Aspen Shortsfest: Writer-director Jérémy Comte on making ‘Fauve’
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Fauve’ at Aspen Shortsfest
Where: Wheeler Opera House, Aspen; Crystal Theatre, Carbondale
When: Aspen Saturday, April 7, 5:15 p.m.; Carbondale Sunday, April 8, 5:15 p.m.
How much: $20 ($15 for Aspen Film members)
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; www.aspenshowtix.com
More info: ‘Fauve’ closes a seven-film, 92-miunte program Saturday evening; the day also includes the panel discussion ‘Outside the Frame: Getting Your Film Seen (noon), a seven-film afternoon program (2:30 p.m.), happy hour at Jimmy’s Bodega (4 p.m.), a seven-film nighttime program (8 p.m.) and a closing night party at Silver City (10 p.m.); www.aspenfilm.org
Writer-director Jérémy Comte’s “Fauve” is among the most highly touted titles at Aspen Shortsfest, coming to the festival this weekend after taking a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Comte, 27, cut his teeth in action sports filmmaking. He honed his skills as a director making skateboarding videos, and credits all of the time he spent shooting crazy tricks and sessions for shaping his gritty visual style.
“There’s something with skateboarding where it’s so much about the action,” Comte said recently in a phone interview from Montreal. “Just going out there, shooting and having fun with your friends. For me, being passionate about skateboarding, it was just so natural to go out and make those films and play around with cameras.”
As creative ski-town folks will appreciate, Comte said the fun and the camaraderie of skating pushed him to elevate his skills behind the camera.
“I feel like when you start doing that, with a strong passion for something like skateboarding or snowboarding or other extreme sports, it’s so easy to go out there and shoot,” he said. “In the cinema, what I do that’s engaging and that challenges the spectator, it’s kind of like the same idea with skateboarding, which is super rough.”
Beyond the student films he made at Concordia University, “Fauve” is Comte’s first fiction film.
While many short-filmmakers focus on pulling off a single scene or a joke or an idea, “Fauve” is the rare one that — in just 16 intense minutes — successfully follows a full story arc and a three-act structure. It’s a master class in short-form storytelling that packs the emotional wallop of a feature into its brief run time.
“Short film is a completely different medium,” Comte said. “It’s a tool we can use as filmmakers, like a painter using a different brush. … As soon as I started writing it, I knew it would be a short film.”
Shortsfest program director Landon Zakheim predicts the film is the beginning of a major directorial career for Comte.
“It’s such a powerhouse,” Zakheim said. “This is a filmmaker we’ll be hearing a lot from.”
This is a film with some key plot points and surprises that should be experienced fresh in the theater — no spoilers here — but I will say that it’s about two French-Canadian boys roaming the outdoors and looking for mischief, who find more than they can handle out there.
Comte began writing the film as he reflected on the things he had nightmares about when he was a boy. Growing up in rural Quebec, he said, he and his friends spent a lot of time walking in the woods and pranking each other, which fueled some of his unconscious fears.
“Three or four years ago my childhood came back to me as I was running in the muddy countryside,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Man, I have to do something with this and look at the darker side of childhood.’”
The film is propelled by the naturalistic performances of its two young actors, Félix Grenier and Alexandre Perreault.
“As soon as we met, it was a natural fit,” Comte said of casting the boys. “We saw them as the characters in the film.”
Grenier, a wiry kid with a shaved head, has to carry about a third of the movie alone on screen. Comte said he auditioned more than 70 young actors for the roles, but knew he had his Tyler as soon as he met Grenier.
“When he came in it was — just his look — it was like, ‘Wow,’” recalled Comte. “And then he started talking and was so natural and straightforward, not hiding anything.”
Comte is now at work on his first feature film, which he describes as a “gangster drama” set in Ghana and Quebec. He has teamed with a Ghanaian co-writer to finish it. As he begins his career and Hollywood beckons, Comte is looking to his countryman Denis Villeneuve — the Oscar-nominated auteur behind “Sicario,” “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049” — as a model for how to retain his unique vision as his projects grow in scale.
“I want to engage the spectator with a strong emotional connection and I like my subjects to be gritty and rough,” he said. “And that’s not about the dialogue for me, it’s in the action.”
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