Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Hi, I’m Maëlle, and my nickname is Nora. I think what drove me towards filmmaking is my love for writing. I’ve been crafting stories since I was old enough to hold a pen. I was writing my first novel at the age of 12 when I felt like the words I was using where too poor to describe what I wanted to show, what I wanted my reader to feel. So I started borrowing my parents’ phones and directing my friends in little short films that I would then edit with Windows Live Movie Maker. I was having so much fun and I never stopped since then.
Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?
Tune In When You Get Home is a student film that I directed for my second year of film school. To say that we faced many challenges would be an understatement: we had no budget offered by the school so we had to find our own. We made the film with merely 1500 euros. Moreover, the story happens in France and the actors are English. During COVID times (borders closed, uncertainty…) we never knew if we were going to be able to make this film come true. Although, I think I never learned as much as I did with Tune In When You Get Home. How to be a director, how to direct actors, interact with the different departments on set and how to make a vision come true to the screen with very little means.
What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?
I’d like to give you a well-crafted, deep answer, but to be honest I think telling stories is what I do best, or what I only feel like doing. I hope to inspire people around me like other writers, actors and directors have inspired me and made me the person that I am. I want to tell stories to give birth to characters people can relate to and lean on. I’d like to create hope and truth for those who watch or read what I do. My themes revolve around friendship, impossible love, strong, complex female characters who desire multiple things, grief and belonging. Being English and being French. The coming-of-age or dark academia set ups, with young characters determined to make things happened or challenged to.
Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?
Ideas strike at different moments, usually when I’m living something. Lorde, the singer, is one of the artist I feel the closest to. She says she needs breaks between her albums to go out and live her life, so she can come back and write stories. I’d say I am the same, taking glimpses of my own experiences and crafting them into ideas, sentences, a poem or a picture, that I capture within my phone’s notes or on paper. Then setting comes in mind: the atmosphere, the colors and relationships dynamic between names-less characters. From then, the words start to flow. I let my characters live on paper, I see how they talk, craft what would make them unique. It’s only after these first drafts that I find my theme, the goal of my protagonist, and what will challenge them on the way. I love moodboards (I spend too much time on pinterest) and music. Before my story can exist, I need to visually sketch it through aesthetics and images.
Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?
This question might be many filmmakers’ nightmares, at least it’s mine, because I often forget half of my influences. I’d name John Hughes and its 1980s furiously funny teenage films, Greta Gerwig, the quirkiness and cruelty of Sofia Coppola’s work, the cinematography of Euphoria by Levinson, the books of Donna Tartt, E. Lockhart, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Françoise Sagan, Savannah Brown, the Brontë sisters, the songs of Halsey and Lorde. Recently, anything scandalous like House of Gucci, Last Night in Soho. Series wise, I am obsessed with Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, and entertaining fantasy such as Stranger Things, Game of Thrones and Locke & Key… The list would be long, but where poetic cinematography, longing and young angry characters live, I dig my inspiration.
How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?
From my perspective, I’d say the industry is evolving in many ways, first in regards for women in films reclaiming their rights and voices, alongside the massive changes Tiktok and short content is bringing to the table. In terms of COVID, people learned to lean into their creativity differently. We’re now lucky to be able to interact with anyone anywhere. Thanks to that, during lockdowns, my crew and I were able to do the entire production of Tune In When You Get Home from a distance.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?
I feel like I’m still an aspiring artist myself but I’d say to just go for it. Better to try than to dream of trying. If you’re an artist, keep creating. Either as a hobby, a part-time job or a full time career, all that matters is that you keep creating however it feels right to you. Follow your instincts, the themes and issues that touch you and avoid listening to people’s opinion too much when it comes to what your story should be about. However, follow some rules and advice from the biggest artists in the industry: they know what they’re talking about.
Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?
Yes!!! It is part of our education, our beliefs. For example, we perceive love the way we do through the films we’re watching, the books we’re reading… Anything we consume shapes us. Films and stories have this responsibility.
What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?
A lot of people seem to go towards entertainment and “easy to watch” programs. I don’t blame them. I feel like most people need comfort these days, but tastes change very quickly.
Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
I am working on my graduation film. Home Sweet Home, following the journey of a French girl in a post-Brexit England. It’s another coming-of-age with a twist of scandal and film industry insights. We are shooting at the end of August 2022 and the crew and cast is ready and complete. I am very excited to direct this project, in which I’ll also play the lead.
The film I wrote and co-directed in my first year of film school: This Link