All Photos The Golden Age, Belle Époque Films
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 4/24/2021 –
When did you discover your passion for acting?
I discovered my passion for acting at an early age, I could not help but use my spare time after school to create some little plays and shows that I would force my family to attend whenever there was a celebration (laughs). When I turned 13, I undertook the film and theatre courses at the Cours Florent in Paris aside of school, and learned acting techniques for a good few years there. Then, I suddenly decided to pack my luggage and pursue my acting education in LA, at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In my debut period drama The Golden Age, I play the lead, Angèle Devaux, a tribute to all females who bring change. She’s the symbol of the strong, driven female artist who fully commits to her artistic projects, rather than pursuing her own personal success. She never gives up and always supports her partners when working on a project. When she meets a Franco-American producer in the 60s at the beginning of the film, in Paris, anything could happen. She has been growing up in Saint-Tropez at an early age and carries the authenticity and passion Tropezians have for art and supporting artists from various backgrounds. She’s a tribute to them and to all the wonderful women in the 60s who fought to bring the change we are enjoying until now, even if the fight for equality is obviously always on.
We need more Angèle in our world! For me as an actor, it’s been a huge honor to pay tribute through her to all actors and more generally artists who are struggling to change the world. I named Angèle after my great grandmother, whose name was « Devaux ». Paying tribute to the great women in our world, past and present, is I believe a great stepping stone to shape our future.
The Golden Age | Trailer | Jenna Suru | Sebastien Cipolla
What genres interest you?
As a director, I make films about artists struggling with acceptance of their roles in the world. I pay tribute to artists who spread a message for change, and love films with a message for our planet, social advocacy, or any major message for change. My inspirations are coming both from American and European backgrounds: Directors include Maïwenn, Mélanie Laurent, François Truffaut, and Damien Chazelle. I love music in films and have been very inspired by Damien Chazelle since I saw Whiplash. I named the male character in The Golden Age ‘Sebastian’, after Ryan Gosling’s character in La La Land. I’d love to get to work with him, Emma Stone, and Damien Chazelle in the future. They are a huge inspiration to me. Damien Chazelle’s execution and the way he works with music in his films are mind-blowing. I love the same films he loves, including Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. As we are building a new normal for the future, finding inspiration in our history, from such masterpieces, is very inspiring. At the Paris International Film Festival I run, we welcome all genres, from romantic comedy to period drama and genre films. For the recent edition, we screened the environmental documentary Kiss The Ground, narrated by Woody Harrelson, for its International Premiere, also Bad Candy, a horror film hitting 400 theaters in the USA later this year, directed by Desiree Connell and Scott Hansen. Championing such an eclectic selection of brilliant films for change as well as their filmmakers is extremely rewarding.
Tell us about your debut feature film L’AGE D’OR – THE GOLDEN AGE.
The Golden Age (“L’Âge d’Or”) is my debut period drama I have written, produced, and star in. The film follows the exploits of a French theatre actress and Franco-American producer as they make their way through 1960’s Los Angeles, Paris, and the bohemian hot-spot Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. The Golden Age is the last drama to shoot at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral before it suffered fire damage in 2019… the film provides a beautifully nostalgic look at 1960’s France, complete with a soundtrack featuring legends such as Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed.
Saint-Tropez was a major inspiration to me as a filmmaker to create The Golden Age (“L’Âge d’Or”). Discovering this village that used to be a small fishing harbor and then became this internationally famous point of gathering, has touched my heart. It’s a village-like none other. Where such great artists from the UK, the US, and over the world gathered to create masterpieces. Such films as God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot were filmed there.
The Golden Age was screened at the latest physical edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which was a great achievement, not only because of the fame of the Festival and its Marché but also because I love Cannes for many reasons. It is one of the cities on the French Riviera, the film pays tribute to. The Golden Age sold out the Opening Night of the London Independent Film Festival in March 2020 shortly before the pandemic outbreak in Europe. This Opening Night and the Best Female-Director Feature Award it won felt so very special. It was also the European Premiere of the film, and tremendously echoed the situation we were living everywhere around the globe – the need for change and solidarity as we were heading into the pandemic. It was like the film was suddenly put in an even deeper perspective, because of all the events we were heading into.
What made this film so special?
I created The Golden Age for 2 main reasons: to pay tribute to the World-Changing charms of 60s Saint-Tropez, and encourage people to change the world on their own scale. It is important to me that the audience can experience this magical 60s Douce France atmosphere, through the music and 35 exceptional locations. The Golden Age also suggests some ideas of how you too can bring change, which is a tough journey that sometimes requires putting aside your own personal success. The Beatles perfectly exemplify how artists managed to bring change in the 60s. For instance, when they refused to perform in front of a segregated audience in the city of Jacksonville, FL in September of 1964.
The Golden Age touches on many universal themes: not only art and the fight for change but also feminism, which is an essential topic of the film seen through the character of artistic pioneer, Angèle. The movie also tackles some other important themes like mental health, suicide awareness, and the fine line between friendship & love. The Golden Age shows how far characters are willing to go to change that world in which they don’t fit in, and the sacrifices they are ready to make to achieve this dream.
“The Golden Age”, Q&A, London IFF 2020 Opening Night Gala, with Director Actor Jenna Suru
Your company Belle Époque Films, has produced the sold-out Los Angeles Premiere of Happy, published by Samuel French. Tell us about your successes.
It was extremely rewarding for me to take the risk of producing the LA Premiere of Happy, a brilliant play written by Robert C. Caisley, published by Samuel French. From the first read, I was convinced this play would be successful and a great asset to my company Belle Époque Films. As a result, the Los Angeles Premiere of Happy sold out and received the most fantastic reviews. This all happened in the first six months of Belle Époque Films and was the beginning of a wonderful adventure – the company turned six years old earlier this year!
On the distribution side of things, after working at Gaumont and SND in France, and with about 200 Festivals on 5 continents, I worked on kickstarting Canneseries alongside MIPTV, in particular, the In Development Forum, which has been a huge success since its first edition in April 2018. The Festival has only been growing these past 3 years, and we’re again hosting the upcoming edition in October under a hybrid model, to enable everyone to join from the safe comfort of home. Canneseries and MIPTV are such a fantastic team to work with, besides it’s a blast to be championing top series and their creators.
When I opened Belle Époque Films in January 2015, aside from Happy, I produced 2 European films. The first film was The Bigger Picture, a romantic drama filmed in London on 35 mm with an Academy Award Nominated DP which stars Robert Sheehan (for those binge-watching Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix!). The second film was Spitball, financed by the Northern Ireland Screen and starring Elliot Cowan and Shauna Macdonald.
You are also serving on the Jury of Cinequest and Columbus IFF. Tell us more.
I am very honored I have been serving on the Jury of Cinequest for the recent Documentary Competition, with Festival Alumnus Nicole Jones and Megan Huggins at Gravitas Ventures. The 14 feature documentaries in the competition are outstanding, and I would like to congratulate Holly Tuckett, who picked up the Best Documentary Award this year at the Festival. Big thanks to her for making such an essential, meaningful documentary about female firefighters, their achievements protecting America’s wildlands, and struggles. Alex Liu picked up the Audience Documentary Award for A Sexplanation, a positive reflection on how we approach sex in America. It has been an incredibly inspiring edition on all levels, every minute of it has been a joy. I am thankful to Michael Rabehl, Director of Programming & Associate Director, for having me a part of such an innovative, high-end Festival.
As for the 69th edition of the Columbus International Film & Animation Festival, it took place both physically in drive-ins in Ohio and virtually this month. Cristyn Steward and the Festival Team have been achieving an impressive challenge, organizing such a wonderful hybrid event in these challenging times. I have had the most wonderful time watching their unique selection of films and speaking on their panel about Women in Film. Columbus IFAF is the first festival to have honored The Golden Age, and I was just as honored to return as a humble Juror for the Feature Competitions of this year’s Festival.
Your current project is with the Paris City Official mini-series. What led you to this project?
I am honored I was chosen by Paris City Official to perform in Renaissance Résilience Résistance, the commemorative mini-series honoring the 76th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris. We’ve been filming at the Paris Hôtel de Ville, respecting social distancing. I was so very touched that Paris City chose me to perform this text alongside wonderful actors as Mathilde Seigner and Alix Bénézech, whom I admire very much, and on the National Anthem. Paying tribute is such an important responsibility for us producers and artists, we have a voice and our audiences count on us to spread these important messages. You can tune in on Paris City Official website for the broadcasting of this episode and of the 12 others who retrace this momentous page of our History.
As a Festival preview to the recent edition of the Paris International Film Festival I run, it was very humbling for us to pay tribute to all who bring change in these transitional times. At Paris IFF, we highlight films inspired by change, by filmmakers from all over the world. Last February, aside from the International premiere of Kiss The Ground, the environmental documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson, which stars Patricia Arquette and Jason Mraz, the Festival premiered Cream, the modern and romantic tale by Nora Lakos, recently acquired by HBO.
We’re proud that as we’re achieving ambitious international projects, we’re also championing change in our industries, with the support of our amazing filmmakers and partners such as Filmocracy, Scriptation, and WeAudition.
Why does this mean so much to you?
Regardless of the project, I am working on, there is a goal I pursue in all I do: activism. Before the pandemic, I directed The Sparkling Homes, a short documentary I filmed in New Delhi to highlight the homeless children twisting their fate and entering top universities. Like the characters in The Golden Age, my goal is to change the world on my own scale. Behind the camera, I promote environmentally friendly cinema through the #FilmGreen movement. With the support of the Paris International Film Festival, I am working to educate our audience about an environmentally friendly production process, both in front of and behind the camera. One of the challenges of The Golden Age was making it in an eco-friendly way. Working with an eco set has been a wonderful experience and the result is so very rewarding now that the Film is Ecoprod certified. Some of our film partners like the mythical Byblos Hotel even have their own sustainable Chart and eco-friendly restaurant, which is a very exciting achievement.
They are both actresses I admire very much and beautiful people. Mathilde Seigner was filming her episode (each actor or actress performs as the lead in one episode of the series) right after me on the same day, a very powerful scene. As for Alix Bénézech, she stars in Alice In Paris TV series, produced by Tastemade, which was awarded Best TV Series at the Paris International Film Festival, and recently picked up by Hulu. I had the honor to perform in “Renaissance Résilience Résistance” commemorative mini-series directed by Laurent Bellini, thanks to Quentin Delcourt, who immediately thought of me to act alongside extraordinary actresses and actors, such as Mathilde and Alix: François Vincentelli, Alice Dufour, Mike Fédée, Paul Gomérieux, Amanda Scott and Magaajyia Silberfeld. The most touching part for me is that the episode I perform in is the one about the Liberation of Paris itself, which features the French National Anthem « La Marseillaise », performed by the Chœur de l’Armée française conducted by Lieutenant-Colonelle Aurore Tillac. It was almost unnecessary to act, because of the strong emotion I felt, paying tribute to such a major page of our History. It is an immense honor to commemorate all those who fought to forge our history and bring us a better future. It is also for me as an artist an inspiration to keep making films that celebrate artists who fight for change.
Can you share a favorite scene?
All the scenes of the mini-series are so moving and pay tribute to a different page of the Liberation. If I had to mention only one, Mathilde Seigner’s reading of Roger’s letter he wrote to his fiancée on his last day is extremely moving. It is the type of performance that leaves you speechless, full of strength, and more thankful than ever, to those who have been fighting to protect us. Screening the mini-series on the Parvis de L’Hôtel de Ville, in front of the Resistants who are still with us, and their families, was extremely touching and beautiful.
What is next for you in 2021?
At the Paris International Film Festival, we are launching a partnership with Vuulr, to support our filmmakers with distribution. We are the first festival to partner with them and quite excited by the opportunity offered to our filmmakers who opt-in to be empowered for the distribution of their projects.
As a Filmmaker, I am currently working on the production of two films, produced by a production company in Nice. As an actor, I am cast in Karina Beuthe Orr (The Crown)’s upcoming drama Nous Deux Ou Bien Rien, a brilliant drama with a very important message I won’t spoil, directed by a woman I have a lot of admiration for.
I would like to take this opportunity to also congratulate my co-star in The Golden Age (Stacy DeVorzon) who is also featured in The Man Who Sold His Skin, directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, nominated this year in the Best International Feature Film Category at the 93rd Academy Awards. We are extremely excited for the ceremony this Sunday at 5 pm PST, which will be live on ABC.
Festival website: parisintlfest.com
Company website: belleepoquefilms.com