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Portrait of emmanueljespers

emmanueljespers


About emmanueljespers

Brussels, Belgium

PERSONAL SPECTATOR
A film by Emmanuel Jespers
Starring Tom Harper & Emily Hamilton

>AWARDS

- Best European Film (Fest Internacional de Filmets Badalona, Nov 2007
- Best Actress – Emily Hamilton (Fest Intern. de Filmets Badalona, Nov 2007
- Best Film – (Ghent Int Film Festival – National Competition, October 2007
- Best Actress : Emily Hamilton ( Drama Int Film Festival – Greece– Sept. 2007
- Best Screenplay -1rst Prize (Rhode Island Int Film Fest – USA– August 2007)
- Best Subject (Capalbio Short film Fest – Italy– June 2007
- Best Comedy/Adaptation (Houston Worldfest, USA
- Special Mention of Jury Award (Interfilm Berlin, November 2007
- Honorable Mention ( The Accolade Film Awards –USA– August 2007
- BeTV (Cable TV) Award (Media 10-10 Film Fest, Belgium 2006
- Press Jury Award (Media 10-10 Film Fest, Belgium 2006
- Arte Belgium (Public TV) Award (Festival Int. du Film de Mons, Belgium 2007

>NOMINEE

- "Best Narrative Film" (Miami International Short Film Festival -USA- Nov 2007
- "Best Foreign Film" (Heart of Gold Int Film Festival -Australia- Oct 2007

>SPECIAL EVEN

- Opening Ceremony : Rhode Island Int Film Fest (august 2007
- Opening Ceremony : Miami Short Film Festival (november 2007

>OFFICIAL SELECTION IN COMPETITION

Rhode Island Int Film Fest (august 2007
Woods Hole Int Film Fest (august 2007
Los Angeles Int Short Film Fest (september 2007
DC Shorts Int Short Film Fest (september 2007
Miami Int Short Film Fest (November 2007, USA)
Encounters (Bristol) Int Short Film Festival (Nov 2007, UK
Heart of Gold Int Film Fest (october 2007
Festival International du Film d'Amiens (Novembre 2007, France
Interfilm Berlin (November 2007, Germany
Short Cuts Cologne (November 2007
Festival Internacional de Filmets Badalona (Nov 2007, Spain
Festival International du Film Indépendant (Bruxelles, Nov 2007
Le Court en Dit Long (June 2007 France
Avignon Int Film Fest ( July 2007 France
Capalbio Int Short Film Fest (June 2007 Italy
Short Film Fest in Drama (september 2007 Greece
Detmold Int Short Film Fest (Germany
Drama Film festival (Greece
Media 10-10 (Novembre 2006
Festival International du Film d'Amour de Mons (Février 2007

PERSONAL SPECTATOR

TRANSLATED FROM ORIGINAL INTERVIEW with Emmanuel Jespers about "Personal Spectator":
http://www.cinergie.be/entrevue.php?action=display&id=544

« Do you feel like you're transparent and your life goes along without anyone noticing? Stuck in the background of your own life? Like an extra in a gladiator film? A buffalo in a Kevin Costner movie? You need someone to watch you. You need a PERSONAL SPECTATOR! »

In this absurd comedy directed by Emmanuel Jespers, a young man introduces himself to a bland young girl and offers her a quick therapy to cure her seemingly ordinary existence : looking at her for five minutes until she begins to feel that she exists. “These days in airports you can find physical therapists who put your spine in place. Same for me, but I work with my eyes”…

CINERGIE.be : How did this project come about ?

Emmanuel Jespers : The screenplay is a free adaptation of the play Les Sept Jours de Simon Labrosse written by Carole Fréchette. The play describes a young man's unlikely attempts to make some money with a series of funny jobs that he totally made up. The truth behind all that is that he would try anything to be able to pay the rent before he gets evicted from his apartment. It’s a very good comedy. But I wanted to deepen the subject and make it more dramatic.

C : What attracted you so much in the play that you had to adapt it ?

I saw the play in Brussels a few years ago and I couldn’t believe the behaviour of Simon Labrosse’s “victims”, I was wondering how all those poor people could be so credulous. What was wrong with them? Why did they accept to be flattered and abused by such an impostor? And I thought : They must need it! Deeply. We all need it! I believe we always need acknowledgement and to be looked at by other people, to feel that we exist, to escape our infinite solitude. But at the same time when those things happen, it’s scary… because there’s a hidden rule : WE DON’T WANT TO BE CURED! We chose to be alone as a protection from the outside world. I thought we could make the play more universal by focusing on the victims’points of view. So I contacted Carole Fréchette via her agent in Quebec, I showed her my previous shorts and she liked my ideas for the adaptation.

C : At the beginning of the film we think that Simon's game is just a way of hitting on the young girl. But we soon realize it's deeper than that!

E.J. : I asked Tom Harper (Simon) to maintain this sort of blur in his acting. In order to create some sort of tension, the audience shouldn’t know anything about him, like the young girl doesn’t know anything. Simon could be lots of things : a seducer, a savior, a pervert…

C : The adaptation and the dialogue are top notch !
E.J. : A lot of dialogs were written by Carole Frechette. But I had to develop the character of the young girl that was just a little part in the play. I also adjusted the dialogs that were too theatrical in this particular situation.

C : The ending is different from the play’s.

E.J. Indeed. In the play, Simon doesn’t come back to work behind the counter. As a matter of a fact he doesn’t work at all. But I really wanted to create this scene because it allows us to see that he’s as lost as she is. All the schemes he used to help the girl are some sort of therapy for himself too. There lies the dramatic irony of the film. That’s what I wanted to tell : In communication you’re always talking about yourself…

C : The latest scene, in the restroom was added too.

E.J. yes, that’s funny. That scene, where Emily looks in the mirror was not even in the script. After the last shot Emily was waiting for a cab on her way back to London. She asked me if I was happy with what we had shot. I had the feeling there was something missing. The last shot was on Tom behind the bar, but I thought we really had to end the fillm on her, because she’s the main character. We talked about it and we came up with this scene where she puts her tousled hair in her face. It was just the right emotion I wanted to end the film. She has that feeling of being lost, empty, devastated but then, when she rearranges her hair and looks at herself in the mirror, she realizes that the whole experience was not in vain. She looks at herself as she is now. It was great. Well she was great.

C : How was the movie produced ?

E.J. I produced the film mostly with my own money, with the help of Milly Films and Title Films, two Belgian film companies, and also with the support of Fox Searchlab, a division of Fox Searchlight that doesn’t exist anymore. Sadly, because I had a very good contact with them at that time. At that time my shooting budget was about 6000 euros for a 3 days shooting, actors included. So, it was a low-budget project. The money for the postproduction came later. We shot the film on DV with a XDcam camera. The crew was very small, about ten fellows, and we tried to find a set that wouldn’t need artificial lighting. I also decide to avoid tricky camera movements : no panoramic shots or tracking shots! Those take too much time.

C : Can you tell us a few words about your collaboration with Glynn Speeckaert, your DoP…?

Glynn spends his life on movie sets and I was really a lucky bastard to get him. He only had three days free in his agenda and these days were our shooting days. I took him on our set, a vast university cafeteria in Leuven that looked straight from the seventies. Despite the fact that we were shooting on video, I still wanted to have some blur behind the characters. I wanted the movie to look like it was shot with 35mm lenses. So the place was huge and also allowed for the anonymity required for the characters, amplifying the loneliness and the weirdness of their meeting.
Glynn was busy examining the set, very silently, didn’t say a word. I was the one doing the talking, asking lots of questions, I was kinda nervous. Maybe he wanted to quit the project? After half an hour he just said “OK, I email the list tonight”… The morning after I received his list and at my surprise there was only the usual machinery, reflectors, mirrors and distributors, but no lights. I thought it was a mistake. Turns out it wasn’t. Glynn had decided to bring the light directly from the outside with huge reflectors and mirrors. So there’s not a single watt of artificial lighting in the film! It was a huge gain of time. Glynn called his technique the “Botassart effect”, named after a painter from the Middle-Ages who built and used all his materials instead of buying them. Actually Glynn played a prank on me during the whole time of shooting : this painter never existed!... Working with Glynn was a treat!

C : The great difficulty lies in the fact that you are basically shooting two people sitting on a table. So you gotta be innovative and try to avoid the mediocrity often seen on television series and so on… How do you compose your frame?

E.J. : Yes, what was a blessing production-wise became a logistical and directorial nightmare : “unity of time, place and action”! Great! But how do you proceed not to bore the spectator to death? So I decided to create visual breaks that corresponded with narrative breaks. For example we jumped the eyes axis momentarily to make the characters and the story look different. I also chose bad takes on Tom, including hesitations, unexpected silences to surprise the audience. And during the editing I didn’t cut at the “right time” many times so the audience will never be accustomed by a way of telling. You never know where the film goes, despite the fact that the film goes strongly somewhere…

C : Shooting in the english language is quite rare for belgian filmmakers...

E.J. : … but it is so good! I loved to make the film with English-speaking actors. I consider that the French-speaking culture should not be limited to its sole language. French-speaking culture, here in Belgium has very peculiar way of seeing the world. Belgian movies are tainted with a solemn irony with a touch of absurdity. It is deep and absurd all together. See Guydo Thijs “Tanghi Argentini”. You can feel that also in Personal Spectator. The author of the play is French Canadian and her sense of humour is typically from Quebec, simple and very enjoyable with a taste of the absurd, like we can see now in their cinema. This vision on the world is the trademark of a culture. Belgian cinema and Canadian cinema have a lot in common. And, sometimes, it is good to taste the French-speaking culture without the French language. Just to present it in another way.

C : In the end, are you satisfied with Personal Spectator ?

E.J. : Very much so ! I thought I had made an absurd and bitter comedy and in the end I was really moved by the end. I hope people will enjoy it as well!

Interview conducted by Grégory Cavinato.

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