How to work with teenagers while keeping their spontaneity? Guillaume Senez, director of “Keeper” recounts how he chose and directed Galatéa Bellugi and Kacey Mottet Klein, both aged 15 during filming.
Melanie and Maxime (Galatéa Bellugi and Kacey Mottet Klein, both great) are 15 years old and love alike. When she becomes pregnant, they decide to keep the child. It is the subject, a dicey nothing but perfectly controlled, Keeper , the first film by Guillaume Senez, Franco-Belgian filmmaker author of short films noticed ( Squaring the circle in 2006 in our veins in 2009 UHT in 2012). We met him in Paris.
You put six years before running your first feature. Why such expectations
It was complicated to find the budget – French side; Belgian and Swiss funding came pretty quickly. I shot two times less money than expected. The film was budgeted for 35 days of shooting, I went to 30 then, a week before the shooting, he still had to be reduced to 25 in conditions close to that of a TV movie. I even thought to call the shoot in question no question of leaving me on my first film
How did you manage this shortage means
by the choices, I usually do the installation: by going easier. For example, a sequence provided in a bus was eventually turned into a bus shelter …: it’s faster to implement, it requires less extras and, therefore, it is less expensive. Editing, I finally realized that I had too much material! Scenes set at the beginning of the film, before we learn that Melanie is pregnant, have been deleted: I wanted to go faster in the thick of it
Why did Maxim guardian apprentice goal who dreams of becoming a professional footballer?
I love football, I myself have been coaching for ten years, which allowed me to pay my film studies. I coached youth teams at all levels, including very good: some of my players joined the national team of Belgium Under-17, and some have even become pros
have you seen many actors before choosing Kacey Mottet Klein?
We auditioned a hundred actors, which is tested by couples – the audience must believe the couple formed by Maxime and Melanie to be moved by the story. Ursula Meier’s Swiss director, who did start Kacey cinema [in Home and The child from above , Ed] and that I had read the scenario Keeper , told me about him. I remember a while frail 13 year old kid in The child of a high , or I needed a top athlete. I expressed my doubts to Ursula, who insisted: “Go see it changed” . I met Kacey, and in fact, at 15, he was much more. And in terms of game it was really above the others.
In terms of football, too?
No, not really (laughs) . We shot the scene of the course at the training center of the Racing Club de Strasbourg, with very talented kids – one of the guards was even shortlisted for France’s Under-17. With Kacey, it was a little more laborious … He played the younger football, but there it was clearly not the level. It came a month before the shooting, for an intensive coaching from one to two hours a day, just to learn the gestures. He has not balked: it’s a real hard worker. True football fans will soon realize that there are many imperfections in his game with the ball, but in his attitude, there are many things well. And was relied on to mount for us to believe in his character.
What is your method of working with actors?
I do not give them the scenario: they know the story in outline but not the dialogue. I tried this method on my second short film, In our veins , which already spoke of a teen pregnancy. My young actor, François Civil, had an incredible gift of improvisation, and I was afraid that with a scenario set in advance, it retreats into something agreed. The result was very convincing, and I extended the principle to the entire cast for the following short film, then for Keeper .
Before the shoot, I a lot of improvisation with the actors to feed the characters. For Keeper , I asked Kacey and Galatéa to imagine the first meeting of Maxime and Mélanie, their first release, the first time they said “I love you” … then when turning the scene, we made a first improv, and I accompany them gently to the text. This method has several advantages. It makes finding a fairer vocabulary when spinning with young – my teen words of twenty years ago are not necessarily those that today’s teens are using. Then it brings much spontaneity. And finally, it is a collective work that I love. It’s like a football team: we have a goal, we do not necessarily know how to reach it, but we reached together. On arrival, the actors arrive almost to the text that I had originally written, even if it is not to the last comma. But it is quite logical: when I write, I start to empathize with the characters wondering what they might think; the actors are the same mental process.
This method is it not a little risky with neophytes?
Kacey and had Galatéa never worked like that. But they were very excited by this idea … and somewhere assured of not having to learn their lines by heart! Remember they were 15 years old at the time of shooting. Soon, there was mutual trust. And adult actors who themselves knew this method (Catherine Salée with me U.H.T. , Laetitia Dosch with Justine Triet for The Battle of Solferino ), the were well supervised. They even mothered!
You turn in long sequence shots, even then cut editing. What films have particularly influenced you?
Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train Patrice Chéreau for its incredible clips, and cinemascope camera to shoulder which was quite innovative at the time. There is also the first film by the Dardenne brothers ( The promise , The son …) Paranoid Park , Gus Van Sant. But my cult movie, even if it is cut more than Keeper is Kids , Larry Clark. I like to give maximum freedom to my actors, technicians must respect their game and adapt to their movements, improvised replies, hesitations or their clumsiness. I like to find everyday in my films: a falling object, someone who stammers, two dialogues that overlap. Things that we tend to erase the cinema but, me, fascinate me.