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The making of The Photoshoot
For her 13th birthday ZoŽ receives from her father a present that throws her all of a sudden into the world of adults - a world full of deception, manipulation and perversion. ZoŽ's natural enthusiasm and naivety changes very quickly to desperation and loneliness. And then her 'crazy' mother shows up...
With the help of translations by Willy Van der Linden, FACI (M), we conducted a short email interview with the film makers.
IAC: The Photoshoot is post-modern horror in style. The menace is clear without a skeleton, zombie or werewolf in sight. What attracted you to that type of tale?
Dirk Geens: I have been a photographer in the designer fashion world for about ten years. So I gained some experience in the relationship between model and photographer. This seemed to be an excellent starting point to create a story. I asked my friend Werner Haegeman to write the screenplay.
Werner Haegeman: For a long time I had known that Dirk wanted to make a film about the world of models. He told me about his experiences and things he had heard about. So I had enough elements to write a screenplay at Dirk’s request. In particular I tried to create scenes in this scenario to stimulate the imagination of the viewer. It means that he sees more in his imagination than he can see on the screen. While watching the film the attention of the viewer is continuously bombarded with questions, expectations and suggestions. He never knows exactly who is doing something, why he is doing it or what for. The tension is mounting all the time. Eventually the tragedy happens and nobody really expected it. The film is a story about a human tragedy rather than a documentary about the world of modelling. Even more, I consider the film to be a charade and satire on human weaknesses and perverted behavior.
IAC: The location is perfect – was it hard to find? It must have been difficult to light. How did you manage that?
Dirk Geens: I always try to find film locations with easy access. That’s very important if you make low budget films. I have often used this particular location and I always found it very fascinating. Each time it provided the ideal setting. As I knew the resident and the manager of the block of buildings very well I could easily make a deal to rent the location for the whole shoot. The buildings have fallen into disrepair and therefore it was sometimes dangerous to stay there.
Werner Haegeman: That place was not only dangerous. Good lighting and sound recording sometimes suffered big problems because the supply of electricity was very poor and the weather conditions were very critical. In some places it rained inside. Sometimes there were rays of light through windows, holes, door cracks, etc. and it was difficult to control them.
Werner Van den Bulck: As we filmed with a Canon 5D DSLR, lighting was easier. Full frame sensors produce splendid cinematographic images. Then it is a matter of adding more light or making adjustments in variable light conditions. In that case shading by using screens is required. The location had the advantage that light didn’t travel in a straight line. It was scattered and filtered. One day we were having a thunderstorm. It was noon, but we had the feeling it was nightfall. That caused a big problem while shooting. Another advantage of filming with a full frame sensor is that you can film in extremely poor light conditions. Then you can also make corrections by adding a little bit of light. There is no need to rent expensive daylight lamps.
IAC: How hard was it to find the right actors?
Werner Haegeman: Above all Dirk and I tried to find actors in our circle of acquaintances. Thanks to the experience I acquired when making short films and Dirk’s life as a filmmaker in an earlier period and his contacts in the world of models we had a group of possible actors from which we could make a selection. Yet, it was difficult to find 12 people having a certain magic, the right physiognomy and acting talent. Dirk and I even asked our actors to do an audition in order to choose the best ones. Eventually we were able to assemble an excellent cast.
Dirk Geens: We also wanted to have actors with different looks. We succeeded very well!
IAC: How big a crew? Where did you find them?
Dirk Geens: The crew consisted of members of our film club. Some of them work for TV. Others are free lance filmmakers. We have known each other for a while. We have different personality characteristics, but we complement each other very well.
Werner Haegeman: We must mention that a fourth person from our club did a great job on the sound: Willy Huygens.
IAC: The mix of comedy / adventure / horror is very difficult to do successfully but you managed it. How have audiences responded to it?
Werner Haegeman: Indeed, a mix of different genres is not really normal. It might be considered daring. We knew this, but we took a chance – hopefully with some success. However, we must be honest and admit that there are viewers who give up. Too difficult, too peculiar, too obscure they think. Such a film requires some flexibility in the viewer’s mind, and is not for everyone.
Personally I love such a mix. I hate classical plots or storylines that are too obvious.
There is one thing we must not forget when using such a mix. The different genres must not cancel each other out. On the contrary! They must complement one another. The right measure and balance of each is essential.
IAC: Were there any special problems on these shoots?
Dirk Geens: The shooting didn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes it was unsafe to leave our equipment unattended at night (e.g. our lighting set). As we already mentioned it was a remote location and it had fallen into disrepair. It was a relief at dawn each day to see that there had been no vandalism because in this place that had already happened more than once.
IAC: And after such a strong movie, what next?
Dirk Geens: I am preparing a short fiction film at the moment. The working title is “The Inheritance”. It is based on my own experiences at a tragedy that happened in my family. But believe it or not the facts are stranger than fiction… The beat sheet [list of plot points] has already been made in close collaboration with other script writers. Now we are working continuously on the synopsis with dialogue. If possible the film will be shown this year. Anyway that’s what we hope.
Werner Haegeman: I have just made a new short fiction film. This time I have written the screenplay together with Chris Verboven. He is also a member of our film club. Once again this movie is psychologically intense, but even more so than Photoshoot it is a story of mystery and imagination but very realistic in the same way as Photoshoot. Again I directed the actors in the film, but this time also the camera work. I have just finished that movie and it has already been very successful at festivals in spite of its title Faults ! I will submit the film for BIAFF next year. I’ll be back!