‘Every time cinema is a surprise for me’

/Interview by Natalia Dukhovnikova/

Léonore Calles is a young promising French filmmaker. She has just graduated from her master’s degree in Scriptwriting & Directing in Paris but has already created a staggering movie «Morsure» (Bite). Cinema attracts her with its fantastic universes that deploy a particular aesthetic. We talked to Léonore about the ideas she has in her mind and found out how to realize in reality things born in your imagination.

Every movie
for me

Léonore Calles

How did the idea of the film “Bite” come to your mind? What was your inspiration?

At that time I was very affected by all sorts of issues around the flesh and the body. It was after the period of adolescence and the fact that your body is changing. So it was kind of a strange feeling for me because, with the appearance of illnesses and diseases that you can have when you grow up, I was struck by the fact that my body cannot own me and what kind of entity escapes from me. And that’s why I did this movie – to show what it’s like to have the fear of losing your body and the kind of attraction you can develop after being in this kind of position.

So I put that feeling in a story of a young girl – J – who wants to create music but she cannot do that because of some reasons. Her companion is a singer and she can’t sing anymore. But J can’t do anything without her, without her voice. Obsessed with her, J does everything she can to make her sing again. She goes crazy because of the pressure she’s under, between the manager who presses her to return the jingle for the steak commercial, the humiliation, the fear of loneliness and the impossibility of grasping her way. To be honest, there is no explicit summary of the story because we can say that it’s like schizophrenia, hallucinations. Throughout the movie we see two characters but in the end, there is just one of them. What has happened? That’s the question.

What emotion did you want to evoke in the audience with your film?

I think the principal emotions are anguish and compassion. For me, in this character, there is also a lot of pity. But I know, it is not easy to feel it. 

What were the main difficulties during the filming process?

Obviously parts with filming meat. It was real meat and all those long hours of shooting did their job for it. The smell was really frustrating. And my poor actress had to repeat each scene several times. Spoiled meat could be even dangerous for her health. She was really devastated. 

Captions from «Morsure» (Bite)

As you said in the description of your movie, you are very interested in fantastic and horrific films, seen through the prism of madness and psychological anguish. Why do these types of cinema attract you? 

I admit that when I was a little girl and was discovering cinema I loved horror pictures. But of course, my family didn’t accept that. I saw them secretly. And during watching horror films, I felt something that I never felt in other movies. At that time my imagination was inspired by dark things. But I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite genre nowadays. Although every time I tell stories I express fair and something dark but of course, it’s exaggerated.

You have just graduated from your master’s degree in Scriptwriting & Directing at the École Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle in Paris. Tell more about this course and how has studying influenced your vision?

In that school, I was the head of my class and therefore I had lots of opportunities. I’m happy to have had this experience but honestly, people who I’ve met there gave me even more than studying itself. There I learned how to work collectively. During my previous studies in literary preparatory class, I was so self-oriented and did everything alone so this new way of working was quite unusual for me. Every time I talked to new people it was like discovering another world, another point of view that was unknown to me before. And it felt great. One more amazing thing about that studying was that we had to watch lots of movies and created various projects. And I think it’s the best way to learn to film.

Do you want to study more? 

I am not sure. Previously, I thought that a school can give you this access to the film world, to any professional world. But now I know that it’s more difficult to get started in a career when you are just a beginner even if you have graduated from school. You start with a very low point. And I think that the only way to grow is to make yourself and try to become somebody in the film industry by passing through every stage of the profession. 

The onset photos of shooting «Morsure» (Bite)

Do you plan to join any French cinema company for work?

Yes, I’d love to but there are not so many places now and it’s very difficult to find anything serious because of the covid. The film community is very selective and everyone who wants to be part of it has to work hard on his portfolio and projects. And now I’m working on that, preparing my scripts and presentations for them. And after my portfolio is ready, I will send it to every production community that might accept the project. 

And what is your favorite part in the film production?

I like everything connected to filmmaking. I like to write because it gives me the time to work alone. But being on set is also very interesting because there I can get various points of view and collective creation. But at the same time, it’s more difficult. You have to be a leader, to listen to people, to remember about the time and things you have to do. It’s an enormous pressure. 

However, it’s real magic being on set. When actors play perfectly and you have a good shot, it’s such an amazing feeling. All these efforts cause magical minutes. It’s just a great moment. 

Why did you decide to become a director?

I always wanted to do something that would let me express myself, tell what I see in the world, my vision. I was a dreamy girl in my childhood. All the time I drew and wrote. I also watched lots of movies, falling in love with some genres and directors, like David Lynch. For me, cinema was the best art. Cinema simultaneously connects picture, sound, writing, and people and that’s what I love about it. There is always something unexpected in filming. Things are never the same. Ultimately, shots and stills are never the same as you were waiting for them to be, as you imagined them. They are always better. For me, cinema is a kind of surprise every time. And it’s very satisfying. 

Captions from «Morsure» (Bite)

Why did you decide to submit your film “Bite” to various film festivals?

Because one day you have to do that if you are working in the film industry. I wanted to share my project with others. I don’t create my films for myself only. I find film festivals a great opportunity to find out the value of my work.

You are playing the second character in “Bite”. Would you like to make an acting career?

Definitely not. It’s too much for me to be an actress and a director at the same time. It was awful for me to be playing on a set. I didn’t have control and got crazy. It felt like my project was going away from me. I like directing and writing more. For me, acting is a bigger risk than writing, for example. Every time the camera is on I feel completely naked and lost, not able to do anything organically. But when I direct, I feel confident. 

In your opinion, should every movie be filled with serious ideas?

I think that there is no movie without an idea. Even a funny and silly comedy has its idea. You should know that making a comedy is a very serious job. People who are working on them are not funny. They are serious and passionate about their job. Every movie is great in its genre even if it isn’t filled with serious questions. 

The onset photos of shooting «Morsure» (Bite)

Talking about your first serious project “La trace”, what is the idea of it? Why are all those people running after the main character?

I was thinking about a society that always makes rules for everyone. Everything unusual and untypical is not acceptable in it. My character was one of those with a perfect house, suit, and lifestyle. All his life he didn’t want to attract anyone’s attention or leave a trace after himself. But one day he starts to leave footprints wherever he goes. And now everybody can follow him. Because it’s logical to see something strange, like bright footprints, and to follow it with the aim to find out what it is. People want to stop the man who does something not normal. And only the lady looks at this guy without judgment. She is just curious. She is the only one who has compassion for him.

What country attracts you with its style of cinematography?

I’m open to all films. Seriously, I like every movie from every country. I like when the movie reveals something about myself, the world that surrounds me. I like films that change my point of view and make me feel different experiences of life. Every movie for me is life. 

What direction would you like to choose in film production, what genre of movies?

It’s a thing that you don’t anticipate. When you like cinema but you don’t make movies, you don’t know what you are as a director. I discovered myself through two short movies and realized that I am among those creators who love dark, abstract, horrific, and conceptual stories. But at the same time, I don’t want to be classified. I want to stay independent and create various things. I hope that through my career I will change my direction from horror movies to something absolutely different. 


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