At just 18 years old, director and cinematographer Jérémy Comte was selected by the Banff Mountain Film Festival to present his longboarding documentary, Feel the Hill, in over 33 countries. Five years later, Comte’s short films, documentaries, and music videos reflect not only a unique vision, but suggest a burgeoning talent.
By Sara Kloepfer
How has your interest in film developed?
JC: I’ve been shooting since I was twelve years old, mostly skateboarding at first, because I was a fan. After [Feel the Hill], I moved from Eastern Townships to Montréal for Concordia’s film production program. I was already working in the industry, doing small gigs and corporate videos. I started doing ads. Parallel to this, I started doing my first fiction films: short films, other documentaries. When I finished university, I went for a trip, five months over eight countries, and I shot a short documentary film, Paths, that we are now sending to festivals. This short is about people I met through my travels. It’s a commentary about how even though we are culturally really different, deeply we’re all humans, and we all go through the same stuff. I went to California, Japan, the Philippines, and after I went to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Back in Canada, I found some people here too, so I could complete the project. Sometimes I met those people randomly in the street, sometimes through research, sometimes it was through couch surfing, but they all had something strong to say. The form is very dreamy, all voiceover, really beautiful shots. It’s only me and the camera, so it’s really personal too.
You shot your first music video for Rivver [“Am I OK” featuring Milk & Bone] in Italy, what’s the story behind that?
JC: I really wanted to talk about love. My sister had been in Italy for three years back and forth, and she fell in love with an Italian guy there. I really felt connected to that culture and I knew I wanted to do a parallel story between two Italians. I had to find that girl in Milan or Torino, a big city to really contrast the sea and the colorful village. I just really wanted to tell the story of two people being apart in distance, but they’re somehow connected through reflections. When I arrived there, I think I stopped about eight girls. They were all willing, I had their numbers and everything, but it was not her. It was not working. Then one night, I was in the park and I was a bit drunk with my friends, and we met her. I was like, “I’m shooting a music video, and I would love you to be part of it, I think you’d fit really well” and she accepted. I knew at the end I wanted to, in post-production, break the image with reflection. It’s a commentary about love. Love completes you, but it breaks you too.
You’re doing a second music video for Rivver, how will that one be different?
JC: It’s archives in a way, because the documentary I did when I was travelling, there’s a portrait I didn’t put in, because it was not fitting the story. But now, one of his songs is called “No Hero,” and it fits really, really well with that portrait. When I was in California, I met a fifty-year-old guy, I lived with him, and he told me that his son and wife were living in the Philippines. He was in California to save money to send to them because his wife has cancer. I was like, “I’m going to the Philippines, want me to bring something to them?” So he gave me healing crystals. Two months later, I’m in the Philippines. I met them, and I stayed with them for four or five days. I shot this guy in California, then I’m shooting his kid. He’s really mature, his only goal in life is to try to help his mother so he can spend more time with her. At the end, he says, finally he realized that nothing lasts forever.
What are some recent projects you’ve worked on that you’re excited to share?
JC: I did a short film in November [What Remains], we shot it with our own money. It’s a bit different from what I did in the past. It’s the story of a guy who lives in the countryside in Quebec, and wakes up at night from some kids who cut a tree on his property. He’s a bit in shock, and he searches for them. It’s between vengeance and control, really about controlling your emotions.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
JC: I like handheld camera, to feel that documentary style, but to break it with really calculated shots, really strong and smooth, kind of cyclic or moving slowly. Those two contrasts dramatize some moments. Nature is always put forward in all my work. I really like to be close to one person or his thoughts, really human. Not too much action, more sensitive and emotive. I’m still young, so I’m learning everyday and finding my style more and more.
Which filmmakers do you find inspiring?
JC: Gaspar Noé, I like his process. What he does is so different, and really strong. Just his movements, his subjects, the way he treats the story, with lights too. The form is really striking. I really like Jeff Nichols because he always brings this magical, and a bit surreal touch, but it’s still realistic. I really want to bring that in my films too.
What’s next for you?
JC: I’m going to South America in January to travel and have fun and write. I’m so creative when I travel, so I want to go out of the city. I want to go write a feature in South America and then when I come back, I’m going to shoot that short film in spring, ask for funds for this feature. I’ll have about three music videos out in August. I’m going to pitch something for Cannes, because they gave me a prize for my film, so I’m going to meet them in August, and I have a concept.