Directed by Emmanuel Tenenbaum and written by Guillaume Fournier, “Two Dollars” is a tense comedy set in the workplace and centered around an unlikely scenario: winning the lottery.
The film — which screened at more than 85 festivals and is now premiering online exclusively on Vimeo — reveals the cutthroat relationships that can exist between coworkers. It all begins when Sylvie, an employee of 15 years, comes back from vacation only to discover that her entire office has won the lottery. The worst part? They’ve excluded her from the winnings.
In honor of today’s premiere, we spoke with director Emmanuel Tenenbaum to learn more about “Two Dollars.” Here’s what he had to say.
On how “Two Dollars” came to be:
“We originally made ‘Two Dollars’ during an event in Quebec called Kinomada, where filmmakers write, produce, and direct a short film in 10 days. It’s an explosion of creativity, but there’s almost no time for production. Two days prior to our shoot, we still had no location and no actors! Luckily, most of the local actors we reached out to said yes; when they showed up to rehearsal, I was relieved to see they were good.”
On the challenges of making a film in 10 days, and overcoming them:
“The shoot itself was fun, but the conditions were limited. We only had a couple of lights, and both the cinematographer and sound engineer were running on no sleep (they had shot two other shorts the night before). All told, we had less than a day to shoot the whole story; we managed to do it, but to be frank, the opening scene was a disaster.
That’s when a miracle happened: I sent it to Zangro, the French producer of Bien ou Bien Productions who had won Sundance and Toronto the previous year. We had a good relationship but we hadn’t worked together yet, and I felt a bit nervous. When I sent him the film, it was 7 minutes long. Literally 7 minutes later, he called and said, ‘It’s fantastic, but you need to reshoot the first scene,’ which we all agreed on. From there, he wired a small amount of money and we reshot it.”
“It’s a sad reality that many great writers are terrible directors and many great directors are terrible writers. If you’re both, great for you! But if not, realizing your skills and accepting your limitations will save you years of suffering. Find a scriptwriter you trust and tell them the ideas you’re afraid to share. Magic might happen, like it did for me. Meeting Guillaume was the best thing that ever happened to my career.”
On screening at a festival vs. online:
“Both experiences are totally different and equally valuable. At festivals, you get to see your film on a giant screen, and you experience the priceless privilege of feeling how the audience reacts. Hearing a theater of 500 people laughing and applauding while watching your film is the best feeling in the world. You also meet talented filmmakers who give you critical feedback on your work, which is how you grow.
The online release is a totally different beast. You can show it to tons of people, and all your Facebook friends finally get to see what you’ve been up to. It’s also when you emotionally detach and move to the next project, which is a great joy and a great liberation.”
On the meaning of a Staff Pick:
“Vimeo is the most caring, creative, and innovative place for short filmmakers, period. Receiving a Staff Pick out of the hundreds of thousands of videos that are uploaded every week is something I’m really grateful for. A Staff Pick is the Palme d’Or of the internet; it’s the selection I’m most proud of. I remember a few years back, I was making my first short film while working a corporate job. When I watched Staff Picks, I was in admiration of them. I did not imagine it would happen to me.”
On advice for aspiring filmmakers:
“I always hear people say, ‘You’ll never make it if you don’t have a network.’ I don’t believe that at all. The vast majority of filmmakers I know, including myself, weren’t born into this environment. All you have to do is to make stuff and be self-critical. Events like Kinomada are an extraordinary way to learn, and they’re practically free. I’d advise anyone to attend.”