Interviews

Cannes 2021 Women Directors: Meet Anaïs Volpé – “The Braves”

Anaïs Volpé is a self-taught screenwriter, filmmaker, and editor. In 2016, she self-produced “Heis,” a cross-media project which has been screened at international festivals and won the Jury Prize at the LA Film Festival. In 2017, Volpé was selected by the writing lab of the Script Station at the Berlinale to write a new script. Then, she co-directed documentary series “Dans la jungle, avec un petit couteau à beurre…” funded by the CNC and dealing with the French school system.

“The Braves” is screening in Directors Fortnight at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. The fest is taking place July 6-17.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

AV: This is the story of Margot and Alma, two best friends holding on to the energy of their youth and their burning desire to conquer the world — until life gets in the way. But their ride-or-die friendship can get them through anything: they are inseparable, unstoppable.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

AV: I was born and raised in Toulouse in the South of France. Writing this story came from what I experienced when I lived in Paris between ages 17 and 27. It was important for me to talk about the end of the 20s, an age far from the teenage years, when we love to be sure that we took a good path.

When I arrived in Paris, I didn’t know anybody. I was a theater enthusiast with a dream of directing a feature film, but I had to do a lot of odd jobs for a living. I’ve met incredible people and I wanted to pay homage to my friends, to the female friendships in the art world.

I grew up watching movies where women are rivals in the art world, but my personal experience was full of sisterhood. We always supported each other through good times and bad times. I wanted to present two young women sharing the same passion who could compete against each other for a role, but still stuck together, supporting one another through hard times.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

AV: I hope people will feel that life can always win. I wanted to do a movie about the waves we have to face in life, this mix of dual emotions.

Sometimes fiction can help us survive: Alma and Margot always play in order to escape difficulties.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

AV: The most challenging part was making the film during the pandemic, between dealing with two different lockdowns with curfews, restrictions, everywhere to avoid, and wearing masks all the time. We were constantly in an emergency. We were also aware that the shooting could suddenly stop, so it was intense for all of us. Every day was on the line. It was stressful.

Making a movie is hard, but making a movie during a pandemic is harder.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

AV: We were lucky to get funded, whereas we were completely unlucky to drawn into COVID. The first salvo of funding happened just after the script won the Audience Award at the Premiers Plans Festival’s script reading, when we found great partners like MK2 for international sales and KMBO as the film distributor. The rest of the funding was acquired through Zoom!

I really wanted to do the film, no matter what obstacles, no matter the budget. In case of another lockdown, my producer Caroline Nataf and I decided to shoot right away rather than take our time to raise more funding because at that time we didn’t know what could happen in the world.

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

AV: I always wanted to work in a creative field. I’ve always been passionate for the cinema and theater. The day I discovered video editing by chance was a shock: I discovered I was completely passionate about it. That day, I realized that I could be very happy making movies.

So, I created my own school at home: I learned editing through video tutorials; I asked friends to lend me their cameras and microphones; I shot a lot of stuff to collect a bank of images and sounds; and I started to edit short films with the material I had. These first projects, done in a homemade style, had the chance to premiere at festivals, and this encouraged me a lot in my own path.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

AV: A few years ago, some close friends and family members suggested that I stop making films because it was financially difficult. They thought that filmmaking wouldn’t be for me because I didn’t attend school for it, and they were afraid that it will never work out.

Such doubt has been the worst and the best advice for me — it helped me to fight stronger for my dreams.

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?

AV: I’m not and “advice person.” I think it is easier to give advice when you know the story of the person who needs advice. I think each career, each artist is different, and then the corresponding advice would be different too. But I believe in sisterhood in art, and I am sure more and more women will be present in cinema at different capacities. And I am happy because I have made this film with a lot of women in different positions.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

AV: I can’t choose between the films of Andrea Arnold, Alice Rohrwacher, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, and Brit Marling! I admire all of these directors. I love their individual careers, their choices of film, their souls, the unique energy they put into their work. They are each free, singular.

I also love the work of Michaela Coel, Lena Waithe, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. All these women inspire me every day and give me fuel.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how?

AV: More than ever, I imagine! After the first lockdown in 2020, I had an obsession to shoot the movie, no matter what. My producer was very enthusiastic too. During the second lockdown, I was in post-production for months. My editor, Zoé Sassier, and I created the movie in an empty Paris where everything was closed.

It has been very special and, as Margot and Alma do in the film, we continued to create fiction, to play, no matter what. It’s beautiful that youth can continue to create despite all these difficulties, despite the pandemic, even a meteorite, or the end of the world.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make it more inclusive?

AV: I’ve always collaborated with people of different horizons, cultures, origins: behind and in front of the camera, since my first short films to today. And I will continue, as it’s part of me and of my life.

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