Many industries have gone through hell since the beginning of the pandemic and many people have lost their jobs. The movie industry, for example, is still going through a rough patch due to the closing of many theatres. However, directors continue to work very hard to make movies, and even if the whole experience of going to the movies is currently on pause, it has still paid off. Two weeks ago, Jean-Philippe Duval, an accomplished director from Québec, received incredible news: his most recent movie 14 jours, 12 nuits starring Anne Dorval has been selected to represent Canada in the “Race to the Oscars” in the category of “Best Foreign Picture. The movie tells the very moving story of a woman spending two weeks in Vietnam to reconnect with her daughter’s biological mother. The film is beautiful, emotional, and successfully captures the particular touch Quebec directors are known for; this little je-ne-sais-quoi that Americans seem to crave. I asked him some questions, which he gladly took time to answer, despite his busy schedule.
Filion: “What was your reaction when you discovered your movie was selected to potentially win an Oscar?”
Duval: “I literally spilled my coffee and fell off my chair. It was so unexpected. To represent not only Quebec, but the entire country in this category is unbelievable. I knew the movie had everything it took to be selected, but I was told the Ontarian movie Funny Boy was the one chosen to participate in the “race”. The reason why my movie was finally selected was that to be in the category, more than 50% of the movie has to be in a foreign language, which is not the case of Funny Boy; most of the movie was in English.”
Filion: “That is so interesting. It is unfortunate for Funny Boy, but fortunate for you because your movie deserves to represent the country in this category more than any other one! Now that you have received the news, what do you have to do to prepare for the Oscars?”
Duval: “Usually, directors selected to participate in the “race” have to fly to Los Angeles and promote their movie so that the majority of the jury sees it. But right now, because of COVID, we can’t. So what I do is I contact everyone I know who has ties in Hollywood and ask them to either interview me or get me into contact with others. For example, right now I am talking to my good friends Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée because they are very popular with the Americans, and as people from Quebec, we like to support each other. I am trying to get them to interview me about my movie and I am also trying to convince Ryan Gosling’s agent to get me into contact with him since he was in Denis’ movie Blade Runner 2049. I am working every day and I do anything to get the jury to see my movie. The term “race” is very correct: it is literally a race and the few ones who win are the ones who made the best impression on the jury in a certain period of time”
It seems almost unbelievable that he knows all these people right? Trust me, as soon as he mentioned those names, my jaw immediately dropped, and yours probably did as well.
Filion: “It must be very overwhelming but exciting doing all those things and working with all those different people. I only have one question left: if you had one piece of advice to give to any student who aspires to be a director one day, what would it be?”
Duval: “That’s a hard question! I actually have three. The first one, the one I give the most, would be to make sure we are passionate about what we want to do. For example, if you are passionate about movies and don’t do it for the money or prestige, you will be happy and you will succeed. Working in the industry is such a hard job: so many people want to pursue a career in cinema and there is a lot of competition. You have to know that this is your passion to be 100% all-in, which brings me to my second advice: you can’t afford to be afraid. Don’t feel like you don’t belong in the industry or that you are useless and others are better than you. When you are afraid, your work doesn’t reflect the potential you could have put in it. This career is not the usual 9 AM to 5 PM job. If you are afraid of uncertainty, this job is not for you. As long as you are confident and passionate, nothing will stop you. My third piece of advice is to leave all the doors open and try everything. To become a director, I first helped with sound, held a camera, served coffee on film sets, worked with the lighting, worked on the decor; I did everything. This job is a job of relationships. You have to create good ties with people, and you must not be afraid to explore all the possibilities. If you do that, it proves that you are passionate.”
Filion: “Wow, these are really great tips, thank you! I hope every student wanting to be like you someday will listen to them. Thank you for your time and I wish you all the luck in your preparation. I really hope you will impress the jury!”
Duval: “Thank you for having me, it was really nice to answer these questions, especially because they come from a student. I wish you good luck in your studies!”
If you want to watch Jean-Philippe’s movie, you can rent it on Illico on Demand!