Q&A with Noël Fuzellier, dir. Mars Colony - ClermontFF 2020
Wednesday 5 February 2020, by
Logan is a sci-fi obsessed awkward teenager who often finds himself the butt of his friends’ jokes. One day, he’s visited by an older man who claims to be him, 39 years from now and asks him to join him on a mission to save humankind.
A sci-fi enthusiast himself, Noël Fuzellier’s passion for space travel and Mars in particular shines through this optimistic, unpretentious yet ambitious short. He deftly mixes low-key family dynamics typical of French cinema with zany space travel sequences.
Watch the trailer here.
More about the film...
Where did you get the inspiration for Logan’s character?
During a training course that I gave a few years ago, I met a very distracted, very noisy teenager, who was sometimes funny and often aggressive. He wouldn’t listen to anyone and seemed only to be there to disrupt the class. He had an incredible violence in him that drove me mad. The kind of student/trainee that ruined the class and that you constantly had to send out in the hall to get him to calm down. Then, as the week progressed, I discovered that behind this rebellious and immature attitude was an incredibly sensitive boy who expressed his feelings through both physical and verbal violence. Like the Logan in my film, this teenage boy could only bring out his feelings in very intense moments that made him freak out. In short, beneath the surface, I discovered a broken teenager who above all needed attention. I already had the Mars Colony script in mind and I thought I needed a character like that to make the audience really buy into the story. I needed an anti-hero who changed radically and who gave himself over completely to the audience so that they might change with him.
What interest do you have in the planet Mars and space travel?
It’s more the idea of journeys that intrigues me. Journeys to the unknown. There’s Logan’s dream of going to Mars, but there’s also the CT-LT’s travel through time. These are narrative elements that are present in almost all my reference films and that have one thing in common: taking the audience on extraordinary adventures where they can allow themselves to dream again. Space travel, the mysteries of the universe, alien encounters. I’m fascinated by everything that reminds us that we’re just a tiny speck of sand lost in space. We don’t amount to much and everything remains to be discovered. And I would like to turn all this into humanistic and generous adventure films.
What are your reference works?
Joe Dante, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, John Carpenter, George Miller, Steven Spielberg, Wolfgang Petersen…I discovered cinema through these directors. They made the films I grew up with. Works ranging from children’s adventure to horror. But all these directors have in common this desire to make the audience experience extraordinary stories. Stories that take them out of their daily lives and allow them to escape for an hour and a half. Besides that, my second great passion are films about adolescence. John Hughes, Judd Apatow and all the authors who gravitate around them. Adolescence is the most complicated period of life and I find that these authors have managed to capture all its subtleties.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as a filmmaker and what led you down that path?
After four short films, I feel like I’m starting to understand how a story works. I think I’m still far from mastering the art of screenwriting, but I’m learning from film to film. And the more films I make, the closer I get to the form of stories I want to tell and the more I accept my cinematographic references. Back to the Future, Enemy Mine, Explorers, Terminator, Starman, The Thing, Mad Max… I grew up with these films, they were part of my daily life. Then, when I was eight, my parents took me to the movies to see Total Recall. And some time later, at the cinema again, Terminator 2. I had not seen anything that crazy and I knew then that I wanted to make films. And Schwarzenegger became my idol. Paul Verhoeven and James Cameron opened my eyes to the magic of cinema and science fiction and I was hooked.
How did the casting go?
Philippe Rebbot had already been in two of my previous short films. He is an extraordinary person and a stunning actor. He is always funny, hard and touching. I knew he would bring to the film the tenderness and humour that Logan needed. The way he looks at him in the film is heartbreaking, full of humanity. So I wrote the role thinking about him. But of course, the real issue was finding the teenager to interpret Logan. And I knew that, for reasons of resemblance, if I had found a teenager who did not look at all like Philippe, I wouldn’t be able to cast him… But with a bit of luck, and especially with the help of Sophie Lainé Diodovic, the casting director who met countless teenagers, I discovered Théo Van de Voorde. And Theo, even though he’s nothing like Logan in real life, has proven to be an obvious choice. Like Philippe, he has a gentle way of looking at people and I immediately saw in him how Logan must change throughout the film. And he does it brilliantly. Theo carries the film from end to end with his energy and his teenage enthusiasm. He has the strength of will and an extraordinary work ethic that always enables him to achieve his goal. I was very lucky…
What are your future film projects?
I’m writing an adapted series of Mars Colony and a science fiction feature film. And in both cases I will still highlight an unusual “father-son” relationship against the background of an adventure film.
Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
For once, it was the medium format that gave me freedom. The film lasts 35 minutes, which allowed me to develop a richer story. Each story has its duration and it could not be told in a shorter way. The fact that my producers, Philippe Wendling and Marine Lepaulmier (Les Films Norfolk), trusted me to make such a long film allowed me to play with the narrative, to take the viewer on this adventure and to try to express a number of emotions. Then, fortunately, there are still festivals like Clermont-Ferrand that select films of this duration to share with the public.