One of your project, a film titled The Run, was shot in San Francisco while you were living there.
How did you end up living in San Francisco?
Seven years ago I started reading a book by Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America, written in 1961. It depicted North California mainly. Then I started to think, ‘I should go there’. I first came in 2009, I was on holidays and I stayed a few days in San Francisco. I was on a road trip, and I drove also to Death Valley, Las Vegas…
But my goal was to come back to San Francisco. Also for its musical scene – both from the past and from today.
San Francisco is also heavily depicted in the movies. Did it play a role?
I think so. I was struck by Norman Foster’s film noir from the 1950s, Woman on the Run. And it influenced me for my project called The Run. It is a black and white movie about a woman looking for her husband all over the city as he disappeared. The more she discovers San Francisco, the merrier she founds herself.
I wanted to create a portrait of the same character today. It allowed me to tell a different story with additional personal content.
When I think about San Francisco and the movies, I end up with the same idea: San Francisco is a character. The city is “the” character.
I see what you mean. San Francisco is one of the main characters of my film The Run. Like many artists I was attracted by its energy, and movies like Vertigo, Zodiac, Chan is missing, The Conversation, The Game…made it in a way. You can’t avoid the background set which is San Francisco. I tried to use it as a set as well.
You studied at Fine Arts School. I was wondering if you specialized in video.
Yes I focused on video for my diploma, and before that I studied photography and writing.
You write, direct and produce your films. Did you choose to become a filmmaker while studying there?
I think I was 20 something, already in that school. Discovering David Cronenberg and David Lynch had a huge impact on me.
Around the same period, I found out my dad used to love the same directors. So I enjoyed watching a lot of movies at home. From that time cinema became important – as I did not really care before.
So it was obvious: you wanted to direct movies.
Yeah. I remember telling my friends I want to make films. Like a statement you know.
But it mattered for me to complete my studies. I took profit of the video class. I started to do installations with videos. I wanted to learn from that device.
Photography seems important for you as well.
I think so. I studied both photography and video.
And photography is video without motion, right?
My first pieces looked very much like photography: fixed shots, and there were no characters. It took me some time to include characters -or life if you prefer – and possibly tell a story if I can say so.
How much did you learn from this medium? I mean how much is the training and how much is you?
I was glad because I was not trained to learn technics. I learn everything about video by myself. Except for the editing, we had a studio at school for post production and people who were good at it. And I learned from them. But I wasn’t taught how to direct a movie, which is good I think. I just grabbed a camera and I was trying to do things. In the beginning I did some shots in the dark and there was a lot of noise in my pictures. At first, I was disappointed but then I became more interested in it. These accidents are good in a way.
What kind of camera do you use?
I use a Canon Mark III, I bought it three years ago when I got a grant from the DRAC. My goal was to learn more technical stuff as well. And the challenge is to make images at night. And I use Avid technology for the editing.
When I first looked at your website, I was intrigued by a series of old photographs called The Oversights. Where are they coming from?
I found them while I was in Los Angeles for a few days. It was in a shop selling old stuff and a lot of photographs from the 1950s. There were all disordered in huge boxes, obviously from different families photographs. I took photographs I liked and I guess I was interested in making connections between them. They already tell a story, I am just using them for something different. It is a work in progress as I could get more like these.
Could one of these pictures become the starting point for a new project of yours?
Yeah sure, why not? I think I bought these in the first place because I was interested in doing a film in Los Angeles. So it was a kind of portrait of the city in that time. Maybe they are the first clues for something. We’ll see (laughs).
You also have an ongoing musical project.
I am writing songs on my own with my guitar before working on the arrangements with other musicians. It is what we usually call folk rock music. I started this work last year with a guitarist, we used to be called Sailor, but right now it is just me.
What about your current plans?
I am still doing research on the 1950s area. The last book I read was Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson. She is a writer from the Beat Generation and she wrote this book about her friends from this period, mainly about Jack Kerouac. I am very interested in the research of identity, like these writers. I would like to go back to San Francisco to make another film.
Mathilde Veyrunes lives and works in Paris.