ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - WOMEN IN HORROR
Interview by Nate Ludwig
NL: Please Love Me Forever is an incredibly powerful film. How did you even begin to come up with the inspiration and the motivation to make this film. Take us through the creation of it a little bit.
HF: First of all, thank you very much. I came up with the idea about 5 years ago when I was living in Los Angeles and it was inspired by my own heartbreaks. I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t loved back by the men I was dating. Why theses attempts at having relationships were quickly falling down despite me trying to be « charming ». So I wished I could open up their hearts out to find an answer. Any answer. It’s only a few years later that I realized that my obsessive behavior was due to a terrible upbringing. Especially my mom’s personal story with men. I moved back to Paris 4 years ago and my friend & now producer Mathilde Le Ricque introduced me to amazing co-screenwriter Romain Compingt. He helped me craft this wonderful story based on these feelings I had. Then we got state funding and got lucky that the script won the « heart » of wonderful collaborators who helped me bring it to life.
NL: What was it like working as a set dresser in Hollywood? Any interesting stories or memorable experiences?
HF: It was so rewarding ! When I moved to Los Angeles in summer 2009, I started as a production assistant. After a couple of years, I knew I had to move up and set dressing seemed to be the closest thing to directing. I always knew I wasn’t an office nor a technical person. And as a genre lover, I knew set dressing would help me shape a unique world later on. So I started assisting set designers and art directors in commercials and music videos. The most memorable project was a Jennifer Lopez music video (« going in »). Not so much for the art direction itself (which was hard work) but because it was JLO!! I’m not really star struck. But seeing one of the biggest pop star on earth shaking her marvelous booty in front of a set you worked on was such a trip. When I was fifteen, I used to watch her videos in a local Macdonalds after being kicked out of a class because I was too chatty. And there she was, in front of me, in Hollywood.
NL: What is the film scene like in France these days? What are the current trends and how hard is it to get funding for your projects?
HF: I’m not a huge fan of French cinema cause we don’t have « genre » movies. We only have the choice between boring social movies and stupid comedies. We have an amazing funding system but it’s also a curse. Because French cinema pretty much funds itself, we’re the first movie producer in Europe. But the counter side is that scripts tend to be quickly & poorly written. Especially when the New Wave totally mislead the French movie world to think that any director could write their own stories. So it’s pretty rare to find a movie with a good structure and that has guts . Thankfully, there’s always exceptions. Like Houda Benyamina’s « Divines » or Julia Ducournau’s « Raw ». Now is it hard to get funding in France? Yes and no. Yes because there’s so many projects and you better get lucky. No because there IS money. State money and it’s always « easier » than trying to get a studio approval or personal/crowd funding.
NL: What made you decide to leave Hollywood and return to Paris after your time as a set dresser?
HF: I felt like I was done with my American training. I went to Hollywood to learn the craft but I always knew it was gonna be hard to be a director. Because I didn’t have anyone to back me financially and I had too little connections. My plan was always to learn as much as I can while there and come back to paris for….funding. If Woody Allen did it, why can’t I ? Also because I was tired of the bling bling projects I was working on haha I needed some substance. So I started working for an organization (1000 visages) who help disadvantaged kids from the suburbs get a foot in the movie industry.
NL: How does the final finished version of Please Love Me Forever compare to your original version in your head and on the page?
HF: It was weird to see something that was born in your mind being a physical thing. I couldn’t believe that it all started with...words. I first realized I had fallen in love with the process of filmmaking.There’s so many layers to the film that we had to think step by step : story, characters, costumes, art direction, music. Then I watched it like a painter watches his painting. And I was happy that everything blended together. I was moved by it. Of course, as a director I always see what I could have done better. But then I remember that it’s only my first movie. Was it close to what I imagined originally ? Yes t was. Slightly better even :)
NL: As a debut film, Please Love Me Forever is very impressive. What was the response like and how do you feel know that you have your first film under your belt?
HF: People responded amazingly ! Especially English speaking countries like the US, Canada and Australia. But Latin America also. Which melts my bloody heart haha We won best short film at the Screamfest in Hollywood a few months ago. And seeing the crowd being so enthusiastic about the film despite it being in French was everything. Tarantino said once that making a movie is like climbing a mountain. And I feel like I climbed a little hill with this short. Don’t get me wrong, it was very HARD. But seeing how it’s received makes it all worth while.
NL: Do you have any projects in the work right now that you can share with us?
HF: Of course and I can’t wait ! Another short for this summer. I wanna be as ready as I can for the feature that I’m currently writing and hoping to complete for Christmas 2019. The short is inspired by the winner of the first tv reality in France. A woman called Loana who was a go go dancer and attempted suicide 8 times over the last 17 years. And the feature is about an 8 years old girl who goes in the world of the Dead to bring her father back to life. I wrote the synopsis in 2013 only to find out years later that Pixar was prepping a movie with a similar idea… « COCO ». Saw it twice and it’s amazing, obviously. But luckily, it has nothing to do with my story.
NL: What was the one thing being a woman filmmaker in both Paris and Hollywood that you noticed the most? Did you ever feel at a disadvantage compared to your male counterparts?
HF: Unfortunately, there still is a disadvantage. In paris it’s different because we produce movies with state money so it’s more about the project itself. So there is a bit more women. But in Hollywood it’s much harder. Even if things are changing. Especially with the Weinstein affair. Let’s just hope that sooner or later, movies will be more about talent & skills rather than balls or vaginas, you know.
NL: Seen any good movies lately?
HF: Freaking « Coco », « Get out » » & « Three Bilboards ». God bless American movies.