off each other.
Friday 17th September saw the fund raising party at the Blag in Notting Hill. A sizeable part of the budget was raised, and the DJs included Mat Lester, Rob Harper, and I took to the decks for the last hour, and tore the roof off.
Not all the pre-production went smoothly. Tom Benski and Marisa Clifford did an amazing job in corralling a great crew, and everything was on course until the night before the shoot when I managed to scrape the hired van along someone’s car, causing £300 worth of damage to them, as well as denting the side of the van.
The shoot took place in West London over the weekend of 25th and 26th September, and went very smoothly. I got all the shots I wanted, and the crew and both actors all did a great job. There’s never enough time when shooting, and the café scene in Visible was particularly pressured, as we had to wrap by 10 when they would open to the public.
On the Monday, taking the van back, I managed to trap and break my middle finger in the door. Not to be recommended. It looked like I was flipping everyone off for a fortnight.
Editing took about a month – Luke Deverill is a wise and patient man, as well as a very hairy one – and Sid Merrett nailed it perfectly when he delivered the soundtrack, which still continues to blow me away. He’s done the music for the majority of my shorts, and it’s his music that breathes life into my films. For which I cannot thank him enough.