×

Baptiste Petit-Gats: ‘Editing Taught Me How to Write for Film’

France’s Baptiste Petit-Gats is an hyphenate that keeps himself plenty busy editing, photographing, writing and directing. The bulk of his editing gigs up until now have been in documentary film work, evident in the way he shot and edited his own short film, participating in the MyFrenchFilmFestival, “Flowers.”

In the film, Petit-Gats tells the heartbreaking story of a widowed mother and her adolescent son over the course of a rainy All Saints Day, an originally Catholic holiday dedicated to remembering the dead. Berenice is obsessed with finding the flowers she was meant to have bought to place on her husband’s grave, and drags her adolescent son Sacha from shop to shop to find the right ones. Sacha has other priorities however, and the two struggle to stay on the same page.

The film’s story is told from Berenice’s point of view with close ups and out-of-focus backgrounds. Can you talk about that creative choice?

After writing the script, the idea was to make a film that focused on the main character. In other words, I wanted the viewer to follow Berenice and quickly adopt her point of view. She is obsessed with finding the right flower for the grave, and sees very little of the world around her. The environment around her is unclear; we see glimpses through the car windows. It was important to direct the film and build the images around this point of view because the challenge of the film is to try to understand, or at least get closer, to Berenice’s character.

You’ve done a good deal of editing as well. Is there a job you prefer, and how important is it to you that you stay busy like this?

Yes, I have been an editor for about six years and my approach to filmmaking began with editing. It’s not a question of which activity I prefer because it’s very different to edit someone else’s film compared to working on your own personal project, accompanying it through all the steps of the directing process. I like editing films because it’s a moment when we can “write” the film. It also allows me to come into contact with other narrative or creative approaches, different from my own, and I find it highly rewarding.

What have you learned as an editor that has helped you as a director?

First, from a technical point of view, editing has unquestionably allowed me to gain a relatively precise vision of the film while I’m shooting. Maybe if I wasn’t an editor I would have had more difficulty in breaking down a scene into individual shots, and adapting this breakdown to the actual filming process. But beyond that, I think that editing has taught me how to write for film, wherein this writing doesn’t just involve the script itself, but also working with the actors’ bodies, the rhythm of the sequences, the breaks, the silences, etc.

CREDIT: Baptiste Petit-Gats

Can you talk about some of your cinematic influences? Which works did you go to for inspiration on Flowers?

During my preparation for the film, I obviously thought a lot about the Dardenne brothers whom I admire, especially “The Son” and “Rosetta.” The work of focusing and tracking the characters in their films has always impressed me: Not having the choice, to follow the characters at all costs. The opening sequence of “The Son” is one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of cinema for me. Otherwise, I also think a lot about the beauty of the faces in Cassavetes’ “Faces” or the Safdie brothers’ “Mad Love in New York City,” or the car as an environment in “Louise Wimmer.”

What was the casting process like for “Flowers”? With only the two characters you needed strong performances.

There were two very different processes for the two characters. I had Catherine Salée in mind since writing the script. I was sure that she had that sweetness which could complement the rough side of Berenice’s character and bring depth. I thought she was great in “Chantou” and “Keeper,” so I decided to contact her directly, explaining why I thought of her for this role. This happened naturally between us. I felt very lucky.

The search for Sacha was much more complex. With the casting director, Marlène Serour, who I’d really like to thank for her support, we saw about 70 teenagers, including actors and non-professionals. This lasted about four months. She found Victor Rivière in a spontaneous casting session in front of his high school. There was a real risk because Victor had never performed in a film, or even a stage play, before, but we felt his strength and energy. So I worked with him about two months before the shoot and I was very happy with him on set.

I see you will also be participating in the national competition on Clermont-Ferrand. What does that honor mean to you?

I’m delighted and very happy with the selection! I never imagined, when preparing this film, that I would have the opportunity to screen it one day in Clermont. It also touches me that a lot that people appreciate my film, to the point of selecting it for such an important festival.

CREDIT: Baptiste Petit-Gats

Martin Dale contributed to this article.

More Film

  • Mammoth Films Festival to Open With

    'In Fabric' to Open Mammoth Lakes Film Festival

    Director Peter Strickland’s “In Fabric” starring “Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie is set to open the fifth Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, the organization has announced today along with their film lineup. The festival in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., will take place May 22-26 and feature several films’ U.S. debuts. In addition to the narrative feature [...]

  • Kristen Stewart'JT LeRoy' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Kristen Stewart: 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Is 'Woke' but Still 'Funny and Weird'

    “Charlie’s Angels” has made the jump to 2019. Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot as one of the Angels, says the classic ’70s franchise has been updated to modern times without losing its pulpy action. “At one point I think we said it was woke and grounded, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, [...]

  • Calamity Jane

    Indie Sales Acquires Remi Chayé's Female-Driven Animated Feature 'Calamity' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based company Indie Sales (“My Life as a Zucchini”) has acquired Rémi Chayé’s animated film “Calamity – The Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” the French helmer’s follow up to his critically acclaimed feature debut “Long Way North.” “Calamity – The Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary” tells the story of the 12-year-old Martha Jane who must [...]

  • Scarlett Johansson on 2020 Election, Avengers

    Scarlett Johansson on the 2020 Election, 'Avengers' and Black Widow's Next Move

    President Scarlett Johansson, anyone? While she may not be running for office at the moment, Johansson says a campaign may be in her future. “Maybe some time in the future,” she says when asked if her political activism has inspired her own aspirations. “I think the greatest way to effect change is in local politics. [...]

  • Circus of Books

    Netflix Acquires Tribeca Doc 'Circus of Books,' Exec Produced by Ryan Murphy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to the documentary “Circus of Books” ahead of its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Rachel Mason wrote and directed the pic, and also produced it along with Kathryn Robson, Cynthia Childs, Camilla Hall and Adam Baron. Ryan Murphy, Josh Braun, John Battsek, Rhianon Jones and Gerald Herman executive produced. [...]

  • Santa Fe Studios Netflix

    Santa Fe Studios Competes With Other New Mexico Stages for Streaming Business

    Albuquerque Studios entered the spotlight last October when it was purchased by Netflix. While the complex is clearly the jewel in the crown of New Mexico’s production infrastructure, with eight soundstages totaling 132,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet of production offices, a large backlot and support space, it’s not the only modern studio facility in [...]

  • Jennifer Kaytin Robinson Someone Great

    'Someone Great' Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson on Reimagining the Rom-Com

    Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, creator of the MTV series “Sweet/Vicious,” recently made her feature debut with “Someone Great,”  now streaming on Netflix. The film follows three friends as they navigate relationships and work in New York City.  Here, the writer-director opens up on reimagining the rom-com, and women changing the face of Hollywood. The three young [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content