Renée George Talks About “The Artist” and “Le Petit Nuage”

Los Angeles: April 24, 2012

Renée George is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who is also an experienced lighting professional in Hollywood. She studied photography and film and holds a BFA in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and attended the Graduate Film program at New York University. After working on the Academy Award winning film, The Artist” she wrote and directed an impressive short film called “Le Petit Nuage” and is now transitioning to feature-length projects. We caught up with the filmmaker and asked her about her life and career.

HR: What was your job on “The Artist?”
RG:I worked in the lighting department as a Best Boy. I was so inspired by the sets and costumes, the wonderful direction by Michel Hazanavicius, and performances by Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin, that I decided to make a “response” film, my own black and white, silent film. The French had come to the U.S. to make a film about love in Hollywood with an American crew. I traveled to France to make a film about love in Paris with a French crew.

HR: How long did it take to put your project together?
RG: The idea started to form on the set of “The Artist.” I thought about exploring the concept of two people meeting in a cafe in Paris, struck by love at first sight, and what happens to them afterwards. I didn’t decide to actually shoot the film until I was on the beach in Cannes just after watching “The Artist” go from out-of-competition to in-competition. The screening with a twenty-minute standing ovation was awe-inspiring! It was a fantastic celebration of the art form. I decided then and there – with some goading from my friend from Berlin – to stay a week longer and film “Le Petit Nuage” in Paris. I asked Isabel Ribis, the French script supervisor from “The Artist,” if she knew a cinematographer in Paris. She referred me to a friend who was already in Cannes. Twenty minutes later, I was talking to Stella Libert, cinematographer extraordinaire, who agreed to work with me on my project.

HR: How did you find the cast?
RG: Just after Stella said yes, I met with Sarah Demeestère, my lead actress, in Cannes, though she was not yet my lead actress at that time. I had met her before leaving Los Angeles at a movie screening from a French Conversational meetup group. She’s an actor/director, her film screened during the meetup and she speaks both French and English so I thought it would be interesting to check out her film. Her film was wonderful and we became friends. She told me to contact her once I arrived at Cannes, which I did shortly after meeting with Stella.

At Cannes, I asked Sarah to play the female lead in my film, and she said yes. Knowing I didn’t have time to do a proper casting with only one week of pre-production, I asked her if she knew any male actors for the lead role. She showed me some of her actor friends on Facebook and there was one in particular who seemed perfect – Joffrey Platel. She arranged a meeting the next evening in Paris. We met, he said yes, and invited me to see him in a theatre play two days later. I brought Stella with me so she could meet him and watch his performance. Onstage with Joffrey was Sébastien Pierre, another actor who seemed perfect for the role of the waiter, as his comedic talents were obvious. After the performance there was a soirée for the cast and crew across the street and I asked Sébastien if he would play the waiter and he said yes. Then we just needed the little dog. As I was discussing this point with Joffrey a female friend of his walked up with a little dog! The film was successfully cast in three days.

HR: The music in the film is beautiful. Who created it?
RG: I co-composed the original score with Robert Casal. Robert is an amazing talent, and a wonderful collaborator. I am not a classically trained musician – I sang melody lines and Robert would transcribe them into sheet music. He also wrote parts on the keyboard. It was a wonderful experience; one of the most enjoyable moments of my life.

In a twist of fate, after shooting my film in Paris I was in the Charles DeGaulle airport waiting to board my flight when I saw a familiar man carrying an instrument case on his back. After wracking my brain, I realized who it was – none other than Gautier Capuçon, the famous French cellist and international concert soloist standing in line to board the same plane! I hurriedly scribbled a note in French to ask him if he would play on my soundtrack. Miracle of miracles it actually happened. Robert and I flew to Washington D.C. to record him with the Argentinean bandoneonist Emmanuel Trifilio before Gautier’s performance at Kennedy Center.

HR: Tell us about your background in film?
RG: I started out studying photography and then film at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I have a BFA in Media Arts from that school. I also studied at NYU’s Graduate film program in New York. I have worked in the industry as a union lighting technician for many years. As far as music goes, I used to play and record in bands, Tetes Noires, who toured and recorded three albums one on Rounder Records, and Big Lucy who played locally in Los Angeles and recorded a seven inch.

HR: How did you land the job on “The Artist”?
RG: Two wonderful men named Jim Plannette and Joseph Capshaw gave me the opportunity. Both Jim and Joseph are incredibly talented Gaffers (Chief Lighting Technicians) and I learned so much from them. Their vision for lighting is so clear and so confident. Jim is a huge film buff and loves movies more than anyone else I know. The French were quite lucky to have them working on the film. The depth of experience both of those men brought to the table really shows in how beautiful the lighting is in “The Artist.” Jim did “Young Frankenstein,” “E.T.,” “Oceans 11” and many more. Working on “The Artist” really changed my life. It turned out to be an incredible opportunity.

HR: Did you have any idea the film would be this successful while you were working on it?
RG: I really did feel something special. I felt like the ghosts of Hollywood were there with us, supporting us, all around us all the time. I could feel them. We were shooting in the houses and all the places where they used to work. It was very special. I also bought my ticket to Cannes in November, before the film was finished shooting. I had heard a rumor that they might take the film there, and somehow I knew they would, although Michel the director wasn’t sure at that time if they would have the film finished in time to submit it. I told him “oh of course you will…”. And they did!

HR: What was the set like on The Artist? Calm or crazy?
RG: The set on the artist was quite lively. Michel would play music – which is never done on sets unless you’re on a music video or m.o.s. commercial. The dog trainer would be yelling commands and even the crew felt comfortable to talk quietly during takes. It was quite loud at times. We worked long hours every day – the shooting schedule was very short 35 days – so our turnarounds were very short. Go home, sleep, back to work. But it was such an incredible project, no one really seemed to mind.

HR: Did you meet Uggie the dog?
RG: Of course! Everyone loved Uggie. He is the MAN. Biggest star from the film! I heard he retired. Talk about going out on top. That little guy deserves all the kudos because he worked really hard and I’m telling you, that dog can act! You can see it on the film. It’s incredible. I know it’s just training, and he’s just a dog, but he really looks like he’s acting. Kudos to Omar and Sarah! They are amazing people.

HR: What advise do you have for people just entering the film business?
RG: Be certain that you are passionate about doing it for a living because it is a very difficult business to be in, with no guarantees of future work and a lot of uncertainty. If you can live with that, because you can’t live without doing film, then you are in the right business.

HR: What’s next for Le Petit Nuage? Festivals?
RG: Yes we are submitting to festivals now. It is in consideration at Edinburgh, the Los Angeles Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, CFC International Short Film Festival and the USA Film Festival with many more to follow. We are submitting to all the larger, well-established festivals.

HR: And what about you? What is your next gig?
RG: I have decided to expand “Le Petit Nuage” into “Seven Short Films About Love”, which will eventually become a feature film once all of the shorts are completed. Each short will be filmed in a different country, each with the central theme of love. The next short will be filmed in Lake Como, Italy, this year. I look forward to co-composing the music for this next film in the series with Robert.

I also have several other feature-length projects in development. I have an original screenplay about Nikola Tesla and the birth of the film industry, and another for the French market, a French-language biopic about a famous French musician. I’m also consulting producer on an international thriller and an animated children’s film.

HR: Thanks for talking with us, Renée.

Photo of Renée George on the set of “The Artist” by Yvette Gallardo D’Elia.

You can follow Renée on twitter: @7ShortFilms

–and also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/7ShortFilmsAboutLove

 

Director of “The Artist” Snags DGA Nomination

Los Angeles: January 9, 2012

French director Michael Hazanavicius was selected as one of the five DGA feature film nominees confirming that his film, The Artist is on an unstoppable march toward numerous Academy Award nominations.

Hazanavicius joined directors Woody Allen, David Fincher, Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese as DGA nominees for 2011.

Far more surprising than those nominated, were the two big names left off: Steven Spielberg and Terrence Malick. Considering that both ‘War Horse’ and ‘Tree of Life’ were thought to be primarily “director” films, Spielberg and Malick’s failure to earn DGA nominations provides strong evidence that their Oscar chances could be fading out. ‘Moneyball’ director Bennett Miller was another notable name left off the list.

Here’s the full list of the DGA nominees:

Woody Allen – ‘Midnight in Paris’

David Fincher – ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

Michael Hazanavicius – ‘The Artist’

Alexander Payne – ‘The Descendants’

Martin Scorsese – ‘Hugo’

The Artist and George Clooney Score Big with Golden Globe Nominations

Beverly Hills, December 15, 2011

The Golden Globe Nominations for 2011 were announced this morning and a black and white silent film, The Artist led the pack with six nominations. The Descendents that some critics found to a big screen TV drama not worthy of all the award buzz also fared well, as did the southern drama, The Help. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris also become a front runner. The George Clooney directed Ides of March was recognized as was Clooney’s co-star in that film, Ryan Gosling, who received two nods. Even Brad Pitt got some love for his fine turn in Moneyball as did Michael Fassbender for his gutsy, balls out acting in Shame.

For the women, Michelle Williams was recognized for her work in My Week with Marilyn as was Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady.

The brilliantly funny Bridesmaids went to the wedding today and Charlize Theron scored with her acting in Young Adult.

But it was some of the films that did not get mentioned that will be tweeted about in Tinsel Town today.

Perhaps most notably, the complete shutout of a perceived Oscar front-runner, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a post-9/11 drama from Stephen Daldry and the producer Scott Rudin. Steven Spielberg also fared poorly, with his old-fashioned War Horse only picking up a pair of nominations and Mr. Spielberg missing from the best director category.

Here is a complete list of nominees.

FILM

Best Picture (Drama)
The Descendants
The Help
Hugo
The Ides of March
Moneyball
War Horse

Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)
50/50
The Artist
Bridesmaids
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn

Best Actor in a Drama
George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Actor in a Comedy
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Crazy Stupid Love
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

Best Actress in a Drama
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Actress in a Comedy
Jodie Foster, Carnage
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Michele Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Kate Winslet, Carnage

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shaline Woodley, The Desecendants

Best Director
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Michel Hazavanicious, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Best Screenplay
Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March
The Artist
The Descendants
Moneyball

Best Foreign Film
The Flowers of War
In the Land of Blood of Honey
The Kid With a Bike
A Separation
The Skin I Live In

Best Original Score
Ludovic Bource , The Artist
Abel Korzeniowski, W.E.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
Howard Shore, Hugo
John Williams, War Horse

Best Animated Feature Film
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss In Boots
Rango

Best Original Song
“Hello Hello,” Gnomeo & Juliet (Elton John)
“Lay Your Head Down,” Albert Nobbs (Sinead O’Connor)
“The Living Proof,” The Help (Mary J. Blige)
“The Keeper,” Machine Gun Preacher (Gerard Butler)
“Masterpiece,” W.E. (Madonna)

TELEVISION

Best Drama Series
American Horror Story
Boardwalk Empire
Boss
Game of Thrones
Homeland

Best Comedy Series
Enlightened
Episodes
Glee
Modern Family
New Girl

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Cinema Verite
Downton Abbey
The Hour
Mildred Pierce
Too Big to Fail

Best Actor (Drama)
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kelsey Grammer, Boss
Jeremy Irons, The Borgias
Damian Lewis, Homeland

Best Actress (Drama)
Claire Danes, Homeland
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Madeleine Stowe, Revenge
Callie Thorne, Necessary Roughness

Best Actor (Comedy)
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
David Duchovny, Californication
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Best Actress (Comedy)
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Best Actor (Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television)
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Idris Elba, Luther
William Hurt, Too Big to Fail
Bill Nighy, Page Eight
Dominic West, The Hour

Best Actress (Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television)
Romola Garai, The Hour
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite
Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey
Emily Watson, Appropriate Adult
Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Best Supporting Actor (Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family

Best Support Actress (Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”
Kelly Macdonald, “Boardwalk Empire”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Sofía Vergara, “Modern Family”
Evan Rachel Wood, “Mildred Pierce”

The Globes will be presented on January 15, 2012, and will once again be hosted by the hilarious UK comic, Ricky Gervais.