CAMELIA, an escort with a troubled past, is newly employed at an erotic massage parlour in eastern Montreal. Met coldly by her competitive new colleagues, she struggles to establish a clientele while maintaining her dignity
A tense social drama about the competitive nature of Montreal’s erotic massage parlours. Vétérane (Veteran) takes us behind the tight hallways of the secret parlours into an incredibly intimate experience with an aging escort, Camelia. Shot in french by Pier-Philippe Chevigny, who creates a curious an uneasy tone with rising tensions. The lead character is masterfully played by actress Sandrine Bisson, who also starred in the 2019 Oscar Nominated short Marguerite (recently featured on Film Shortage), taking on an almost opposing role with Camelia’s deep and troubled past.
My film projects all start in a similar way : with research on social issues that interest me. In this case, it was finding out about Montreal’s erotic massage parlour scene. Although it’s a topic lesser known to the general public, estimates say there are close to 200 such parlours hidden in plain sight. I’ve started doing active research, meeting parlour owners, “masseuses” and clients for interviews. The bulk of what was said to me during that research served as material for the script, which eventually focused on ageism and the competitive nature of the industry. I wrote the character of Camelia with Sandrine Bisson in mind, an amazingly talented Quebec actress whose performance in the film is absolutely brilliant.
One of the film’s particularities besides its unique setting is its filming method, shot with several long one-take shots with an up close and tight framing. This creates the rather personal and discomforting tone placing us right at the helm of Camelia’s worriment.
The film was shot on the lightweight Arri Alexa Mini. Save for a few exceptions, every scene is shot in a single take with long over-the-shoulder travellings and we knew we needed something lightweight to navigate those tight corridors. Shooting those scenes were the biggest challenges, as everything needed to be tightly choreographed. We rehearsed for several days with the actors and the DP to make sure it all went according to plan.