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Directed by: Emmanuel Tenenbaum
Cast: Abraham Lewis, Vincent Regan, Packy Lee, Bally Gill
Synopsis: A London stockbroker with a bad track record makes the bet of his life when New York's World Trade Center is attacked on 9/11. Inspired by a true story.
Freefall is based on an excerpt from the book “Swimming with Sharks” by Dutch writer Joris Luyendijk. In adapting a literary work to the screen, what elements of the tale do you focus on?
Swimming with Sharks is an extraordinary documentary book depicting the inside world of the London financial district. At some point, an anecdote of 100 words caught our attention, but in order to transform it into a 20 minute film, we tried to keep the “essence” of the original story, while allowing ourselves to invent as many elements as possible for the context. The symbolic meaning of the story is intended in the film but also the atmosphere of the City, its hierarchy, and its codes.
Why did you decide to tell a 9/11 story from the point-of-view of investment bankers? Is greed a guilty vice or virtue?
Actually, we did not decide to tell a 9/11 story from the point-of-view of investment bankers. We decided to make a film about investment bankers in the context of 9/11. It could have been another dramatic event, but we found 9/11 to be the most symbolic and telling. It was possible because it is based on a true story. The world is fully financialized, and through this story, we can see a little bit better how it works. As for the question of greed, we simply wanted to show that although Gordon Gecko and his peers may find it “good,” it does come at a very expensive price.
The cast is superb and as an ensemble, they seem to blend effortlessly. Tell us about the casting process. What's the trick to making individual actors with divergent styles work so cohesively together?
The work of Abraham, Vincent, Packy and Bally still amazes me up to this day. For a short film, you normally don't get access to world class actors like them. But we got extremely lucky to get the support from casting directors Sophie Holland & Faye Timby, whose work was simply incredible. They understood the script deeply, and made extremely relevant propositions. We tried to actually make sure they DID have divergent styles because this is how a real office would be. Believe it or not, the cast met the night before the shoot, and we had less than 30 minutes of rehearsal together. But they came so prepared and understanding their characters, that they blended instantly without any effort.
The dialogue in Freefall is crackling. Screenwriters are often overlooked. Tell us about your working relationship with Guillaume Fournier and how the end result is so effective.
Screenwriters are criminally overlooked! They are not only essential to the film, they literally create it. I think their lack of recognition is so unfair. Guillaume and I have been working together for several years now and we did three short films together and we are planning to make our feature together. Usually, we first agree on a story we both want to tell and design a rough structure. Then Guillaume starts to write by himself and I'm always impressed by the first draft he offers: organic and full of creativity. It's always excellent. After that we usually have review rounds together. My work is more the one of a script editor while Guillaume improves the parts we agreed on. It probably works well because we're so different. Guillaume has a very inventive mind, able to write organically and independently. My feedback is more analytical, focused on the details, like an engineer. We're super happy to work together.
How did you create the look of the film from a cinematography standpoint?
We got very lucky to receive the support of the veteran French cinematographer Antoine Roch. With his 60+ feature films, you can imagine his experience was much, much bigger than mine. We had very limited time to shoot (4 and ½ days) so Antoine offered an efficient way of shooting it. But yet we decided to make “one dream shot a day.” That way the film could be both efficient and beautiful. Réginald Gallienne was the colorist and made wonderful proposals to give the film a look from the early 2000s. The process was flawless and very nice.
This is a 9/11 story from a non-American point of view. Is there a difference between American and European story-telling and how would you describe it?
Actually, in Europe we sometimes get criticized by some people because they feel the film is “too American” in its form! It is a thriller, after all. But it also has a certain rawness, with a strong will to look where no one wants to — that's the way Europeans make films. In that regard, we feel it's a true mix between both continents. Given that Guillaume is North American and I'm European, maybe that all makes sense.