Interview: Stéphane Réthoré director of 300 000 km per second

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300 000 kilometre / seconde is a crowd-funded short that’s currently making the festival rounds to positive reviews.  It plants itself pretty firmly in the action/adventure and science fiction genres and the film making team behind it are looking to expand the story into a full blown feature and maybe even a series.  The film’s title comes from the measurement for the speed of light and the theory that breaking the light speed barrier could allow for things like time travel.  The story is time travel related as you might then guess and well, watch the film below and then read the spoiler filled interview that might just fill in some of the questions you’re sure to have after watching. One of mine being “tell me more about this feature version…”

The film is in French, but the CC button has several subtitle options, including English.

 


 

A Quick Interview with director Stéphane Réthoré

Q: Tell us about your background and how you got into filmmaking…

A: I spent more than 20 years watching films on TV, VHS and DVDs…
Then I could not keep all this images and stories in my head without doing something too: I had to try telling stories myself.
Just like every young director I guess, I tried a few things with old cameras. My favourite was an old Super8 which I think is much better than digital cameras to learn how to make a movie because you only have a 3 minutes of film, so you really have to think about what you’re going to do!
Then I directed some fake commercials (for iPhone, Xbox, etc…) to practice again and to tell stories in a very quick way: I thought if you can tell something in 30 or 40 seconds, then maybe you can try something longer.
I put them online and people seemed to like it. I had to take the next step: a short film. 300 000 KILOMETERS PER SECOND is my first one.

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Q: Talk about “300,000 km/sec”; your short film and about the project’s inception. Where did the idea come from and why did you feel you needed to tell this particular story?

A: For a long time, I had this idea about a manhunt with time travel. I kept this in the back of my head without knowing what to do with it. Then when I arrived in Paris 5 years ago, I just found what I was looking for: it was the perfect place for my idea to become real. I discovered Paris by night with its narrow and damp alleys, its specific pavement in the streets, etc… and looking at the architecture I just thought: why couldn’t it be the 50’s or even the 30’s? In some districts here, nothing has changed since this era, so if you go in those streets between 3AM and 6AM, you can easily imagine you are in a different time. This was my first true time travelling.
I felt something much more different about Paris than what people usually say: for me this is not a romantic city: it is a Film Noir city!
Everything goes with it.
Now I knew my story had to be told in the 50’s in Paris, I began to read a lot of novels and short stories, especially thrillers and fantasies.
Then I contacted Sylvain Blanchot, a novelist and screenwriter, because I ‘ve read some of his work and I like it a lot, to ask him if he would be interested to work with me on this one.

300MKS 02 Lacroix shoot 02Q: You’re hoping to create a TV series based on this short film and you made the movie in part as a pitch for the full series. As a pitch idea, what are the key things you felt you had to touch on in this shorter format?

A: Actually it is not necessarily for a TV series. This short film is a pilot for a feature film. But we are not against the idea of turning it to a TV series.
This pilot is 18 minutes long and we had a lot of things to put in it.
First the mood of the story, this was the most important thing. I had to work hard on the look of this “first part” because I had to bring people in it and… never let them go away!
Even if it’s a short film, I had to make something big not just for fun: because this story asks for it. When you want to make a time period film, you have to be careful on lots of things and details otherwise your film could really look like crap.
Every detail is important to make the audience believe in what they see.
Even if you don’t have much money – and it was my case.
So the mood was important, but we had also a few minutes to present the main characters: Lucien Lacroix, scientist and hero of the film, and this mysterious Organisation. Then we had of course to put in the full story plot which we understand only what it will be at the end of the short film: “A manhunt through time”.

Q: How big are you planning to for the bigger piece?  How epic does this story get?

A: I think we can say: EPIC with capital letters!
Seriously, the story is really huge. More than we honestly thought it would be at the beginning of this project. We’ve written the first version of the treatment. And for now the story is about 2 and a half hour. But we are working on the second version and we see that it could be much longer. Every day we work on it, we discover that the story is bigger than the day before, it reveals itself day after day which I think is pretty rare…And very exciting.

Q: What would you want to cover in terms of theme for the rest of the story?

A: Sylvain (screenwriter) said a few things about it: “The film raises several questions: should we prevent the progress of science for fear of the consequences it could produce? Is it the technology that is dangerous or those who have it?
And more globally, who has the power and the right to choose for others?”
I would add that we put things to be developed later in the full version. Some details that could seem unnoticed but which are very important, just like: what really is this secret world Organisation? What is this strange jewel in the time travelling watch? Who is Lucien Lacroix’s father? *SPOILER* How the Organisation know about Lucien arriving in 2037? And finally, of course: how will Lucien escape from this new situation? *END SPOILER*
The main idea of 300 000 KILOMETERS PER SECOND is that if you want to change things, you’ll have to face the consequences.

Q: Will this be an ensemble piece or does the plot revolve around our lone scientist (Lacroix)?

A: Let’s say Lucien is always at the center of the story but it’s getting bigger in a various ways: the story takes place in different countries in Europe just like France (of course), but also Belgium, Switzerland, etc… It will also be a lot of other new characters. And just like you can imagine: this story will take place in different periods of time.

300MKS 06 Bauchamp shoot 01Q: Time travel is a fun concept, but also a difficult genre to tackle in terms of the high possibility of plot holes. How much have you worked out your particular stories internal logic where time travel is concerned?

A: True. Time travel is always tricky. You have to deal with things like temporal paradoxes or parallels realities and it could quickly go very complicated. You have to build some rules about it so you can refer to when you hesitate between different directions during the writing.
To give a simple example: with Sylvain, we decided the time machine in 300 000 KILOMETERS PER SECOND can allow you to travel in time but not in space. So we have to stick with it. It would be too easy to change the rules of the game according to the different events of the story.
When you work on a time travel story, you just have to do one mistake for everything to fall apart so you have to pay attention to all aspects.
Dealing with time travel could be dangerous in real life, but it’s also dangerous in the writing process!
Sylvain took a long time at the beginning of the project creating a big timeline with dates for all major events and main characters. During last months when the story got bigger, this document became very complicated to understand for outsiders!

Q: Would time travel play a bigger role in the larger narrative or is it used simply as a fantastical “vehicle” to move your characters from one point to another?

A: Time travel is very important in the story. I’m always very disappointed when I watch films or series that just considered it as a detail, because it is really fascinating and it’s also a wonderful tool. It’s difficult to apprehend but you can do something great with it.
Just like Sylvain said about the themes earlier: one of the main ones is the control of the society. In George Orwell’s 1984, you have this famous quote: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” This book was part of our main influences, and let us imagine what we can do adding time travel with this idea…
In the story, every main character tries to change reality, at different levels. And because of its great possibilities, time travel was for us the best way to do this.

Q: You’ve received accolades from festivals and contests where you’ve screened the short which is great, but I’m also interested to know if you’ve received any criticism that has made you think about changes you could make to the series.

A: Yes, for the past year 300 000 KILOMETRES / SECONDE got more than 30 selections in international festivals and won 5 prizes (Best Short Film, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, etc.) but I also received a few criticisms and I agree with most of them.
For example some parts in this short are a bit too calm, too gentle. It would have been better if it had been a little darker. It was my goal to begin the story in a conventional way and to use classical codes but now I know it was too classical. That’s what I’m working on now for the feature (or series).
But the main criticism I received is that the film looks like a big teaser.
Which was my goal too of course. It is a short story but also the pilot for a longer story, so during the writing we had to deal with both sides and to make some choices.
I also want to change a lot of other things when I see the short now, but you know what it is about: you always see things you want to improve when everything is already done!

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Q: What is the current status in terms of getting the feature film produced?

A: It is only the beginning: the short has now been available for a few days on Vimeo and we hope to gain as much exposure as possible from it to make this project known.
We already had such great feedback from all over the world that we know people would enjoy the whole story.
Next step will be to meet some producers to speak about how this great story can be told. I’m thinking about a co-production between different countries or between Europe and USA. I think it could be a great idea for this particular project.
Everywhere we go, people always tell us the same two things: “It has a lot of potential” and “We want to know what happens next.”
So I think we have to trust them!

Q: How can fans and viewers help support your efforts to realize this new series?

A: I deeply believe that nowadays audience know what they want, and that they have to be involved in the process of making a film.
That’s how this project began: we raised money through crowdfunding. We originally aimed to raise the money in 90 days, and we got enough after 12 days! It proves how involved people are in this project.
So to fans and viewers I would say: Watch, share, speak about it, write about it. We need you to make 300 000 KILOMETERS PER SECOND happen !

Much thanks much for the interview Stéphane. Best of luck with future projects. Folks, I’ve said this before, but it’s a great time in history to be a geek.  Here’s to more fan related works making it off the drawing board.

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