Exclusive Interview with Sophie Goyette
Interview by Hannah Nussbaum
We got a chance to sit down and chat with writer and filmmaker Sophie Goyette, who after winning twelve prizes from the likes of Sundance and Tiff for her shorts, will today debut her first feature length film, Mes nuits feront écho.
The film charts the roads traveled by three intertwined souls, Eliane (Eliane Préfontaine), Romes (Gerardo Trejoluna) and his father Pablo (Felipe Casanova). It spans across Quebec, Mexico and China, and navigates a story of loss, yearning and longing in a sensory journey that blurs the boundaries between day and night, dreams and reality.
Flanelle : Lets start from the beginning – how did you come to filmmaking?
Sophie : It’s a good thing you’re sitting. I’m from a macro biology background. I left it all because I saw others around me who were passionate about dissecting mice and I would just think, this isn’t for me. Mid twenties, when I left the sciences, I decided to make my first short. I thought – lets try it – maybe it’s the sound design I’ll love, or maybe I won’t love it at all. During the process, I felt at home. So I went on to make five shorts in five years. After the fifth short, all the stories in my head were feature lengths. Then I found myself writing an 100 page script, and it was all coming really naturally. I don’t use a white page. For me, there are just things in my head that I want to share. Maybe my method of filmmaking is different from someone whose been to school.
So coming from a science background – did you find it necessary to back log a filmmaker’s education?
I’m mostly attracted to emotion and experience. Most of what I did when I left the sciences was travel. Of course there are some filmmakers that I’m in love with. But I didn’t have the sense I needed to study film. I feel like in science, you’re kind of searching for something – searching for answers. Art too. I honestly feel blessed to have the science background – it’s given me an analytical mindset that I couldn’t have made this film without having.
This film is set in three different countries – what did your location and actor scouting process look like?
I spent a year of preparation before shooting. In each country, I had to scout different jungles in a sense – to see which jungles the film would fit with. You have to go off what the settings are telling you. When I was scouting my actors, I needed to have a sense of their souls. It’s their humanity that I’m putting on screen, its their intelligence – of course their talent – but also something else. They feed the film on many levels. And I realized with this film that I couldn’t film someone I didn’t love. When I was in Mexico and china, I felt strangely at home. There was a grounding effect from working with so many beautiful souls who would read my script and give feedback.
At the end of the film, there’s the line “because in my dreams I’m the king.” How do dreams function in the narrative? What are some of your dreams right now?
It’s the sentence that ends the film. It’s fascinating that we’ve all had this same experience of dreaming. I tried to get my team to use dreams as a narrative structure – to blur the boundaries between real life and at night. You won’t see people literally dreaming in the film. Im using the idea that the two roads – night and day – can come together, then apart, then together again. We all have those little imaginary lives in ourselves. You could be here in the interview and then your mind slips into something else, then comes back.
For me I don’t have time to dream right now. The dreams are on screen. This film is years of my life and I know how difficult it is to put a feature in a theater and in festivals. I’m blessed that international festivals have been getting me. I’m living the dream of connecting to the public and really making decisions with my heart right now. Because I won’t ever live my first feature length again.
Do you have any advice to young filmmakers?
Theres something about art – its better to sometimes not think about all the theoretical what ifs. With art, you just have to do it. I love meeting film students and telling them, make a film. See how you like it. Don’t think about the world – the festivals, the art world – just think about yourself and if filmmaking feel good. Also, because there are so many films out there, try to think about which films are missing on the big screen. What films do you wish existed? If your process is that personal, and for yourself, it will resonate in the heart of someone else.
Would you say that Mes nuits feront écho is a tribute to cinema itself?
I think I could say that I gave it all for the big screen. If somebody gives me 1.5 hours of their life, I want to let them experience colors, sounds, scenery, magic, and dreams. My tribute to cinema is kind of a tribute to going to the theatre. Because will the theatre even exist in 5 or 10 years?
Do you have any final thoughts about the debut?
There’s a beating heart in my film on screen – I chose carefully to place it in theaters in the beginning of the year, because all of the characters in the film are pursuing dreams and resolutions. In a world where there are so many borders and walls, I’m trying to abolish them for a second and tell people that we’re more linked than we think we are.
Mes nuits feront écho opens tonight, Friday, Jan. 13, at Beaubien cinema and the Cinémathèque québécoise.