Best Short 2019

Set in a surface mine, two boys sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer.

Director Jeremy Comte’s heartfelt live action short portrays an innocent power game between two boys that escalates beyond their control. The film is a psychological thriller that places the audience in an isolated world alongside these two rebel-seeking boys. After winning six Oscar-qualifying film awards, it is no surprise that Fauve is nominated for a 2019 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. We’ve had the absolute pleasure to discuss with our fellow Montréal filmmaker and Oscar Nominee Jeremy Comte about his incredible film.

First of all, congratulations on your Oscar Nomination. Was this a surprise for you and are you enjoying the response you are receiving?

Jeremy: Thank you so much! It was a complete surprise. I really tried to keep low expectations , so I am completely over the moon. It’s pretty unbelievable all the love that Fauve has received so far. My goal with this project was always to make the best film within my capacities and the repercussions from it are beyond my expectations. What amazed me the most is that the film has received awards from almost every continent around the world, from professional juries to young student juries and the public. It means a lot to me that it can reach a wide audience. The shortlist is one step closer to a big dream of mine so crossed fingers for the next steps!

One simply can’t make up a story like this, it’s got to come from somewhere, a dream, a personal experience… Tell us how it all came about?

Jeremy: You are so right! Growing up in the countryside, the inspiration for Fauve came from some childhood nightmares I had at that time. These dreams kept visiting me throughout all my life at different moments, where I could recall the emotion and a clear scenery from them, but I didn’t mind them too much. About four years ago, I was running on a small muddy road under a light rain in the countryside and it all came back to me. I knew at this moment I had to make a film out of theses memories, exploring childhood in a raw and authentic way.

The kids, Félix Grenier and Alexandre Perreault are just enormous in telling the story. Their rawness tells me they are not trained actors, which actually makes this film feel all the more realistic.

Jeremy: At first, my casting director Victor T.B and I started to cast young actors in Montreal, but they were mostly too ‘proper’ for what we were looking for. Growing up in the countryside, I wanted kids that are used to playing in the outdoors, with a “rough around the edges” kind of energy. We reached out to many schools around the area where we were shooting and auditioned 50 boys. Felix and Alexandre had both a natural charisma and transparency that struck me. Their own personality and their suggestions on the project brought the script to another level and certainly to a more genuine one. I did a lot of rehearsals with the boys before shooting and I let them be free to explore the locations. By observing the way they were interacting between each other and what they would naturally do on location, I rewrote the story. Because it was their first shoot, I ran through the shots with them before end, using my Iphone as a camera and telling them how it would happen with position and movement. They became used of the repetition of many takes during rehearsal. At the end, we mostly had a lot of fun and I could say I became a child for some moments.

The translation for “Fauve” is wild and uninhabited, we can certainly see the connection to it, but what made you stick to that title?

Jeremy: It was hard to translate the title in English honestly because the word Fauve has multiple meanings in French. First off, it means wildcats or beast which I found to be appropriate with the two boys and the tone of the film. Even in French, we can call kids Fauve when they are pranksters. I wanted an almost aggressive and primitive sounding word. Second, it is also a specific color, which is close to a burnt orange. That color ties together two strong symbols in the film. And finally, the art current Fauvism where painters used to portray vivid countryside landscapes, brings us to the last scene of the film. That specific scene was pretty much inspired by Fauvism.

The setting and landscape in this film is quite magnificent, it almost takes on a character of its own. I didn’t even know such landscape existed in Québec. How did you find the surface mine? And was the location exactly what you had in mind? Or did you have to adjust the script or vision once you came across it?

Jeremy: I knew the main location was a surface mine, but didn’t know any location like the one I had in mind. So I went on “Google map” satellite and start searching around Montreal. Then, I scout with my producers the ones that seemed interesting. At the end of the day, we stumbled into this magnificent surface mine and I was jumping like a kid. It was so perfect for the main actions of the film so we knew right away it was this one. However, at first, the opening scene of the film was with the boys playing around old abandoned cars. It happened that there was abandoned trains beside that same quarry. It was really meant to be. So I rewrote the beginning of the film to adjust to this new location.

How did you create the sinking sand in a safe way, and how did you convince the kinds to go in up to their necks?

Jeremy: We worked really hard with a special effect supervisor for a long time to find the right way to do it. We ended up, digging a small hole in the ground and strengthening it with wood, then filling it with oatmeal to bring a nice dirt texture. The deepest that Alexandre could go, really was up to his waist, so he had to fake the rest. There was a stunt and medic on set, and Alexandre was attached with ropes, just to reassure everybody, but really there was no risk. The illusion seemed very real. The real problem was that it was cold inside, so we took Alexandre’s temperature after every take and we had to stop at one point because he was getting too cold.

Merci Jeremy, on est tous derrière toi et on espère bien te voir sur le podium des Oscars. Bonne chance!

Jeremy: Merci énormément