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TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Eva Husson – ‘Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)’

TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Eva Husson - 'Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)'

Eva Husson was born and raised in France, where she received her M.A. in English literature from the Sorbonne before pursuing a M.F.A. at the American Film Institute. She directed the short “Hope to Die.” “Bang Gang” is her feature debut. (Press materials) 

“Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)” will premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

EH: “Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)” is a movie about teenagers falling in love in the midst of a sexual apocalypse.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

EH: It was a news item from the late ’90s. This account of drifting into a collective, sexual sort of madness kept resonating with me, even years later. It’s not so much the sexual side that interested me — having to face that was actually quite terrifying too, but I was really curious to understand how these young people, without any particular predisposition for this type of behavior, had been able to go so far. The people involved reminded me of the group I belonged to when I was a teenager: the same type of small, provincial town, the same middle-class social background, etc.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

EH: Apart from the obvious difficulty of financing for a first feature with a lot of teenage sex? A lot of people could only picture a very dark, harsh and voyeuristic film when they read the script, because that’s pretty much the only way that kind of teen sexuality has ever been represented on screen. It took my producer and I some time to make people understand the film was going to be quite the opposite.

But the casting was certainly the biggest challenge. I teamed up with the amazing Bahijja El Amrani, who had worked on “Blue is the Warmest Color.” For 18 months, she called agents, went to acting schools, skate parks, clubs, movie theaters and went through tumblr after tumblr to spot kids. The part of George was the hardest one: finding an attractive girl who was fearless yet extremely emotional, strong but sympathetic and who owned her sexual potency — well yes, that was definitely a challenge. We finally found her on a photographer’s tumblr; she was one of his friends. Bahijja and I didn’t expect much when she entered the room at the time: We had seen our share of gorgeous girls who couldn’t act. And then she started an improv. Bahijja and I we looked at each other, and we smiled. We’d found her.

All in all, a big part of the team was female, which, for me, helped a lot in terms of reassuring people as to what we were doing. It reassured me as well, I was really not looking forward to filming the collective sex scenes. That part of the script was necessary narration-wise, but was definitely the biggest personal challenge. I’m just not a group person, so a group of people having sex, ha. It was cold when we shot those scenes, and I was running around all wrapped up in a beige trench coat, with my heels and my hair pulled back in a bun, when all of a sudden someone from the crew burst into laughter and said “Well, really, you’re the Mary Poppins of sex orgies!” That kind of sums it up.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

EH: I’d love people to be touched by Gabriel and George’s love story. I’d love, as well, if some images and moments popped up later in people’s minds, like an impressionistic resonance of a strong female character who goes through very intense moments but finds her way.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

EH: Be bold. Own your womanhood, on set and during the process. On the first day, I warned my crew that I cried a lot, that it was just a way to blow off steam for me and that it didn’t mean anything. It never became an issue. There are hostile environments for us as women. Don’t stay stuck in them; go around them. There are people and institutions who make us better women, better directors. Seek them out. It might take time, but it will be worth it.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

EH: That I come from music videos. It’s so lazy. I have a Master’s in English literature, went to film school, did about ten short films, a medium feature film and a feature film. I have worked extremely hard to become a filmmaker. The only living that I have truly ever managed to make was from writing and directing fiction films. Music videos were an accident along the road, while I was trying to pull my projects off the ground, but they’re more easily accessible than shorts on a Google search, so sometimes people think I come from that background. I don’t.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

EH: I basically searched for the right producer, who could open the right doors, financially, artistically and personally. That took me a while, to say the least — two years. And then I met Didar Domehri. It was a beautiful encounter. I was really starting to get nervous at that stage, because I couldn’t find anyone I felt comfortable enough with, and I was wondering whether the movie was ever going to exist. When we sat down for the first time, Didar looked at me very gently and she smiled. She had just watched my shorts, and she said, “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.” She completely won me over with that.

From then on it went pretty fast, and we got the dream financing for a first film in France. The financing is 100% French: The film was made with Backup Media (development and production), the CNC (development and production), Palatine etoile & Procirep (developement), Canal+ & Orange cinema TV presales, the Aquitaine & Pyrenees Atlantique’s regional funds, MG from the French distributor Ad Vitam and the international sales company Films Distribution. I’d say meeting the people who have access to money is the key to making your movie made.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

EH: I have a few in mind, but I’d probably single out “The Piano” by Jane Campion. It taught me it was ok to be lyrical and a woman. One doesn’t have to constantly check if one’s too emotional for fear of not being taken seriously.

It also taught me that there’s a whole world out there of complex female characters just begging to be written. The film is a masterpiece — of writing, filming and acting. It’s an inspiration. I saw it as a teenager and the story still resonates with me twenty years later — in different ways, but it does. I’m grateful for Jane Campion’s vision and boldness.

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